Canoe Sailing

New to paddling, and was curious about sailing a canoe. Can this really be done? If so how? I’ve checked the archives and found nothing. We went just to look a canoes at a store and I got caught up in the excitment and bought a OT Guide 160 for our family of 3. Oh the possibilities.

…on getting into this madness. I trust you also bought and wear 3 good PFDs. There are links to associations of canoe sailors, which someone here may provide, or you could go to the American Canoe Ass’n and find a link. There are some full-fledged sailrigs w/leeboards, rudders, etc., and there are a number of smaller attachable downwind sails as well. I’d suggest concentrating on padding, since some days the wind doesn’t blow. Have fun!

sail canoe

– Last Updated: Feb-11-04 12:17 PM EST –

I am a sail canoe addict. "Sail when you can, paddle when you must" is the motto.

You can see pictures of my homemade rig at:

also some pics of our trip down the Missinaibi River in Canada last summer. We sailed over 135 miles!

There exists a Yahoo group that specializes in sailing canoe. Lots of enthusiasts there, including some commercial developers.

Do a google search, you will be surprised at the hits.

Canoe Sailing
Pat offers good advice with his post above – especially regarding PFDs and learning to paddle first. Jjoven’s sailing pics are inspirational!

Canoe sailing was once very popular; the hay day for that sport was the early twentieth century. Back “in the day” there were canoe sailing clubs across the country – especially in the east. Canoe sailing as a separate and distinct sport declined with the advent of the outboard motor, but there are still people sailing canoes (see post above) – in fact it’s enjoying a mild resurgence of interest. There’s a great book absolutely jammed with great illustrations and ideas called “The Canoe Rig” by Todd E. Bradshaw. The illustrations are computer generated and as such are mostly fanciful (as opposed to “real” or historic), but it’s a book that belongs on anybody’s bookshelf that has an interest in the subject – a beautiful book to say the very least. Amazon (and other online book mongers) sells it.

There are two books that will serve you very well for learning some basic (and advanced) paddling skills. First is Bill Mason’s “Path of the Paddle” - this is the old school “Bible” for canoeists, but is still very useful and relevant today. The other book that is just as worthwhile (perhaps even more useful today) is “Paddle your Own Canoe” by Joanie and Gary McGuffin. This book has easy to follow instructions and outstanding photo illustrations. If I owned no other books on canoeing these are the two that I’d consider “must haves”. Amazon (& others) sells these titles as well.

Yes, canoes can sail
Here is a URL you might find useful.

Welcome! and Happy Canoe Sailing!
Canoe sailing is a very popular sport and has more enthusiasts than ever before in history. From McGregor to present, canoe sailing is done as both an organized sailing event and as private, leisure fun with your boat.The ACA has a specific classification for Canoe sailing and the United Kingdom has both open and closed deck racing. Our rigs harken back to the very beginnings of small craft that were used for work by the poor and for play by the well-to-do.

I sail my Old Town Penobscot 16 with the rig sold by Castle-Craft. I typically build my boats but this was one instance when my wife let me splurge and do something totally “store-bought”. Your going to love it once you get into it.

Here are a couple of links for you:

The Castle Craft Sail-rig:

The mother of all canoe sailing resources:

Various Articles from Meade Gougeon (of epoxy fame) regarding sailing canoes:

The Chesapeake Light Craft offers for sailing your canoe:

Go to bottom of page to see the small rig on the Mill Creek 13 at this link:

I hope you get into it. I know you will love it once you try it!

Good luck!

sail away…
I agree with jjoven,

I built a sail for my 17’ Kayak and now I “LOOK” for those windy days!

It just adds another demention to paddling!

I like that “sail when you can, paddle when you must” hmmmmm…dang!!.. not a breath of air today! oh well…where the $%## is that paddle?


heres a few pics of my c canoe

– Last Updated: Feb-12-04 8:07 AM EST – ivehad this boat for 25+years, would you believe its a perception keowee? we also use it for fishing and casting for shrimp. i guess canoes are the most versatile boats, paddle, row, sail, ....

Thank you all
It looks like I have a lot of fun reading to do. The links and info are very helpful. My wife and I think it would be neat to try sailing a canoe close to shore once we get some paddleing experience behind us. We live in Florida close to many rivers, lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico which is where we may do some canoe sailing.

Our canoe outfitter was great to instruct us into purchasing a comfortable pdf for all of us, plus all the other saftey stuff, and the book “Paddle Your Own Canoe”.

This looks like a great way to get away from it all, and take with us camping.

Seriously addictive
I’d have to agree with the other’s, sailing a canoe can be seriously addictive. I cobbled together a clamp-on rig to my poly MR Explorer last summer and I probably sail now more than I paddle. It doesn’t take much of a breeze to move you along at a normal paddling pace and when the breeze picks up you can really move out. I do a time-share in a 22’ sailboat and I actually enjoy sailing the canoe more than the big boat. I live near the Chesapeake Bay and being able to cartop the canoe allows me to sail in some scenic rivers/creeks I’d never be able to get to in the big boat.

To the links others have provided, I’d add these:

There are some interesting articles on those sites on some group sailing canoe trips.

Have fun and let us know how you progress.

neat looking set up
I bet she screams in a force 3 wind.

i’m the one screaming in f3
right on, 55# is a lot on a 34" beam. i wait till the conditions are good. i have a couple other rigs including a cool optimist set at 37#, i find that i need the bigger rig to drive the boat to windward especially here where sometimes i have to beat wind and tide. this boat has been developing for a while. i think i can handle the rig when the water gets warmer and i’m more willing to hike from the rail…,

Nice Danny.
Your sail. In the one photo your description says “cut down to 55#”. Does that mean it is 55 sq. ft.?

Thanks for sharing the photos too!

its built to c canoe parameters. the decks are 2/3 the lenght of the boat, stock hull, 55 sf, rig height < 16’ one day maybe i’ll take it to an aca race, i love racing sailboats

I’d like to as well.
I’ve read somewhere that we would have to buy an ACA sail to be approved for a sanctioned race. Can’t use something else. Have you heard this or otherwise?

cool setup
I’ll bet 55 sq. ft. is a handful with a 34" beam.

I use the 37 sq. ft. Optimist sail myself and so far have been pretty happy with it for the 5 - 10 mph. breezes we commonly get in the summer. Haven’t figured out a good way to reef it yet.

I know what you mean about on-going projects. I’m always tinkering with my rig to make it perform better, be easier to use or faster to set up. That’s the cool thing about these rigs. You can do quite a bit on the cheap by using your imagination with readily available materials.

Did you have much trouble getting your aluminum gudgeons bent around your stern without cracking? I’m still using a paddle to steer (works amazingly well) but I’m thinking of adding a rudder.

aca cruising class
44 sf i think, yes its one design with the class sail and other parameters. my experience is it should be a handy and versatile canoe sail. well worth the $250

the rudder and leeboard
make the difference between a canoe with a sail and a sailing canoe. i sailed for too long with a rudder blade too small so tacking was iffy at best . this rig handles very sweet in 2-10 kn, then above that its hang on or hike! fast planing and wet to windward in a chop.

you could try the Radio Flyer
rudder. No gudgeons or pintles and works great!

I use this one because I don’t want to drill holes in my royalex canoe and my Souris River has floatation tanks at the ends.

Steering Oar
No worries!

I learned this with my Castle Craft rig. I had personally not considered this appraoch with my other canoe and home-made rig.

Using a steering oar eliminates many parts and mounting needs. If the leeboard(s) are adjusted a little aft of CE on my rig, the oar is feather light and the canoe steers with the set of the sail.