sail and mast materials?

I have a two person Klepper and would like to make my sails for this craft. What sort of material would be the best in terms of strength, weight, durability, salt water, non molding and such considerations. What materials would work best for the mast? It certainly needs to be light weight and very strong. Thank you.

check out
Balogh Sail Design. He builds sails for canoes and kayaks, they are pretty awesome.If you are set on building rather than buying, you might get some ideas from his website. Otherwise, you could always buy a cheap tent from Wal-Mart, and cut it up to make a sail…

lotsa info
see photos and files



sails are usually made of dacron sail cloth. if you want to make your own, polytarp works well and polytarp sails are pretty easy to make and

spars can be made from aluminum tubes, fiberglass windsurfer masts, bamboo poles, or wood.

if you want to do any ‘real’ sailing (sailing upwind as well as across and downwind) you will need leeboards too. and maybe a rudder.

What Dabro said
I’ve made my best sailing kits from buying used windsurfer rigs for less than $50 and cutting everything down to size. From the sails you’ll want some tape to sew over the raw edges. I used nylon, but next time I might order real dacron edge tape from SailRite.

The longest part for me was shaping the leeboard, but the folks at canoe sailing magazine online can tell you how to make and shape a leeboard in a couple hours I think.

Canoe and kayak sailing is a blast. I hope you enjoy it.

If you don’t like making your own gear the best upwind rigs are made by

The best downwind sails I’ve seen are made by Pacific action Sails.

For fun an upwind sailing rig converts you boat into a complete sailboat. If you have the right kind of boat this can work out very well.

For many boats it is better to paddle upwind and sail and paddle together down wind. So if you are more about getting somewhere and less about the art of sailing then the Pacific action sail is for you.

Better than polytarp
for a DIY would be Tyvek house wrap.

why is tyvek better than polytarp?
i might be making a sail soon. what are tyvek’s advantages?

If you’re making a stablized sailing kayak, ie: like a trimaran, it’ll be far less expensive to shop for an old windsurfer, then you get the mast, boom and sail. I bought one last year with two sails for $35. You couldn’t buy the materials to make the sail for that price. But it’s way too much sail area unless you have a way to keep the kayak upright, ie: outboard floats of some sort.

Look on Craigslist.

Tyvek vs polytarp, Aluminum spars
I’ve used housewrap to make my sail.

The prime advantage is weight. The tyvek is quite a bit lighter than polytarp with similar stretch characteristics.

Secondary advantages are cost, if you can find someone with leftover tyvek, and interest. I get all sorts of favorable comments on my ugly, tacky tyvek sail. I built a second from a lighter unprinted tyvek I found at a kite supplier and I guess every one assumes that’s an ordinary dacron sail. I get few if any comments on that.

Unfortunately the lighter tyvek stretches too easily IMO so my next sail will be from housewrap.

I get aluminum tubing from Texas Towers for spars.


take a look at intensity optimist club sail for $89 is a very good deal on a suitable sail (37 sf) for your boat. i use an opti sail on my canoe, its low center of effort and short spars are great for canoe sailing.

Another vote for the optimist sail
I’ve been using an Opti sail on my canoe for about 7 years now. It works great! $89 for the Intensity sail is a nice price. The best thing about using a sail like this is that it’s constructed from material made for sails and that it’s cut with shape in it. I’m a pretty “frugal” guy and I made most of the sailing bits for the canoe myself but I realize that I don’t have the skill (knowing how to build shape into the sail) or tools (good sewing machine, good grommet setter) or time to build a sail as good as a manufactured sail. I’ve also sailed and windsurfed enough to appreciate a well designed and well constructed sail. If you want to save some money and use the Opti, use a 2x3 for the mast (you only need an 8 footer), a 1x2 for the sprit and go boomless initially. If you like the setup then go for some better spars later.

  • Rob

TommyC1 is right.
But note that I suggested housewrap. Cheap and lightweight.

Somawas. possible meaning?
Hi and thanks for being in touch. I will certainly study up on all the information sent to me. Frankly I was surprised (pleasantly I might add) that I received so many comments to my request. It’s appreciated. I have a personal question for you. In the dialect of the central German area (Taunus) I used to live in the word (dialect sound) of Somawas was used for saying “Sag mir was” or "roughly put “tell me something.” This would refer to soliciting information in a conversation as would be “what’s up?” in English. Or “wazup?” as they say in my part of California which is the S.F. Bay area. Could my hunch be right in that you are German or is this just a linguistic coincidence? I hope this inquiry is not too personal. Thanks for your time. Alexander.

That would be a coincidence.
Somawas is an acronym. Personal story involving a dear friend.

Kayak Sailing
This is a custom sail made from aluminium the material is mylar. The sail can be put up and let down whilst sailing. The kayak is standard with no keel or outriggers and can beat up into the wind at around 45 deg. I tested this last week in 30 knot winds expecting something to break…either me or the sail. But is stood the test.

If you want more info I can get a few photos of the fittings.