View Full Version : English Canoe Sail Rig

04-04-2002, 12:11 PM
I've inherited a William English canoe, sleek and graceful. There is a neat round hole in the foredeck, from which I deduce the thing was once rigged for sail. Does anybody know what this rig looked like? There is no obvious place to attach leeboards but the canoe has a full-length prominent keel that makes it about as difficult to turn as an 18-wheeler. Does this mean leeboards aren't called for?

Tom Dugan
04-04-2002, 12:28 PM
Are you sure it doesn't (or didn't) have a fan centerboard? I'd expect to see that before leeboards.


04-04-2002, 01:47 PM
I am unfamiliar with the fan centerboard design but it sounds like it would include some structure in the center and a hole in the bottom, of which there is neither in this canoe. The maintenance over the years has been amateur but it is evident there has been no major reconstruction.

Todd Bradshaw
04-04-2002, 02:18 PM
A good leeboard bracket should leave no marks on the boat, so it's hard to say whether it had one or not. A fan or similar centerboard would have to have had a fair amount of structure to support it and since there doesn't seem to be any trace of a big patch or other stuff, it didn't have one. The original rig would probably have had a balanced lugsail or lateen. If the mast socket is way forward, it was probably a ketch rig with a small mizzen. If it's back 30%-40% of the boats length from the bow, it was a single sail (some canoes were rigged with three mast sockets and could be used either way).

You could certainly try it without leeboards and add them later if needed. Sail rigs were a much more common add-on back in those days and it could be that the mast socket and step were standard features to allow conversion if folks later wanted to get the sailing package which might have included the leeboards.

04-04-2002, 03:26 PM
Those are good thoughts. I've spent some time scouring the net for information on this and have found a wealth of information on how to attach a sail rig to a canoe. This canoe has the sharpest v-bottom to any canoe I have ever seen, making it very tippy, which leads me to the conclusion that you would be nuts to put a sail above it. Yet they did. So I'm curious how it was done. but it is evident from empty screw holes there was hardware on the front deck and thwarts for the lines. Similar holes exist on the back deck but there is not obvious place to step the mizzen.

This link shows a canoe identical to mine except it doesn't have the mast hole (or it is covered by the name plate, which is where mine is located).
Any further thoughts?

Todd Bradshaw
04-04-2002, 04:36 PM
The instability, V-hull and putting a lot of sail area on a very small boat are not at all unusual for sailing canoes of that era. Many of them were overpowered and quite twitchy to sail. Most of the good sailors were also little guys who were quite nimble and didn't mind getting wet. Looking at the photo, if this thing was ever seriously sailed, it would almost certainly have been ketch or yawl-rigged with a small mizzen stepped through a thwart near the stern. There just weren't any small sailing canoes with single sails stepped through the bow deck that worked very well.