Yes I do use this set up on Sylph and all other small boats I sail.
It is one of those simple yet highly effective tools that make for safe anchoring.
Yes I do use this set up on Sylph and all other small boats I sail.
It is one of those simple yet highly effective tools that make for safe anchoring.
To Smilicus regarding "kitting out a canoe" (a very nice British or S African term).
I have pulled this thread up Smilicus so you can peruse my home built blue water capable sailing canoe Sylph. The photos might help you see how one sailor has approached the needs of cruising on such a small boat. I'd be happy to give you specific details if you have any questions. In short I add very little to any boat I sail in terms of mounting or installing gear. I prefer to bring items I use so that my canoe remains a good day sailor too.
Thanks, I have watched this thread with great interest. Currently in contact with Hugh as well. Have a great festive season all.
Hugh Horton and I were on the phone (Skype) Micronesia to Florida today discussing canoes and we talked about both knowing you. Small world.
So here is a rule I have followed for many years. When I prepare for small boat travel I always try to go as light as possible, (half of a tooth brush sort of thing when it is my canoe). The day before I depart or the day I depart I apply what I refer to as the 25% rule. For dinghy cruising or cruises aboard Blueberry I splurge a little but still keep it very simple and always invoke the 25% rule.
In spite of having as many uses as possible for any piece of gear I carry I try as best I can to leave 25% of what I have prepared and packed behind. This is always a bit of a painful exercise but it works (I rarely hit 25% but I try). Over the years of setting out in small boats I have learned that I use only a very few items as I travel.
Years ago I discovered that much of what I was carrying was never used. Those of you out there who set out in small boats must share somewhat the same sense of amazement at how few items you might use out of a boat full. Items seem to disappear in lockers, dry bags etc so I just go with the strategy of leaving as much behind as possible. In this manner I sail lighter, faster and have less hassle trying to pack and unpack things I don't use. I never feel that I am without what I want or need.
This said one would think I am all about spartan living. In actuality I am not unless I wish to be. The reason I can do this sort of minimalist travel is that I don't have to make a major life shift change to do so. Here is why.
I live and work amongst the poor and the desperately poor, most of my neighbors cook on open fires and far more than half live in thatched hut structures with dirt floors and no running water. I am a little more upscale than this but still I try to live simply because I have come to admire them each and every one. Less complication, more real time with each other and life that flows with the sun rise and sun set. Here we live to the rhythm of light and dark. Up early and to bed early soon after the sun drops. I awake each morning to the village roosters. In this lifestyle less is definitively more and I easily shift this thinking to how I kit out my small boats and canoes.
In living this way I find the shift from the comforts of home life to my cruising canoe or small dinghy to be an easy transition. I have no television, radio and no land line phone (I now have wireless internet) and no hot water (I could have these but I choose not to). I do have running water in my house on the cliff overlooking the lagoon. I keep it simple and walk or ride a bike although I do have a small car. I eat simple foods, many wild picked from my yard and the surrounding jungle. When I sail, make camp afloat or ashore I follow the routines I have set for my life in the village so the transition is easy. By the way most of the worlds people live with this simple daily rhythm of up early with the dawn and to bed sometime shortly after sunset. Another term for this tropical Pacific island style of living is paradise.
Back to the shift change. After 15 plus years here and before that living on a 9 acre island (Northeast Key, Belize in a simple solar powered hurricane hut), several years living part of my year on Staniel Cay in the Exumas I have learned to feel like a king because I am unencumbered by stuff. I find it much more difficult to make the shift change to minimalist cruising when I am back in the US for even a short period of time. Over time I have changed from being comfortable in the developed world thinking I need far more than I do. I believe we have too much stuff in our industrialized lives, which causes complication upon complication. When I cruise dinghies or my canoe in the US I tend to think that I need more than I do because of all the options and the blasting of marketing everywhere I turn.
Life in the industrialized world seems overwhelmed by layer upon layer of stress, materialism, keeping up with the neighbors, bigger boats, more gadgets. In my book it has become a crazy experience. So to sum up. Kitting out a small sailing canoe is easy if one has the right mind set. Start thinking as a minimalist weeks before you set out and the shift change will go well, Before you set off apply the 25% rule. Small boats are the best way for folks living in the highly civilized world (I wonder which is more civilized my world or the developed world) to get back to the core of life as it probably should be.
In another thread here focused on the right boat for 12 months cruising I could only think that just about every design put forth would work if the sailor had the right mind set. When I sail my 20ft cutter Blueberry I feel like I am aboard a boat far bigger than I need and it sure is nice because I still keep it simple.
Go light, go small and go now. You need far less than you might think.
Thanks for reading.
Merry Christmas to All.
Last edited by Howard Rice; 12-19-2011 at 07:44 AM.
Thanks for explaining your rule of thumb (25%). I have grown up hiking and camping regularly and every time we go, we still end up with stuff we don't use no matter how "economically" we pack. Over the years we have taken less and less, but still seem to have a bunch of things in our rugsacks or camping boxes we don't use. I will definitely apply the 25% rule to my camping gear too.
It sounds like you live in a beautiful, unspoiled piece of the world. I do agree that with the everyday tv commercials, etc one gets brain washed into thinking one needs more than you actually do. The wife and I have a rule know, if we want/think we need something, we will wait a month or two and if we still want/need it, we will buy it. So many times after a months wait you realise that you don't need or want it anymore.
I have a few other, more functional questions for you:
1. How do you boil water, etc on Sylph? Do you have a sort of gimbal for your small stove that can fastens to the boat some how so you can cook under way or do you just balance it on a hard surface of the boat?
2. When sleeping in the canoe, how do you keep your sleeping bag (when rolled out for sleep) dry. Sure some of the wetness inside, after sponging the last of it out after a sail, will still be on the floor.
Have a merry Xmas all and get out there and have a blast on the water.
Here are answers to your questions.
1. I only cook aboard Sylph when at anchor. I have a small painted and varnished board with underside wood placement tabs, two on each side. The board fits securely on the cockpit rim (my canoe has two removable cockpit enclosure decks). These slide fore and aft when I anchor giving me an additional 14 inches of living space). The board fits athwart ship forward of the hiking cushions installed on each side of the cockpit rim. The top of the board has epoxied on locator tabs for the stove, these more or less lock it in place. I use an Optimus Climber stove with a two pot Swedish cook kit, a nice but to some antiquated cooking set up. I like it because I can tear it down in field for repair or cleaning and it burns several different fuels. I am experimenting with a new stove these days but will likely stay with what I trust.
Here is a shot of Slyphs cockpit and sliding decks. If you look at the front of the green hiking cushions think of the forward deck sliding forward to the mast and the board fitting in the space between the sliding deck and the forward end of the cushions. I also use this board for making repairs, holding my plate, etc.
The way I keep my sleeping set up dry is this:
First I rarely anchor and stay in the canoe to set up my sleeping arrangement. It is too much of a fight.
So I get the pin down and let Sylph settle back on her rode. If the water is too deep for stepping out I do the sleeping set up in shallow water and then use a short single blade paddle to move her to deeper water.
Note: I pretty much never sleep aboard Sylph or any canoe in water that is less than about four feet deep. If it less than a foot deep OK but the range in between is very dangerous if I am in an area where there may be wave action, boat wakes or if a storm or high winds are possible. If I am tucked inside the sleeping bag in the closed tent and should capsize I could be trapped on my side struggling to free myself if the water is a couple of feet deep. I would prefer to go all the way over to turtle to be able to do a full wet exit.
So once I step out of Sylph I do the following procedure. Note the cellular foam removable floor cushion.
1. I bail any water out. I rarely if ever have anything more than a little water and this is so widely disbursed around the floor that it is not deep enough to worry about, the cellular cushion keeps me above it. Still I sponge the water out. I rig up the tent, this takes about five minutes. I roll up both doors and velcro them in place.
2. I pull out an acrylic (sunbrella) fabric cloth from a dry bag cut specifically to fit my sleeping space and place it over the cellular cushion reaching in and pushing it forward where my feet will be. It creates an instant dry cockpit and is not noisy like a plastic sheet of poly sheet.
3. I pull out my sleeping bag and pillow from a dry bag and place it in the cockpit and push the sleeping bag foot end forward. It is ready.
4. I pull out a 3ftX5ft acrylic sheet and place this one over the sleeping bag and push it forward.
4. I pull out a small dry cotton towel (2X2) and have it ready for drying my lower legs and feet after I get back aboard.
5. I get back in the cockpit dry off my lower legs and feet with the towel and then single blade out or pull anchor rode to relocate at my desired anchoring spot.
6. I sort of scrunch up and remove the 3X5 cloth, fold it up and then I open the sleeping bag and get in.
This might sound complicated but it is not. It is quick and has become very routine, I can do it without a headlamp or flashlight if needed.
In this photo I have not opened the cockpit all the way (pushed the decks fore and aft). This is a dawn shot. I made camp afloat late and didn't bother to open the cockpit fully, too whipped after a 25 mile day of reaching. The green item is the pillow, sleeping bag is blue.
Note: The snap hook system for the tent. I can blow out of the tent easily should I have to.
Comfort assessment: I can roll on my side or sleep on my back. I can sit up to read and cook. I can spend hours aboard and feel very at home and comfortable because I have minimal gear and a place for everything. The acrylic tent I built is very dry. I spray coat it a few times in a season and I am now on more than six years with the same tent.
I find the comfort level to be quite good although I tend not to make a steady night after night habit of sleeping aboard. It is tight but cozy. Typically on a trip I will do two to three nights aboard and then try to pitch camp on land with Sylph at anchor. I rarely pull her on to shore preferring to anchor out. I like a very fair (fast) bottom and constant dragging on to shore scars the hull. I think this drives my fellow canoe cruising pal Hugh Horton a bit nuts as he is a drag his canoe over anything on to shore guy. In fact I anchor just about any small boat I sail as opposed to pulling it ashore. I pull sailing canoes and cruising dinghies ashore if there is pending bad weather or in a storm or if I am going exploring and worry about weather changes or sometimes to conceal them against curious eyes and hands.
I hope my description makes sense and inspires you to try sleeping and cooking afloat.
Last edited by Howard Rice; 12-22-2011 at 03:30 AM.
One last thought on canoe cruising. I have a rule of never leaving my paddles (double blade and my short single blade) on the canoe whether anchored out or ashore when I go exploring, into a town for shopping etc. I always hide them elsewhere, typically in the bushes a short distance from the canoe. I figure this makes it harder for someone to steal my boat. This said I also have to say I have never had a canoe stolen but I have had small items taken, gloves, lines etc.
I do leave everything aboard if I leave my canoe in a public place that feels safe.
I am in the process of developing the next generation cruising canoe up from Sylph, a canoe I feel is already very evolved (at least for my admittedly odd taste). After years of cruising her to remote Pacific atolls and in the lagoons of Pohnpei I have learned much. My new canoe hull is one of the original four Bufflehead builds. The new canoe will be a big leap forward in sailing performance, heavy air capability and live aboard system refinement.
I plan to deck her and have her on the water in 2012.
Last edited by Howard Rice; 12-22-2011 at 03:32 AM.
Thanks for the explanations and photos. Your solutions is basically what I also thought would work best in a small boat that size. I will just maybe opt for a Dome Like Tent with its light weight cloth than the Canvas tent you have, the reason being it will be lighter, fold up smaller and probably handle gusts better. We get quite a few gusts in this part of the world, so if at anchor, the dome like tent should shape a bit better in a gust.
I am planing to order plans and start a bufflehead build in 2012 and hope to have it completed and kitted out by mid winter. Still need to learn a lot from you regarding sailing, packing, safety, etc for such a small craft. What rig are you going to go with for your Bufflehead?
I agree with using a lighter weight cloth for the tent. I had the acrylic canvas on hand from another project and thought I would more or less throw the tent together as an experiment. The experiment worked so well that I continue using it. I also wanted to avoid the need for a tent with a fly and since I would be sleeping aboard I wanted quiet material when the wind is blowing (this is a big factor in my book). When I began looking at breathable/waterproof materials for a single wall tent the cost was the issue since I already had left over cloth on hand from another sewing project. I have tents for other boats and have used dome designs, simple A shaped designs (over the boom) etc. I suggest a two pole cross over design.
I am building a Scamp and have been thinking my cockpit tent will be single wall. Some years ago I took a 15 foot sailing canoe and doubled Cape Horn. I didn't sleep aboard but did have a small bullet shaped cockpit cover for naps at sea. I made this out of 70D PU/Silicone blend coated ripstop material. Excellent.
I also carried a Bibler I Tent made of what I consider to be the ultimate single wall material, Toddtex. The I Tent is a single wall high mountaineering tent and at the time was considered state of the art, I know why. The Toddtex is super light, coated on the inside with a light fuzzy polyester which makes it breathable (no icing) and extremely waterproof. I am not sure if Toddtex is commercially available as it may be a proprietary cloth just for Bibler. I feel it is the best of the best.
I believe Bibler may still be in business and might have a web site.
I am going to try and access some Toddtex for the Scamp tent I will build.
My future rig will be quite similar to the rig I built for Sylph but this is not a rig I would necessarily recommend for others. I say this because there are simpler ways to go. I happen to really like it but then again my use and taste in sailing canoe rigs is a bit out of the norm, if there is a norm.
Sylph has three mast step positions. I built two identical carbon fiber free standing full rotation ovoid shaped 3 piece spars with internal halyards. Sylph can be sailed as a sloop, cat or yawl. Instant strike capability is paramount on my list, weight aloft second (each mast weighs in at just under 5 pounds) and clean air foil performance is third. I love this rig as I can trim it boiler plate flat and scream in heavy air. Her largest sail spread as a yawl is 90 sq feet. As a sloop she carries 57 sq feet max with a roller furling jib (first reef), and a main that can be double reefed down to 29 sq feet of sail. On open water voyages I also carry a 2.5 sq foot sail I can use to reach or run for safety if all goes bad in really high winds, for example if I was injured and could not paddle.
With the main only set in the center mast step Sylph can be sailed as a cat rig.
The sails I design will change quite a bit (a bit of a square top design) for Bufflehead as I have learned allot from the years I have sailed Sylph but the rig configuration will stay the same. Sylph also needs a new set of sails as I have basically sailed them to the point where the cloth has stretched and become shiny, just what I had hoped for lots of hours at the helm. The tropical sun has also taken its toll. Sylph is in excellent shape though and with new sails she will be as good to go as new.
Last edited by Howard Rice; 12-23-2011 at 02:01 AM.
Interesting you're going for a Bufflehead since earlier you mentioned your "ultimate" next sailing canoe would be 31" wide. Why the change?
As part of the input/think group on the Bufflehead design I pitched for 31 inch beam but lost out to other opinions and Bufflehead was created. Hugh spear headed the project and his opinion took sway over others, fair enough. Hugh and I discussed my having the Bufflehead NA Chris Rausch squeeze the design to 31 inches but in the end I elected (after some prodding) to jump in on one of the first four out of Skips shop. I am fine with Buffleheads beam and have to agree that for a wider market it makes sense but for me 31 inches is what I would prefer. It was just easier given the bigger picture of where I live, time available to build, etc, this is why I elected to have Skip build a hull for me. Time.
Do I still want a sailing canoe at 31 inches? Yes still my goal but later based on practicalities.
One last thought. Time. Right now I have two builds under way and Scamp is the #1 priority as I plan to utilize her for both the Small Craft Skills Academy series and a coming sea voyage I have on my mind for many years. So as much as I would like to experiment with narrower canoes I just don't have the time or $ resources to do so at this time.
Last edited by Howard Rice; 12-22-2011 at 05:28 PM.
Thanks for the input. I see that the rig you are planing for your bufflehead would maybe be a bit to adventurous for me and my needs. I read you recount of the double Cape Horn crossing with great interest and wonderment that one could actually do it in a sailing canoe. This has led me to think of my own adventure for future date. The South African Coast is a beautiful but can be very rough at times. The south African Sailing fraternity is a bit narrow minded 0 you have your yacht and then your one design dinghies, nothing like the state or uk with all their home build day boats (like a Navigator, etc) .
I have this dream of, in some way, to inspire my fellow SA's to get to the water in other craft than the norm. I am not much of a racer (more a adventurer/cruiser) and don't have the budget for a cruising yacht, so this leaves me at looking at building from scratch something that suits my needs - Easy to rig, light, lot of packing space and durable. I hope my sailing canoe will draw some attention in the SA waters and would lead to more people believing that sailing is not just for the rich and get them started with home builds of other designs and help to create a strong culture of adventure sailing. Hope this makes sense.
The Scamp will also be a good little boat for our waters and is also on my list, but first want something I can car top to safe the cost of a trailer.
Take care all and happy sailing
I have been a busy guy lately, thanks for waiting on my reply. I have found a moment of down time (stuck in a hotel room in Guam waiting for a flight to Manila) to again take a look at one of my favorite forums (this one).
If you are interested I would be glad to send you details of the carbon spars I designed and built for Sylph. In actuality they are simple to build, very stiff and light as a feather aloft. Let me know. I would also be happy to call you via Skype to talk canoes. Let me know. Weight aloft is a critical element in sailing canoe performance, its all about ounces. Ability to strike the rig instantly is also critical.
I wouldn't necessarily recommend doubling Cape Horn or sailing the Tierra Del Fuego environs in any small boat much less a sailing canoe. The good luck gods were on my side plus I was patient and willing to wait for days and days for weather windows. Still I ended up injured and in need of medical attention in the middle of nowhere. The ensuing get back north to the Beagle Channel and Ushuaia Argentina was a tougher trip than doubling the Horn.
As to sailing canoe suitability for rough weather. Knowing some sailors will roll their eyes at this one I have to say that the thoughtfully conceived sailing canoe in conservative prudent hands can handle very rough conditions. I know this to be true from thousands of miles of water under the hull of numerous canoes I have developed and sailed both here in Micronesia and elsewhere. Sylphs near future plans are to be shipped to England late this year where I will have her staged for near future sailing ventures as I can find the time. The Solway Dory guys have offered to help out and one of Englands great small boat sailors and one nice guy Brian Pearson will be another hook up. Check out the Solway Dory site. These guys are doing some very neat stuff in canoes. Our approaches are very different but the Brits have an open mind as do I for sharing information on canoe development.
As you know I am currently developing one of the first four Bufflehead prototype hulls. I had planned to deck her last fall but my travel/work schedule precluded me from starting so I now look at March as the start of decking alongside my Scamp build. She will be a unique sailing canoe from many perspectives and will be self rescuable as is Sylph. This new canoe will ratchet up performance and safety from all I have learned developing and sailing Sylph and from sharing ideas with others. Sylph is a very fine sailing canoe albeit not for everyone I admit and will continue to perform as is, there is almost nothing I would change about her. The new Bufflehead hull and eventual canoe is not seen as a boat that is going to replace Sylph because Sylph is inadequate in some manner. The new canoe is just a better hull shape and thats what I am starting with. From there its all new development, sleep aboard system, sail rig, rescue system, etc.
Sylph has just been shipped back to the mainland US from Micronesia and I look forward to sailing her (and letting others try her out) this spring and summer in the Small Craft Skills Academy series before I pack her up to ship off to Emgland.
No worries, thanks for replying. Yes, we should definitely have a skype chat sometime, especially when I start with the build, would be good to have your insights. What time zone are you in? I am GMT +2.
Regarding the Cape rounding, just one of my crazy ideas/dreams, but yes, I would like to do some "adventure" sailing. I dont know if I mentioned before, but I am a manager of a Non Profit raising funds for education of under privileged children in my area and would like to do some expedition in a sailing canoe to raise funds and give some exposure to a sailing vessel that is forgotten in South Africa, the sailing canoe.....but that is still way in the distant future.
2010 - 2011 have not been a very good years to be in the Non Profit Industry in South Africa and we hope that 2012 will be the year that is changes. This said, I have decided (more like had) to post phone my build to (hopefully) August this year when things are looking better.
However I need to get on the water and will take up a bit of surfski'ing since one can get currently a entry level ski for round about R1200 (less than $200). This will be good way to get a bit more fit and help with my balance in a sailing canoe.
But don't worry, the sailing canoe is still my dream for 2012..hehe
This has been an excellent, informative thread, thanks..
Howard, I would really appreciate hearing more about your experience and the logistics of shipping Sylph back and forth. Has it been possible to arrange storage at the other side until you arrive? Are there difficulties with customs? How does she travel from warehouse to beach?
Thanks again for your work...after moving away from the coast and no longer having a cruising boat i have found micro cruising something i can hold on to, and I think it's time to downsize even more to a sailing canoe...
I haven't had the chance to visit this forum lately. Just noticed your posting.
I ship canoes two ways.
The first is using one of my Kleppers. Easy to fly or box and ship.
For Sylph it is a little more challenging.
I have only shipped her twice, both times by sea transport. The first shipment was accomplished by taking Sylph and gear to a shipping company or shipping store to be more accurate. These stores typically ship small packages to large and my canoe was their largest package. I helped build the cardboard box and wrap all components.
I took the box atop my car to Hugh Hortons address as I had to depart for Micronesia by plane, back to work. I arranged for a trucking company to come to Hughs, pick it up and then drop it at the shipping dock where she was loaded into a container and shipped as deck cargo.
Five weeks later she arrived in Pohnpei. I was there to meet the package, not a scratch.
For Sylphs shipment back to the US I built a wood cradle and then wrapped her in foam and cardboard as no box cardboard was available on island. Again she arrived without a scratch.
Her next trip is to England and on to Europe. I plan to use the same method and be on the other end when she arrives.
In the end shipping was easy to do and while expensive not as much as I had imagined.