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Thread: Sailing canoe design questions.

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2012

    Default Sailing canoe design questions.

    Hello everyone -- I have been lurking here for several months and researching decked sailing canoe designs as best as possible over the internet. My boat building experience is limited to having constructed two pirouges several years ago. However, I am a patient learner and would like to create a simple, elegant boat (or at least break the ice for better ones in the future). I have several questions, but first, here are my functional and design criteria. Hopefully, the criteria are not too much at odds with one another.

    Functional Criteria - I need to be able to transport the boat on a bicycle trailer that will be made specific to the resulting boat. I use a bicycle as my primary form of transportation and have good sailing and paddling water within easy bicycling distance from home. Second, the boat needs to be seaworthy enough for open water crossings on bays in Southeast Louisiana. I read with great interest the Howard Rice thread from a few weeks ago and know this is possible with the corresponding skill set. Third, must be able to sail to weather and must be able to deploy and stow the sail rig on the water without exiting the boat. Fourth, the boat needs to be equally proficient in sailing and in paddling. Rowing is not a concern. Fifth, for solo, extended trips, the boat needs to be large enough to carry camping equipment and a minimal amount of fishing and/or hunting equipment and still be large enough to sleep on. For day trips, I would like to be able to carry a second person.

    Design Criteria - The boat needs to weigh under 100 lbs and have a minimum capacity of 500 lbs. I have access to many different woods, particularly cypress and ash, and marine plywoods but would prefer to learn how to plank a boat in contrast to using plywood. I can have cypress bead & cove milled into strips but am bothered by the waste, and if using strips, would prefer edge to edge construction. (Feel free to tell me why I should reconsider plywood or bead & cove strips). I prefer the aesthetics of a dagger board over a lee board but will also frequently be in shallow-water more suitable for a lee board and am good with that . . . The rudder must be deployable from within the cockpit and also kick up when encountering an obstruction. Most importantly, I must be able to self-rescue in the event of a capsize.

    Designs Under Consideration -- Question -- Which of these seems like the best fit with my criteria?

    • Ian Oughtred MacGregor Canoe LOA up to 173 Beam 31
    • Michael Storer Beth LOA 164 Beam 31
    • Selway Fisher 50/50 Canoe LOA 15 Beam 35
    • Hugh Horton Bufflehead LOA 15 Beam 34
    • John Floutier Rushton Princess
    • Yakaboo II not sure where to find the plans
    • Chesapeake Light Craft Mill Creek 13.5 or 16.5
    • Duckworks Willie McGrath LOA 176 Beam 32
    • Clark Craft BK20
    • Gentry custom boats Chuckanut 15
    • Bryan Boatbuilding Fiddlehead 14

    Other Boats of Interest

    • Melonseed Skiff
    • Barnegat Bay Sneakbox

    Commercially Available Boats that Meet the Criteria (or come close)

    • Solway Dory Shearwater
    • Solway Dory Fulmar
    • Superior Canoes Expedition
    • Kruger Canoes Sea Wind
    • Kleppers, Longhauls, etc. -- the folding boats.


    1) Am I biting off too much on what is essentially a first build by ruling out plywood and bead & cove strips?
    2) Is carvel planking an acceptable construction method for the Macgregor? The boat will be dry-stored.
    3) Would I be better off studying up on lapstrake construction instead of carvel planking?
    4) I have basic hand tools, drills, jigsaw, and circular saw but no table saw, router, or band saw. What, if any, additional power tools should I be looking for just for this first build?
    5) Have I left any designs out that should be considered?

    I am at the point of ordering some plans but really need to narrow the field before ordering anything. Thank you very much for any suggestions and feedback you can offer.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    victoria, australia. (1 address now)

    Default Re: Sailing canoe design questions.

    Here's a Yahoo page full of links:

    I have been sailing a decked 15'7" Macgreggor canoe, an Ian Oughtred design,
    for over 10 years. Single mast balanced lug sail. A bit tender I think for a first timer, but quite fast. I have seen a carvel Macgreggor at a local show and it seemed no different to sail.

    John Wellsford has a design that has a great deal going for it, here is a blog
    There was a long thread on the subject in the forum here

    You seem to have done a lot of research already. Welcome to the sailing canoe community.
    Last edited by skuthorp; 02-28-2012 at 11:48 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Deepest Darkest Wales

    Default Re: Sailing canoe design questions.


    There's a friendly bunch of canoe sailing eejits who hang out here - on Song Of The Paddle

    You might enjoy a look at Wharram's "Melanesia" and a read through the "Ouitrigger and proa" thread - which has grown to over 40 pages.
    Someday, I'm going to settle down and be a grumpy old man.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2007

    Default Re: Sailing canoe design questions.

    Hi Jethro, you have some fine sailing canoes on your list. I have owned and sailed the MacGregor, Solway Dory Shearwater and Curlew, and am working with John Welsford on a new Nautilus sailing canoe.

    Looking at your list of priorities, especially weight, paddling over rowing and need for plans to be available, I would say without doubt Bufflehead has to be the one.

    Plans now include mould shapes for strip plank, thus carvel shape is included. There's a strip plank one.

    Here's Axel carrying his Bufflehead on his shoulder.

    His web site Axel would also be happy to supply some of the special moulded carbon components for the fittout, as has just done for a UK build.

    here's a picture of two paddling Bufflehead

    Hugh keeps the interior completely open which keeps the weight right down for towing with your bike. Axel has spent a lot of time perfecting the best solution to fitting airbags so capsize recovery is best achieved.

    I think building in carvel is a great thing to do. all the original 1880's UK canoes were carvel. Here's an 1880's Nautilus hull

    I wish you well with your new project. I too have just bought a Kona Ute to tow my new Nautilus. She's a bit heavier so I went for the electric version!

    Last edited by keyhavenpotterer; 02-29-2012 at 07:20 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2012

    Default Re: Sailing canoe design questions.

    Thank you very much for the excellent suggestions. I did not initially include the Nautilus due to the anticipated weight. Knowing the Bufflehead is available for strip construction is new information for me and much appreciated. I will follow-up further on the Bufflehead and continue researching.

    Good luck with the Kona Ute and the Nautilus. I hope to see some photographs and am curious about your trailer.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2007

    Default Re: Sailing canoe design questions.

    Angus Rowboats have bicycle towed and rowed their boats right across Europe. here's their Camperrowboat on one of their simple trailers.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2004

    Default Re: Sailing canoe design questions.

    Hi there,

    I built a Mac for my first boat, and think glued lap is a very good way to learn. For a light and uncluttered boat of that size, I would think glued ply or bead and cove are your better options. The leeboards took a while to get used to, but to simplify their operation, I designed a cam-lock system to control them easier. In the pic you can see that they are able to stay raised with the cam locked down.

    Mine is built to 15-8, but can see needing the extra two feet if your other passenger is on the tall side. We aren't that large, and only just fit into it with all of our gear. We also designed a canvas deck to wrap the gun'l. Less weight, we benefit from being able to heel an extra degree or two, it covers the "unsightly" flotation, and in the second pic you'll see that it easily stows to leave more room for gear. Feel free to PM me for more info on the Mac.


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