Turn a Canoe
or Kayak into a formidable sailing boat
Sail Area 1.64 sq m (17.6 sq ft)
Mast, Yard and Boom length - 1.65m (5ft 5 ins)
This article details how one owner has
used the same drop in rig on several different canoes
over the last 13 years.
Sailing Rigs for Canoes and kayaks usually
break into three groups.
There are auxilary sails for (usually)
seakayaks that are used to propel the boat downwind only.
There are rigs to give a canoe high performance.
A rarely seen variant is something in between - a no-fuss
rig that does not make the boat hard to handle but provides
enough power to sail reliably upwind and down. It should
include a sensibly sized leeboard so windward progress
is reasonably efficient. It is important that the leeboard
is of a reasonable size - boards much smaller than this
have poor windward performance.
This rig is the third type. It does not offer the highest
performance possible, but it is small enough to fit inside
the boat when not in use. The leeboard necessary for upwind
sailing is removed at the same time as the mast support
leaving the boat ready to be used as a pure paddling canoe.
Recently I received an email from Trevor Killmier
who purchased the first set of the plans 10 or more years
ago. I'll let him tell the story:
You may remember me from way back. I think we last corresponded
back in 95/96. You designed a drop in sail rig for a
fibreglass canoe we had.
I was delighted to see a photo of
it on the Duck Flats website and I'm pleased that you're
marketing the rig again because I get many inquiries
We had a lot of fun out of
that sailing canoe (picture above - the rig was built
by David Wilson of Duck Flat) but I think in retrospect
the hull was quite unsuitable for sailing. It had a
very strong weathercocking tendency and I think I wrote
and told you that I managed to hurt myself sailing it.
I eventually added a rudder and was
able to sail it myself again. My son also taught himself
to sail in it and had an enormous amount of fun. However,
it was impossible to right after a capsize unless you
were able to stand up and so I looked for a more suitable
hull. I had the plans of John Bull's Peterboat sailing
canoe and had started building one of those before I
hurt myself. Some years later, I was able to resume
that construction and completed it, launching it in
The plans call for a 40 ft.m²
lateen rig but I sail down at Clayton mostly and always
thought that was just too big. So, I simply transferred
your rig across to the new boat and it has proved perfectly
satisfactory. I have since added a small tie on jib
and an outrigger and have been sailing regularly since
98. (picture above is launching day)
I am now building John Bull's little
Pete -- a single seat version of the same canoe -- and
will transfer the rig over to that.
I regret not being in touch with
you earlier simply to convey how much pleasure I get
out of this boat. I guess I'm a minimalist at heart
but I'm sure there are many people out there with much
bigger boats, far heavier and more expensive, who just
don't get the amount of fun out of their boats that
I do out of mine. The only drawback is that I sometimes
don't get to sail it because I spend so much time talking
to interested onlookers! (picture above - canoe at Barmera)
Rosemary and I have a van in the
caravan park at Clayton and another semipermanent occupant
of the park has told me that he wants to build one.
I haven't seen him for a while but have told him that
the rig is yours. Now I'll be able to direct him to
I have some photographs of the rig
on the Peterboat and if you would like to see them or
even use them for marketing purposes, I would be happy
to send them to you.
Wow - how lovely to hear from you
Your letter is EASILY one of the nicest things I
have read in a while. When I design something it is often
the case that I send the plans off, have a bit of correspondence
while the boat is being built etc.
BUT ... to get a letter after 10 years showing the
damn thing works, that it has been moved from boat to
boat - AND MOST IMPORTANTLY - has fitted into someones
lifestyle so perfectly is just the best thing.
Thankyou so much!
If there are photos available of the different incarnations
of the rig I would love to see them - perhaps to scan
them and put on my website.
Again thankyou for getting in contact!
Yes, the damn thing really works!!!!! And works so well
for me. I'll hunt out some photos, scan them and forward
them to you. I know there are photos of the rig on both
the yellow canoe and the Peterboat so I'll look for
I'm glad you're still interested
in this idea - I just can't understand why more people
don't add a rig to their canoes. Instant sailing boat:
instant fun. Have you tried it on the Eureka
I think the boat in the photo has the sail hoisted a
little bit too high (compare the photos from Trevor
Killmier to the drawings). Keeping it a bit lower will
reduce the heeling force (less chance of capsizing)
and also reduce the load on the mast. Moving the halyard
a little further back on the yard (the wood along the
top edge of the sail) will cock the boom up so it won't
hit the user's head. That's the designer's (my!) opinion,
but Trevor has 10 years of experience of the rig with
a series of different boats in a range of different
conditions - so who am I to argue! :-) I would suggest
setting the rig up like the drawings to start with,
but if there are problems with head clearance, move
towards Trevor's setup.
Notes from the
This rig is designed to
drop into a paddling boat, whether canoe or kayak. As
far as possible all the gear is removable from the boat
except for the mast step and three unobtrusive fittings
that will not interfere with the paddling function. The
blue jibsail in some of the photos is not part of the
Many people have a paddling
boat and would like to gain a feel for sailing at moderate
additional cost. The objective of this rig is to add the
ability to sail to the function of an existing boat without
interfering with its existing paddling performance.
If steering with a paddle take particular note of the
section at the end on sailing the kayak. It explains how
to adjust the leeboard to minimise the steering loads.
A reefing point has been specified in the drawings to
enable the sail area to be reduced in marginal conditions.
It is not expected that the boat will be able to sail
upwind while reefed, though it will still be able to sail
I would recommend doing some practice capsizes in safe
waters on a warm day to see if you can rescue yourself
or if you need outside assistance.
The spars and leeboard have been sized to fit inside
most boats or the leeboard can be swung forward to be
out of the way of the paddler should the boat have to
be paddled home.
MAKE SURE THE BOAT IS EQUIPPED WITH AND THAT YOU WEAR
APPROPRIATE SAFETY EQUIPMENT. KEEP AN EYE ON THE WEATHER.
Another factor for consideration is that canoes and kayaks
can be very fast under sail - particularly with the wind
coming from astern. Take care not to go excessive distances
from your home base without realising and setting yourself
up for a very long paddle home. A good way to avoid such
problems is to start toward the direction the wind is
coming from - then you will be able to enjoy a quick sail
list for Drop-in Rig (PDF file)
Yee Haa! What a hoot! Winds yesterday afternoon were Force 3 to 5 with
plenty of gusts to Force 6 or more. Sunny and temperatures dropping through
the forties. Lake water cooled by snow melt. The canoe sailed more
predictably than under lighter conditions. I'm ready to replace temporary
c-clamps (g-cramps to you) with screws and cleats.
I am highly pleased with the performance of Michael Storer's drop-in canoe
sailing rig. The little balanced lugsail, all the spars, the leeboard and
the integral mast partner and leeboard brace are from his drop-in canoe
sailing rig. The only thing I changed is that I made it so that the pivot
point is below the gunwale instead of above it (*) and I extended the foil
stiffener above the top of the leeboard to provide a handle. I added an
articulated extender (stick & bolt) to that and am using nut tightness to
hold it in position...will probably harden that up with a line & cleat in
future. In these windy conditons she seemed to sail best with the board down
about 15-20 degrees off vertical. The rigging is all MIK's. The only
modification I made to the hull (16 ft ABS Esquif Presage canoe) was to glue
in a mast step. I used small rope loops tied to thwarts instead of the
hardware specified. I may eventually stiffen those up a bit but the lines
ran smoothly today.
I love how easily I can set up and take down this rig. I just throw the
bundled up sail and spars and the leeboard into the back of the van. It is
not even necessary to remove the clamp-on brace as it clears my roof rack
This was my fifth or sixth outing with this rig and the windiest by far. I
have tweaked things each time and am now pretty satisfied with it. I only
needed to paddle steer a little since I have now got the overall balance
about right. I did not need to do much leeboard adjustment today,
either...just raised it a bit while running and back down on close reach. My
weight forward to initiate a change of tack, back once throught he eye of
When I first got the plans I was a bit troubled that the sail was so small
(17 sq ft). Someday I may make a bigger rig, but this rig makes sailing in
strong gusty winds feel safe, and with eight foot spar lengths it is easily
stowed in the canoe. Still exhilarating but not scary. For me that is
perfect for winter. The flex of the spars is such that the gusts depower the
sail just enough; and then she scoots as the gust blasts on across the lake,
the spars straighten and the full draft returns to the sail. I'll get some
more photos one of these days but there was nobody at the lake today to
handle a camera. I had my drysuit on but never felt anywhere near needing
The surface of Lake Arrowhead, near Luray, VA, does not get much chop
because it is protected from the wind by the surrounding hills. Its small
size (40 acres) also keeps large waves from building. The lake lies in the
lee of a couple of small mountains which cause the wind mix and swirl when
steady stiff breezes can be observed out on the open valley floor. Still, it
was a great workout. I was on the water a bit less than an hour and a half.
Quit when the sun was five degrees from the horizon. The lake is thirty
minutes from home, so I didn't blow off the whole day.
(*) Now to the point for PDR builders: This morning I was getting ready to
repair some nicks on the bottom of the leading edge of the leebard when I
noticed that the leeboard bracket had broken and was only being held by
three screws. MIK's design called for the bracket to be made with the pivot
above the gunwale and I wanted it lower. My change caused me to leave out
two gussets and that lack of support is why it failed. MIK does not over
engineer. If you see a brace in one of his designs it would be best not to
omit it. It is very likely there for good reason.
Father of "The Canoe Guru" http://thecanoeguru.com/