These pages are mainly about boats which are light enough for the crew to carry up a beach, but we can't resist this photo of Patrice at the helm of Caredig, a Ness Yole beautifully reinterpreted by Charpentiers Réunis of La Ciotat as a plywood kit. An open boat 22 ft 7 in long, she is large enough to carry six people in comfort but will float in knee-deep water. The Ness Yole is primarily a sailing boat, with a solid timber mast and gaff to carry two large sails, but if the wind dies it can be rowed by up to six people.
They boarded the vessel, beached on the shingle
By the curling tide. Straightway they shoved her off.
They ran up the white sail. And the wind caught her,
The biting wind whipped her over the waves.
Like a strong bird the swan-boat winged her way
Over the grey Baltic, the wintry whale-road,
Till the lookout sighted land - a sickle of fair sand,
And glittering white cliffs. The keel struck
Ian Serraillier's translation of the Beowulf epic
Designers of sail-and-oar boats have to reach a compromise between the ability to sail to windward on exposed waters, or the different characteristics that make the boat a joy to row all day. A short, wide, heavy boat won't glide through the water with the occasional touch on the oars. A true rowing boat needs:
- a long, slim hull
- light weight, which means the least width, depth and equipment you can get away with.
It's usually possible to put a small sailing rig on a boat intended purely for rowing, and it'll go beautifully with the wind coming from the side. However you'll need fast reactions and the ability to swim, and if you want to go upwind or directly downwind it's probably time to take the mast down. A true sailing boat is a different beast which must have:
- a wide hull with a squarer, more flat-bottomed cross-section ("firm bilges").
- high sides (or a full deck and a wet ride like a Laser) so it doesn't fill with water when the wind makes it heel over to a 30 degree angle.
- short length so it can turn quickly when tacking to windward.
- underwater control surfaces - a rudder for steering, and another vertical underwater fin to stop the wind pushing the boat sideways over the water. This is usually a centerboard or daggerboard, raised and lowered through a vertical slot in the hull. See for example the Laser dinghy. Even when the centerboard is retracted, the slot creates enough drag to spoil a rower's day.
The cross-sectional drawings, below, are all to the same scale. The left side of each drawing is a view from the front and the right is from the rear. The two boats on the left are designed to be rowed. The two on the right are sailing boats which can be rowed if necessary. As sailing boats, they both have centerboards of which only a stub is shown in these drawings.
1. A 19 foot long Aran curragh designed to be rowed by two people. It may occasionally carry a small sailing rig in fine weather but has nothing underwater to resist leeway.
2. A 16 foot Adirondack Guideboat, a lovely boat intended purely for rowing. It can easily outpace a sea kayak when rowed by one person. Pointed at both ends ("double ended") it looks like a Canadian canoe but with higher ends.
3. An 11 foot Uffa Fox sailing tender for a yacht.
4. A modern 17 foot boat designed to win raids.
Every lover of small boats has their own view about the perfect sailing-rowing compromise. such as this cute 16 foot 4" double-ended boat seen in Brittany.
Several adventurous coastal cruises have been made in boats about 17 feet long, 47 in wide, pointed at both ends, with the seaworthy hull shape of a miniature whaleboat. Not too big to row solo, not too small for two to row. A sufficiently stable shape in cross-section to carry a very small sailing rig during perfect sailing weather. Both ends closed off as buoyancy tanks. The center crammed with inflated air bags which can be adjusted to leave room for one crew, or two crew, or crew plus a heavy load of camping equipment. Enough freeboard to row in rough water without starting to fill with water, not so much as to make it the plaything of high winds. Both sail and mast can be taken down in seconds when there is too much wind.
In 1874-75, Nathaniel Holmes Bishop rowed a boat of roughly these dimensions 2500 miles from Quebec to the Gulf of Mexico. Voyage of the Paper Canoe, N H Bishop, 1879, various re-prints. Full version free online at www.eldritchpress.org
Not many years later the naval architect Frederick 'Fritz' Fenger sailed a similar but more sophisticated boat along the Antilles island chain. His Yakaboo was slimmer and had less freeboard, which makes her a sailing canoe. She was a lovely boat to row, but a very wet ride under sail. His book Alone in the Caribbean (published by George Doran, 1917, various re-prints) is available free online at Craig O'Donnell's The Cheap Pages. Last time we looked, the link was at http://www.thecheappages.com/alone_fenger/alone_contents.html
Many people feel that the best rowing-sailing boat is a dory, not the old Banks dory but one of its sophisticated descendants with a rounded cross-section.
The Swampscott dory, for example, was very popular in the 19th century as a light sailing boat for racing in sheltered waters.
The William Chamberlain / John Gardner gunning dory mentioned on the previous page has a lovely shape and excellent performance in rough water.
It looks not unlike Youkou-Lili, shown here in two pictures from the side and end-on.
Youkou-Lili is one of the long-term personal favourites of her designer François Vivier, and construction plans are available from www.vivierboats.com
For more about rowing-sailing dories, see:
• The Dory - A Practical Guide to Some Build-Able Beach Cruisers. Thom Vetromile. This is a free download. Last time we looked, the link was www.scribd.com/doc/69485143/Dory-Story
• The Dory Book mentioned on the previous page
The websites and books listed here include much about rowing-sailing boats, and every summer you can see them taking part in raids and regattas. A raid is a long-distance race across varying terrain and/or water. A traditional boat raid is a gathering of similar boats which race from one place to another using oar and sail, usually over several days. It's easier to join in than it is to organize your own adventure trip, and the entry fee sometimes covers food and accommodation at each stop. Most raids are primarily about taking part rather than winning.
- The Scottish Raid / Great Glen Raid, Scotland, www.sailcaledonia.org
- Blekinge Archipelago Raid, Sweden
- Raid Finland, www.raidfinland.com
- Erdre Regatta, France, www.rendezvouserdre.com
- Semaine du Golfe du Morbihan, France, www.semainedugolfe.asso.fr
- Shipyard Raid, Canada, www.shipyardraid.ca
- and the less traditional Everglades Challenge, USA, www.watertribe.com
If you are a small boat enthusiast, you may know something about the sailing canoes which were popular with adventurous types in the 19th century. We don't mean a Canadian canoe with a temporary bolt -on sailing rig but the dedicated sailing craft which evolved from it and which could fairly be described as a kayaker's yacht.
Some canoe history
The Canadian canoe has been around ever since North American native peoples discovered that birch bark and spruce could be turned into a boat. Canoe users have always helped their craft along on downwind trips by holding up a bush or a blanket. It was in the 19th century that leisure users started to put a very small mast and sail onto canoes and short wide kayaks. These were gentle craft up to 14 feet long that you could sail while seated inside the cockpit, and carry around on your shoulder. The noted yacht designer L Francis Herreshoff said "it is my opinion that the double-paddle sailing canoe gives the most fun for the money of any type of boat a person can possess, and I must say that it is my favorite form of aquatic sport". Other well-known yacht and multihull designers with a fondness for sailing canoes include Frederick Fenger, Uffa Fox, Phil Bolger, Jim Brown, Iain Oughtred and the Gougeon brothers.
Some 19th century canoeists had a small mast and sail for touring, and a larger mast and sail which they used in club races, sitting on the edge of the canoe and leaning backwards to keep the canoe upright against the force of the wind in the sail.
Canoes started to emphasize sailing qualities over paddling, with sophisticated sailing rigs and wider, heavier hulls. Shelduck is 16 ft 6 in long, 33 inches wide.
The sail area is large (65 square feet for cruising, 85 square feet for racing) but its center of effort is low compared to a modern racing dinghy. It can easily be reefed down to half that area. If the wind gets too strong, or Shelduck is to be paddled directly upwind, her masts can be taken down on the water.
She is suitable for cruising on lakes, estuaries and wide rivers but a bit light and open for the sea. In light winds, you could sail Shelduck while seated in the cockpit. Sailing her to windward you must always sit on the edge of the deck.
We mentioned Yakaboo's epic trip in the Caribbean. She is 17 feet long, 39 inches wide, which makes it easier to move her with a short pair of oars than a paddle. She has up to 80 square feet of sail.
Yakaboo has real open-water ability as long as you don't mind getting wet. She rows very nicely. Compared to an International Laser sailing dinghy she has 5% more sail area and 27% less beam. Her sail area can be reduced at sea. Under full sail she is a wet, wet ride for experts only. You sail her seated on the gunwale with your feet in the cockpit. Fritz Fenger found it helped to have lots of heavy tinned food stowed low down.
He gave her a self-bailing cockpit which drains through a centerboard case. The centerboard can be moved fore and aft to change the center of lateral resistance, which means no rudder is needed.
As the 19th century went by, sail racing became a mania. It was found that the widest, flattest canoes often made the best sail racers; and that a canoeist could use a larger sail if he tied a plank across the top of the canoe in the middle and sat on the upwind end.
To improve performance, sailing canoes were made even wider until they could no longer be paddled and had to be rowed instead. Sails became more complex and efficient. Some canoeists covered the entire boat with a deck so that no water would enter in a capsize. Larger but genuinely seaworthy craft evolved. At one time in the eastern United States and Britain, the sailing canoe was nearly as popular as the bicycle.
By the end of the 19th century there were many classes of sailing canoe but only a few could still be paddled. In the quest for speed (and status) some had iron or lead weights attached to the bottom to help stability. They had become small yachts, so heavy and expensive that they could be operated only by the wealthy. The search for race-winning speed also gave rise to narrow, unballasted boats with huge sail area. They were incredibly unstable and could be kept upright only by athletes with lightning reflexes. At that point, most people lost interest and canoe-sailing went the same way as the 19th century bicycling mania.
The unstable racing canoe survives as the International 10 Square Meter sailing canoe (IC10).
This looks like a very skinny racing dinghy, with a sliding seat which enables the sailor to sit a long way out from the side of the hull. Although not as fast as a racing catamaran, sailing canoes seem even faster because you are perched on a narrow plank with water streaking past underneath.
Definitely a one-person boat. There's a nice photo gallery on the French IC10 website at http://ic10.free.fr/
Smaller extreme sailing canoes, 16 feet long and 30 inches wide, are enjoying a modest revival on sheltered waters in North America. Try a Internet image search on "sailing canoe" and "16-30".
For plans for a plywood 16-30 sailing canoe like the two-masted version in the photo, contact John Summers. That'll be him out on the sliding seat.
John says " there's some further information about the boat available on my blog at http://authenticboats.wordpress.com/16-30-sailing-canoes-2"
Cruising canoes today
Sailing canoes suitable for cruising on lakes and estuaries are available in the USA where for example William Clements builds high-quality wooden reproductions of the Victorian classics. http://boatbldr.com. Many craftsman boatbuilders in North America will make you a one-off sailing canoe using published plans, although of course it won't be cheap. Try the builders of cedar-strip kayaks listed at Retail Outlets. There are also builders of cruising canoes in Scandinavia and the UK, contact details on our UK website at www.kayarchy.co.uk
50:50 canoes are designed to be equally good for paddling and sailing. Some have a deck to keep them from sinking in rough water or when heeled over, and we regard that as almost essential if they are to be used at sea. We would like to do a multi-day trip in one of Verlen Kruger's designs. He is said to have paddled "more miles than any other man in the world". You'll find a link to the Kruger Canoes site at Retail Outlets.
If you'd like to build one of the lighter models, something you can pick up and carry, have a look at the MacGregor design from Iain Oughtred, the Bufflehead from Hugh Horton, and the Piccolo by the late Bob Baker. Plans for these are available from Jordan Boats (MacGregor, plans accompany a pre-cut kit), Canoe Sailing Magazine (Bufflehead) and either Baker Boatworks or WoodenBoat magazine for Piccolo. Again, see Retail Outlets.
The Victorians had heavily ballasted sailing canoes for cruising on exposed waters, for example the Coma China and the Nautilus. Truly seaworthy sailing canoes are still popular in Sweden and Finland. If those words make you think of endless forests, wolves and snow, you may be surprised to hear that much of Scandinavia has wonderful summers with very long days, a long, beautiful and empty coastline, and many islands, lakes and rivers.
In Sweden there seems to be at least one boat per person. Some Scandinavian sailing canoes are the size and weight of small dinghies, others are miniature yachts carrying over 200 kilos of lead on the bottom of the hull. Depending on the ballast/ sail area ratio you may be able to sail while seated in the cockpit. Usually you have to sit on the edge of the deck so that your body-weight helps keep the boat upright. The larger canoes have a small shelf at that point, so that you can shift your weight outboard without dragging your backside in the water like an International Laser sailor.
There are some lovely images on the websites of Solway Dory and John Floutier Sailing. For more technical details and evocative images of sailing canoes against a background of whaleback rocks and dark pines, try Google image searches on "kanotsegling" and "kanotseglare" (Sweden) and "purjekanootti" (Finland). There's a nice site at www.kanoottipurjehtijat.fi
The sailing canoes in the Swedish classes listed below are too wide to be paddled. They can be rowed but are usually sailed. The larger classes have both small, light sailing rigs for cruising on open water, usually with two masts of modest height, and racing rigs for use near the sailing club, with a single tall mast and a high-tech sail. They can take two but are usually sailed solo. Two or three or four sailing canoes will often go cruising together, mooring in the same spot to spend the night, and stretching a tarpaulin over the cockpit (a boom tent) for shelter.
As far as we can make out without a Swedish-English translator, the main classes are:
- B-class. Basically a 13 foot sailing dinghy for teenagers. Has a single quite large sail. No ballast. Max sail area 8 square meters (86 sq ft).
- C-class - 16 to 17 feet long, 176 lbs ballast. Max sail area 10 square meters (107 sq ft).
- D-class - 18-19 ft 7 in long, min 500 lbs ballast. Max sail area 13 square meters (140 sq ft). Here's a 2013 update from Torsten Sörvik, designer and builder of the Lunne and Tejst sailing canoes in Sweden: "Older D-canoes have a weight of 500-600kg. Around 1960 the class regulations were changed and from then and until 2007 the minimum weight, ballast included was 235kg. In 2007 we adjusted the regulations, mainly concering the minimum weight, it was raised to 360kg hull and ballast". Thanks, Torsten.
- E- class - 18-19 ft 7 in , min 286 lbs ballast. Max sail area 13 square meters (140 sq ft).
For more information
Sailing canoes are also covered in the books previously listed, in particular the Manual of Yacht & Boat Sailing by Dixon Kemp which has the lines of many canoes including the Nautilus and the Royal Canoe Club B-Class cruiser Coma China; various books by Uffa Fox who invented the modern racing dinghy and helped make sailing canoes into unstable racing machines; and Sail & Oar by John Leather, a senior naval architect and advocate for seaworthy cruising canoes.
There's plenty online, including entire illustrated books about construction and technique:—
- American Canoe Association. There's a nice website for the National Sailing Committee.
- Canoe Sailing Magazine, online at www.canoesailingmagazine.com or www.skinnyhull.com
- Canoe Sailing Resources 2010 is a great portal.
- Canoe & Boat Building for Amateurs by WP Stephens. Free online thanks to Dragonfly Canoe Works. Last time we looked, the link to this documents was at http://www.dragonflycanoe.com/stephens/index.html. Contains plans for all types from the paddling canoe with a small sailing rig; through the heavy ballasted cruising canoe for open waters; to the Vesper class which only an athlete could keep upright.
- Practical Canoeing: A Treatise on the Management & Handling of Canoes by Charles Penrose ("Tiphys"), 1888, Norie & Wilson; 1889, Field & Stream Publishing. This is online thanks to Craig O'Donnell and his site The Cheap Pages. Last time we looked, the link was at http://www.thecheappages.com/tiphys/Practical_1.html