How To Build A Sailing Canoe

Sailing canoes are fast and lightweight, providing great sailing opportunities and learning how to build a sailing canoe can be rewarding and challenging. Typically, canoes have a very shallow draft and allows exploration of shallow waters and creeks. A simple sailing rig can be constructed that will allow the canoe to quickly be converted from paddle to sail power.

Things you'll need:

  • Drill and drill bits
  • Sabre saw
  • Galvanized or stainless steel screws and U-bolts
  • Various sized wood blocks
  • Marine adhesive
  • One-fourth inch plywood
  • Screwdrivers and adjustable wrench
  • Salvaged sailboat mast or plastic pipe
  • Electric motor mount for canoe
  1. Determine where the mast should be located on the canoe. The mast should be towards the bow of the canoe about two-thirds of the way forward. On an eighteen feet canoe, the mast should be twelve feet forward of the stern.
  2. Attach the mast to the canoe. Glue and fasten a flat plank across the rails of the  canoe, spanning the location of the mast. Drill a hole the same size as the mast through the board, then locate and fasten a pre-drilled block directly below to receive the foot of the mast. The mast can be made out of wood, plastic pipe or metal tubing. Salvaging a mast from an old sailboat will work, too.
  3. Install leeboards and a rudder. Leeboards serve as a keel to keep the boat going in a straight line. Attach a section of pipe or heavy wooden dowel to the rails of the canoe with U-bolts. The U-bolts will clamp the section of pipe to the canoe rail while allowing the rail to rotate so the leeboards can be raised and lowered. Attach a paddle-shaped board to each end of the pipe, making sure the leeboards extend below the waterline. Next, use an electric motor mount made for canoes to make a rudder. Use a section of pipe that will fit into the motor mount and through bolt a plywood rudder blade to the end.

With a simple sail the canoe will be ready to sail but be cautious; canoes can capsize easily under the strain of a sail rig. The addition of pontoon outriggers may be necessary to stabilize the craft.

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