Chris Wheeler

To explain how I ended up with my current sailing canoe set-up, I should probably first of all explain how I came to the decision to buy my particular canoe. I intended to try sailing my canoe from the outset; however my initial choice of boat was based on my priorities for a paddling canoe. I wanted a canoe with a traditional appearance (without being as stylised as a Charles River or Gatz canoe) and initially looked at Prospectors. I was particularly drawn to the looks of the Nova Craft boats with their recurved ends and sculpted carrying yokes and all the reviews I read about them were positive. I quickly realised that the Prospector designs were biased towards white water performance though and I envisaged using my boat primarily on flat water. The high freeboard and pronounced rocker also meant that these craft would be a handful while being paddled solo on a windy Scottish loch (which would be my intended usage).expedition rig

My priorities were reasonably light weight (I'd have to load the canoe onto my van roof on my own) and good solo paddling performance with the ability to take a bow paddler occasionally and reasonable solo load carrying ability for wilderness trips. I finally settled upon the Nova Craft Pal which is based on the old Chestnut Pal design used by Bill Mason in some of his movies. It has similar looks to a Prospector but with less pronounced rocker, lower freeboard and lower ends. It is billed as a tandem boat that paddles well solo and constructed from Royalex Lite is claimed to tip the scales at 26kgs. I've been delighted with the canoe as a paddling boat and wouldn't want to swap it for anything else. As soon as I got the Pal I started looking into sailing rigs.

expedition rigI'd done some dinghy sailing as a youngster and sailing was an activity I was keen to experience again. I could see no point in the downwind rigs that were available (paddling downwind is easy anyway) and wanted something that'd give me some upwind sailing potential to ease the burden of paddling into the wind on exposed Scottish lochs. It was fairly obvious that the Solway Dory Expedition Rig would be right for me however I was intrigued by mention of plans for a larger Expedition Rig that were mentioned on Solway Dory's Facebook page. I emailed Solway Dory asking if they intended to put the larger rig into production but was disappointed to hear that they had shelved plans to do this. However following further interest in the larger rig, developed as a result of a thread I started on Song of the Paddle canoe forum, they had second thoughts and I was able to purchase one of the first 35sq ft Expedition Rigs and a clip on leeboard.

expedition rigThe rig performed far better than I'd dared hope and I found myself sailing more often than paddling (using the clip on leeboard and steering with my paddle). There were occasions that I thought it would be useful to be able to reef the rig though and, following discussions with Dave Stubbs and Dave Poskitt at the Loch Ken OCSG meet, Solway Dory installed reefing points to my rig (a modification they now offer as an option on the 35sq ft rig). This modification gives me an added sense of security knowing that if conditions become challenging I can continue to sail with the rig reefed down to 20sq ft and the reefed rig performs very well in strong winds.


My latest additions are a pivoting leeboard and rudder from Solway Dory and these really transform the canoe giving true sailing boat performance and really helping to control the canoe in stronger winds. I still intend to use the clip on leeboard and steer with my paddle on trips with non-sailing paddling friends though. Future plans include outriggers for added security on solo trips and in exposed conditions and possibly more sail area for better light wind performance (although I'm not sure which route to go down with the latter yet). In conclusion I feel I now have a canoe and sailing set up that is ultra versatile. I can still use my canoe as a pure paddling boat or I can set it up with rudder and leeboard as a proper sailing boat and the clip on leeboard offers a useful halfway measure as well.

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