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The Organic canoe
Canoe sailing for each of us is about different things, racing, cruising, pottering, exploring, car top ability, ease of portability, load carrying, versatility, friendly meets, or just messing about in boats. For me it falls mainly in the pottering, exploring, versatility area.
Chris and I bought our Mad River Explorer in Kevlar in '99, because it was light for me to carry and we felt it was the best compromise for touring with camping kit, day trips and easy (up to III) white water - no thoughts of sailing then! We have had loads of enjoyment from it in the UK and abroad.
From then on Plagiarism played a major part of my research and development. (In the words of Tom Lehrer "Plagiarize, Plagiarize , Plagiarize, only be sure always to call it research"). When I gradually started experimenting with sails; but only slowly, as there are so many other things to do; Mountaineering, climbing, sea kayaking, cycling, sailing, walking, music, families, work etc. Lovely life isn't it:o)
First came, a home made sprit sail, which is ideal for mainly paddling trips, as it uses the split poling poles, with a small extension. And yes it does go to windward, so long as your crew uses their paddle as a leeboard. The sail has been used to great effect when crossing lochs on Scottish trips,
As I got older I fancied a bit of gentle pottering on our local estuaries so made a Lanteen sail (approx. 40 sq. ft), again using the split poling pole and an old windsurfer mast. I made a moveable leeboard attached to a string to hold it against the side. That year I think I went to the English Canoe symposium at YMCA Lakes. Keith Morris and one or two others were running sessions on sailing, I didn't like the makeshift down wind rigs very much, we can all improvise like that. But the well rigged canoes with removable fibre-glass rudders etc caught my attention (thanks Keith). I remember also the two Dave's from Solway Dory drifting past very nicely.
Back home I ordered a leeboard bracket and thwart from SD, and built a copy of Keith's rudder assembly in wood. I also decided that outrigger floats might allow me to sail more comfortably. So used a 4" alu tube I had spare and made some small floats. Sue Brighouse has them now for her little Egret.
The problem with the lateen was reefing, although Chris came up with a partial solution of making another clew further up the sail, effectively reducing the sail. But I had seen the benefits of the reefing bermudan sails from SD and coveted one.
That was the next purchase and then followed various improvements to fixtures and fittings; New gunnels & decks, removable fore and aft seats, through hull bolt for leeboard, then cutting out the leeboard thwart and strengthening that area, side seating for sitting out, Strengthening the mast thwart and foot (after it had broken in a strong gust when going down wind). About this time I also made an ash beam with some bend (could do with more) and bigger floats.
Over the last year or two I have also made fore and aft decks for cruising and modified a one man tent which is easily rigged over the cockpit space so I can sleep aboard if I ever wanted to. What next, well I have a model of a sailing canoe tri I wanted to build, length about 18', sitting on my study window, but am not sure it will ever get done:o)
So how does she perform?
The Explorers design is for paddling, and in that respect has proved excellent. Has lived up to all expectations for the reasons we bought her. -Tracks well, keeps up a good speed when loaded, on several occasions Chris and I have overtaken couples in empty boats trying to stay ahead:o) Unloaded she does get effected by wind a bit, especially before I put the extra weight of mast support etc in her. She is a very good tandem or solo boat, and I have had no trouble on water up to grade III ish. She is also very dry in waves, especially if we move our body weight away from the ends. - Sailing it appears to be a bit slower (but that could be the helmsman!! ) than purpose designed sailing canoes, which of course do not have a symmetrical hull shape. But otherwise she performs very well with a 44sq ft (4 sq m) Solway Dory sail. I am very happy with her and amazed at how well she performs to windward when sail and crew weight are positioned correctly. She will go to windward happily in some quite rough seas, it is the skipper who tires first!
So a boat for every occasion? - Paddling - Camping/expedition - Sailing, she is pretty perfect.
That is not to say I don't covet something else whether for paddling or sailing - but a lot of that is to do with who I am with! When alone, my usual state, there is nothing to compare.
The ease of transport, rigging, and the waters explored, against the cost (£'s per amount used) far exceeds bigger boats on moorings. "Been there done that":o) A big smile comes on my face when I pass moored boats with crews just lazing around because they have nowhere to go, where as we can put in and land almost any where, sail in shelter depending where the wind is from, lovely.