Dave Poskitt

I am one of the partners in Solway Dory, we build sailing canoes professionally. At present I have two. If I had to have just one boat it would be the Shearwater with outriggers, which does everything remarkably well. But it is heavier and more seaworthy than I want or need for the lake in summer, and it may feel slightly less seaworthy than someone of my age and disposition would prefer for exposed coastal cruising. When I am sailing on the lake I prefer to be in a light responsive boat and a slight risk of capsizing only adds to the excitement. When cruising on the West coast of Scotland just being there is enough, I dont need to spice it up.

The Lake Boat

Length-14ft  , beam- 39ins, depth- 14ins, rig- 5 sqm bermudan, weight- 65lbs.

When I started to think about this, lightness was very important. half decked sailing canoeThe boat had to be easy to get on and off the car and quick to rig and launch. I wanted sparkling performance but I hardly ever capsize so quickness of recovery after a capsize was not a major concern. In order to be able to launch and recover easily without damaging the boat or myself I wanted to carry a portage trolley at all times (this can be more of a problem on a decked boat). This all seemed to point to a deckless boat but I also wanted side decks to sit on. Some back of the envelope calculations showed that a fore deck would add very little extra weight whilst adding stiffness which otherwise would have to be provided in some other way. And so the half decked boat was born.

It is nearer to a decked boat in seaworthiness and nearer to an undecked boat in weight (65lbs) and convenience of use. It may look a little unconventional to some.

I chose our Fulmar/Curlew fibreglass hull because of all our boats this is the most fun to sail. It is 14ft long and 39 inches wide. A shorter boat like this tacks more easily and feels more responsive than the more common 16ft boat. It is also lighter. I didn't need a two person boat as Jan has her own boat.

The flat deck makes it easy to carry the boat upside down on a car and thehalf decked sailing canoe rectangular cockpit opening can be framed more efficiently. It is therefore lighter. I actually prefer the look of a crowned deck and rounded cockpit opening but aesthetics encompases back pain as well as appearance so I chose the lightest possible constuction.

There are small buoyancy tanks fore and aft and buoyancy bags  under the side decks. We calculated that this would be lighter than fitting side tanks but as the side decks are not quite stiff enough we might reconsider this in future. When I did the capsize test the boat took on more water than I might have wished, however by sitting on the fore deck  it was still possible to bail. This took a long time with my small bailer and since then I have carried a bucket.

If I was starting again I wouldn't alter much but I might extend the side decks backwards to try and keep out more water in a capsize.

The Sea Boat

A trimaran, length- 18ft, beam main hull- 30ins, beam overall-10ft, rig- bermudan ketch 88sq ft, weight main hull-100lbs, weight all up- 200lbs.

For the last few years I have been coastal cruising in a Shearwater with outriggers, but before that I had an Osprey trimaran. Although the Shearwater did the job there were times when I wished I was in the trimaran. I should stress that other people with me were perfectly happy in their Shearwaters but maybe I am getting old. I also wanted a boat in which Jan could come with me in reasonable comfort. The Osprey is ideal for two people daysailing or one person cruising but it is a bit small for two people with a lot of gear.osprey outrigger sailing canoe

Dave and I both wanted a trimaran but we were not sure that demand would justify the trouble of building a mould for a fibreglass boat. Also we were not sure that the concept would work and a boat this big might be getting too heavy in fibreglass (plywood boats can be built lighter than fibreglass boats).

We calculated that the fibreglass outriggers from the Osprey were still plenty big enough for this boat. I favoured a very simple hull design but Dave pointed out that an extra chine would stiffen the sides in the lightest possible way. We opted for a flat bottom. This gives more useable space inside the boat and enables it to stand up whilst the outriggers are being attached. In retrospect we should have put some vee in the bows as it pounds a bit when lightly loaded. Because speed was not the primary consideration and accomodation was more important to us we have gone for a slightly wider hull than is conventional.

However a boat this size can safely carry a lot of sail. This makes it startlingly fast compared with other sailing canoes. Although speed was not an important design consideration it is nice to have.

This has been a very successful boat but even though we built it as light as we dare it is still a bit cumbersome on land. It is approaching the limits of what we would consider to be a canoe. Having said that we did manage to portage two of them across the middle of Jura but it was a bit of a struggle.

If we were building these boats again they would be shorter, wider and have lower freeboard to get the same displacement with slightly less weight and bulk. There would be some reduction in seaworthiness and top speed but they could stand this.

I look forward to sailing my trimaran again in the Hebrides this year.


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