Graham D

pelican canoeHaving joined the OCSG in 2010 to sail with the club on a shunting proa made out of bits of an old Shearwater catamaran and being very impressed with the versatility of the other boats in the club I thought about having a go at building my own. "Well how hard can it be?!"

So with a very small budget I set off into the unknown with sketch pad at the ready. I drew out a few ideas for a boat on a budget. I trolled eBay for a suitable (as in cheap!) hull, and found a Pelican Colorado. The set up of the front seat is in the same position as most Pelicans. Behind this is a natural place for the mast step and outrigger mountings.


leeboard thwartNext was the rear seat which I wanted to be able to move forward for rowing, so two bits of ash were purchased to form the runners and set on metal hangers from the thwarts. The rear thwart position was to the rear of the original seat position. One unexpected benefit of the runners is they are perfect for toe straps when sitting out on the gunnels - great fun when things get a little breezy. A mast was purchased which was powder coated green and the top section is  some tubing from a old windsurfing boom. The sail came from the proa and the boom is the top half of an old windsurfer mast.

Behind this was a natural place for the mast step and outrigger mountings. The mounting position of the leeboard thwart I worked out at one third of the sail foot back from the mast, then 50mm forward of this mark. This was the biggest worry on the build as it would take major surgery to change it. It provides a moderate amount of weather helm but this can be reduced by sloping the lee board to the rear. Weather helm creates drag, which is bad for racing but good for safety. If the tiller is dropped or you go for an unexpected swim the canoe turns head to wind and stops - well that's the theory anyway!


rudderThe rudder came from the windsurfer dagger board combined with a rudder box from the catamaran. The diagonal square box section adds stiffness, as a deck would, but restricts loading camping gear - a small price to pay for the gains. The hardest job came next ie the dreaded floats. Not a job I would do again given the choice, but you live and learn. One sheet of 3mm birch ply 1500x1500mm, 5 kg of polyester resin, 3m x400gsm mat and 25mm tape burned a hole in the dwindling budget. After many hours of stitching, gluing and sanding the two floats had a coat of primer on them. Most fixings and fittings came from the parts bin, while some of the ash I had lying around from other projects. Things were getting exciting now as the first meet was looming fast.


pelican canoeBuoyancy bags came from Solway Dory and extra bags made from exercise balls of about 600mm diameter were fitted . The webbing straps and spray decks I made on my mum's old sewing machine. Coniston was the first outing and as tradition goes an offering of fire water to Neptune was made. The canoe was given its name "Cochon Vert" - the "green pig " and she was given a great first day's sail to Peel Island and back from the north end of the lake.

Things worked out well over all. She is much more stable than I expected, as the lee board is a tad longer than it needed to be - adding to the stability. She's not fast but what she lacks in speed she gains in ruggedness .

The only real damage this year came from a capsize drill with the mast coming halfway out. On righting, the step was damaged, so a new one was made and a bayonet allen bolt fitted to mast.

Would I change anything? Well yes - such as taking more time to make things neater and more pleasing to the eye, but I'm satisfied really, remembering that she was just an experiment for trying out a new hobby on a small budget. The Green Pig and I have had many fun trips in 2011 and many thanks go to all the club members for the ideas and advice along the way. Did she come in on budget - well no, but under £500 including the hull is not too bad for two boats, one to sail and one to paddle down rivers with big rocks. So an inexpensive introduction to canoe sailing and very much a work in progress.

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