Sailing canoes

Sailing canoes used by members of the OCSG are varied, with many different hulls and rigs. But what they all have in common is the ability to be easily transported to different bodies of water and be launched without the need for a slipway. The following pages explain the various ways you can go about becoming a canoe sailor.

Types of sailing canoe being used by OCSG members

For many years subscribing OCSG members have numbered around a hundred, most of whom have a sailing canoe. The fleet is varied but fall into several broad categories.

Sailing rigs in the OCSG

Members of the group use a variety of sail types and sizes. For general sailing/cruising, sail areas of between 25 and 50 sq ft are most common. The ability to reef (ie reduce sail area) while on the water is important, as well as the ability to drop or completely furl the sail away if you get caught out in stronger winds.

Leeboards and their use on Sailing Canoes

All small craft that we want to sail into the wind need a method of minimising leeway. Most members use a long single leeboard. It is easy to reach for adjustment and will “kick up” on its pivot bolt if it hits an underwater obstacle or in shallow water.

Adding a rudder

An experienced canoeist may be able to control a sailing canoe with a small rig by just using a paddle. However many people find it easier and more effective to use a rudder. This is especially the case when a larger, more powerful rig is used.

Choosing an open canoe to convert into a sailing canoe

For the open canoeist who wants to have a go at canoe sailing, the canoe that they already have may be a good place to start. Fitting a simple rig is reasonably affordable and can be a good way to get into the sport. Canoes come in a variety of sizes and shapes, are made from various materials and their cost varies widely. Some are much better for sailing than others.

Adding buoyancy to an open canoe

When you buy an open canoe from new it will have very little built-in buoyancy. It is important to understand what you need to do to make your new canoe a safer craft for sailing.

Using small outriggers for added safety

For many years following the formation of the OCSG in 1990 nobody sailed with the aid of small outriggers. Solway Dory first introduced them in 2007 as an aid for a novice sailor, but it soon became obvious that they could be useful for more experienced sailors too.

Decked sailing canoes

When the OCSG formed in 1990, there were no commercially available decked sailing canoes in the UK. Members learned from articles written about them in our newsletter that the historic sailing canoes of the Victorian age were usually decked. This encouraged members to experiment with decked sailing canoes and eventually Solway Dory started offering them for sale.

Outrigger canoes

Outrigger canoes, or trimarans, have become a seaworthy addition to the OCSG fleet. Their central hull has a narrow waterline beam and rely on larger outrigger floats to provide lots of stability. With large outriggers and relatively modest sail size these canoes are uncapsizable due to the force of wind alone.

Home-built sailing canoes and rigs

Canoe sailing is a fairly niche activity and consequently there is only a limited market for sailing canoes and their associated fixtures and fittings. Commercially there are few manufacturers of these products around the world. Here in the UK there are only a very few suppliers of specifically canoe sailing items, with the most significant and only real specialist maker being Solway Dory. As a result of this many of the photos and some of the information in this website may seem to imply that buying Solway Dory kit is the only way to go canoe sailing. But this is not the case.

History of sailing canoes in the UK and OCSG

The canoes that we sail in the OCSG today have a lot to do with the history of canoe sailing, both that of the OCSG and of the Victorian sport that started it all.


The group provides a shop window for buying and selling second hand sailing canoes, sailing rigs etc in the UK.