THE AMOUNT of sail which a canoe should carry is not easy to calculate: much depends on her form and dimensions, on the skill of her crew, and the waters in which she is to sail. Roughly speaking, for unballasted canoes, the formula L x B x D feet will give the area of a good cruising rig.




12 ft
3 ft
1.5 ft
= 54
= 58
= 50
= 40


* These areas are for battened sails.


 which are very fairly proportional to the power of the boats. These are canoes of the RCC dimensions, D, however, being reduced in the longer craft below the RCC maximum, which is more than they could utilize with any good result while retaining canoe form. With less sail than this, a canoe will hardly sail and be under good control in light airs, and at the same time it is no more than she ought to be able a carry in a very tolerable amount of wind in smooth water. I would not, therefore, depart very widely from these areas, unless for special reasons, in first planning sails for a canoe. If they prove too large, they can easily be cut down, and if too small, it is not impossible to enlarge them while nearly new, and even a new suit of sails is no great matter of expense, the old ones being useful as a spare suit for winter sailing, etc.

The next question is, in what form to apply these areas to the canoe. The almost unanimous verdict of experienced canoeists is in favor of two sails: main and mizen. I have heard some few canoeists, however, object to the mizen as adding unnecessarily to the gear. Now, in the first place, the addition is extremely small; a mizen need have nothing but a sheet and some kind of a brail and I hope to show that this extra gear is well worth carrying. A greater area of sail can be safely put upon a canoe in two sails than in one, and thus greater speed may be obtained ; the handiness is greater, especially in squalls, than with the one sail, while the mizen forms a useful trysail for sailing in very hard winds. Some of these propositions may want a little proof, which shall be attempted to be given in a few words.

Let it be supposed that a canoe has a mainsail of 45 feet and a mizen of 15. It is proposed to throw all this area into a single mainsail. Now the mainsail, if well designed for a canoe, has already all the area which can be obtained from a given height and length. We can, therefore, only increase it by adding to the head, to the leech, or to both. Now additional canvas at the head of the sail makes the stability diminish out of all proportion to the increase of area and weight, while adding to the leech is nearly as bad, the whole weight of the extra spars and cloth being carried outboard to leeward, just where it is not wanted ; besides lengthening the spars beyond stowable dimensions. *

* The heeling effect of the weight of sails in a canoe is enormous. I once sailed a sea passage of some 30 miles to windward in a canoe who mast had accidentally got a twist of 5 or 6 degrees to port. On the port tack she was as stiff under whole sail as on the starboard with a reef. It would almost be worthwhile to devise some plan for listing the mast to windward. The cause of the greatly improved sailing was, 1st, the removal of the weight of sails further to windward, and 2nd, that the burying effect of the sails is reduced, and, at small angles of heel, even converted into a lifting effect.

Then as to handiness, by the use of the two sails a canoe can be almost steered without her rudder and if she has an after centre-board we may leave out the "almost." I have made a canoe steer herself like a toy boat for 5 or 6 miles together, in a steady breeze and open water. But it is in a squall that the full value of the rig is to be appreciated, enabling the canoe to luff and to spill her mainsail at the same time, and even to lower mainsail altogether, without quite losing way or control of the boat. This will be seen more fully when we come to the handling of a canoe under sail.

Having determined to carry mainsail and mizen, it remains to decide on the rig. In this we are limited somewhat by the peculiar requirements of the canoe. For example, we cannot have any spar more than 7 or 8 feet long, according to the length of the canoe and the distance between her bulkheads.*

* The use of a spar deck does not affect this question as a spar cannot be raised to the level of the spar deck till it is wholly below. A little length however may be gained by having a watertight recess in one of the bulkheads near the bottom to take the ends of spars.

This limitation of length has one great advantage : it checks the tendency to carry the sails too high or too far out of the boat, the evils of which were noticed above. The use of battens in the sails, Chinese fashion, enables a larger area to be got with any given length of spars, and has other great advantages, enabling the sails to hold a better wind, and to be spilled without flapping or eased off till nearly spilled, when they will not shake as even the best cut ordinary sails will do, but continue to propel the boat. Also more sail can be carried, in the ratio of about 7 to 5. The following designs, when made for battened sails, can be easily adapted to plain sails, but at a great loss of area and efficiency.

The position of the sails in a canoe, fore and aft, cannot be accurately determined except by trial. The usual plan for boats is to find the centre of lateral resistance, that is the centre in a fore and aft direction of the vertical longitudinal section of her whole immersed body, including rudder and centre-boards, and so to arrange the sails that their centre is in a line above this point, or a little fore or aft of it according to circumstances. For the canoe this plan may do to start with, keeping the centre of the sails rather too far aft than forward, as it is easy to reduce the mizen a little if she has too much after sail. A full bowed canoe will like her sails well forward, a fine one, more aft. Also, more after sail may be given if an after centre-board is carried.


Lug sails are by far the most generally used in canoes. There are three ordinary forms of lug, the dipping, standing and balance. The dipping lug, though one of the best sails in the world for strong crews in large open boats, when very short tacks are not required, may be dismissed at once as unsuitable for a canoe. To lower the sail for going about would be a nuisance, and the shifting of the tack would be an almost insuperable difficulty. The standing or working lug has the tack of the sail abaft the mast, while the balance lug has it forward of the mast. The latter must have a boom, with the former it is optional, but a canoe should have a boom with either. The balance lug sets the flatter of the two in ordinary sails, but when battens are used the difference in this respect is little or none. With the working lug the boom can be topped up, which cannot be done with the lug, unless either tack or halliards are slack.

The accompanying illustration represents a working lug, with battens, with a maximum length of 7 feet 6 inches, which would suit a canoe able to stow 8 feet spars, 6 inches at least being required to allow for stretching, etc. The scale being rather small to work from, it will be better to take the dimensions from the following account.



4 feet.


7 feet 6 inches.


7 feet 6 inches.

Length on lower batten

7 feet 4 inches;

on second and third

6 feet 9 inches.


6 feet 4 inches.

Yard slung 3 feet from weather earing.

Clew to peak

11 feet 2 inches.


47 square feet.

Area without battens, the leach
being straight from clew to peak

39 square feet.

The mast should be a grown spar 1-3/4 inches square at heel, and reduced to l-3/8 inches at head. It should be left its full size for about 8 inches above deck, nothing but the corners being taken off. The yard, boom and battens are of bamboo. If a similar sail is to be used for a mizen about half or three-fifths of the dimensions of the mainsail should be used, and only two battens.


I propose to give a full account of the cutting fitting and rigging of this sail. The same will apply to most of the other sails to be described, and where there is any difference it will be pointed out.


The material should be bleached cotton sheeting, which can be had 9 feet wide, is very strong, and does not readily mildew. If specially light sails are required, calico must be used, but this is narrow and must be joined. Seaming the selvages without any doubling or turning in, is the best way to join them. In a sail with straight leach, the selvage should form the leach, but when rounded, as in the present sail, the selvage should run in about the same direction as a line from clew to peak. The edges should be bound with tape, narrow on leach, wide on head and foot, and on luff a double thickness. The "pockets" for the battens may be made of the wide tape, or of strips of the sheeting. All tapes should be sewn on rather slack, as the cloth will stretch and the tape will not.

The gear required for this sail is as follows : sheet, halliard, tack, topping-lift, two reef lines, down-haul and "jackstay." For a mizen, the same, less one reef line and perhaps down-haul. This sounds a long list, but it will be seen that no sail in a canoe can be efficiently handled with much less. The halliard should be fast to a traveller on the mast, for which purpose a hollow brass curtain ring is good, being strong, very light and easily obtained. Only do not forget to take out the eye which is screwed into the ring, and smooth off any roughness on the inside with a file. The halliard then passes through a block, which is equipped with a toggle by which it can be attached to the yard, then through a block at masthead, and another at foot of mast, and aft to hand. This arrangement of the traveller allows the yard to come down well on deck when lowered, and keeps it well up to the mast when hoisted. It is the invention of Mr. E.B. Tredwen, RCC. The sketch shows this and the masthead arrangements. The halliard block should be fixed aloft by a wire strop round the masthead, kept from slipping down by a chock on the fore side. A little brass screw eye above the strop keeps it from falling off when the mast is stowed away. The block at deck should be a cheek block on side of mast.

The tack should be toggled to the boom about 3 inches from the fore end, and lead aft through a block. The topping lifts are hooked or toggled to boom, lead through two little blocks seized to the masthead strop, and down and aft like the halliard. Whether 'patent' reefing gear is used or not there must be reef pennants leading from the luff, unless the canoeist is willing to lower his sail, haul it aft, reef, and re-hoist.


The sail is here shown with a very simple reefing gear, the invention of Mr. W. Baden Powell, and described by him as follows:

"The reefing gear will almost speak for itself. I have used it constantly, not only in canoes, but in boats, and after fitting it on numerous ways, I have come to look upon that shown in the drawing as the most successful and sure working plan. The reef-line, in the first place, is woven cord, dressed with light coat of boiled linseed oil, in order to prevent it shrinking, stretching, or swelling under the influence of weather or water.

The after part of the earing is fastened to the boom by a clench, or by forming an eye by sewing the end back luck to the standing part, and then seizing the eye to the boom. Then lead the reef earing up through brass rings, which are firmly stitched on the sail on patches, and through the block F at after end of the batten D; then through a thimble or ring stropped in above the next f block in on the batten, then through the sister block G, and back to and through the last mentioned block F, and down through the rings E, and fasten to the boom as before said.

When the sail is fully hoisted the sister block G should rest nearly against block F, about an inch off. Next turn to and reeve the fore part of the reef earing. Make the standing part fast by clenching it through the cringle or eyelet hole on the luff of the sail at e (as shown in the rigging plan); then take it away aft in line with the batten, and reeve it through the block G; lead forward again to and through F at fore end of batten; then down through the rings to and through block abaft the mast, and into hand.

"The hand reef line H is fast to the batten D, and leads down through rings on the sail and a ring on the boom, and is finished off by having a ring spliced into its own end. This line is used for snugging that part of the sail where the reef gear does not come, and the ring at the end of H is in such case taken hold of by means of a boat hook till brought into hand and is hitched to the cleat N on the boom. The hand reef line may also be used when the sail has to be shortened quickly for a short passing squall, and then shaken out again."


Mr. Powell applied it to a balanced lug, and I have had to alter one or two words in his description to make it suit a working lug which it suits even better than the balance lug, requiring two less blocks in the lead. For the balance lug there is another and more suitable way of reeving the reef gear. The second reef, and the reef in the mizen, may be fitted in precisely the same manner.

If the reefing gear is not used, luff reef-pennants must be fitted to the fore end of each batten, and lead precisely as the hauling part of the reef gear, the after part of the reef being tied down by the ordinary points.

The down-haul is fast to the sling of the yard, and leads through a block on deck 2 feet abaft mast ; it should never be omitted, as it may be the saving of the gear, the ship, or even the crew. The sail may come down of itself 99 times, but the 100th time something will prevent it, of course just when it is wanted to act like a flash of gunpowder.

The "jackstay" is a name given by canoeists to a line from the masthead to the boom, which keeps the latter from falling on deck when the sail is lowered. For this rig one way is to lead it under the boom and make it fast to the mast a few inches higher. Thus fitted it will keep the sail from falling about when lowered.

There should be two rings or thimbles on it, through one of which the tack is led, this prevents the jackstay from getting over the end of boom. The two rings are seized together in a figure of 8, one part surrounding the tack, the other the jackstay. As good a plan is to have a ring, like the traveller, round the lower part of the mast, prevented from slipping lower than an inch below the boom by chocks. To this the jackstay is fastened, and the tack rove through a thimble seized to the ring.

Thus rigged, the sail can be taken right off the mast from aft and replaced with equal ease. To take the sail off the mast, lower away, let go tack, and haul aft till you get the halliard block, which untoggle fro mast and hitch to a cleat for the moment. Then untoggle the tack and launch the sail forward again. Take of the topping lifts and toggle them and to the halliard block to the tack. Haul forward, and make all taut. Then make up and stow the sail. To set the sail again the halliards must be captured with the boathook, or the tack may be made an endless line.

The better and snugger plan is to stow mast and all. When sail is lowered, let the mast come down, stop the halliards and gear to mast, then take off forestay at masthead, roll up sail and mast together, and stow away. Nevertheless it is well to be able to take it off the mast, as by this means a smaller sail, e.g. the mizen,m may be substituted for it while afloat, or the mast may be left on deck while the sail is stowed below. In this case a longer mast might be used, but the mast shown in the design will be sufficient for ordinary work, and is much more convenient than a longer one.


We next come to the balanced lug sail, the sail carried by all the racing craft of the RCC. For their large sails it is doubtless better than the working lug. The illustration shows a cruising sail of 56 square feet. The racing sails are as much is 100 square feet. It is fitted with identically the same gear as the racing sails, the list being as follows: sheet, halliard, tack, downhaul, jackstay, jackstay tackle, topping lifts, 3 reef lines, parrell bands to yard and to each batten, spinnaker halliard, ditto sheet, 2 preventer backstays, bridle and spring for ditto.




The halliard is fitted as in the last-described sail, as are also the downhaul and topping lifts. The tack is similar, but with the addition of a whip purchase to haul the sail flat. The jackstay ends in a block a foot or so above the boom. Its tackle is formed by a line fast at fore end of boom, through block on end of jackstay, through another block on boom, aft along the boom and fast to a cleat near the aft end. This allows of raising the fore end of boom, and prevents the jackstay from coming taut when the mast is lowered. The parrell bands MM keep the sail to the mast when to leeward of it.

The sheet block, in this or any rig, may travel on a wire "jumper" under the boom, which distributes the strain on the boom, and allows a little less length of sheet to be used in running, as when the boom is squared away the block travels inboard. The sheet, of stout cotton or flax line, should have a ring near each end. When before the wind, one of these rings is let go, and runs up to the block, the other being dropped over a hook on the lee side deck. On a wind the rings are hooked on both side decks, and the sail "humoured" by the slack. Another way is to let one end of the sheet travel on a line stretched across the boat as a "horse", but the line is apt to be in the way of the hatch, or of the crew when getting forward. In whatever manner the sheet is fitted, it should be so secured that the boom cannot get more than square. The sheet is bound to get adrift sooner or later, and if the sail goes right over the boat's bow, the consequences may be troublesome.


The reefs are somewhat similar to those described before, but there is no hand-reef-line, and there is an extra line to reef the piece of sail forward of the mast.

There are three parts to the reef lines, and a tackle. The leach-line is fast at A , leads up through rings to block B, and along the batten to C. The luff-line (which may be cut all in one piece with the leach-line) is fast at F, leads through rings to block E, along the batten to C, and through a block. The third line, which we may call the "bunt-line," is fast at D, led through rings and a block at C. The three lines are secured strongly to a free block H, which rests a few inches forward of C. The tackle is fast at G, leads aft, up through block H, down through block at G, then through a block abaft mast and to hand.

By hauling on the tackle, block H is pulled up to G, and all three lines are simultaneously tightened till the batten is upon the boom. For this gear the reef must taper very slightly, as it does not adapt itself to a reef deeper at one end than the other, which the former reef gear does. The ends at A D F should be hitched to the boom so that they can be slacked or tautened till the strain on them is exactly equal. This is a capital reef gear, if well fitted and carefully kept in order, but everything must be done to keep down the friction, which has a tendency to be excessive, and spoil the working of the gear. It is the invention of of Mr. E.B. Tredwen, RCC, in whose hands it works like a clock, and has aided him to secure many well won races. With his usual public-spiritedness he has made it general property and given a description of it in the Field of Oct. 11th, 1879; and it speaks well for the gear that he has made no alteration whatever in it since that date.

The spinnaker halliard is kept on the main boom, and runs through a block aloft and one at foot of mast. Some canoeists use one of the topping lifts instead. The spinnaker sheet is also kept on the boom, and leads aft through a block on the fore end of it. The after guy of the spinnaker is kept on the sail. The spinnaker boom is formed by adding a joint to the boat-hook, one end being more or less aft on deck, and the other extending to the tack of the sail. Preventer backstays are almost necessary with the long racing masts (over 16 feet in some 14 feet canoes). They have been fitted with a bridle which hauls one forward as the other comes aft, and with an indiarubber spring on this bridle, which carries them both forward to the mast when let go. All the RCC boats "bore" by the head in running, and this tendency is greatly diminished if the head of the mast is hauled aft an inch or two, instead of allowing it to go forward.

For a small canoe the backstays could be omitted, and two reefs fitted instead of three; but unless cut almost like a working lug, with very little forward of the mast requires a longer spar. If the mast is thus rendered too long to stow below, it becomes imperative that the sail be easily taken off the mast, afloat. To do this we must abolish the parrell bands, without which the sail loses half its value.


The mizen used in racing under this rig by Mr. Tredwen is a battened lug, with an ingenious arrangement for reefing. The boom is double, the upper part being fitted with a wheel like a window blind roller. To this the end of the halliard is fastened, so that when the sail is hoisted the line is wound on the roller. By pulling at this part of the line, the roller is forced to revolve, and the sail wound up on the upper boom. For convenience in handling, the bight of the halliard is led forward through blocks, and kept taut by a large indiarubber spring. This mizen works very well and has little gear, though what there is of it requires good workmanship. T32

For a smaller mizen Mr. Tredwen has designed a spritsail, having an equal length on mast, boom, and sprit. Either the whole or half of this sail can be brailed by lines running through rings on the leach. It would be very suitable for a "storm" mizen.

The corners of the sail should be strengthened by double thicknesses of stuff called "tablings". Strong brass eyelets should be fitted in these, and smaller ones along head and foot for the lacings. In cutting out the sail great care should be taken not to stretch it. The head may be slightly rounded to allow for the springing or bending of the yard. Blocks and cord for rigging can be had at Good's, King William Street, E.C.

Blocks should have brass sheaves and brass pins, and should be seen to run fair and freely, and the cords should fit them easily. These should be of the very best quality four strand line, except for reef lines and other strings that are liable to kink. These should be of plaited line, a larger size which is good for painter etc. The canes for battens, etc., can be had at the fishing tackle makers, and should be carefully chosen, free from splits and worm holes. When cut to their length the ends should be bound with string or wire, and plugged with soft wood, afterwards being well varnished. Seizings of hard twine well varnished are very durable, but the booms might be bound with wire, as resisting chafe better, or even very lightly ferruled with brass, which the fishing-rod makers can do.


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