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(Last up-dated 17/06/12)


There is nothing better than the simplicity of a canoe - just 3 components - you, the canoe and a paddle. In it's simplest form, canoeing or kayaking requires no complicated equipment and if the canoe is small enough it can even be carried by you down to the water you are going to explore without a trolley or trailer

But this simplest form of canoeing is not for everyone and many will want to add a sailing rig or floats or outboard motors etc. But this gear does not need to be complicated and here are some examples of the sort of equipment some of our clients/builders have added to their canoes :-


Many of our designs come with a sailing rig but those that do not can also be fitted with a sail. One of the most popular rigs we have is the simple gunter rig as used by the Fisher Prospector - it is similar to a Bermudan sail which is triangular in shape but has a yard along it's top edge which allows the mast to be short and means that the mast, boom etc can be stowed easily within the length of the canoe. The Prospector rig also has a jib (foresail) which adds efficiency to the rig but the gunter main can be used by itself (see our Beaver design). we also have lug rigs and lateens. The reason for using these rigs is once again, the short spars but also the need to keep the centre of pressure of the sail, low.

If you want a rig for your canoe, you will also need to fit a board of some sort to stop the canoe from going sideways and some form of rudder. the rudder can be a paddle draped over the side of the boat towards the aft end. This is simple but often leads to the loss of the paddle when a shift in the wind causes you to drop it in order to tend the sails. The board that helps prevent you from going sideways is often a leeboard which is a board fitted over the side. It can also be a daggerboard or centreboard - the daggerboard lifts vertically in a box fitted over a slot though the hull bottom and the centreboard pivots in a similar but longer box. the leeboard is more often used as it is removable and does not have any permanent fixture in the canoe whereas the lee and centreboard need a permanent box.

Here are some examples :-

This is a typical mast step arrangement - the bottom of the mast is held in a simple wood step on the bottom of the canoe and is held upright by a brass 'U' shaped clip at deck level. On a canoe, this means that no standing rigging is required (ie. forestay or shrouds) making rigging quick and easy. Often a simple hole though a seat is used instead of the clip. Note the water tight hatch in the forward bulkhead - these are simple and easy to fit and relatively cheap and allow easy access into the compartment - RWO are a good source in the UK.

This is a typical canoe rudder as detailed on our plans - the blade swings up for shallow water and the stock is secured with simple brass strip gudgeons to the canoe with a long pin as the pintle. Because the rudder is so far aft of the steersman and the width of the canoe is narrow, a fixed tiller would be useless so, in this case, a push/pull arrangement is used - the tiller pivots to the side of the rudder stock on a yoke - pushing and pulling the tiller causes the rudder stock to rotate. This example is by Ian Davison.

This Fisher Prospector is by Ghislain Baron and shows the use of a paddle as a rudder - he has fitted a good downwind sail taken from another boat - sometimes this is all that is required - rather than worrying too much about sailing performance into the wind with lee/daggerboards etc, just relax and use the sail when the wind is behind you.

This is not a close picture but the leeboard can be seen hanging over the side opposite the mast - some just use one but 2 are more often used - one on either side, which allows them to be asymmetric in section if you want to be ultra efficient - the wood beam they are pivoted too can be removed.
I mentioned a gunter rig and this is an example - the gunter yard can just be seen on the top forward edge of the sail taking the sail higher than the top of the mast.

This leeboard on one of our Fisher Prospectors by Steve Cullis is fixed to one side only by a simple single axis pivot through the hull - the planking in way of this has been thickened with further plywood and the board can be rotated up using the handle - note also the mast support beam which also has cleats etc for the halyards.

This is our Beaver design which has a similar rudder and sail (the gunter yard is clearly visible) but in this case she has a daggerboard which is centrally mounted in the hull and works up and down in a box or case - this is often more efficient than the leeboards but takes up room in the boat.

Our Manual of Ply/Epoxy Canoe Construction comes with the Beaver sail, rudder and leeboard plan plus a chapter on canoe rigs etc.


Over the years we have seen so many different ways of fitting out our canoes. Seats are typical - we often show simple ply seats on our plans or canvas. Some are permanently glued in place, others are hung from open gunwales. it comes down to how much work you want to put in and the style you wish to use. here is one example :-

This is what l mean by an open gunwale - it is not very difficult to do and often consists of wood blocks spaced out and glued to the inside of the top plank with a strip inwale glued over them - why do it/ - well it looks the part but it also gives a stiffer gunwale and allows for easy passage of bilge water out of the canoe when you tip it to one side.
The seat shown here is simple and effective with 2 supports and the seat top consisting of wood strips fore and aft producing enough 'give' to make it comfortable.

In the foreground is a nicely shaped yoke to help carry the canoe.

How's this for ultimate comfort - the seat supports have been placed as shown on our plans (this is our 14' Peterborough built by James Beale) and a comfy cushion placed on top of a wood seat bottom and the backs added - for guys of my age this is a dream!

We show this type of seat on several of our designs - 2 athwartship (side to side) supports connected by a pair of wood rods and the whole covered by canvas stapled or tied underneath - a very comfortable type of alternative from the simple plywood seat.

Here is a nicely carved yoke to help carry the canoe on your shoulder - this one has simply been bolted to the gunwales on one of our 14' Peterboroughs.

Left - seats made with a substantial frame with fabric tape woven over them - right fitted along with stretchers adapted to take drink cups by Simon Hunt - to see more photos of the construction and finish of Simon's beautiful 17' Prospector, go to the More Canoe Building page in the Canoe Building section.


Several of our canoe designs have float or ama details - for small floats we have a system designed for the 16' Ranger and another for the Waterman 12 - we can send you a package consisting of both sets of details - contact us for the price.
Alternatively we have the flat details of the Seajay 20 and dragon 40 designs which we can send out separately - they are simple plywood float designs on solid beams. The Waka Ama 18 has more sophisticated floats or amas which would also suit a variety of the larger canoes - contact us for details.

This is our Waka Ama canoe design showing the standard ama and attaching beams which come with those plans - the ama is simply tied to the beams and the beams are tied to the main hull giving some flexibility to the set up. We can supply these details separately - contact us for details. 


Above is one of our Fisher Prospector canoes fitted with the float design we give for our Ranger design. It makes a handy and useful lightweight trimaran excellent for use with young children or those who find moving about a small boat difficult without upsetting it. This example is by Steve Cullis. Go to for more recent pictures and a video.


The above is our Beaver design by  Marcello Ferrero using one of our lateen rigs and a pair of floats providing additional stability for use by children on the sea. 


It is easy to build a canoe in 2 halves (details are in the Plywood Canoe Building Book) - a bulkhead is fitted into each half and then bolts are used to join the 2 halves together.

The above is our Waterman 16 design built in 2 halves by Nick Hart.


Tents can be made to cover the whole canoe hull or, as below, to cover the canoe plus floats.

The above is Steve Cullis' Prospector with a tent that extends over the floats - and below with a ply cuddy.


These are often best attached to a beam to one side of the canoe.

The above is again on Steve Cullis' Prospector