Chris Merigold

Stacia Shane

New Member
I was just hoping, and I know its a long shot, but I miss my step-dad. He was the president here for a while. He passed away in 1999. I was just hoping someone had some stories for me. ❤️ I miss him and his guidance in life. I know he touched many lives here but it has been so very long.
Dang, pretty new here too and did not know your StepDad but he must have dealt with some great folks. Hope they can share fond memories you can share for a lifetime!
I would encourage you to get a copy of the Wooden Canoe Journal Archive at since Chris wrote many great articles personally and was featured in others over the years. The index at lists these on page 29. I don't have any personal stories to share since Chris and I only overlapped for a few years. Good luck and let me know if there is anything else that I can do to help.

I had recently moved to Madison, Wisconsin from central Illinois in the early 1990s, having spent the previous 20 years or so in the canoe, sailboat, backpacking and ski business. I had done some work repairing sails and hot air balloons in Illinois and I figured Madison would have enough boats to do it as a job, rather than just a sideline. So, I hung out my shingle and started fixing sails for local dealers and individuals who owned sailboats. Occasionally, I would get the opportunity to build somebody a new jib or dinghy sail, and those were the most interesting parts of my job. Unlike working on balloons, where the FAA strictly regulates nearly every detail of the procedures, sailmaking allows you to use common sense and some creativity when needed, and also being in the repair business gives you a pretty good idea of what holds up and what does not.

One day I got a call from a gentleman named Chris Merigold asking whether or not I thought I could make passable duplicates for a pair of old canoe sails which were available to see, but too far gone to use. I said "probably" and asked him to bring them over. He did, and within a couple of weeks, the new sails were done. They were modern Dacron, but a version made to look like cotton for traditional boats and they were cut the way that old sails were made. The "look" of old traditional sails is usually more about how they are paneled and detailed than it is the exact materials that they are built from. This yielded a durable, practical, easy to take care of sail that from a few feet away still looked like it was supposed to be there on an antique canoe, and it was a fun and interesting project. Chris was happy and said they were going on an old Peterborough. Apparently, it was old enough that the plank joints were no longer tight enough to keep water out, so his plan was to give the lower part of the hull a skin of Dacron to make the canoe usable. He told me that there were other folks out there who might be looking for something similar, and that he would pass along my name.

To make a long story shorter, I started getting some inquiries and building a few more antique-style canoe sails. At one point I decided that I should have at least some form of hand-out literature to mail to interested parties, so I drew up a short, illustrated catalog that I could print on my home printer, and the sail orders kept coming in. It was much more interesting and creative work than the local repair work. Well..... WoodenBoat Magazine happened to get hold of one of my catalogs and it got a mention in one of their "what's happening" columns in the magazine. Suddenly I was getting hundreds of requests for my little catalog and burning through printer ink cartridges like crazy trying to keep up. WoodenBoat eventually asked me if I was interested in expanding it and turning it into a book, so about three years, 350 pages and over 100 drawings later, "Canoe Rig" was born. I quit doing sail repairs and spent the next 25 years or so building hundreds of antique-styled sails for canoes and other small boats that went all over the world. The profit margin wasn't great, and the work was somewhat tedious at times, but with no two jobs being exactly the same, it never got boring. Thanks to Chris needing a pair of little canoe sails, the entire focus of my business slowly changed and found its way. I'm retired these days and my knees can no longer take long days crawling around on a hardwood floor making sails, but it was a good run while it lasted.

The original Merigold pair:


Somewhere along the line i inherited a spiral bound book of copied journals from the earliest day of the WCHA. The number of articles from this Merigold fellow are significant, and yield a lot of info, so i guess i know him by reputation and enthusiasm for old boats.
Shame Todd is done, he made what i think is the 'last' batwing lateen as in the lower photograph, and after a few years i think i've finally found the boat that is 'worthy' of it...