Classic Design Resurrected

Dan Miller

cranky canoeist
Staff member
In an effort to get more folks interested in canoe sailing, John Summers of the Antique Boat Museum, with some help from myself, is working up a design from lines taken off an original 1920's Fred Gilbert sailing canoe. The idea is to offer up a design that can be built using off the shelf materials and hardware, at mimimal cost. It should also be an exciting canoe to sail. See the attachments for some teasers. Plans are to have at least one prototype ready for the No-Octane Regatta, and to perhaps offer a building workshop prior to the 2006 Clayton Rendezvous.



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Is this design suitable for stitch & glue construction? From the quick look, I'd guess it would.
Yep, meant to say that. It will be offered as drawings (and maybe a kit) to build it S&G. It would also be possible to build a repro using Spanish cedar as the original...

I have an 18 foot Charles River Old Town and even though I have no knowledge of sailing am interested in it . Keep us posted. Thanks Ed
I am curious how you are planning the mast (1 or 2) and its placement, as well as placements of the lee boards. There are boat building books (Chapelle's for example) that give rough placement guidelines. I am planning to put a mast(s) and sail(s) on a freighter canoe (23ft, 26"deep, 70"beam),lines are from the 6 fathom north canoe page 143 Adney and Chapelle's skin and bark boats of north america, what would your thoughts be? photo of a previous winter's efforts attached.


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If you are referring to the Gilbert canoe (1st post in this message), it is a two-masted rig, from the bow 10 3/8" and 11' 3 1/2" to each mast on center. As drawn it has 90 sqft of sail, class rules will allow up to 103.5 sqft.

For good information on rigging a canoe for sail, see Todd Bradshaw's book "Canoe Rig". Location of the mast isn't as important as balancing the rig. Balancing is most often acheived by moving the location of your leeboards.
For recreational sailing, you generally try to put the leeboard bracket in about the middle of the canoe and then work out the Center of Effort for the sailplan (the theoretical mathematical center of all the sail area) and then you place that spot directly above the leeboards. That's what tells you where to put the mast(s). On the drawing with the blue canoe you can see the center marked on the sail and it's position over the board. If you're going for authenticity, the real Voyageur boats were very simply rigged for downwind sailing and didn't use leeboards. Sails were more often jiffy-rigged tarps than real sails.

Which Adney boat was that again? The dimensions given don't match up with the ones in the book unless you're planning on doing some creative scaling and stretching. Whatever you do, don't build them to the plan as shown unless you're planning on having a BIG load of stuff in the bottom for ballast. With their narrow bottoms and flared sides they make great cargo boats but can be REALLY tippy if you just dump a few people in to go day-paddling or sailing (cross-section drawing). I built one at 22' long and added about eight inches of extra beam and it's still a fairly narrow waterline beam (back yard pic). It's stable enough, but not overly so by any means. Most of the replica Voyageur boats and group paddling boats actually have a hull cross section much more like a giant Old Town Guide than an authentic fur trade canoe. This is to give them reasonable stability for recreational use. The last batch that I helped figure out a design for were hulls based on the Bear Mountain Freedom-17, blown up to 27' with the ends and sheer line modified to look like fur trade designs (group shot). With a light load, like a bunch of kids, they're much more stable than an authentic design would have been.

If I was going to rig mine for sailing with a full rig, I'd step the mast through the thwart behind the bow seat and design the sail's shape so that it's Center of effort was in the middle of the boat with the leeboard bracket over the center thwart. A twin-masted rig would step the mainmast at the small bow thwart, right behind the headboard, and the mizzen mast through the aft quarter thwart. By messing around with sail sizes, shapes and proportions it's fairly simple to move the C. of E. around until it lands over the boards.


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Your advice about the centre of effort of the sail and the leeboard is where chapelle boat-building book puts things as well and I appreciate the input. The basic lines are much like your middle thumbnail picture, but, I confess, I am guilty of some creative scaling, stretching and experimenting.
The first one was not quite as deep as the two in the thumbnail sketch but the front half of each canoe(attachment) is faithful to the 4 1/2 fathom north canoe(pretty close anyways), one in the picture is 5 feet shorter(V stern) than the north canoe, and the square stern was adjustment to the reality that our 4 kids got bigger but were not ready to paddle (significantly greater volume and I raised the bow to make up for the wider transom). I have been faithful to Adneys lines on 6 other projects but it is fun to play with the lines. These freighter canoes are a fantastic boat for exploring the west coast of bc and alaska and are more seaworthy than most other things afloat. I have found them very stable even when lightly loaded on day trips. On our summer trips they are loaded and are very stable over long crossings (Dixon entrance, Hecate str., Cape Caution)
I thought it would be fun to try to fit a sail (I was thinking of 'borrowing' the sail and rigging of my wife's laser) to my next project recognizing that I would have to beef up the thwarts and side walls and allowance for a mast step. hence the question


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Hi Todd Bradshaw,

I like the looks of your first boat that you posted here. I would like to know some more about this canoe. Also I have posted an image of my canoe design that I would like some opinions on? Now don't hold back, no crying from me.


Draco the Red



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