New rig - with plenty of thanks!


WCHA Member
Hi All,

In late June I celebrated the maiden voyage of a new canoe rig..

I would like to offer thanks to Todd Bradshaw! His book Canoe Rig inspired a seven year dream to add a sail to the canoe. Two years ago I commissioned him to build the sprit sail. His craftsmanship is remarkable.

Thanks also to Ted Moores for his first and second editions of CanoeCraft. The canoe is the Peterborough from the first edition. It is a wonderful design, perfect for the small lake I live on, and a fun platform for sailing. Both editions of CanoeCraft were my primary guides during canoe construction.

Finally, thanks to the many folks on the WCHA, Woodenboat & Bear Mountain Boat forums for the many hints and tricks gleaned over the years.



  • Sail Rig 1 post.jpg
    Sail Rig 1 post.jpg
    290.1 KB · Views: 1,290
  • Sail Rig 2 post.jpg
    Sail Rig 2 post.jpg
    322.2 KB · Views: 1,030
  • Sail Rig 3 post.jpg
    Sail Rig 3 post.jpg
    301 KB · Views: 1,106
Sail Rig

I am very impressed by the pictures of the sailing canoe you posted on the WCHA forums. I have recently been thinking about building a sailing rig for use on my 15' Old Town 50-pounder, and you r rig looks like it would be pretty close to what I would want. I'm wondering if you could provide some specific information about the sail rig -- height of mast, length of sprit spar, dimensions of the four sides of the sail and its area. (I am planning to steer with a paddle, and already have a set of lee boards, so do not need information about those items, at least at the moment.)

I have had Todd Bradshaw's book for quite some time, and was leaning to something like the triangular sprit-boom sail that he shows, but have been concerned that it would require a relatively tall mast. Seeing your photos, I see that a rectangular-ish sprit sail would use a shorter mast, and still have a spar that is well above head-bashing level -- something I think useful for someone like me who does not know how to sail, and will be learning with the rig I build.

In any event, thanks for putting up the pictures of your beautiful new canoe.
Greg, Here is the original plan that I drew for the sail and built it from, with the basic dimensions listed. Since I do all the shaping to turn a flat plan into a three-dimensional sail by eye, I don't usually write those measurements down (or even measure them). The measurements that are shown are those you would take to your sailmaker, who would then shape the sail as he sees fit.

This one would get a little bit of luff round to create draft and some broadseaming across the bottom to give the lower area a little bit of a cupped shape. The leech edge would be slightly hollowed to prevent flapping. The head edge on a spritsil should be cut dead straight to combat sag in use, though there is also some broadseam shaping done up along the top to keep it from being too flat up there.

Don't worry very much about getting hit with the boom as you learn to sail. It's really not a big problem, even on boats with low booms, and learning to deal with it is just part of learning to sail. On the list of factors influencing your choices, it should generally be placed well down near the bottom of the list. Most sailors never suffer from more than just minor brain damage (twitches, amnesia, etc.) as a result of getting bonked.


  • Widrick-Spritsail.jpg
    37 KB · Views: 985
Sprit Sail


Todd posted the graphic of the sail. Below is a JPG of another sketch of the rig. All dimensions are in inches.

I decided on the sprit sail for two main reasons.

1. Aesthetics. I was smitten by the drawing on page 12 of Canoe Rig. That was my inspiration for the project.
2. No boom. I didn't want to play whack-a-noggin while learning how to sail. The next rig for the canoe will have probably have one!

During email exchanges with Todd, he reinforced the idea that there are no right or wrong answers when it comes to the sail design. It is all about understanding the various trade-offs, your local conditions and your personal preferences. He worked with me for several weeks before I decided on the final design.

The mast is made from a four 1"x1" spruce strips glued to make a 2 inch square blank. It was rounded using Lee Valley Tools' concave spokeshave. It ended up being about 1 7/8" at the mast thwart and tapers to about 1 1/4 at the top. The sprit is similar construction from 3/4" x 3/4" Douglas fir strips. I didn't taper it after rounding it off.

This was my first endeavor into the world of sailing. My previous experience is a day on a windsurfer about 25 years ago. I don't have much to compare it to, but I can say that is a whole lot of fun in a good wind.



  • Sail plan with dimensions 20090805.jpg
    Sail plan with dimensions 20090805.jpg
    164.5 KB · Views: 766
Todd and Mark --

Thanks for so generously sharing your plan/drawing, as well as information needed to use them. They are great starting point for a project this coming winter.

The problem with basing a choice on aesthetics is that, Todd, the drawings in your book make everything look so good -- if I were choosing on aesthetic grounds, I would be aiming at a two-masted bat-wing rig or some such -- and then I'd really be in the soup!

Aside from the issue of cranial safety, the sprit sail appeals because it looks simple to rig and to use -- minimal number of lines to get confused about or tangled up in, and only 2 reasonable-sized sticks (1 mast, 1 spar) to handle and store, and, Mark, as your rig shows, it does look good.
I have found [too often, I might add] that bamboo booms are forgiving.... I'll be adding my sprits'l--with a boom--to my boat very soon. The boom alleviates the need to have the sheet seized to the clew, where it gets in the way and makes casting my fly rod while under sail practically impossible.
One can cover a lot more water that way....a couple weeks ago I chased down a school of blue fish!

Retired? RETIRED? I ain't stinkin' retired!
What a beautiful job!!!! How cool is it to have people like Todd Bradshaw around us. What an impact you have made Todd with that beautiful book, and all your knowledge. Your book is the nicest one in my collection. For those that havent sailed a canoe, you are missing out, nothing like it! I have a simple OT Guide with a lateen sailing rig, but what a blast it is! 1st time I sailed was only 2 years ago, and fell in love with it. Anyhow, nice job.;)