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Need Sail Made For 20' Old Town Guide

Discussion in 'Canoe Sailing' started by garypete, Jan 5, 2019.

  1. garypete

    garypete LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I am setting up a 1931 20' Old Town Guide for serious sailing. I have made outriggers for both sides of the canoe so it should have the stability to handle a good amount of sail. I need a knowledgeable sailor and sail maker to help me find the center of effort for the canoe so I can locate the mast and leeboards, then make a sail. I live in northern Wisconsin about three hours north of Madison.

    Rice Lake, WI
  2. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    I would encourage you to do some reading first. The book at will have what you need to get started. The information at and can give you some ideas about the sails that were originally offered with your canoe. Ordinary lateen canoe sails are not especially complex so any good sail maker in your area can probably build one, once you decide the shape and size. The people at and can probably help if you are still not sure how you want to proceed. Leeboards are typically built to be adjustable so you can move them to tune the balance and match the center of effort in the sail. Good luck and feel free to reply here if you have other questions,

    Last edited: Jan 5, 2019
  3. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    As a general rule of thumb, you want to keep your leeboard bracket pretty close to the center of the hull and use as much of the existing structure as possible for stepping the mast - in order to avoid adding more stuff in the boat which you'll need to climb over or avoid when moving about. On a 20' Guide, the ideal is probably to stick the leeboard crossbar right above the center thwart and step the mast either into the thwart right behind the bow seat or the rear seat crossbar of the bow seat. The sail's CE should be right above the leeboards to start with, and the board position can be adjusted forward or aft as needed during the initial sea trials for best performance and helm balance.

    Adding outriggers can tend to complicate things and make planning for performance very difficult. The reason is that they will change the boat's center of lateral resistance, which your leeboard's fore and aft position is trying to establish. Depending upon how far forward or aft the outriggers are, how long they are, what sort of shape or sharp edges they have, how much buoyancy they have, etc. they will be figuring into the CE vs CLR equation to some extent - we just don't know how much. This isn't necessarily bad, but it makes trying to figure out their effect on the way the boat sails and handles ahead of time quite difficult. The smart play is probably to set the boat up the way it would be done with no outriggers (which you may eventually find more enjoyable to sail anyway) and build some fore and aft adjustment into your outrigger system, so that you can tune out any adverse effects they may have on your helm balance.

    For a lateen sail, I don't think I'd go bigger than about 75 sq. ft. of sail area on that boat (used or replacement Sunfish sails can be had pretty cheaply in that size). Canoes move easily and you simply don't need huge sails. Even with outriggers, you could probably be fine with a lateen or lugsail in the 50-55 square foot range. Sail area only helps if you can use it and at a certain point, the increased heeling force pushing an outrigger deeper into the water just increases drag, not speed.
  4. OP

    garypete LOVES Wooden Canoes

    I was thinking of adding a clamp-on thwart with a hole for the mast, but your idea of a traditional front seat mast support sounds like less clutter in the boat. I was going to make a new caned front seat anyway. May as well make it a traditional sailing-canoe front seat with a bump out extension on the rear seat crossbar having a hole for the mast. Or make a new wide thwart behind the front seat with a hole for the mast.

    The 4"diameter x 5' hollow outriggers are held on by bent glue-lam brackets clamped to the gunwales that allow adjusting the height the outriggers sit above the water. Setting the outriggers a few inches above the water will take their drag out of the equation when sailing downwind and the boat is level. Pointing upwind and heeling is a different matter as the lee outrigger will be in the water creating drag. I've never seen a sailing canoe in action so have no idea how much a canoe heels going upwind. You seem to be saying that the larger the sail, the greater the heeling angle will be. Is that correct?

    This rig is going to take some fine tuning on the water to get the leeboard placement and outriggers height and foreward/backward position matched to the sail.

    I'd like you to obtain an appropriate aluminum mast and make the sail. Or you can give me specs for a wood mast and I'll glue up an octagonal mast. When you've made the sail, I'll bring the boat to Madison and we can fine tune it on Lake Mendota. I've got some minor restoration to do on the canoe (outer gunwales, seats, Dacron covering) so won't be ready to bring the canoe to Madison until spring ice out in any case.

    Can we work together by sending dimensions and pictures back and forth in emails to get this done? My email is:

  5. Todd Bradshaw

    Todd Bradshaw Sailmaker

    On a canoe that size, especially one with outriggers, I think I would much prefer a mast thwart to a mast seat. It is a substantially stronger installation for a boat with a fairly generous sail (for a canoe). You also have the "flag pole principle" to consider when you add outriggers or go to a multihull design. The outriggers and their buoyancy severely reduce the hull's ability to heel over in a gust and spill wind to reduce stress on the mast and its base. The mast just has to stand upright, like a flag pole and take it. For this reason, the mast, mast step and partners (thwart, seat, etc.) need to be somewhat stronger on a multihull or outrigger configuration than they would have to be on a monohull. Dropping a seat down from the inwale on long bolts and spacers is never going to be as strong and secure as a thwart bolted tightly to the gunwale bottom.

    "I've never seen a sailing canoe in action so have no idea how much a canoe heels going upwind. You seem to be saying that the larger the sail, the greater the heeling angle will be. Is that correct?"

    Yep, sail size and the height of the rig are the determining factors, sometimes balanced (literally) against how much of your body weight you choose to hang out the other side to counteract the heeling force. Obviously, the weather and wind you decide to sail in are the other major factor. Some prefer to sail in light wind, sitting calmly on the boat's bottom, others prefer more excitement and risk and like to let it all hang out. It is possible though, to add so much sail area or rig height that in your average sailing conditions you are not able to trim the sail in properly because doing so tends to overpower the boat. Sailing around with a sail which is luffing most of the time to prevent getting knocked over or the heeling submarine-ing your outriggers is not very efficient sailing.

    As to the sail business, I'm retired and no longer doing it. After nearly 35 years of crawling around on a hardwood floor, grinding my knees up, and following an upper aortic aneurism, it was time to quit.
    garypete likes this.
  6. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    You may want to consider rigging it for two sails. See the links below for some examples of these.

    I own two of these and they are great fun to sail. Rudder gudgeons are mounted on both the bow and stern so I can sail them forward with either a 45 or a 55 square foot sail. They can also be sailed backward with both sails at once totaling 100 square feet. The leeboards clamp on so I can easily move them to adjust for the changes in the center of effort. I use these canoes in the classes I teach for the Maine Canoe Symposium's sailing program at if you want to try one out. Have fun and let us know what you decide to do.

    Last edited: Jan 6, 2019
  7. OP

    garypete LOVES Wooden Canoes

    Double sails look romantic and classy, but it seems to me to be too much clutter inside a canoe, especially when the lug spars and sails are laying in the bottom of the canoe. I'll probably stick with a single sail, maybe a sprit sail, or possibly sloop rig it when I'm sailing solo.

    Interesting that your 1936 Old Town Octa w/sponsons was two years from canvassing to 2nd filling. My 1931 20' Guide build sheet shows only three months between canvas and 2nd filling. Was the Depression worsening by 1936 do you suppose and disrupting Old Town's production schedule?

    Sounds like a fun event you have going in early June. Are sailing canoes prominent at the show?

    We have an annual Memorial Day celebration and wooden canoe show of our opening 10 years ago at the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum and workshop in Spooner Wisconsin which I helped get started in 2008. I've never seen a sailing canoe at our annual shows.

  8. Benson Gray

    Benson Gray Canoe History Enthusiast Staff Member

    There were two primary factors that created the long production delays building Old Town canoes during the 1930s. One was the Depression as you indicated which had a huge impact on canoe sales. The other was how the they were built. Filler takes a long time to dry so canoes were often stacked floor to ceiling and wall to wall in large storage areas. This would mean that the first ones in were often the last ones out. The Old Town Canoe Company would even occasionally store canoes on the roof once the store rooms filled up as shown in the picture at for example. The charts at have some large horizontal spreads which indicates that long production delays were not unusual. One Old Town appears to have been built in the early 1960s and didn't ship until the early 1970s.

    I typically run two sailing sessions on Saturday afternoon at the Maine Canoe Symposium as shown at and listed at on the schedule from last year. Individual sessions can also be arranged if necessary. This is one of a broad variety of activities as shown at and from a few years ago. Canoe sailing was very popular in the 1920s as shown at so it is surprising that you haven't had one at any of the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum shows. You should display yours there once it is finished. This may start a new trend.

    Last edited: Jan 7, 2019
  9. Rob Stevens

    Rob Stevens Wooden Canoes are in the Blood

    Batwing sail for sale by Fred Capenos in 3 River Chapter newsletter. See Classifieds on last page.

    Attached Files:

  10. Greg Nolan

    Greg Nolan enthusiast

    "Sounds like a fun event you have going in early June. Are sailing canoes prominent at the show? We have an annual Memorial Day celebration and wooden canoe show of our opening 10 years ago at the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum and workshop in Spooner Wisconsin which I helped get started in 2008. I've never seen a sailing canoe at our annual shows."

    Benson teaching at the Maine Canoe Symposium (where other sailing canoes do show up):

    ss IMG_0674.JPG

    Also, there are always sailing canoes (in addition to Benson's) at the WCHA's annual assembly. Here are a few of those that have appeared over the past few years:

    ss IMG_0086.JPG ss IMG_0103.jpg ss 100_5420.JPG ss 100_5546.JPG ss 100_5547.JPG ss cr 100_2749.JPG ss sailing.jpg ss cr 100_0784.JPG ss cr 100_0793.JPG

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