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Sailing a Canoe on Crutches II : Steering

The most trouble I've had with sailing my paddleski (sit-on-top kayak/canoe) is steering the thing.

My hull is a shallow semi catamaran like hull upon which sits a very beamy craft -- to 90 cm wide. This makes the thing very stable and weight bearing but it tracks slowly and tends, as so many kayaks do, to  turn into the wind and waves if not constantly guided.

One of the major reasons for this penchant to spin is that at 2.4 metres in length, this is a very short boat.

So in experimenting with steering options I soon found myself trying to compensate for  its beaminess, its short length and its  catamaran like hull.

I very soon learnt that I needed to run steerage out the back in the same way that a fish or crocodile steers with its tail. I've experimented with quite a few steering oar designs over  many months but ironically kept coming back to using crutches for my oar arms. 

My other problem was that because I was  sort of  cat like -- and didn't have a rudder -- I needed two steering oars in order to navigate with precision and control direction.

 I ran a thwart across the hull and attached to it two steering oars -- made from crutches -- with stretch cord. I need to work both oars simultaneously when the wind is up or when I want to turn sharply.

The oars can also be used to pull the craft left or right or to to move it forward by churning the water like the oar on a gondola  can be worked. This makes for ease of parking.

The oars are made from a pair of crutches dovetailed with one another and the blade is a roughly shaped piece of plywood.Originally for the blade I was using plastic chopping boards. My ongoing challenge was to work out by trial and error how far back I needed to locate the blades so that I'd have the best steering control. An advantage with crutches is that they are curved and this bend is an advantage when running the steering oar arm along the side of of the craft. They 'fit' snugly along the hull and increase the steering arc on each side. When passive and left free to drag behind,  the curve in the oar ensures the blade stays in rough alignment with the hull.
In the end...

In the end, I think I have run out of creative options despite my rough-as-guts and provisional rigging. While the paddleski sails it doesn't sail well. Because of its cumbersome tracking and labored forward motion, I lose so much of the wind power I capture in my sails and need to work hard on the steering oars to keep the craft in straight line navigation. A longer, less beamy canoe or kayak would perform much better under sail.

Nonetheless, the materials I've used -- crutches, stretch cords, and bamboo (even zip ties) seem adequate to the task despite the force of the wind. Gale force conditions would surely wreck the rigging but then who wants to test the boundaries under those conditions?

But in a breeze, I sail along with all the nautical-ness on offer and  for someone who has never sailed before,  the wind-in-your face experience and the problem solving exercises have been a great sailing apprenticeship.


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