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Sailing a plastic paddleski and moving on

Since it was a gusty onshore wind today -- somewhere over 10 knots -- I went sailing on the paddleski with the latest design option for my steering oars.

The tide was way out and with the shoals close to the surface there was a lot of white water making for a very wet ride with at times 30-40 cm waves breaking over my sit-on-topness.

Everything worked. No dramas...but...

I think that after so much of my fiddling and rigging I can begin to step back from this project of turning a cheap plastic paddleski into a sailing canoe.

Learning to sail. 

En route these past so many months I have taught myself to sail. From knowing nothing and by negotiating wind and tide as a series of challenges I needed to surmount, I've gone from pig ignorance to a working relationship with the  gusty elements.

The research I've had to invest, matched with so many 'trials' upon the water has been an apprenticeship in how  to sail.

I'm still a beginner, a novice, of course --  but I at least know my way around a boat and its rigging attributes.

The sail rig

From knowing nothing about sails and rigging, the fact that I had to build my own mast and sail, adapt and attach it to the craft  has exposed me to the wonders of sailing motion. I am amazed how effective my settee sail hung from a mast at 45 degrees is. Cross wind, against the wind, downwind...I am 'blown away' by how efficiently my rig can harvest what breeze  there is on offer.

Given that I started 'sailing' with a golf umbrella -- which can only be used downwind -- the engineered sophistication of real sail design  comes as a bit of a shock.


While my sailing rig is a delight my ongoing problems with steering my paddleski more or less undermine the whole shebang. Finally I have settled on the right length and blade drop for my pair of steering oars so that I am in control of where I actually do go.

However, my paddleski is designed as a beamy stable platform which unfortunately tracks terribly. So despite all the energy I can harvest from my wonderful sail I am spending it wastefully moving the beaminess of the craft forward.

In the situation like today where I was buffeted by so many white caps breaking along my windward side,  the force of the wind harvest was not efficiently  translated into forward motion. The craft performs much better when there are no breaking waves on the sea's surface. So offshore winds, winds from behind...etc  are the only ways to compensate for its laboured forward track.

Steering under gusty conditions is a lot of hard work as I always have to compensate for the shortness of the hull by arduously hanging onto the steering oars and use my strength against lateral forces.

The paddleski is a stable platform that will bear up under a good weight in many conditions -- but sailing it ,  as well as paddling it, won't get you anywhere in a hurry. Paddling is fine -- that's covered in its original design.  It may not track with the best canoes but you can still paddle it from 'a' to 'b' so long as 'a' and 'b' aren't  a Marathon distance  apart.

So the paddleski is my introduction to boating and still suits my offshore fishing requirements and paddling excursions...but as a sail boat, it hasn't got a bright future.
I say that because I suspect there are no further tweaks I can engineer to improve its performance.I may have converted a paddleski into a sailing canoe  but my base craft has limitations.
That suggests to me that maybe for my sailing requirements it's time to move on.

The Quick Canoe

This is where the Quick Canoe comes in. I am going to build myself a plywood canoe using plans by Michael Storer. That's my next major project.

Since I already have a sailing rig -- once I build my canoe ( huh! easy peasey, right?)  I adapt my present rig to the new build and ... sail away.

As I do so, I apply all the principles I learnt about steering oar navigation. (this is  topic -- rather than rudders that interests me.)

I'll continue to sail about with the craft I've got while I  handyman this project.  The quick canoe is supposedly a 4.5 hour build but with me, there's the rub, as my carpentry skills are non existent.

Need I point out that my current rig is held together by bungey cords and plastic zip ties!

'The Flying Crutchman'

However, assuming it happens, and I actually build a canoe that floats then I apply all the stuff I learnt from my paddleski sailing to the new craft. I for instance, extra rig it with crutches.

With crutches?

My rigging for the paddleski in both sail and steerage is made from three sets of crutches. The mast is locked to the craft -- stepped --  by a pair of crutches. The mast is held at 45 degrees angle by a pair of crutches. The shafts for the steering oars are made from a pair of crutches.

$4-5 a pair at local Op shops.

They are ideal: tooled and engineered to support the significant weight of crippled humans, and freely available as boating accessories.

It's not my invention as a name  but this build may finally be launched as  "The Flying Crutchman".

A future craft

Granted that we aren't there yet but since I like to get way ahead of myself I like to project into the future.
  1. Maybe I get to apply many uses for crutches on the new craft : rigging, steering -- and , if necessary -- using crutches as supports for the ama on an outrigger.
  2. Given that I'll be open canoe sailing  (the paddleski is an enclosed sit-on-top) I get to add buoyancy devices for those times when I will capsize.
  3. The new craft will be longer [ Length – 4.7m (15ft 6ins) ] and will carry two people and their gear  so I get to do more and go further than with what I've got. Camping trips are an option.
When I decided on the Finn Gadget Paddleski I was nervous about my ability to paddle it -- let alone do anything else. I hadn't paddled anything for 30 years! So it was a personal experiment.Although I had dreamed and pondered  some sort of boating activity for years, I didn't caste off until very  recently.

Now I'm an old salty dog! At this rate maybe I'll solo circumnavigate something. That's because I'm hooked and there is nothing  half so much worth doing as messing about in boats.
`Nice? It's the ONLY thing,' said the Water Rat solemnly, as he leant forward for his stroke. `Believe me, my young friend, there is NOTHING--absolute nothing--half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing,' he went on dreamily: `messing--about--in--boats; messing----'


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