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Pirogue (almost) a go go.

'Tis hard to believe but I'm 'that' close to finishing my canoe build.

I have been obsessed with  creating a canoe for years but could never muster the confidence to proceed. 

But there you have it: my canoe exists (although seafaring it is still an untested option). 

En route I've adapted the original plans to suit my needs.

The Seats

I had a sinking feeling that in raising the seats level with the gunwales I had committed a design flaw. But I see that many pirogues -- flat bottom canoes -- do indeed seat their crew  level with the top of the craft. 

My thinking was that given my often delicate -- stiffness prone -- condition I could do with the leg room; and anyone who has ever paddled a kayak will tell you, sitting  on the 'deck' to paddle with your legs at 90 degrees in front is uncomfortable. So I thought "go higher to raise my comfort quotient."

So I did...

Canoe seats  are usually designed low so that there is less  tip as the paddler or passenger's centre of gravity  shifts with the strokes. But then mine is a flat bottomed canoe  so the side to side thing isn't a major issue (up until a point, of course: the point where the water starts coming over the side).

From experience, I also know that the lower you are in the canoe in the water the less you pick up wind drag. This is an advantage for kayaks being so low in the water: they don't present a large target to the wind. 

My canoe, on the other hand, is a craft I hope to sail more often than not so wind drag  is kosher.

The other advantage of a high seat is that it's easier to pole the canoe without necessarily standing (gondolier style) . In  my local shallow waters, I love poling: pushing myself  forward with a long bamboo cane along the sandy bottom. It can be faster sometimes than casual paddling. Standing while polling has  ergonomic advantages especially when you poll left and right of the canoe as you have to pitch the long pole over the craft to swap sides. This is partly why often boats that are poled from the stern where it is narrowest.



Just as stand up paddling  has taken off as another use for surfboards, canoe poling has its new breed of adherents.

The Sail Rig


As yet we don't know the cut of this craft's jib but the canoe we built -- Michael Storer's Quick Canoe -- can be sailed.

I've taken the sail rig from my old plastic kayak -- The Flying Crutchman -- and worked out a way to attach it to the pirogue. I think I've dealt with  the stresses a stiff wind will have on the hull.

I think so/hope so....

Indeed my old sail looks small when its unfurled atop this new canoe, so I hope to make another rig with  larger sail area.

I'm very happy with the design I use -- taken from Bill Mantis' work up (left). There's a functional logic in the rig despite its lack of a clean line or romantic silhouette.

I had trimmed my original sail but when I get around to making another rig I want to master this shortened sail  first and learn from the trials.


How much sail? How far back?  What skills will I need to handle tacking? What limitations are imposed by my flat bottom? Will I have to consider attaching an outrigger or leeboard at some future stage?

If I go the outrigger route I have an inspiration from the Cook Islands. As  Gary Dierking explains (check out the images):
Aitutaki Paddling Canoes:  I took these photos during a visit to Aitutaki in the Cook Islands in 2008. Some are dugouts but most are flat bottomed plywood. They are mostly used in the shallow area of the lagoon and are pushed along with a long pole.
Martin Roberts  has also added an outrigger to his pirogue (above right). But then outriggers are another world altogether, I'm sure. With an outrigger -- assuming you sail it correctly --  you get to handle more chop and stiffer breezes without capsizing. But sailing or paddling with an outrigger would be a novel experience...

The Aitutaki Lagoon
is big (14 km north/south)


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