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The GOSSIP

Number 142 / March 2003

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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upwind that you want to do it.

And what's all this "improvised sailing" supposed to be? You get a man with huge amounts of money invested in his boat and his gear who tries to improvise a sailing rig. The improvised rig isn't made of stuff he found in the woods (I could see some sense in that). It's made of high tech synthetics - even carbon fibre. No, the whole thing's nonsense. I think that a lot of canoeing in Britain is dogged by American tradition. Some canoeists just want to play at Indians. I can sympathize with that but there is a homegrown tradition here in Britain. People have used canoes in these islands for thousands of years, though I don't know if they sailed them, but we don't have much connection with this tradition. In the 1860s modern recreational canoeing started here and strangely the first American recreational canoes were copies of our sailing canoes. The fashion for using recreational canoes based on Native American open canoes didn't really become established until 30 years later. The journeys we can make in our wilderness - the north west of Scotland - are different in character to what you can do in Canada. The best boat for the job is a proper sailing canoe.

 

How Canoe Sailing Nearly Killed Canoeing (RoyB)

A recent series of articles in 'The Canoeist' by Ruth Holdway outlines the history of the sport and describes how canoe sailing at the end of the 19th century took over from paddling. MacGregor, with his Rob Roy, created a boat which could be handled by the relatively inexperienced and thus opened up the sport to a wider public. However, as the railway was the only method of transporting the thing across country, canoeing remained a geographically limited activity. Plans for canvas-covered canoes that could be made relatively cheaply were published in the Boys' Own Paper in the 1880's but never, it seems, caught on in a big way. Those eager to get on the water but who lived far from it had to wait until the 1930's before folding canoes, following their popularity in Germany, became widely available.

The Victorians became increasingly interested in sailing rather than paddling canoes. In 1874 the Royal Canoe Club's long paddling race was called off through insufficient interest, whilst the sailors happily raced on. In 1906 the paddling race was abandoned completely. Holdway gives examples of various publications on canoeing in which paddling takes very much the back seat. Baden-Powell's book 'Canoe Travelling', published in 1871, is cited as one example. She then continues: "Sailing canoes were in danger of becoming toy yachts... by 1886 a sailing canoe had a deck, sliding outrigger seat, tiller, smaller cockpit and a larger sail area with necessary air and watertight bulkheads in the hull". They were far beyond the means of most youngsters and as their weight and cost rose so their popularity fell. Other sports, especially bicycling, could offer adventure out of doors to modest wallets.

Most canoes at boating centres were, by the end of the century, straightforward open canoes used for nothing more ambitious than Sunday picnics. The author quotes J. D. Aylward who remarked that by 1906 many older members of the RCC were leaving the club as it was losing the 'bohemianism' of its earlier days. "Canoeing developed then nearly died. The Rob Roy grew bigger, became encumbered with intricate sail rigs and gadgets. They sailed with kings and lost the common touch." (McCarthy, Canoeing) The adventure of paddling re-surfaced in the inter-war years when the folding canoe appeared. I remember my father telling me of a trip on the River Wye in the 1930's that ended when the double canoe in which he and my uncle were travelling capsized. Although not a good swimmer he managed to struggle to the bank where a fisherman asked him: "Aren't you going to rescue your friend?" "Eee no," came the reply, "he'll be all right. He's a much better swimmer than I am." By this time Uncle Bill was crawling up the bank 100 yards downstream. Neither of them had really heard of lifejackets.

Now paddling and sailing co-exist in the UK quite happily thanks, not least, to a certain J. Bull, Esq.

You can read the 3 articles in the Jan., Feb., and March 2003 issues of 'Canoeist' Magazine. Ed.

 

Risk Management! (JohnS)

At the winter meeting we were entertained by a wonderful slide show of a cruise off the west coast of Scotland. Green with envy though I was, I wouldn't have liked to have been there without some additional form of insurance when the weather took its turn for the worse. My form of insurance would be in the form of sponsons, to minimise risk of capsize or other catastrophe the tempest might throw at me.

Sponsons are buoyancy tubes that are attached to the outside of the canoe just below gunwale level but clear of the water. The ones I use measure 5ft long x 5" diameter and roll up compactly for stowage when not in use. Should the weather or sea conditions deteriorate they can be quickly attached to give additional stability and buoyancy.

In fairer weather they could also be carried within the hull as extra buoyancy. Secured low down in the scuppers this buoyancy is in the optimum place for lateral stability.

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