Number 205 / December 2008

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Published by the Open Canoe Sailing Group

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Looking Back (DaveS)

I have recently spent many evenings on the internet reading about sailing canoes at the end of the nineteenth century. I found an excellent site called 'Dragonfly Canoe Works'. They have published several old books about sailing canoes. I particularly found fascinating the book 'Canoeing with Sail and Paddle' by J D Hayward. It was written in 1893 and gives a good insight into the sport of sailing canoes in Britain. He explains well the different sorts of canoes that have developed, from the 'Rob Roy', which was a lightweight kayak style canoe with a small downwind rig, to

larger and heavier proper sailing canoes with metal centreboards and internal ballast.

It is interesting to compare the way that the sport developed with the way the OCSG has developed after a similar length of time. He explains how racing and cruising have pulled different ways in developing the canoes and how racing clubs put in place rules that prevented further development. He was particularly in favour of sliding seats, which at that time were banned in racing but which he thought were a boon in cruising, as they enabled the sailor to quickly move in and out to balance the canoe and prevent a capsize.

It was also interesting to note that the sail areas used in racing were generally larger than those used in cruising. 90 sq ft was common in racing, with canoes much narrower than we use today, whilst cruisers in the same hull would use a modest 70 sq ft. We use 44 sq ft for racing but members have been experimenting with larger sails for cruising.

He has a chapter on capsizing and it made me realise that they could capsize regularly with their large rigs. He has accounts of races where all the participants capsized and some capsized several times. He recommends practising capsizing. They even had 'upset' races where, at the sound of a whistle, the whole fleet would capsize, right their canoes and then paddle to the finish. However he also says that he has known canoeists who have never capsized in twenty years of sailing. He explains that capsizing is not a major trauma and that the canoe is the easiest of craft to recover from a capsize. They usually let go of the halyard to allow the large mainsail to collapse as they right the boat, remove the mizzen mast and then slide up the stern of the canoe and bail the cockpit before re-entering. He recommends paddling to the shore before re-rigging the canoe.

Decked sailing canoes were the norm for sailing and although Canadian canoes were around at the

time and becoming more popular with paddlers, they were not generally thought to be suitable for sailing. At Solway Dory we have been developing decked sailing canoes with the idea of making them safer and more suitable for coastal voyaging. Our latest is the 14ft 6in long Fulmar. It is a solo canoe with a beam of 40in. It has proved to be a very easy boat to get back into after capsizing. It comes up with no water in it and has enough stability to allow you to get back in with the rig up.

Hayward goes on to describe canoe yawls and explains how these were more suitable craft to explore estuaries and to venture out onto the sea. They were slightly larger sailing canoes with a beam of 3ft to 4ft 6in, higher free-board, more ballast and a larger sail area. We do not sail anything like them but perhaps they are the equivalent of a decked canoe with outriggers.

The book "Canoe Handling" by C Bowyer Vaux from 1885 suggests that a well set up sailing canoe with large sail and centreboard will sail at 50 to 60 degrees off the wind when close hauled. They knew little about aerofoil sections for their boards and had their sails cut very flat. Today a well set up sailing canoe with a Bermudan rig and aerofoil section board can sail at 45 degrees to the wind or even better.


Wood Gas Stove (DaveP)

Most people who have ever lived have cooked on wood. About 40% of people alive today still do. Traditionally, travellers in wooded areas have cooked on firewood that they have found near their campsites, but high mountains and the arctic presented a problem. You may remember how, in Lord of the Rings, Boromir, claiming to be an expert in mountain travel, says that each of the party must carry into the mountains, "a faggot as big as he can bear." By mid-Victorian times mountaineers were getting tired of hauling firewood above the tree line and various attempts were made to produce a light camping stove that burned more concentrated fuel. One of the first was called 'The Russian Furnace' which ran on "vapour of spirits of wine".

Towards the end of the 19th century the inventor of the blowlamp developed it into the Primus stove, which was quickly adopted first for polar exploration then for mountaineering. I think I can remember the introduction of Camping Gaz stoves in the late 60s. I find it interesting that these stoves were originally invented to solve a particular problem, that of travelling above the treeline, which is not usually my problem, particularly when canoeing.

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