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Canoe Sailing

By Don Mueggenborg

Put two great ways to travel on the water together – paddling and sailing – and you have canoe sailing.

The first time I tried it was almost my last time doing anything.

I had a 16’ canoe made of orange crates – plans from Boys Life. I bought it used and wish I never got rid of it, but that is a different story.  It was my first canoe.

My folks had a summer cottage on Wonder Lake.

I got the idea. Found an old bed sheet and some 2 x 2”s, a little rope, and I paddled down to the end of the lake.  I had nailed the sheet to a 2 x 2.  I tied the second 2 x 2 to the front thwart of the canoe and tied the rope to the sail.

With the wind at my back, I hoisted the sail and started moving. Slowly at first.

I tied the end of the rope to a thwart and was steering with my paddling. I was sitting in the back of the canoe.

I started moving, this was great. The wind picked up.

Now there was pressure on the paddle, it was good as long as I didn’t change the angle of the paddle. I realized I couldn’t turn or I would flip over.  I couldn’t get to the rope to drop the sail.

And I was really, really moving.     Headed straight for the pier!

Panic!   Panic!

My dad was standing on the far end of the pier.

I was about to bail out when I heard a “crack.” The mast broke. The broken mast and the sail fell forward and I went flying under the pier.

My dad just looked at me as I whizzed past and said “Good plan – breaking the mast just at the right time.”

Now I still sail a canoe once in a while. A 26’ or 22’ Voyageur canoe.  With a crew to raise the sail, two people to hold the ropes at the ends of the sail (do not tie them), and one person to steer.


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