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What is Canoe Sailing?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

Canoe sailing is the process of combining a canoe with a sail for moving across the water. A canoe is a narrow type of boat usually meant for rivers or lakes, though it can be used in oceans. A sail can be attached to a mast built into the canoe, and the user of the boat can participate in canoe sailing to avoid paddling or to move more swiftly over a body of water. Canoe sailing is often done with a special type of canoe known as an outrigger canoe, which features extended arms with a float attached to their ends for added stability when sailing.

A mast can be specially designed for the canoe, or an aftermarket mast can be used in a traditional western canoe to allow for canoe sailing. The outrigger is not always necessary for canoe sailing, and many canoeists simply use their stock canoes for sailing purposes. Many people participate in canoe sailing for leisure, though others do race their canoes outfitted for sailing. Some boats are even specially designed for racing purposes, and they are made to be lightweight and nimble at higher speeds. The sail can also simply be used to propel the boat forward without the canoeists having to paddle.

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Woman posing

Canoes with outriggers are more stable on open water, and they are used for canoes that sail at higher speeds. The outrigger provides stability on the opposite side of the canoe from the sail's blowing direction; the canoe can tilt as a result of the wind force pushing on the sale, so the outrigger counteracts this lean. Some canoes with outriggers are designed specifically for canoe sailing, unlike other types of canoes that are simply retrofitted to accommodate sailing. These specially designed canoes can range in style and function, though most share similar characteristics for stability and propulsion.

Many canoes made for sailing also feature rudders, which are not common on canoes meant for non-sailing purposes. This rudder helps to steer the canoe when paddles are not being used by the canoe operators in the bow and the stern, or front and back, of the boat. When sails are not used, a canoe is propelled forward using hand-operated paddles, either by one occupant of the boat or by both occupants. When sailing, the canoe is not propelled by the paddles, so some other means of steering is necessary. The boat can be steered to some extent by repositioning the sail, but a rudder can provide easier steering capabilities.

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