It's kind of funny how you come to own some boats. In 2009 I was running a boat building program at my house where I had seven groups come together to build a Firebug each (www.firebug.co.nz). At the end of this program one of the guys offered me his canoe that he had partially built, a MacGregor Sailing Canoe. It seems he had joined another building program 10 years earlier but had not completed the boat and it had been taking up space in his father-in-laws garage ever since. The time had come where it needed to go or become firewood.
When I collected the hull it was not as far as long as I had expected, basically just the stem, stern and keel with the planks. But what did interest me was that it was a lapstrake boat, a fine looking craft from the board of Iain Oughtred with lineage to the heyday of Canoe Sailing.
It is best to say that I have potted along on this boat for a number of years only getting it finally completed in late 2013, ready for our annual Christmas holiday at Barwon Heads, Victoria, Australia. This beautiful camping spot is located on a thin strip of land between the southern ocean and the heads of the Barwon River. As I have worked away on the boat I have kept in mind a voyage up the river to the very shallow Lake Connewarre, and this holiday I am glad to say the dream became a reality.
The boat is called "Kotahi", it is a Moari word meaning to "be one, single, alone". Appropriate I thought for a sailing canoe. Unsure of how the canoe would perform, or even if I would be able to keep it upright, it was alone that I launched the boat and started my long awaited voyage on a flood tide to assist me upstream. I ghosted up river on the light and variable winds of the early morning, startling a few fishermen as I crept up on them.
|Kotahi on her custom made trailer.
A couple of hours later I had reached the entrance to the lake which is guarded by a very shallow entrance of about 1 foot of water making access via the river impossible for most boats. The virtues of this little canoe where starting to reveal themselves to me. With a gentle but steady breeze I headed out across the lake into the rising sun only to strike the bottom right in the middle of the lake. After testing the stability of the bottom I got out to stretch my legs and survey my options.
|Aground in the middle of the lake.
It must have looked amusing for any onlookers to see a person standing on the water in the middle of the lake. Off to my right I spied a few small branches that had been struck into the lake floor to mark a channel and I grabbed the front of the canoe and headed in their direction and once in the channel I quickly found deeper water and made my way to the far side of the lake and the foreshore in front of Campbell Point House for some lunch.
|Lunch stop on the shore of Lake Connewarre.
Afterward I headed back across the lake and down the river to camp to end a long awaited and most enjoyable sail. My wife met me at the river bank to welcome me home and take some pictures.
|Returning back to camp.
In those first few days there were a few things I learnt about the boat. First, the leeboard as designed is not very functional; and second the foot pedals for rudder steering don't work well. Too much friction. But it does a reasonable job going to windward without the leeboard and I rigged up a long pole steering system quickly to ensure I could continue to enjoy the boat over the summer.
As I have built the boat I have done a bit of research into canoe sailing. A bit of a history lesson really as the era of the sailing canoe was the second half of the 19th century and the start of the 20th. This has been a very enjoyable by-product of building the boat. The following site has a wealth of information www.thecheappages.com/canoes.html
Since then I have been out for a few more sails in the canoe and learn something each time. So I have a growing list of tweaks and improvements that will have to wait till winter so I don't miss out on enjoying the good months for sailing. However, here in Australia even the winter is good for sailing if you pick your days.
In late January, on Australia Day, I went for a sail from my home town of Frankston, located on Port Phillip Bay, down to Mornington and return.
I left the deserted beach at Frankston at 7:30am and returned in the early afternoon when it was packed with people enjoying the day and cooling off as the temperature got to 42C (108F). I took my video camera on this trip and made a short movie.