Appendices -- Useful Supplemental Information

(Published in The Ash Breeze, Journal of the Traditional Small Craft Association, Inc., Vol. 28 No. 1, Spring 2007. By S. K. Hopkins)


“By ye reefs ye shall be known,” warned the Old Salts. Pernickety work on any vessel. Very pernickety work if semi-recumbent in a canoe, kayak, skiff, dinghy, or other very small boat, when everything must be done by reaching with one hand only, keeping the other for tiller or sheet.

I encountered this problem vicariously while consorting at long distance with Hugh Horton, canoe builder and sailor, and Meade Gougeon, epoxy mogul and canoe sailor, who have for several years been developing a series of canoe sails with the goal of combining aerodynamic efficiency and safety. Hugh writes about their adventurous cruises, which involve daylong sails and overnight camping on granite boulders or subtropical sandbars, for the slick yachting press. Meade kept ordering revised sails to incorporate latest ideas. I participated from the comfort of my loft.

We used up more brain cells solving reefing details than on any other aspect of these little sails. Hauling down the luff and leech reef grommets was no hurdle -- a miniature version of the standard big-boat “slab” or “jiffy” reefing (new words for an old thing) with generous use of jam cleats. But tying up the resultant bunt, which if left hanging would obscure the canoeist’s vision, had us stumped from the outset through Mark V. We started with ordinary points of light line hanging at intervals along the reef, with which to tie up the bunt using reef knots. This proved impractical, because it required losing control of the canoe while finding and knotting the ties with both hands. Hugh experimented with hitching one hanging point to a loop opposite. Still too cumbersome.

Meade suggested Velcro. Meade’s “points” were strips of female Velcro hanging from one side of the reef, to be grabbed one-handed and pasted on square targets of male Velcro sewn on the opposite side. I hate Velcro. Perishes in the sun, and is a dirt and mildew trap, disfiguring any sail it is used on. But I made Mark IV and V sails with variations of this disfigurement. Reports from the field were not rave reviews. It was possible to tame the bunt one handed, but it wasn’t easy or quick.

Just in time to incorporate into the Mark VI sail (featuring a broad America’s Cup type head supported with a batten-cum-strut) the following happy idea emerged. Reports from the field were glowing. I describe it here in case other small-boat sailors might profit from it.

This is still a kind of hook and loop -- but not Velcro. It’s a variation of the old mains’l furling idea: little hooks mounted on one side of a boom, a length of shock cord stretched down the other, through fairleads spaced half-way between the hooks. The furled sail was held on the boom by reaching a bight of shock cord over the sail and slipping it under the hook opposite, etc. Worked great until the shock cord died. A similar system was common on sail covers -- hooks on one side of the closure, a light line rove through grommets on the other.

The Mark VI system is a very light line rove through little fairleads spaced along the reef on one side of the sail, and small plastic “fabric hooks” sewn on the other side. The flat, thin base of the plastic hooks sews easily to any fabric, and the hook is only about 1/2” proud of the fabric.

The fairleads are folded up sailcloth, spaced about 18” apart on these 48 sq ft sails. The hooks opposite are midway between the fairleads. The light line is anchored at the luff, and needs adjustment through a grommet near the leech only the first time out.

The user pulls down the luff and leech reef grommets with the jiffy reef lines, then reaches the hanging bight of line nearest the luff, passes it under the bunt and drops it over the first hook, and so on. If the reef is taken on the beach, the bunt will be a neat roll -- that’s a two-handed job. If out on the water in a rising wind, not so neat. Popping the line off the hooks to unreef is even easier. The whole operation could be done one-handed in half a gale.

When unreefed the sail’s aerodynamics are barely affected by the idle reef hooks and slack line. The line can’t get into mischief with the hooks. There are no holes in the sail -- except needle holes, everything being done with the sewing machine.

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