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Sail Construction

The following is a pictorial record of how I constructed a lateen rigged sail with about 45± square feet of surface area for my 17 foot Grumman canoe.



This is the design that I created in Autocad.  I modeled it on my previous sail which was made from a plastic tarp.  I decided not to cut out the corners as shown above.  

1) The raw materials

This is the way that the 7 yards of Dacron looked when I first rolled it out on the lawn.  I purchased it from John Eggers Sail makers in South Amboy, N.J.   My friend Mary Jane was nice enough to pick it up for me since they’re not open on the weekends during the summer.  We met for a movie on Friday night and I bought her some extra popcorn. J


The material was not what I expected.  It reminded me of Mylar in its stiffness.  However, I made the best of it

2) The first cut

I had 2 straight edges and a sewer’s tape measure.  I marked with a pencil and cut it on the picnic table.  I went very slowly since I didn’t have much material to spare.  However, if I had to purchase everything again, it still would have been cheaper than buying a ready-made sail.

3) Taking shape

As I cut the sections, I laid them out to check the fit.  I made the two end pieces a little longer to account for the seams. 

4) All together (in theory)

Now that the cutting was done, it was time for the real challenge.  How was I going to reach those seams with a regular Singer sewing machine borrowed from my boss and neighbor, Ken.


5) First fitting

Before going in to start the sewing, I sized it up with the spares that I’d be using.  I made them from 2 tent ridge poles that I bought from a sporting goods store when I made the original sail. 


6) Pressing issue

I decided to try ironing the seams to keep them in place.  It helped a little. 


7) Roped

This is the edge seam after the rope was sewn into it.  I used a 3/8 inch laid poly rope.  I think ¼ inch would have worked fine.


8) oops!

I didn’t make the seams wide enough for the grommets. So, I added extra material every foot for reinforcement. 


9) Problem solved

Here’s how it looked with the grommet.  I ran out of white nylon thread that evening and had to use black.

10) Better

I got a lot better by time I got to the last one.  I gave all the seams a coating of “Weldbond” to protect them.


11) Final fitting

I was originally going to use the rope shown to attach it to the spars, but ended up using plastic ties. 



12) Ready to sail

Stay tuned for pictures of it sailing. 




 Sailing Shots

(Pick on the image to get a high resolution view)

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The canoe on the sail's maiden voyage on Steeney Kill Lake in High Point State Park. (Notice the High Point Monument on the ridge in the background)

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The leeboards on the side work instead of a daggerboard or keel

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In action. You can just barely see high point monument in upper left.


<<The route of the first day out on Spruce Run Reservoir on July 1, 2006.  The sail isn't as efficient as a store-bought sail.  So we needed to do a lot of tacking into the wind.  Kathy from Clinton, NJ,  a fine CM lady came along as first mate. 

Here's a link to the American Canoe Association's National Sailing committee: