Monday, 6 February 2012

"Lookfar" A converted Coleman Ram X 15 Canoe

Today I launched my little sailing canoe.

I called my canoe "Lookfar" after the wizard Sparrowhawk's sail boat in Ursula LeGuinn's wonderful trilogy "A Wizard of Earth Sea"

I spent yesterday assembling my collection of bits and pieces and this is the result.

The Optimist sail and rig was retired from the learn to sail fleet here in Rawene when my son donated new sails last season.

Paul Bowker kindly gave me the old items. I took them home, washed the sail and set to with a needle and polyester thread to repair the loose seems and batten pockets.

I needed to run a cord into the luff tabling pockets as the brass rings had corroded away. The tack, clew and peak rings I reinforced with monofilament nylon line using a rolling blanket stitch.

I built a mast step cradle for the canoe from triangles of plywood glued to a base block of cedar. I drilled a hole through the block for the mast step and capped the base with an aluminium plate.

To fit the mast cradle into the canoe I removed the front seat, a molded plastic panel, to reveal the two tubular cross thwart frames.

I fitted the cradle in between the two tubes and rested the base block on the keelson.
I then replaced the seat panel and refitted it through its original fixing holes with long stainless screws securing both the seat and the mast cradle together into position. For extra strength I lashed the four corners of my new cradle to the thwart tubes and to the tubular keelson.

I chose a point behind the midship thwart on the keelson to attach the two parts of the main sheet.

For lee boards I modified the old ogive section blades that I kept from Toroa's earlier incarnation.

These were perfectly suited to being cut down and bolted through the gunwale with stainless steel threaded rod, nuts and washers. I pinched the bolts up tight which allowed for rotation of the pivot with enough friction to hold them in any position I

Here's the result.

Prior to lee board attachment.

Lawn sailing.

Launch site is the little beach at the bottom of our property

I wonder how it will sail?

Lee board down, sheet in, Hmm not bad!

Steering paddle is restrained midway down the shaft with a measured length of cord attached to the keelson tube behind my sitting position. I can toss the paddle from side to side and it just sits there waiting for me to grasp it.

Ease sheet, very responsive.

Into 6 knots of breeze from the North East

Bye bye.

Time to come back and reassure Julie.

I look cool sailing along. Look ma no hands! Actually I can sail this thing without a rudder just shift my weight and or the lee board position forward or aft to alter course, butt steering still rules, Sweet.

Still looking cool.

Coming in to land.

Easy peasy. Even the birds like it, I'm a bird magnet!

All photos by Julie Holton.

If you want a selection of solutions for your canoe conversion then here's a great web page on the subject.


  1. Everything looks just right...and that usually means it'll work.

  2. Sweet little boat - tons of opportunities to explore - both sailing & paddling.

  3. I have the same canoe as you do! It's interesting that I've only just now found this page, since I studied quite a bit before building my own sailing set-up. I went with a lateen rig, for simplicity of rigging. I mounted a mast thwart right behind the front seat, and for a step, I used a block of wood U-clamped to the center runner directly beneath. I use a single leeboard, which was originally a plywood shape I cut out, but did a poor job sealing it so it cracked. I replaced it in the middle of last season with a piece of conduit split around a disused cutting board. It bolts directly through the existing center thwart mount hole.

    My mast is a simple piece of conduit, cut to 6 ft with an eye bolt near the top. I found a removable LED nav light kit, which is battery powered, and so I have the red/green up front, and what was supposed to be a stern post light, I wrapped in duct tape, and wedged into the top of the mast. I use a waterproof LED lantern as a stern light instead, and just generally tie off its handle to the rear handle of the canoe.

    I initially used the cut-off portion of the mast as a rear thwart, and lashed a spare paddle to it for a rudder, but have since scored an aluminum rudder kit for $20 which I have mounted, and now use an extendable mooring rod/multipurpose hook as a push/pull tiller.

    As for my rigging, I have only the halyard, which runs through a carabined-on pulley from the eyebolt up top, through an eyelet on the mast thwart, and the sheet, which I run through a pulley on a loop from the back handle so that I may hold it, however temporarily, with the same hand as the tiller while I light a cigarette or stuff some food in my fat face.

    It is nearly time here in Florida to be wearing swim shorts again, so I've been looking around at ideas to spiff up the whole rig. This year may bring an outrigger (heated & molded PVC pipe, on an extension of the mast thwart, and stabilized via front and rear stays), tramp, and tent setup for longer journeys. I intend to rework the leeboard, and run a continuous-loop for halyard, rudder control, and rudder deployment.


Toroa by Harmen Hielkema & Mike Toy.

Header Photo: Toroa at Rawene by Julie Holton.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of my father Roelof Hielkema who instilled in me the willingness to learn.
These pages are intended to inform and add to the growing body of knowledge concerning the Canoe Culture of the Pacific, past, present & future, from the Tupuna, the Ancestors of the Pacific cultures to the people of the world.

These pages contain Images and text relating to our two proas, Toroa & Takapu, some history relating to our experiments & experiences.

The dissertation that I posted on this blog in April 2008 "Takapu The Proa" was written by me in 1997 in response to an assignment that I was set whilst studying for my design degree. The dissertation covers many issues that a proa enthusiast may benefit from reading about.

Waka define culture as culture defines waka

Waka reflect the individuality and uniqueness of a society which in turn is governed by the geography, geology, topography, climate, location, resources, isolation, origin, flora, fauna, flotsam, jetsam, etc.

Waka are our link to the past, they have shaped our present and define our future.

Waka are the vessels of knowledge, physical and mental development, freedom of bondage to the land, key to our inquisitiveness, expressions of our ingenuity and courage, our love of shape and form, the seat of our power.

Waka are the source of our material culture, from which all processes are derived.

Waka are who and what we are.