Hitch #3: Sailing to Exotic Lands


by Matt Eisenbart

We seem to be trying to dry a couple rain jackets in the most deliberate way possible in the picture below, but we’re actually sailing. The jackets are small but still catch enough wind to move a couple canoes about as fast as we can when paddling. At this point, our sailing is just a fun way to get home after a day of work if the wind is blowing the right way. Our team wanted to move much faster.
It was a clear day; the wind began to pick up in the mid-morning. Our team had pulled weeds through the morning and was traveling at a good pace around one of the larger lakes in the Boundary Waters. We realized it would be a great day to sail again but wanted to improve on our rain jacket and bungee cord sail boat. Instead of rain jackets, we used our kitchen tarp; instead of bungee cords to hold the boats together, we used downed saplings found along route. Soon, we had a north woods catamaran with a giant spinnaker sail. All that was left was waiting for a good breeze to put the sail up.

The Kitchen tarp unfurled and filled with wind. It tugged on the masts and the bowmen. We were off and gaining speed quickly. The wind kept up and pushed the catamaran faster than we had ever been able to with our paddles. The limbs holding the canoes together stayed in place, and we were heading somewhere quick. It turns out that somewhere was slightly different from where we planned to go, so we started to turn.
All of us found out that the catamaran was a bit harder to manage. Both sternmen had difficulty forcing the boat to turn. As soon as we turned out of the direction of the wind, the sail deflated and slipped under the boat. We dragged the sail out from below us, and tried again. After some progress towards our destination, the wind suddenly switched sending it under the boats again. Eventually we realized the wind was no longer cooperating, so we had to start paddling.
Even though we didn’t quite reach the campsite we were aiming for, the afternoon with a catamaran was one the most memorable times spent this season. The moments when we had the wind with us and at full speed we seemed to fly through the water; as much as a canoe can fly through a Northern Minnesota lake. We had come up with the idea of a catamaran with a kitchen tarp sail earlier in the season, and I didn’t understand how well it would work until we shot across a lake with a gust. We had to disassemble the whole thing and leave the masts at the next portage, but there are always more downed saplings in the Boundary Waters.