How To Rig a Canoe Catamaran

The boys create a seaworthy catamaran for a sketchy lake crossing

BY JIM BAIRD

Continuing through lakes and wide island-studded stretches of river, we pushed on until we reached Lac Aux Goelands. We saw no signs of people on this sprawling wilderness lake, which is 20 miles long and over 12 miles wide. Northern lakes this large and remote can be dangerous.

We were all feeling anxious as our first of two, 3-mile open water crossings was in front of us. The weather was rainy, windy, and getting worse.

After surviving the first crossing, the wind gusted and rain blew in sideways as we huddled under a tarp.

Ted wanted to go for it; Marty did not. They argued. Ted pointed out a small rock island in the middle of the first crossing. Not a place where you'd ever want to camp, but it could provide some protection from the wind, so Marty came on board, and we went for it.

After surviving the first crossing, the wind gusted and rain blew in sideways as we huddled under a tarp to cook over our fire that night. Our camp stoves had both broken early on in the trip.

Come morning the wind had worsened. We were windbound as Goelands threw up massive breakers. Our best bet would be to rig a canoe catamaran. As we began building, the waves were still too big for even a cat.

A catamaran rig won't tip easily, but it can still swamp. Although we were falling behind schedule safety was our biggest concern. Should we dump in the middle of a 3 mile crossing, our chances of survival in frigid water would be slim to none. Luckily when our cat was complete, the wind had died down enough for us to make a safe crossing.

Transform your canoes into a sturdy catamaran with these steps:

1. Cut two small trees long enough to fit across both of your canoes, leaving at least a 2.5-foot space between them. Make sure the ends hang over the gunwales by at least 4 inches.

2. Angle the canoes so that the bows of the canoes are closer together than the sterns.

3. Lay the logs across the front and rear thwarts and lash them down as tightly as possible.

4. Run ropes under the hulls of the canoes to further secure the poles. Notch the poles on the outside of the gunwales, and use strong trucker's hitches for maximum tightness. This rig needs to be extremely tight. It’d be a disaster if it came apart when you're out there.

5. Tie the painters and stern lines together tightly.

6. Strap your spray decks on overtop. You can use duct tape to cover the gaps where your deck covers the logs. Keep bailers at the ready in both boats.

Each Wednesday, C&K will release a new episode of Lessons From the Trail, presented by Nova Craft Canoe and Brunton, makers of the TruArc compass.