Waterlust Canoe – Part One

BY Clemens Wergin - Bethesda, Maryland- USA

Chesapeake Light Craft Waterlust Expedition Sailing Canoe, Designed by Dillon Majoros

I had day dreamed about camp cruising with a group of like minded small boat afficionados for quite some time. In fact, the idea of lightly packed cruising, simple but with style, was what had attracted me to the CLC Waterlust sailing canoe in the first place. But when the day in the beginning of October finally arrived, when the Mid Atlantic Small Craft festival in St. Michaels, MD, was to be opened with the traditional Voyaging Expedition to Wye Island, I was a little nervous. Being an inexperienced sailor in a very tippy boat, I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of a group of old salts with decades of water under their keels.

To great relief my trepidations turned out to be unfounded. Already at the boat ramp in St. Michaels I got to know some of my fellow cruisers. They were good humored, tremendously helpful, and not at all arrogant about having more experience than me. In fact, I had hardly put my canoe into the water when somebody had already slipped a spare part for my somewhat decrepit trailer into my hand which he believed I needed. We were off to a good start.

After the skipper’s meeting at the premises of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum we headed out to Miles River. Our group consisted of several catboats, a Sea Pearl, a Welsford Navigator, two Drascombes and an O’Day sailer, my sailing canoe, and a support boat. We soon headed North in the direction of Eastern Bay running downwind. The wind was getting lighter the longer we sailed which made it a pleasant and uneventful ride and it played to the strengths of my canoe. Sure, some of the catboats with their huge sails were faster downwind than anybody else, but the CLC canoe moves very well in light wind and was ghosting along nicely under main and mizzen. That’s probably when I like her best. When she is moving surprisingly fast under only little air and the narrow hull slices gently through the water with hardly a sound.

Usually though the Waterlust wants to be sailed actively. It is rather tippy with its narrow 17’ long hull. With its 80 square feet of sails it has a lot of canvas up and the spars are heavy, too. That makes it a rather rare occasion to be able to sit quietly on the folding chair in most conditions. As soon as the wind freshens up the best position is sitting on the side deck to balance the force of the wind. A nice feature is that I don’t need hiking straps in even stronger winds. I just tug my feet under the opposite side deck and the supporting deck stringer prevents my feet from loosing their hold. But on this gorgeous October afternoon the wind was so light that I felt comfortable just relaxing on the folding chair and balancing the movement of the boat by shifting my weight around.

Getting further North we only had to look out for the little opening where the Wye River flows into Eastern Bay. We then took the Northern route around Wye Island with its little nooks and crannies. Approaching Wye Island Bridge, the only street connecting the Island to the mainland, we weren’t quite sure which of the three little coves was to be our final destination for the night.  Some of us sailed down till the last cove right before the bridge just to realize that it was probably not the right spot. So we headed back and finally found the little opening behind which lay the little and very basic group campsite the good people of the Museum had reserved for us.

Still out in the open I took down sails. One of the many things I like about Dillon Majoros’ design is the mizzen which makes striking and setting the mainsail very easy. Just head into the wind and sheet the mizzen in tightly which then acts as a weather vane. It holds the boat into the wind while you can get the main sail down without hassle.

I didn’t install lazy jacks because I don’t like to have too many lines around and I found that you can stow the main sail easily on the side deck while still operating the Hobie drive, a modern feature in this very traditionally looking sailing canoe.

Once the mizzen was down as well I slowly paddled with the Hobie Drive into the calm and picturesque tiny bay. I beached the canoe on the muddy shore and packed my tent, provisions, and cooking utensils out of the forward storage compartment which offers an amazing amount of space for such a narrow boat. In theory, I could fit my narrow backpacker’s air mattress into the boat, using the entire cockpit and the space under the aft deck. But having never tried to sleep on the boat I opted for the increased comfort and space of the campground.

While some of us pitched tents in the forest and prepared for dinner, we were somewhat enviously watching our companions who had decided to tie up in the little cove, one boat next to the other, and didn’t even touch shore.  They cooked, sang, and played music with a flute and a guitar and had a jolly good time on the water ‘till late into the pleasant night.

On shore I listened to the stories of many an experienced sailor. Especially intriguing were the accounts of Scott Knapp and Steve Baum about their adventures at the Everglades Challenge. It was my first overnight stay with the Waterlust and it couldn’t have gone any better.

Sailing photos by Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival and the Maritime Model Expo. www.flickr.com/photos/cbmmphotos/sets/72157656410504890/with/37517442640/

Part One – Part Two – Part Three


  1. Thanks for the write up. Can you give some details in the next two articles about the hobie drive and some photos of the bottom trunk? CLC doesn’t have much detail on this and I’m curious. Even wonder if a small electric motor might be possible.

    • Dillon’s inspiration to include Hobie’s Mirage drive is part of why I chose to buy a Waterlust kit over constructing a sailing canoe from plans I’ve had for 30+ years. It should add quite a bit of flexibility to use on days when sails aren’t being set, either for lack of wind or just ease of use. As for an electric motor: with no transom it’s gonna have to hang off the side somehow, and a capable battery will need proper securing as well as adding ballast so placement’ll need some careful thought. Shouldn’t be impossible if you’re motivated!

  2. Thanks Kuriti, what do you mean by „bottom trunk“? The CLC has a center console which includes the shaft for the daggerboard and the frame in which the hobie drive sits plus two little compartments to the left and the right with inspection ports that can be closed. I am sorry but I don‘t have good photos of that at the moment

  3. Nice write-up Clemens, thanks! You’re the leader when it comes to posting about your Waterlust Canoe experiences! I’m looking forward to seeing parts 2 & 3 almost as much as starting to put mine together!
    About that folding chair comment; you use something smallish & short on board? I can’t see how a typical chair’d enhance stability any by putting your weight up over deck height when in use!

  4. Thanks SPClark, I use the folding seat only when driving the Hobie Drive and in very light air. Sitting in the inside of the canoe on the chair just doesn’t give you the ability to put enough weight on one side to counter the wind forces when it picks up. I bought the folding cane seat offered by CLC, but I am thinking about building the seat Hugh Horton developed for the Bufflehead which offers more possibilities for adjustment

  5. That’s interesting Michael, thanks. It is not for me, but others might find this an elegant solution. Only problem might be that the drive sits right in front of the daggerboard, but you can just lift it up to increase efficiency

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