Waterlust Canoe – Part Three

BY Clemens Wergin - Bethesda, Maryland- USA

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

We had planned a short vacation in Maine in Acadia National Park at the beginning of the summer and the last weeks before that were a rush against time to get the sailing canoe finished. We adorned the deck with the wooden onlay of a sea turtle and named the canoe Hanuna, a native American name for a mythical sea turtle which according to legend became the foundation of the North American continent. Being Europeans, living temporarily in the US, we wanted our boat to have a specifically American name.

“Oh my god, this thing is really tippy“ – that was our reaction when we watered the boat for the first time at our campground at the Northern tip of Somes Sound which splits the Acadia Island in the middle. At the end of June, the water was still very cold. So, at our first outing with the canoe and two Kayaks (the canoe can carry 2 persons if one sits on the aft deck) we sailed under reefed main and were very careful not to risk a capsize. Slowly we learned to maneuver the boat and to balance the wind induced healing sailing down the sound. We had a picnic lunch on one of the rocky shores and in the afternoon sailed safely back to the campground with the Kayaks in toe which was great fun.

Since then back home I have explored many parts of the Chesapeake Bay with Hanuna. One day I even clocked more than 8 knots on my GPS going downwind with more than 10 knots of wind and way too much sail up, because I hadn’t reefed in time. No wonder I capsized a little later in an accidental jibe. Which taught me some lessons: Reef early. Always tie down everything in the cockpit of a sailing canoe, because eventually you will capsize and things might float away and get lost. On the other hand the canoe doesn’t sink because of closed compartments which provide flotation. It is very easy to right, a tug at the daggerboard is enough to get it up again. I had no problem reentering the boat after the capsize, but it takes some time to bail it out because the open cockpit extends well under the aft deck.

Two photos above by Ben Thacker-Gwaltney

All in all I am very happy with this boat. It sails very well and gives you a very immediate connection with the water and the forces of the wind. It is well balanced and people always stop me to admire her classic good looks. The only downside I can think of is that it is not as practical to transport as I believed. The Waterlust people carried their two canoes on the top of a huge SUV, but you have to have a real sturdy and big truck to do that and you need help getting the  canoe up and down, it is too heavy to be carried by only one person. For any normally sized car and for single handling you need a trailer, which means the skinny hull is not really an advantage for transportation.

Due to the additional mizzen rigging is not as fast as it could be with only one mainsail – although there is an additional mast step further aft so that people living in windy areas can use the Waterlust as a catboat with only a main. I am down to roughly half an hour at the ramp before I can get the boat into the water. And for me the added safety a mizzen provides is ample worth the longer rigging time.

The weekend at the MASCF 2017 in St. Michaels still held some surprises even after the beautiful cruise. At the race on Saturday I took third place in the traditional rig category (invented by the creative jury after the race), although I had badly miscalculated the start in what was the first sailboat race of my life. And Hanuna got another third place for boat construction in the kit boat category. What more could you want?

The author is a newbie to sailing and caught the boat building bug in the summer of 2016. He has since built a CLC Passagemaker Dinghy, a CLC Petrel Play Kayak, and the Waterlust sailing canoe reviewed in this article. In his other life he is Washington Bureau Chief of the German newspaper “Die Welt“ and reports about American politics. He lives in Bethesda, Maryland and sails mainly in the Chesapeake Bay.

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. As a Dutch cruising couple informed me and my family at a marina on the Potomac River: “Chesapeake Bay is one of the top cruising destinations in the world. Tremendous variety, towns on the water, innumerable camping and anchoring spots, and a soft bottom. Do not envy us on the North Sea, or the Mediterranean”. Try camp cruising on the Lower Bay, or the Eastern Shore, lots of empty beaches and little harbors.

  2. Hi George, there is a slot in the bottom of the boat which is the opening for the fins to stick out under the hull. It is more or less of the same size as with the Hobie Kayaks. Inside the hull you have a console which forms a well around the slot. On the sides of the well there are two shelves which are through bolted to the sides. I made them with starboard plastic, but you can also use thick plywood. On these shelves rest the brackets of the Hobie drive which are through bolted to the shelves. They carry the slot and mechanism which clicks the drive into place when you push it down and which realeases it again when you want to take the drive out of the slot. That’s usually a very quick and simple operation.
    The console is a very sturdy piece which is glued into the hull with epoxy fillets and stabilizes the whole structure. It also harbors the daggerboard trunk. On the outer sides of the side panels of the well you have two inspection ports which give you access to the screws with which the shelves are through bolted. CLC designed the console and slot to exactly fit the measurements of the Hobie drive

    • Glad I kept reading. Was wondering about what you had for stability while sailing. Love it. Great reading and very nice photo journal as well.

  3. Great story Clemens, it’s fun to relive that weekend in the dead of winter. Did the campground in Maine you stayed happen to be the Mount Desert Campground?

  4. Hi Kevin, great to hear from you and yes, that was the campground. Is there a way i can contact you? After you took me for a sail in Slip Jig I am now in the process of buying a used Welsford Navigator for family sailing and I could use some advise once it arrives. You can easily contact me eg through my Facebook page.

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