TopKayaker.Net: Guide To Kayak Sailing

Slip-on Mast Step & AmasMaking A Slip-on Mast Step & Amas For Kayak Sailing
by Andy Lyne

Andy has enjoyed dinghy sailing for 20 years, initially learning on a Laser, and experienced with Picos, Laser 3000s, Laser 2000s, and a Mystere 17 Catamaran. Last year he purchased a Scupper Pro sit-on-top kayak to explore the local estuaries of England's Devon Coast. Being a sailor, Andy says he couldn't help thinking harnessing the wind on a kayak would be fun. He shares here his efforts to adapt this kayak for a 2008 seacoast sailing adventure.

I have read on a few forums of people wanting to build a mast step in order to mount a mast on a SOT kayak. With a bit of thought this can be achieved without the need to drill any holes in your lovely kayak. Here is how I did it on my Scupper Pro. The result is a mast step I just slot on, the only attachment is a line to stop it slipping off the front. Any loads my 18 square foot sail creates are easily dissipated due to the large surface area of the mast step.

Slip-on Mast Step & AmasHow does she sail? Obviously without a lee board and rudder I am restricted to 90 degrees at best, any more just produces side slip. I have been out in a low to moderate force 4, close reaching and broad reaching. This proved to be good fun and the direction can easily be controlled with a little stern rudder. By the way, this mast step is easily strong enough to use as an attachment point for a couple of amas and lee board....as you can see. Instructions for my ama project follow.

Slip-on Mast Step & AmasI chose my Ocean Kayak Scupper Pro.....but even if you don't have a lip like on the Scupper Pro, as long as there is a little taper in the hull form, I believe you could use this technique to make a mast step for most kayaks. (see article: Hull Design)

Build a mast step from fibreglass. Even if you have no experience in using fibreglass techniques, building one is not too onerous.

Slip-on Mast Step & AmasThe best place to locate a mast step on a Scupper Pro is just forward of the front hatch. The profile of the kayak can be used as the mould to make this mast step.

Use play dough to smooth out any sharp angles

Cover the area with grease proof paper and packing tape to protect the kayak and to act as a release agent so the mould can be easily removed from the kayak

Build up several layers of fibreglass. As the Scupper Pro has a useful lip round the edge, I layered extra glass on these points as this is what holds the mould to the boat:

Slip-on Mast Step & AmasSlip-on Mast Step & AmasSlip-on Mast Step & Amas

Remove the mould. You now have a curved surface that will slot securely onto your boat.

Slip-on Mast Step & AmasYou now need to build on top of your mould a raised flat surface to provide rigidity and also to give a nice surface to add fittings etc. To do this cut some 20mm wood board to build up two sides and a top. To attach the wood to the fibreglass mould, use epoxy fillets and layer fibreglass over the whole piece, thus securing it all together. Now you have a really strong and rigid structure.

Drill a suitable size hole and insert a plastic plumbing tube for where the mast will sit. Fibreglass this in place.

Voila! This has proved to be a very robust fixture that requires no drilling to attach.
Slip-on Mast Step & AmasBy adding outriggers, I can carry a larger sail (sails) and be able to counter the extra turning moment generated by a lee board. Here are a couple of pics showing the build process, along with a brief description:

Slip-on Mast Step & AmasI purchased some closed cell styrofoam. It's a fairly high density so for the size of the outriggers it provides quite a bit of inherent stiffness. I cut suitable sized strips and glued them together with No More Nails (American equivalent - Gorilla Grip).

Next I shaped the amas using a saw and various grades of sand paper

Slip-on Mast Step & AmasFirst I put a layer of fibreglass on the bottom of both amas colouring it with a bit of yellow pigment to match the hull - it's not very clear in the picture, but it shows the underside fibre glassed.

Next job was to fibreglass the top and sides and finish with an extra coat of epoxy.

After completing the attachment point for the amas I was ready for a first sail! As I was so anxious to get her on the water I initially tried it without a lee board. I canted the amas at about 20 degrees, that way when leaning over they were flat to the water.

Upon completing the outriggers and akas, it was a lovely day so I took the boat out for the first time for a test sail. I rigged up a temporary attachment for the lee board just to see how the boat would balance.

Slip-on Mast Step & AmasI was really pleased with my first sail with the amas attached. They provided a terrific amount of stability and the height seems to be just right. They are high enough not to touch the water when paddling or sailing across the wind or down wind, yet when beating into wind the boat is still comfortable when the leeward ama is in the water.

The leeboard seemed to be in just about the right position. Ideally it probably needs to be a few cm further back for perfect balance. Balancing the rig at the moment is very important as I am not using a rudder. I made an interesting discovery - I tried sailing without the rudder and the leeward ama seemed to provide a fair bit of resistance to sideways slip (I had wondered if this might be the case). Because of this I decided to try adding skegs to the amas and not using a leeboard to help with overall simplicity and also weight.

At the moment I am even thinking I might not bother with a rudder although I must admit it would be nice to have one - it would make drinking my coffee while under way a little more civilized!

Since this article was published, Andy expands on his experiments with kayak modifications for sailing in "Configurations For Kayak Sailing" here at TopKayaker.net. You can also follow Andy's progress and adventures in kayak sailing on his website: RxMarine

Related articles: See also Tom's TopKayaker Shop-Sailing for related kayak sailing rigs and hardware.

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