Lessons From the Trail Episode 7 How-To Rig a Catamaran!

Lessons From the Trail Episode 7 How-To Rig a Catamaran!


After completing a large and sketchy open water crossing on Lac Aux Goélands, we held up on a rocky beach as the weather worsened. The largest open water crossing of our trip lay in front of us, but sanity told us to stay put. The winds were strong, and at 20miles long x 12miles wide, Goélands was in a frenzy of huge breakers. It’s icy waters and remote location mean it’s not a place you want to take risks. We were behind schedule, but in the north, time should not dictate your travel, it’s safety and the weather that should.

Hoping the waves would die down, we began rigging a catamaran. Canoes converted into a cat create a very stable vessel. When properly rigged, you can walk down the gunwale and not worry about tipping. Don’t let the added stability make you think your impervious though, the Catamaran can still swamp. When paddling in large waves, a watchful eye needs to be kept on the amount of water taken in, and a bailer should always be at the ready.

By the time we’d completed the rig, the waves had died down enough to allow passage and we confidently headed back out onto the big lake.

Follow these steps to rig a sturdy catamaran:

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.


The crew tackles Goelands in their catamaran.
The crew tackles Goelands in their catamaran.

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Jim Baird is an Adventurer, videographer, writer, photographer, and talent. His previous rolls include extensive work with a map company as well as guiding and prospecting. Jim has shot video for Cineflix productions, BBC Worldwide, 13 Minds, and The Weather Network US. He's produced video series such as “The Kesagami River Solo” and “Lessons From The Trail with Jim Baird”. Jim’s content has also appeared in print for several publications that include Explore, Canoeroots, Real Fishing, Ontario Out of Doors, Outdoor Canada, Canoe & Kayak, and Field & Stream magazines. Jim is an expert woodsman, white-water canoeist, survivalist, and a bold wilderness navigator. His expedition experience includes a solo trip down the canoe eating rapids of the Kesagami and then along the tempestuous James Bay coat, an 800-mile snowmobile expedition across the Northwest Passage, 300miles above the Arctic Circle. A month long descent of the Northwest Territories Kuujjua River in the Arctic Archipelago, followed by 120-kilometers of paddling on the Arctic Ocean. He's also completed a 33-day canoe expedition via four rivers including the Adlatok in northern Quebec and Labrador.