Canoe Yawl “Eel” by William Garden
Here we have a little vessel that is everything a tiny cruising boat should be: seaworthy, shoal, easy to handle and charming. While she is too small to be comfortable in a big-yacht sense, she is a rugged little boat and will keep her crew as safe and dry as any boat this size. Her small cabin shelters a couple of berths and makes her a real cruiser very similar to the canoe yawls that explored the coast and estuaries of England years ago. Her very shoal draft enables her to find shelter in small places, and to spend the night on a sheltered beach when it serves. Eel would be a perfect boat for kids, a singlehanded cruiser, or a young couple.
This type of small cruising boat originated in England in the late 1800’s, when average people began to have the time and resources to pursue recreation on the water. A surge of interest in canoes for sail and paddle was one of the first expressions of this new area of interest, with many canoe clubs and canoe-related periodicals springing into life around the coast. As interest grew, some of the sailing canoes were made a bit heavier, roomier, and more seaworthy, so they would be more comfortable and safe in longer coastwise cruises. As soon as this type grew large enough to require oars rather than paddles, the canoe yawl type was born—the word “yawl” refers not to the rig but to the fact that they were rowed, as in the term “yawl boat”.
In one of the most remarkable examples of design evolution in cruising boats, this type, which started as a slightly enlarged sailing canoe, evolved over the years in an unbroken line to eventually include deep draft cruising sailboats in the 30’ range, and everything in between. What is common to all canoe yawls, however, is a double ended hull form (the primary holdover from canoes) and the idea that they were to be rowed as auxiliary power. Most, but not all, have a mizzen mast. Boats representing every stage of this evolution continue to be built, and we think the romantic appeal of minimalist coastal cruising is seldom expressed as fully as in a good canoe yawl.