The Spirit Dancer Canoe

Spirit Dancer Canoe

The name Spirit Dancer has both depth and meaning, being blessed by the Katzie First Nation on the West Coast of Canada. The canoe is made from fibre glass and wood and measures a total of 42 feet long with a beam of 67 inches. It was made in Canada and is the largest Eastern Canadian canoe. The decorative painting is by Roberta Lindsay and aims to replicate the style of a original birch bark canoe. Artist Mairi Budreau painted the motif on the Bow and Stern of the Canoe.

Spirit Dancer Canoe, Spirit Dancer Canoe Journeys Mission, Spirit Dancer Journey, Chris Cooper
Spirit Dancer during a 2000 km trip from Alaska to Vancouver.



In terms of its construction the Spirit Dancer canoe is incredibly strong. Two bulkheads provide structural strength to the hull whilst a heavily reinforced base gives extra safety. A number of custom modifications have been incorporated into the design, the most important being the outrigger system. This utilizes two standard double kayaks as outriggers which traditionally came from French Polynesia. The frame is attached to the canoe bulkheads via a quick release system. There are three main travel modes depending on the severity of the sea conditions. In calmer waters the double kayaks sit completely out of the water on top of the outrigger frame. Stage two gives more stability by connecting the kayaks underneath the frame in the water.

Spirit Dancer Canoe British Isles Canoe Journey 2008-2010, Spirit Dancer, Chris Cooper
The Spirit Dancer's rack system with kayaks in place for outriggers

Full stability is gained by extending the outriggers to provide two double kayaks at full reach. This system showed excellent results when tested in Alaskan and BC waters two years ago. The vessel is an extremely sturdy craft to paddle. It is quite acceptable to walk up and down the outrigger system to gain access to either end of the canoe and remain incredibly stable.


In terms of expedition capability the canoe comes into its own. A large equipment bay is situated in the centre of the canoe proving adequate room for 12 paddlers, belongings and food for 8 weeks out alone on the water. A full spray deck encases the paddlers with individual portholes as in a standard kayak. This provides good resistance to wave action and rain. However, the canoe is currently undergoing considerable modification with the addition of a Kevlar / carbon fibre hard deck cover. Paddlers will then enter individual portholes and seal themselves in with a conventional spray deck as used on kayaks. This is primarily to withstand a rougher sea as is expected in some of the more open waters of the British Isles.

Spirit Dancer Canoe, Spirit Dancer Canoe Journeys Mission, Spirit Dancer Journey, Chris Cooper
Spirit Dancer along the British Columbian coastline, Canada


Gaining a wind advantage
The canoe’s front mast provides the opportunity to utilize a square rig sail of 100 square feet in area. Under ideal sailing conditions Spirit Dancer’s hull speed has reached 10 knots. The sail is controlled from the helm via ropes by two crew members.

Spirit Dancer sailing the Grenville channel.

Spirit Dancer Canoe, Spirit Dancer Canoe Journeys Mission, Spirit Dancer Journey, Chris Cooper

Current use

The previous three years has seen the canoe cover considerable distances on the British Colombian Coastline. Further trips are planned both for the summers of 2006 and 2007 from the Northern reaches of Prince Rupert down to the more populated communities of Vancouver Island. The canoe will also be paying its yearly visit to the remote, secluded and incredibly beautiful Chilko Lake. With the modifications mentioned above to be ready for the close of 2006 you can appreciate the opportunities for full tests to occur. Spirit Dancer Canoe continues to have a close relationship with the Canadian Coast guard auxiliary for safety during sea trials. Late in 2006 and through 2007 the canoe is to be tested in the most arduous sea conditions. When all is complete the vessel will be fully prepared to embark on its circumnavigation of the British Isles.

Spirit Dancer Canoe, Spirit Dancer Canoe Journeys Mission, Spirit Dancer Journey, Chris Cooper
Spirit Dancer Canoe Near Sayward, Vancouver Island, B.C.

Safety and planning

A number of special safety considerations have been introduced by sponsorship for the Spirit Dancer canoe. It is planned to have all the latest technologies as part of the craft. For example EPIRB is a location device for last resort emergencies. Spirit Dancer will also host electronic Nautical Charts tied into GPS to give the most accurate positioning whilst on route. The British Coast Guard have offered to install AIS technology for 24 hour coverage on location. In terms of communications there will be three separate systems which include satellite telephone, VHF marine radio and cellular mobile coverage. This will enable us to be in close daily contact with both the auxiliary life boat organisation and our own land based ground crew.