Monday, May 9, 2016

Doryman's Melonseed

In the upper left corner of this page is a search window. If you type in Doryman's Melonseed design, you will find, as I did, that this project started in December of 2011. How could that be? Four and a half years. Well, I guess you know how fate has befallen this sailor.
Take heart my patient reader, for the long awaited sail-rig has evolved to the test stage. We already know how Aria rows. Like a song.

Martin and I chose a calm day for our first sail. Turned out to be breathless, but we had enough puffs to get a feel for how this 'seed flies.

It was apparent from the first, the free-footed sail needs a boom for windward work. The fixed keel shape, taken from Atkin's Valgerda allowed quite a bit of leeway, but I think that will improve with a boom as well. I intend to leave the foot loose, lash the sail to the boom at the tack and clew and use a downhaul from the clew to the base of the mast.


If this sounds confusing, we'll come back soon with photos and an updated report.

Please stay tuned.

Thursday, May 5, 2016


By now, you may be tired of looking at the starboard view of Belle Starr. I promise, this is the end of the recovery saga, it's time to party!

Here she is, back in her element. Ship-shape and bristol. The observant will note the anchor chain. Whatever evil lurks below, waiting to chafe innocent anchor rodes, will find this one harder to chew.

A far cry from this.
Thanks to all who stepped up to help bring her back.
Brings tears to my eyes.

Paul Miller
Philip Morley
Martin Schneider
Lynn Watson
Claire Acord
John Acord
Heather Hicks
Marty Loken
Doug Follett
Steve Follett
Scott Marckx
Allan Woodbury

And all of you, my friends all over the world, who offered moral support in a time of need. Thank you.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Doryman's Boatyard

As you might guess, the restoration of Belle Starr is at the top of the list. Working outside definitely has it's drawbacks and I've known all along that when spring weather approached, there would be a frenzy of activity. Nothing new there - to a sailor, the weather dictates everything.

Belle Starr is a happy boat. She's very near being ready to launch. All that remains are the fiddly bits, the structural work is complete. In fact, I have a friendly wager with a fellow sailor about who will launch first. Sometime late this month is my best guess. Despite being very anxious about splashing her, I want Belle Starr to be better than before her accident. This view of the starboard side was a ragged hole not too long ago.

The starboard side from the interior. Those pesky, leaky deadlights have been re-bedded at last!
There are some upgrades this time around. New winches grace the deck to assist in keeping the halyards tight. I'd like to have winches for the new genny too, but that will have to wait. The interior is handsomely reworked. With the boat completely empty, refinishing everything was imperative. It's very rewarding to sew up loose ends. For instance, there will be no more hauling and stowing plastic jugs of water. A rudimentary water system featuring a bladder tank and hand pump now simplifies that task.

An unexpected bonus to this tragedy was revealed while repairing the rudder, which was snapped off at the waterline.

The two sets of gudgeons and pintles that were underwater were corroded to the point that they could have failed at any time. I'm not a welder (at times like this, I wish I was...) so having new hardware fabricated has suddenly become one of the most costly elements of this repair. It will be good to know that the rudder is once again firmly attached to the boat. Losing steerage is a sailor's nightmare.

Meanwhile, look at what followed me back to the shop... an Old Town canoe. I've had my eye on this beauty for a decade. I haven't had a chance to look up the serial numbers yet, but she's probably in the neighborhood of seventy years old.

My friend Rick Johnson finally took pity on me and we loaded her down from the rafters of his shop. She now graces the rafters of mine. It could be a while before she gets the attention she deserves, but when she does, you'll be the first to know.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Kiwi Raid Photo Essay

My friend, Webb Chiles, who is about to return to New Zealand to continue his septuagenarian circumnavigation, sent me a link to an article in the Guardian about the St Ayles Raid in that country last month.
New Zealand is my kind of country. I wonder if they'd let me live there? My own country seems to be going to hell, with it's current political circus. Sorry about the rant - this is not a political forum, but it's hard to ignore.

Thank you, Webb. The monastery of the sea is the place to be.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Lug Sail Melonseed

As promised, a short dissertation on the balanced lug mainsail rig is today's fare. When I designed this style of traditional rig for my faering, Saga, I'd never used one. The superlative sailmaker, Lynn Fabricant built that wing with her subtle magic and the little faering fairly flew.

It was an easy sail to set up and use. The balanced lug rigging I use is helpfully documented by Mik Storer in his rigging suggestions for the famous Goat Island skiff, a link well worth exploring for many reasons.

He says this simple and effective rigging comes from an old book, "The Dixon Kemp Manual of Seamanship". The only difference for me is that I don't lash the boom to the mast. I find the downhaul keeps the sail tensioned perfectly whether the boom rests against the mast or not.

With this set-up, I can strike the rig, bundle yard, sail and boom along the thwarts and be ready to row in a couple minutes. In Saga, I even have a long bag to contain the whole mess so it's ready to set anytime.

I use the sail/boom/yard bundle to hang my tent when needed. It's slick. Of all the traditional sail rigs, it's hand's-down my favorite.

The sprit rig on the other hand has not been friendly to me. When I designed my version of the historical melonseed, I drafted the sprit rig as the default, as documented by Howard Chapelle. That was four years ago (where the time went is a mystery). The Doryman Melonseed has been used occasionally as a row boat, for which it is particularly suited, but the sail rig has hung in suspension. Last winter I sewed the spritsail but as you all know, several other unexpected emergencies interrupted my plans. Meanwhile, in the intervening months, I did have a few educational escapades with another spritsail. Not a sail for open water in my opinion.

There, I said it.

Recently I unlaced the spritsail from the mast, fashioned an upper yard and installed grommets along the head of the sail, to lace the two together. The yard is longer than usually specified because I intend to use it in converting another sail to the same design (same type of refit, as well). Of particular concern was the placement of the sail in relationship to the hull. The balanced lug tends to set forward of the mast a bit, which could potentially create lee helm in the original design. As can be seen from the photos, this was of minimal concern in the final analysis.

A difficulty yet to be addressed is the geometry of how the new lug lowers the sail on the mast. I do not intend to carve a new mast, but the sail needs to clear the deck by an additional 4-6 inches. Obviously there will be no room for the required downhaul on the tack, but with the extra long yard, the opportunity to tension the head of the sail with a downhaul on the forward end of yard itself is apparent.

I like the way this design allows for changing the angle of the yard. The balanced lug tacks best to windward with the head peaked-up as high as allowed. Running off the wind, the yard can be set more horizontally, to provide more power.
Note how lacing the halyard from the forward end of the yard, through a block midway on the yard and thus through a sheave at masthead tensions and binds the yard against the mast. You will notice the halyard leads to the cockpit from the base of the mast (above).

Both the downhaul and the halyard are then lead through the coaming, to cleats in reach of the helmsman. This sail configuration can be set and struck from the safety of the cockpit, the solution to my concern about the sprit rig, which is a bear to strike in any kind of real wind.

 This series of shots show how easy it is to lower the yard into the boat and the halyard lacing option used allows the whole kit to be stowed on the thwarts in seconds, allowing the mariner to concentrate on other matters when necessary. Thus stowed, the sail is also ready to set at a moment's notice. When it's time to stow this rig, the yard, sail, halyard and downhaul stay together in a handy bundle. The mast is bare and easy to handle.

For now, this rig has no boom. There is no particular reason for that other than expediency. This will hamper off-wind and downwind performance, though how much remains to be seen. A test sail is in the offing.

In a small boat, simple is best. I would add, this principle applies to larger boats (and life in general), but that's a topic for another day...

Monday, February 1, 2016

Doryman's Boatyard

The end of January brought temperate weather to the Salish Sea, enough to tempt a groundhog out early. Which means activity in the Doryman boatyard. Some of you who have been around for a while may remember the Doryman Melonseed. Aria has been in the wings waiting for a sail rig. The plans call for a sprit rig but since I'm the designer, an easy administrative decision was made to substitute a balanced lug sail.
Why not simply make the sprit sail I sewed last winter into a lug sail? I think it will work. But not as easy as one might imagine.

Redesign in the works, on rainy days. Stay tuned.

Dryer days mean repairs on the Sam Crocker Stone Horse, Belle Starr. I met an interesting boatbuilder a few weeks back - a fellow older than me with a more traditional training - who insisted a Stone Horse has no chine. I said it's a Stone Horse redrawn from Sam's plans to accommodate plywood construction. He insisted the chine made it some other boat. Very interesting proposition.........

Belle Starr as she looked last September. A Hulk.
Sailing season over early. Not much chine left.

Demolition left very little of the starboard side. Paul looks despondent but he's really enjoying himself.

About a month later the "A" team closed up that gap and once again, a chine emerged.

Plywood construction methods show quick progress toward healing wounds, physical and psychological.

A couple very wet months suspended that initial push but just recently the clouds miraculously parted. The freshly faired Belle Starr emerges whole again. Gotta love that beautiful chine. I think Sam would approve.

These shots are from two days ago, after some intense sanding and fairing.

She's not finished by a long shot.
 But it's a great relief to have gotten this far.

I believe this is one of Sam Crocker's drawings, but I'm not sure which boat. Looks suspiciously familiar though, doesn't it?

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Kiwi Raid and Regatta 2016

Robbie Wightman sent us a "heads-up" about the upcoming Kiwi Raid in New Zealand.
The Raid starts January 29th 2016 at Sandspit and finishes fifteen days later in Auckland. Planned events are scheduled along the way, for sailors and rowers alike. There will be a two day St Ayles skiff regatta at Whangaparoa in the middle. Everyone is invited to join in.
This event is fully catered, so entrants get three meals a day. Accommodation is mostly camping, with good facilities.

This raid begins on the  Matakana River at Sandspit, NZ.
The Mahurangi River opens into Kawau Bay at Mahurangi with access to the destinations of Kawau Island and the Hauraki Gulf in the most popular cruising destination in New Zealand.
The raid ends in the busy Waitamata Harbor, Auckland, NZ

Raid New Zealand was formed to promote, support and facilitate small boat adventuring and raiding in New Zealand. This will be their first organized raid. There are six St Ayles skiffs entered, including two with sail rigs (please see previous post about outfitting a St Ayles Skiff with sail power.).

Thank you, Robbie for the update - Wishing you fair winds and fine weather for the first Kiwi Raid and Regatta!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

St Ayles Skiff, Doineann

Shortly after this blog began, almost a decade ago, I became enamored of Iain Oughtred's Ness Yawl . The Ness Yawl has taken Doryman readers through many voyages. (If you took the time to follow that link, welcome back!)
In the intervening years, Iain, who was then an internet no-show, has become possibly the most popular small boat designer in the world. And once again I find myself drooling over a new design from the Master, his beautiful sharpie, Haiku.
She's exquisite, but that's a subject for another day.
While I was writing extensively about the Ness Yawl, Iain designed the St Ayles SkiffThe Scottish Coastal Rowing Association was formed on 29 May 2010, to encourage boat building and rowing and racing of coastal rowing boats along the Scottish Coastline. Communities were encouraged to become involved in the building of new boats to be rowed, principally the St Ayles skiff.

Doryman was quick to promote this extraordinary design and though hundreds of these boats have been built globally, only two St Ayles Skiffs exist on the west coast of the US, Doryman's cruising grounds. Both were built in Portland, Oregon at the Wind and Oar Boat School .

The first boat off the molds at WOBS (Rosie) lives in Portland, rowed regularly by the team of women who built her. The second St Ayles Skiff to come out of that shop was Doineann (Irish for tempest or storm), built for her proud owner, Julius Dalzell. The following update from Julius is the answer to my suggestion that the St Ayles Skiff might make a great sail-and-oar boat, if only she had a sail rig.

"Hi Michael,
It has been sometime since our last communication. As you may recall, Doineann was the second St. Ayles skiff built by the Wind and Oar and Oar School. My wife and I decided upon retirement, in July 2014, to move to a favorable locale, in Cathlamet, Washington for a variety of reasons, not the least being the beauty and boating opportunities of the Lower Columbia River. A significant aspect of our new abode was the availability of a large shop. Today it is a home and restoration facility for small craft.
Of course Doineann is one of the permanent residents. And yes, we did proceed to design and make a sail-rig for Doineann.
Before proceeding with the story, you might be impressed to know that we have a regular crew rowing Doineann, most having little prior rowing experience. We find that performance is outstanding regardless of wind or chop. She slices through anything with little fuss. Totally enjoyable.

We started with an e-mail exchange with Iain Oughtred himself. Iain warned that the craft was designed for rowing, not sailing, and would be tender, so recommended a small lug sail, maybe something around 90 sq. ft.. Iain stated that the existing keel might be sufficient to support lateral stability with minor leeway. He wasn’t sure how she would tack because of her wide turning radius.

We decided to go low budget. After considering many sail designs, our choice was an 85 sq. ft. balanced lug.
The mast was a used item acquired from a builder. Quite the specimen, ugly but it works. A sail was ordered from Lee Sails. I insisted that the sail be mounted without use of fittings or attachments. No screws, nails, brackets or drilled holes. In other words, no intrusions that would impact the original design.

The mast partner we devised uses the kabe support at the forward rowing station, using the kabes and pins incorporated into each rowing station at the gunnel. The mast step slips into the floor boards below. So, on a fine August day, we took to the river for the first sail. In a fresh, accommodating wind, her response was beyond expectations. She went like mad with five adults aboard. The existing steering rudder, though designed for rowing, performed well.The boat was not tender, in fact quite stable regardless of wind on any quarter. We had a ball!

Tacking was a challenge. Because of the long keel, she took her time. Speed would drop off and we would be in irons, propelled in reverse. Throwing the rudder over steered her in reverse through the tack. The sail would again fill and we were off. Too much rudder did nothing but enhance the stall, acting as a brake. The answer to a successful tack was two fold - lots of speed going into the tack, and finessing the rudder. A slow tack became doable.

The materials I used for gaff and boom are too light. Currently another gaff and boom are under construction. Three strips of tight grain fir to be epoxied and shaped.
So, Michael, that is the Doineann story to date. My expectations for the craft are progressing!"

Thank you Julius for that update. It's obvious you love your boat and it's easy to see why.
Of course the St Ayles Skiff is a one-design racing machine, so Julius was careful to keep the design legal for racing. He looks forward to the day when more St Ayles are built and racing here in the US. (me too!)

Meanwhile, the Haiku is calling me. Isn't she a beauty?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The SibLim Club

The day I launched my sailing dory, Mistral, my soon to be good friend, Rick Johnson showed up with a copy of Annie Hill's Voyaging on a Small Income. Hard to believe that in twenty years of creating and building a cruising dory, I'd never heard of Annie or her travels on Badger.

In an attempt to make amends, I currently follow Annie's life in New Zealand aboard her junk-rigged Fantail. What I really love about Annie is her sense of community. She has just begun building a new boat for herself, the first in all her years of sailing that will be built strictly to her own specifications. I will be following this build with avid interest and thought you might wish to do the same. I'm sure Annie would approve of a few more members of the SibLim Club.

Thank you, Annie for taking us on yet another voyage ethereal.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Winter Sailing

Beaufort 6. The first red flag goes up the pole on the waterfront. Long waves begin to form. White foam crests are scattered across the bay.

Martin waits patiently aboard Clover. The winds are obviously increasing, so we'd better get going. As we motor out of the boat basin, there's not another boat in sight.

Some airborne spray drifts over the foredeck. Neoprene gloves lay dripping in the cockpit after having been blown off the dock into the water. Cold hands and face indicate better than any calendar that winter has set in. This blustery day heralds the first Sunday sail for us this month. Our friend Claire catches us passing in front of the ferry dock.

Soon, cold hands are forgotten in the joy of the day. Spindrift blurs the definition between sky and water. Clover scuds along at a happy six knots. There's no where to go, we're already there.

The sea heaps up. Some foam from breaking waves blows into streaks along the buried rail.
Beaufort 7 indicates a near gale. We take cover back inside the breakwater, congratulating ourselves on a morning sail well done. Looking forward already to next Sunday's congregation.

When a sailor sees a sky like this, it's recommended to take cover. Why does it give me such a thrill? (The man must be out of his mind.)