Sunday, October 30, 2011

Beach Cruisers

I spent a significant proportion of my early life (until about 5-1/2 years of age) travelling around the world on cargo ships, one of which was only 2,900 tons. On her we journeyed from Copenhagen to Sydney, Australia via all stops. Having been given the run of such a small ship crossing the oceans of the world, it is not surprising to me that I grew up with a love of boats and the water.

M.S. Coolangatta
As if that wasn't enough, my father had a large collection of books written by boat designers such as William Atkin, Francis Herreshoff, Howard Chappelle, and many others, and I watched as dad built a beautiful strip-planked William Atkin-designed round-sided dory called Nancy in our lounge-room. I sailed a Sabot at the local yacht club and did all of the normal things a 1960s kid would do when growing up on the shores of Moreton Bay.

One of the big events of my life started when my mother came home from one of her infrequent shopping trips to our State Capital, Brisbane, with  a new book in her basket. It was "Swallows and Amazons" by Arthur Ransome, and to this very day I continue to re-read the entire twelve book series. This set of stories changed me from being a racing person to a cruising person, although remnants of the racing-me still lurk within!

Tom Dudgeon setting up for the night aboard Titmouse. (illustration by Arthur Ransome, from Coot Club, published by Jonathan Cape)
Throughout my teens and early twenties I sailed constantly, with an increasing emphasis on cruising (or beach cruising as it later became known to me). The next major step for me came in the eighties when I first read L. Francis Herreshoff's book, "The Compleat Cruiser" (spelling of "compleat" comes from Isaak Walton's book, "The Compleat Angler").

The Compleat Cruiser is essential reading for anybody interested cruising and wooden boats, but the section which had the most dramatic effect on me was the part where Goddard described a beachcruiser to his new friends Coridon and Briggs. The boat he was describing was a 13' x 4' 6" cruising dinghy with a standing lugsail of 76 sq.ft and equipped with leeboards.

L. Francis Herreshoff's beachcruiser from the book, "The Compleat Cruiser"  (published by Sheridan House)
Here is what the fictional character Goddard had to say in one part of the book;

"What do you mean by a beach cruiser?" inquired Briggs.
"It means a boat to cruise along beaches in shallow water," Goddard replied, "a boat to sleep aboard when hauled out on the beach, and I can tell you that this is an interesting and risky sort of cruising. It takes skill and experience to sail close to the shore if it is a rocky region and there is a sea running, but you can visit many unfrequented places in a beach cruiser. Of course, there are sheltered waters in rivers and marshes where there is no danger. A beach cruiser, emphatically does not mean a boat to hang around bathing beaches, or anything of the sort, but rather a boat for a naturalist who wants to study shore birds and animals. It is the best sort of craft for the poor man who has an urge for cruising. Even Conor O'Brien, whom most of us think of as a deep water man, wrote a chapter in his book, On Going to Sea in Yachts, that was called 'The Beach Cruiser'. (The Compleat Cruiser, by L. Francis Herreshoff published by Sheridan House)

Over the years I continued to go on beach cruising expeditions, varying in length between two hours late in the afternoon or night, to four-day trips covering long distances in isolated areas. Sometimes the boats used were kayaks and small sailing/rowing boats like Phil Bolger's Cartopper and an Oughtred Macgregor sailing canoe, while at other times we went in outboard-powered dinghies/tinnies. But most often the boat used was my dad's old design, Phoenix.

Phoenix, showing just one of her many rigs
We used Phoenix a lot because she was what was available, and she did a great job when there were two of us. But for solo trips she was (and still is) just a bit too big and heavy - especially on the beach. On the other hand, the small boats and kayaks were too small in many circumstances. Time and again I came back to thinking about the beach cruiser idea from The Compleat Cruiser, and I started sketching a "Goldilocks" boat - not too big, not too small, but just right!

After a considerable time, I made a half-model of what I had in mind, and from the half-model I took off a set of lines using a pantograph arrangement of my own devising, based on priniples I had picked up from reading L. Francis Herreshoff's biography of his father, Nathanael Greene Herreshoff.

The original half-model from which I took the lines
I've previously told the story of how I eventually developed the Phoenix III design from this set of lines, and you can read about it here - Phoenix III and The Perfect Customer 

Phoenix III has proved to be a good design, and I'm particularly pleased with her size, being the same breadth as the Francis Herreshoff beach cruiser at 4' 6"/1372mm to the inside of the planking, but being longer at 15ft/4572mm LOA to the inside of the planking. The increased length has been achieved on a hull weight which is still slightly lower than the mythical Herreshoff boat.

My friend Ian Hamilton was very impressed by Phoenix III but was intimidated by the glued-lapstrake (clinker) construction. Having built several boats previously using the stitch-and-glue method, Ian asked me to produce a new design which would replicate Phoenix III's layout and proportions, but be constructed stitch-and-glue. The resulting design is First Mate, photos of which you can see here in First Mate Photos one, two and three.

Cover sheet from the plans showing three of the rig options
Construction plan drawing showing layout
First Mate has turned out to be one of my favourite designs, although I have to admit that I haven't yet sailed one. I just like the overall shape and feeling of the boat, and because of having one under construction in my shed for a long time, I've had plenty of time to look her over. The reason for the delay in completion has been that she is a private job to test the design - Ian paying for the materials and me giving him the labour (or most of it anyway) - so the boat gets worked on only when other jobs have been done. However, she is getting close now. There are several other First Mates completed or under construction.

Dry fitting the deck
Dry fitting the deck
Ian looking over his boat at an early stage of construction.
It seems to me that both Phoenix III and First Mate fulfill the aims put forward by L. Francis Herreshoff in The Compleat Cruiser. Both are very light-weight, they are both arranged for satisfying performance under oars and small outboard, and both have a choice of rigs. One of the rigs - a balance lugsail - is coincidentally exactly the size of the Herreshoff boat's standing lug i.e. 76 sq.ft.  One significant difference between my designs and L.F. Herreshoff's beach cruiser is that I've specified a centreboard, whereas L.F.H. opted for leeboards. The leeboards do avoid the potential problem of having the centreboard slot jambed with sand and pebbles, and they are something I may consider on another design I have waiting in the wings.

It is great fun to build and use your own boat, but even better is to design her for yourself in the first place. Why not have a go at drawing your own design and getting exactly what you are after? It isn't all that difficult, and in the old days, people did it all the time. Then go and have some healthy fun on the water!

Friday, October 28, 2011

"Little Egret" - an Egret-style Sharpie

I've often been asked the question, "What is your favourite boat?". In fact, I frequently ask myself the same question, and there is no single, correct answer because it depends on the job the boat has to do, and the conditions under which she has to do it. However, I do have a changing short list of favourites, and one boat which has been on that list for decades is Ralph Munroe's Egret.

Profile of Egret drawn based on research by Jon Wilson (Woodenboat Magazine Founder), with input from Bob Baker, Maynard Bray, Dave Dillon, and Joel White. Image courtesy of Woodenboat Publications.

Lines Drawing of Egret. LOA 28' 2" LWL 22' 8" Beam 7' 2" Draft 1'. Courtesy of Woodenboat Publications.

Egret was designed by Ralph Munroe to act as an ambulance, mail boat, and water taxi for the early residents of Biscayne Bay in Southern Florida. Here is a short description in Ralph M. Munroe's own words;

The difficulties of beach travel being thoroughly realized, and the Weather Bureau having established a telegraph line to Jupiter, it seemed imperative that something in the boat line superior to any of the existing craft for this work should be obtained. So in the summer of 1886, to replace Kingfish, I had built at Brown's the 28-foot double-ended sharpie lifeboat, Egret, very strongly but lightly constructed. She drew eight inches, and had only fifty to seventy-five bricks, laid under the floor, for ballast. She was fitted with all the appurtenances needed to keep the sea in almost any weather, and if necessary to be put on the beach without harm. That she fulfilled all requirements until the first road was opened the older residents can testify. (excerpted from The Commodore's Story by Ralph Middleton Munroe and Vincent Gilpin - Historical Society of Southern Florida)

Like many others, I have found myself under the spell of Egret's superb lines, which could be described as a cross between a sharpie and a dory. Her swept-up stern and distribution of buoyancy put me stronly in mind of our Australian Surfboats, so the combination of the three hullforms gives her a wonderful pedegree.

Australian Surfboats in action. They share full forward sections, substantial flare, and fine, raised stern sections with Egret. This is not surprising as both were designed or evolved to deal with the same conditions.

This is a superb photo of an Egret built in the mid nineteen-eighties by Graham Ero for Robert Jones. (Photo by Ray Egan, courtesy of Woodenboat Publications)
This is my favourite Egret photo, showing her character very well. (Courtesy of the Historical Association of Southern Florida, scanned from Reuel Parker's excellent book, "THe Sharpie Book")
Several months ago I was approached by a fellow who has also been in love with Egret for a very long time. For nearly thirty years, on and off, he had been searching for plans which would allow the building of an Egret-like boat of around 18 feet LOA. He had become frustrated with the search, not being able to locate exactly what he was after, but a chance occurrence put him in contact with me, and he gave me the opportunity to try my hand at a modern interpretation.

Scaling the size of a boat up or down introduces many hydrostatic and hydrodynamic complications, so I did not in anyway attempt to copy Egret. In fact, as disciplinary measure, I refused to look at any of my original Egret plans until the hull modelling was complete - that way I knew that I was drawing an entirerly new design - inspired by Egret but not copied.

I suggested a gaff rig using short gaffs as per the original, but my customer wanted to keep the boat as simple as possible and opted for a jib-headed sailplan. Other steps taken in the interests of simplicity included un-cambered decks and sheet plywood construction using the stitch-and-glue method.

We passed ideas backwards and forwards, and my customer proved to be polite, informed, and insistent about a number of small details. However, he kindly allowed me to dictate elements of the hull design, and after many iterations we agreed on a hull and proportions.

Little Egret showing her full sailplan upper/left, and the mainsail stepped in a third position lower right. She measures 18' 10-1/4" LOA, 4' 9-3/4" Beam, and draws about 6"
Plans are largely finished except for rudder, mast step details, and instructions. However, they won't be released until an example has been completed and tested. The plans include developed panel shapes for the topsides and the bottom, so no lofting is required.

Outboard Profile and Layout
Lines drawing, to the inside of planking.
I'm really interested to see how this boat goes, especially when dealing with bar crossings and moderate surf.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Balance Lugsail - Setting up a Downhaul

One of the great pleasures associated with owning a home-built, traditionally-rigged boat is that you can fiddler around with the running rigging for years and years. My old boat is forty years old and I'm still altering details of the rig. It is educational, fulfilling, and wholesome activity!

My old boat running home in 30 knots of wind, with the main reefed. Everything in the rig, with the exception of the sail, is homemade and home-designed.

Here are some photos which illustrate the downhaul arrangement that Paul Hernes has developed for his Phoenix III. Control of the downhaul is critically important in getting good performance from a lugsail, and this arrangement allows the downhaul tension to be controlled by a single-hander in a very simple fashion. Additionally, this downhaul is also used to tension the snotter when Paul is using the larger spritsail, so one piece of simple equipment does two separate jobs - and does them both efficiently.

Here you can see the four-part downhaul made up of common polyester braid and two cheap stainless steel vang blocks. Note how the tackle is attached to the rugged mast partner, and the running end passes down through the mast partner........
...and on down to a turning block set low in the boat.
From there, the downhaul leads aft through a hole in the semi-bulkhead and along the centreboard case bed-logs.......
....and terminates in a cam-cleat on the aft end of the centreboard case. This is within easy reach of the skipper and can be tightened or released in a matter of seconds.
This picture shows the simple attachment to the boom. Paul has used a very strong-but-light piece of Dyneema (or Spectra) but for a short length like this anything would do, as stretch would not be an issue. The attachment to the boom can be a loop (as here) or a rolling hitch. The important point is that the attachment can be moved forward or aft along the boom at will, allowing wonderful adjustment of luff and leech tension.
In Paul's arrangement shown in the photos, the boom is simply held close to the mast by the tension of the downhaul. However, there are plenty of other options - in the above drawing is one that I favour as it holds the boom securely against the mast and also allows one to adjust the forward and aft location of the boom with ease.
 I encourage everybody to read widely and to experiment with all sorts of rigging options. If you are not constrained by the rules associated with a racing class, go out and have some fun with homemade equipment - it is cheap, and if you made it yourself you can obviously fix it as well. Usually all you need is some line and a few bits of timber - and your brain!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Phoenix III - Two Extra Set-Up Videos

Continuing with the short serties of videos I took recently (my first attempts), here are two more clips explaining elements of the Phoenix III design.

FLINT - A Major Journey Planned

Some while ago, I wrote a post about my rowing boat design Flint, in which I described the activities of Alec Morgan. Alec has been using his Flint heavily over the years and has made some significant coastal journeys in the area between the Gold Coast and Brisbane on Australia's east coast.

Alec's Flint, photgraphed by him during a beachcruising trip

Alec is now setting up for his most ambitious trip yet, and has started a Blog about the expedition.

You can find Alec's Blog here.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Videos Showing Details of Phoenix III Balance Lug Rig

During a recent visit from Paul Hernes (builder of the first Phoenix III) I was able to take a number of still and video shots of the details of the balance lug rig on Paul's Phoenix III.

This was my first ever attempt at video filming and editing, so please be patient with the results. However, you may find some of the clips to be worthwhile as they do show how well the boat has been developed by Paul over the years. Here they are: -

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Double Ended Hulls

My good friend, Al Burke (Aviator, Boatbuilder, and Waterman extraordinaire) has written in with a comment about the previous post on Design Evolution.


While you are on hull forms & bottoms,you might like to comment on what sailing qualities to expect from a double-ender like the little 12' Peapod by Arch Davis featured in the current WB magazine.A pretty boat & a style which I just know has exercised your enquiring mind & generated a sketch or three of your own ideas.

Your experience with your Iain Oughtred sailing canoe would be a big help I trust,being of similar length but much narrower beam.

btw,I'm posting as anonymous as my Google a/c keeps deleting my message when I try to send & tells me it is an "Input error" which my investigations have found is happening with anyone using Google a/c in IE9.

Al Burke

I don't have any photos of the Oughtred Macgregor under sail, but here is a picture which gives an idea of the hull shape
I've sailed the Macgregor quite a bit in the past, and as long as the conditions are not too windy, she sails beautifully, being nicely balanced, easily driven by her small sail, and lively. Surprisingly, she can get up to windward quite well even without the leeboard being deployed. But, of course, setting the leeboard brings her to life on the wind.

Unfortunately, I have very little experience sailing larger double-ended boats, so I can't answer Al's question with any authority. However, I'm very interested in the hullform for several reasons: -
  1. A double-ended hull tends to have similar amounts of reserve buoyancy forward and aft of the centre-of-buoyancy and centre-of-floatation. In very simple terms, this means that you avoid the problem of a broad-sterned boat having the stern lifted by a wave and having the less-buoyant bow sections pressed underwater. In another example, you can have the situation where a broad-sterned boat is pushing into a short head-sea and the reserve buoyancy of the stern prevents the bow from lifting to the on-coming waves. In the same situation, a double-ender is much more likely to lift her bow as the similar-sized stern is depressed.
  2. When a sailing boat which has broad, relatively flat aft sections heels, the turn-of-bilge is forced down into the water, and as a result, the entire aft part of the boat is lifted by the buoyant stern and the bow is forced downwards. This is a situation which is frequently seen occurring on modern ocean racing yachts - the wide, flat sections aft allow these boats to achieve very high speeds when the sheets are eased, but the boat must be sailed as flat as possible. On the other hand, a double-ender is much more likely to retain proper fore-and-aft trim when heeled at substantial angles.
  3. When a small boat is heavily loaded, or is trimmed down by the stern, the transom is often immersed, causing excess drag and wild eddies. If double-ended, an overloaded or poorly trimmed boat will avoid much of the eddying and associated drag.
  4. Lastly, a double-ended dinghy can be pulled up a beach bow-first without having a wide, flat transom bashed constantly by breaking waves and powerboat wakes.
The stern of Periwinkle lifting as she heels with a light crew. The sheethand should move aft, and the mainsheet needs to be eased a little to get the boat down flatter. This hull was designed to be fast, but needs to be sailed flat to get the best from her.

Here you can see the same boat being sailed flat by her owner, John Shrapnel. It is a different point-of-sail, but note the way the bow has lifted .
 The problem is that nothing comes for free! A double-ender may have some nice characteristics of balance and sea-kindliness, but you pay a price. The sharp aft sections rob sail-carrying power compared with a transom-sterned boat of similar length. Also, I suspect that the curved surfaces of the leeward side of the double-ender - most particularly in the case of a boat with a high breadth-to-length ratio - will tend to induce weather-helm when the boat is heeled.

So, given that my sailing experience with double-enders is limited, here is my opinion. I think that the balance and seakindliness of the double-ender, allied with the load flexibility, make the form better suited to rowing dinghies than sailing dinghies. However, there is a place for a nicely shaped double-ender as a rowing boat with auxilliary sail. I don't have the knowledge to speak about larger boats with ballast keels.

A 15 ft x 4.5ft boat I modelled for my own use.

Another view of the same model. Note how I have used very firm bilges to try to retain sail-carrying power