05 December 2011

I was recently talking to an acquaintance and saying that I had decided to invest some money in a 'Netbook'.  Although my present laptop is functioning OK - touch wood! - it is very greedy on electricity.  I hate running the engine unnecessarily and my (cracked) solar panel isn't too efficient.  But someone told me he could get a good deal on a computer with a solid-state hard drive and a six-cell battery, both of which, he assured me, would mean that I could run the machine on its own battery for about 6 hours at a time.  And the netbook is small and light - much easier to take ashore to an Internet Cafe.

So I was saying all this, and how great it would be to reduce my electricity consumption and be able to write emails and my blog and so on.

'Yes,' quoth he, 'it should be great.  And you know, you can get all sorts of navigation software to run on Netbooks.'

Please engage brain before speaking, I thought.  But smiled and said, 'I don't think so,' and left it at that.

12 November 2011

Light headwinds.  Drizzle turning to real rain.  Twelve miles to the next anchorage; I have a rendezvous I'd like to keep.  I could motor.  I decide to sail.  The other yachties obviously think I'm nuts.  But my rig is easy to handle and efficient.  I have an excellent self-steering gear and I recently bought a new waterproof jacket, so I'll stay dry when I'm on deck.

I don't have to be on deck for long, of course.  Just get the sail set, adjust the steering gear and kill the engine that got me out of the anchorage.  I can lay my course!  I'm making 3 knots!  What's not to like?

A little while later I make my favourite rainy-day sailing drink.  So it's 9 00 am, but who's going to know?  I half fill a mug with heavy red wine.  I grate in nutmeg and sprinkle cinnamon; meanwhile the kettle burbles on the stove.  I pour water from it into the mug.  Steam rises.  Bliss.

Later the rain gets heavier and the wind lighter.  I end up motoring.  But I tried.  And really, really enjoyed my little boat doing her best for me.

01 November 2011

 I discovered this on The Marine Quarterly website: http://www.themarinequarterly.com/2011/10/ 

Too many satellites, not enough fun

Posted on October 25, 2011 

Somewhere between Sicily and Malta under a big roof of stars we were designing a new kind of yacht race. It would be sailed in one-designs, so there would be no advantage for rich owners. And navigation would be done only with equipment on the boat – logs, compasses, sextants, all that. Satellites and radar would be outlawed. Seats of the pants would be encouraged, and judgement would be by brain rather than ARPA and its descendants.

It’ll never catch on.

To say it resonanted would be a masterpiece of understatement.  I worry, of course, about the size and complexity of these one-designs and, in spite of the fact that 'seat of the pants' thinking would be encouraged, I doubt the designers would be able to think outside the circle sufficiently flexibly to advocate junk rig for its efficiency, simplicity and safety.  But it's a start - and an extension of the gloriously-Corinthian Jester Challenge.

26 October 2011

More freedom means less security.

More security means less freedom.

This applies to society, to politics, to most aspects of life.

My vote is for freedom

24 October 2011

So what is the ideal cruising boat?  Well, most of the time we are not under way, so she has to be a comfortable home.  When we are underway, then she has to be seaworthy and reliable.  You want her to look after you, and that is one of the reasons that, when the chips are down, I don't want a multihull.  Then, she has to be inexpensive to run.  Steel is a bit of a problem here.  Wood/epoxy - honestly built - is probably your best.  Ferro-cement has a lot going for it.  A decent carvel-planed wood boat from long-lived woods won't let you down.  Horses for courses.

But now and then you see a design that makes you shout: YES!

Look at this sweet, little ship:


by John Welsford

LOA 5.5 m - 18 ft 2 in
Beam 2.4 m - 7 ft 10 in
Draft .8 m - 2 ft 8 in
Sail Area 22.5 sq m - 247 sq ft
Headroom 1.7 m - 5 ft 6 in
Headroom under dome 2 m - 6 ft 6 in
Displacement 1200 kg - 2650 lbs bare ship, rigged
Displacement 1750 kg - 3850 lbs normal full load
Displacement 1900 kg - 4180 lbs maximum safe

A mighty, miniature long range cruiser

Swaggie: (Australian slang) A tramp, or itinerant who carries his bedroll, or “Swag” upon his back.

My client loves small craft and has long had an ambition to cruise a very small cruiser that would be capable of blue water voyaging from his home on the Southern Coast of Australia. For those not familiar with the area that’s roaring 40s territory and there are very long stretches of coast without shelter or refuge. In a storm the best option is to get as far out to sea as possible, close the hatch and get into your bunk but of course few very small cruisers are designed to survive this sort of treatment.

We’d corresponded about ideas for more than a while, and we seemed to have similar ideas if slightly different approaches so I drew a study proposal and sent it off to see what he thought.

Bingo, a cheque arrived by return! Hit the jackpot and rang the bell!  So here is Swaggie!

The basic premise of the boat is that she is sailed from inside. Her Junk rig is the key to this, the sail being able to be hoisted, reefed and sheeted from the main hatch means that a conventional cockpit and sail handling areas are not really required. This is a huge help as at less than 18 ft she is not big enough to have both a useful cockpit and a spacious cabin, seeing as she is a cruiser and needs to be comfortable the cabin is the priority.

Her accommodation is as follows:

Double bunk forward, sorry but the big free standing mast intrudes but the bed is still better than most you will find in a boat this size. There are large lockers underneath the double with room for a substantial battery bank, 25 gals of water and dry storage for extra clothing and stores.

There is sitting headroom over the after end of the double, a small locker port and starboard, a galley bench one side at the after end of the bunk and a general purpose bench on the other with storage under both.

There is a lot of storage in this area, a long voyage with two crew needs a lot of stores and provisions, so I have designed in enough space for lots of water, stores, equipment and spares.

Aft of that, and still under the low part of the cabin are port and starboard armchairs, its important to have some really comfortable places to sit when off watch or just relaxing and these are as good as you will find, handy to the bookshelf and the galley stove, near the on watch person but separate enough to nap in when taking a break from the helm.

Step aft slightly and there is a single bunk down each side, sitting here your eye will be up at window level, with your hand on the inside tiller you have 360 deg vision and a view of the sail through the Polycarbonate “astro” dome in the main hatch. You can sit in here in full control of the vessel and be totally sheltered from sun, wind or rain.

More water tanks and extra storage goes in under those bunks and the armchairs, I’ve allowed for 180 litres of water which is consistent with the boats planned 30 days with 2 persons range.

Cruisers spend a lot of time anchored in company, the boats functioning as floating accommodation while their skippers explore paradise, and such mundane issues as privacy for body functions need to be considered. I have drawn in a portable heads of the type sold for caravan use, stowed in under the after deck it can be drawn forward into the cabin, used and slid back without disrupting the rest of the boats functioning.

Similarly it would be practical to divide the boat across the fore and aft cabin sections with a curtain to allow a sponge bath for a modest crew.

There is also space in the same area for a valise packed inflatable liferaft, compulsory for some countries if the boat is to be sailed beyond territorial waters.

Her deck layout has a large anchor well up at the sharp end in which the main anchor and warp can be stowed, a cabin top organised so that a custom designed 6ft 6in dinghy can be carried on the forward part of the cabin top where it protects the big skylight while at sea, and a flat between the cabin and the transom which is large enough to lie down and stretch out on, or to sit up and steer with the outside emergency and self steering tiller if the weather is clement. For nice weather I would carry one of those little folding beach chairs and fit some cleats to stop it sliding around, real comfort in any sized boat.
She has a permanent pushpit railing aft which not only reduces the chances of man overboard, but trebles as the mainsheet horse and the self steering vane mounting.

I have drawn wide enough side decks to allow access forward and suggest that a secure line be run forward around the mast and back so anyone going on deck can be secured by a safety harness at all times.

The hull form is that which my smaller Houdini design has so well proven, a narrow flat bottom, steep deadrise chine panels and well flared topsides, the fine entry gives a nice easy motion and the cross sectional shape gives a gentle roll with very high ultimate righting moment, both safe and comfortable in a boat that is intended for long voyages where one cannot duck into a sheltered spot when the weather turns foul.

Construction is simple two skin ply over sawn frames and stringers, very easy to build and extremely tough, there is nothing here to bother a keen amateur with reasonable tool skills, Her ballast is 450 kg of lead some 550 mm down below the waterline, and heeled to 90 deg she will lift something like 60 kg with her masthead which is a huge righting moment for a little boat.

Swaggie's plans are detailed for real beginners, very basic woodworking skills, a good attitude and an ability to read is about all a Swaggie builder will need to begin with and the other skills will come as the project progresses. I anticipate a lot of builders will be people who find themselves trapped in a soulless desk job which condemns them to commuting for hours in heavy traffic, living in a thin walled and crowded apartment and dreaming with longing of the freedom of the seas, golden sands and warm breezes.

The space and resources needed for building a Swaggie are not beyond the city dweller, and with determination the dream can become reality. I am really looking forward to reading of the adventures of Swaggie builders who have made the voyage to paradise. It's not so far away!

Now if this little boat doesn't make your knees buckle - at least slightly - then you have no soul.  This is not one or your little big ships - loadsa displacement, but still only a tiny boat.  This one displaces what you need for your water and food, but is not in essence a heavy vessel.  Of course, I have a couple of cavils:

The dome: fine for seriously bad weather, but for anything under F9 or about 10 deg C, fit a Hasler pramhood, details of which can be found in Practical Junk Rig.  There is no better way of keeping a lookout underway, or a perfectly-ventilated cabin in harbour.

Why not build her with a full-width cabin?  She would be even bigger below and, with a junk rig, you only have to go forward to anchor.  Security on deck isn't a big issue.

I shall have more musings on building vs buying.  My opinions are not exactly what they used to be on this vexed issue.

22 October 2011

'Liveaboard' not Leper

A friend who is sailing round the world, by which I mean that she is meandering over the seas whither her fancy takes her, told me of a recent experience.

She has some jobs that need doing on the boat, one of which involves removing the mainsail.  She feels a bit vulnerable at anchor, with no sail; and some of the other jobs would be a lot easier either done ashore, or with the aid of electricity.  She examined her bank balance and reckoned she could afford 2 months in a not-too-expensive marina.  While she could leave the boat without worries, she'd have a bit of a look round the country, too.

So she rolls up at the marina and wonders up to the office.

'Hi.  I'm a (foreign-flagged - identity hidden to preserve privacy) yacht, just come in from overseas a few weeks ago.'

'Great - welcome to our country.'

'Thank you.  I'd like to keep my boat here for a couple of months - I have some jobs to do on her.  She's 29 ft long.  Do you have space?'

The staff member looks at his computer.  'Yes, no problem, we have three or four empty places for boats of your size.'

'Oh good.  It will be reassuring to have somewhere secure for the boat when I travel round and this looks like a great place to live.'  She reached into her bag so that she could pay.

'To live?',  the staff member queried.  'You mean you intend to live aboard?  We don't allow liveaboards.'

'Well of course I intend to live on board,' my friend replied.  'I told you that I'm a cruising sailor.  My boat is my home.  But I will be moving on as soon as my work is finished and I've done a bit of travelling.'

'But we don't allow liveaboards', he repeated.

'I'm not a liveaboard - I'm a sailor!'

'Sorry, but you can't stay. We don't allow liveaboards.'

What is this thing about so-called liveaboards?  Can you imagine driving to a caravan park, arranging a space for the caravan and then being told, 'but you do realise you're not allowed to come and stay in it?'  'Liveaboards' aren't lepers, they are ordinary people who want to live the way they choose.  What possible harm does it do to use a boat for the purpose it was built, ie cook in the galley, sit in the saloon, sleep in the berth provided by the builder?  'Liveaboards' have been shown time and again to add immeasurably to the security of their neighbours' boats.  They report malfunctioning equipment, police things like rubbish disposal and pollution and, generally, after 2 weeks, or months or years or even decades, leave as quietly as they arrived. 

In the meantime, these people are generally independent.  They ask for nothing.  They pay their way.  A voyager at the end of his or her career should be allowed to continue to live on their boat, their home of many years, without harassment; without being made to feel indebted.  Authorities should be glad that people at the bottom end of the socio-economic pile are still prepared to find themselves a home - even if it's not what most people would choose - instead of asking to be housed at the nation's expense.

'If we allow one person to live on their boat, everyone will want to', is an excuse so often given.  But this is rubbish. Most people would not choose to live on a small boat - they like their comforts and conveniences.  They strenuously avoid everything in life that might take a little bit of effort.  Living on a boat often needs a lot of effort.

In these days, it would be nice to think that people living in a minimalist, green  way might received some encouragement.  All we ask is to live our harmless lives in peace.  Is that so much to ask?

17 October 2011

My first musing is that I wished I hadn't used the word 'subversive'.  I'm what might be termed a dyslexic touch-typist, which is to say that I constantly juxtapose my keys.  My fingers really get entangled around the word 'subversive'.