The JRA interview that Kevin Cardiff did with me this past fall got a little buried in the previous post. Also, because of the video format of the interview it wasn’t possible to include the credits for each photo individually. So here’s this. Thanks to all who shared the lovely pictures they took! Perhaps it’s also fun to see those photos sitting still.
Many thanks to Suzanne Jean for the video at the end of the interview, with the Peep Hen Serenity moving out into the Bay under yuloh power.
Additional thanks to West Cove Boat Yard, of Sorrento, Maine, for building Great Auk.
In closing, I would like to again thank Kevin Cardiff for all the work he put into this interview. Although I sent him a number of the photos shown here, in the process of putting together this collection of pictures I realized just how many photos he found on his own before we even started. It was an interesting exercise tracking them all down to include here! Of course I could have simply asked him, I’m sure, but I didn’t want to be a bother, and the process of locating them all was both a wonderful review of these past years, and a testament to the thoroughness with which Kevin approached this project. Thank you Kevin, for inviting me to do this interview, for making it such a pleasure, and for producing such a lovely record.
And thanks again to all the photographers, who so kindly agreed to this use of their work.
Hi folks… It’s been much too long. There was a lot of fun with Great Auk this year, including after that early summer trip from the last post. With luck, at a bare minimum there will be some postcard-style entries coming up, with a few photos and small stories. Sailing went on well into the fall, and at the end of October I took the boat around to Frenchman Bay, spent two separate gales in a couple of different sheltered spots, and then on November 1 the boat came out of the water in Sorrento, where it was built. Some work got done on it at the boatyard, and a few weeks later Great Auk went into the new shelter – which was our other summer/fall project – at the top of the driveway.
After the boat was snug, I was invited to do an interview about Great Auk, and some about Auklet, with Kevin Cardiff of the Junk Rig Association. What a pleasure that was. Our conversation happened over zoom, after which Kevin did a marvelous job of pulling out the most interesting bits, which he put together with some photos into this video. Enjoy!
Endless thanks to all – Kevin for the JRA video, and everybody who participated in the giant shelter project, as well as Mike Connors, who was in the truck backing the boat into that tight space.
* Note: the shelter project took place during that heavenly Covid-lull this past fall. With just about everybody fully vaccinated, it was such a pleasure to be outdoors, working together, without masks!
It’s been much too long since you all have had proper news from this corner of Maine. Here’s a rather lengthy report; you can scroll through for pictures for the capsule version…
The boat went into the water on April 14, put in at our local boat ramp and driven to our float with a borrowed gasoline outboard. GREAT AUK was delivered by the boatyard folks, because Maine was just going into the first coronavirus lockdown. They launched it at the ramp:
Then they motored up the bay on the high tide, right to our float. Two of the boatyard folks drove from the ramp to the house by car and went down to the float to catch lines, while Suzanne and I watched from a good spot on the bank up above the shore. Coronavirus was not so well understood then, and we were taking very good care about nobody touching anything that somebody else not in their “pod” might have recently handled.
Then Jon, being impressively strong, put the outboard on his shoulder and hiked it up the path to their vehicles, and they all drove off.
Over the next days, projects commenced. The electric motor cables and steering linkages were connected, and the boat became capable of going out to the mooring unassisted. The mooring was switched over to its summer ball and pennant, ready for a boat. MARIGOLD, the little Portland Pudgy, went in the water so we could get back to shore, with GREAT AUK left safely riding in the channel for storms.
All of this was none too soon, as April is early to put a boat in the water here in Maine. The ice was long gone (this year) but the spring gales were not. Over the next few weeks we had THREE gales, one that actually had a storm warning and blew at about 50 knots, steady, just offshore from here. One time, when the wind was only supposed to be up to about 20 to 25, we let the boat stay at the float. That one came in from the south, getting up to more like 30, and the somewhat sketchy anchoring arrangement for the float (big enough mushroom anchor, but not enough mud) dragged. It’s just as well this happened at night – one couldn’t have done a thing about it, and it would have been horrifying to watch.
As it was, in the morning the storm was over and the tide was out. Boat and float had shifted about 10 feet north, just enough for the boat to settle on top of the jumble of good-sized rocks to the side of its regular berth on the mud (the float came down comfortably where the boat ordinarily belongs). Fortunately I do NOT have good photos of what that looked like. All I can say is, thank heavens for the copper sheathing on the bottom of the boat.
Then things needed to be put right again. We tied lines, waited for the water, moved the boat and float back to where they had started (easy now that they were floating again, and the wind gone), waited for the water to go down, rearranged the chains that hold the float, connecting them to circles of chain around massive rocks, and watched as the water came back to see if we had gotten the tensions right.
Got some more chains over the next two days, added them to more rocks, and eventually breathed a big sigh of relief, feeling much more confident that we would not be seeing the boat perched in that terrible position again, we very much hope.
Things improved from there, but it was a big project; then we started on some of the others.
Tiller steering is extremely difficult with this boat, and was going to be logistically complicated any way around. Wheels (plural) at two steering stations was the approach that would solve a lot of problems, from visibility forward, to comfort and ease, as well as adding mechanical advantage to make the steering easier. The steering project should have its own post… It might eventually, but suffice it to say that this involved steering shafts, sprockets, chain, cables, and sheaves, above and below deck, all lined up just right, and with very, very strong attachments. Plus a big bronze piece called a quadrant that had to be attached to the rudder, through the transom. It’s been an education. The folks from the boatyard kindly came over and helped with the hardest parts, while Suzanne and I did the pieces we could. It took months. But it was worth it.
Along the way we also reinforced the tabernacle supports, both at the partners and the step. The partners and step were built according to our original mast/tabernacle plan, which was improvised, because a mast is not part of the original SHANTY Triloboat. This plan was done with some input from Triloboats designer Dave Zeiger, who has put masts and tabernacles on other Triloboat designs. But seeing the results in person, and thinking further about strains on the freestanding mast, I felt that some extra reinforcement was in order. Dave concurred, somewhat emphatically for somebody who is ordinarily so laid back. Now with the additional support in place, that tabernacle shouldn’t be shifting anywhere.
Eventually we also started rigging. The mainsail from AUKLET is just big enough for this boat, and has been pressed into service. This sail will eventually be returned to AUKLET, and another one made for this boat, but it’s perfect for initial testing. By the middle of August all was ready to go, and on a day with very light wind we followed the tide out of Joy Bay. Dave and Jeannie McDermott saw us go, from their cottage on the east side of the bay.
And then Dave did the beautiful drawing at the top of this post.
Chubba and Bonnie came out in their skiff, once we were out into Gouldsboro Bay.
The wind died completely, and we had a lovely visit, riding the light current south, talking, and Bonnie taking great pictures.
Just after Bonnie and Chubba headed off, a bit of a breeze came up, and we got to see the boat really sail. Miraculously, it worked. It steered, it balanced on the wind, and when it came time to try tacking I was perfectly delighted to find that putting the wheel over resulted in the boat coming about. I think that was the most suspenseful moment of this entire endeavor, seeing if tacking would work. And it did!
As it turns out, the boat will even sail into the wind a little bit, given reasonably flat water and just a little bit of favorable current. GREAT AUK is designed as a motorsailor, expected to rely on the electric outboard for going upwind. But we made progress down the bay, in a number of tacks into the breeze that had come up from the south, before turning for a nice run back toward home.
With attention to planning for moving with both current and wind, it’s surprising how much can be done with this boat without turning on the motor at all. On that first day, we motored away from the float to get out from the shore – about 200 yards – and then shut it off. The motor didn’t go on again until we came back to the mooring, just southeast of Stevens Point, to wait for the tide. I turned just a little late when we tried to pick the mooring up under sail, with the current running in. This led to employing “crass mechanical measures” as Bill Cheney puts it; otherwise we would have made it, and the motor would not have been started again until docking. (I wasn’t inspired to try docking under sail on the first day, with so little experience of how this unusual hull handles.) That was all pretty exciting for a first outing under sail, including the excursion out of Joy Bay, and a couple of miles down Gouldsboro Bay to Point Francis and back.
While we were getting the rigging in order, I had also been arranging the cabin for sleeping and general living. With the boat going up and down on the mud right at the float it was easy to gradually get things set up, and then to try sleeping aboard. It was a major treat, even before going anywhere at all, to have such a comfortable place to be, right by the shore. This is what I had envisioned, going into this project: a nice spot out of the wind, dry when it rains, and flat when the tide goes out, right there down the path from the house. With a view. It was worth all the effort, just for that.
Even better, then I went sailing. After that first sea trial under sail it was clear that the boat would work for going places too. As a test, I headed off down Gouldsboro Bay and around Dyer Point, out by the Sally Islands, to go into Dyer Bay, which is the next long skinny water to the east. Amazingly, after all this time since we moved here I had never gone all the way up Dyer Bay, even though it is really just around the corner. This was a lovely opportunity to explore, and to get in touch with folks I had recently met who live up that way. Quite a bit of fun was had, including some good sailing in both very light and somewhat stronger breezes.
Anchoring, or rather, retrieving the anchor, was a bit tricky. The boat has two bowsprits with rollers at the front for anchor handling. In any bit of breeze, whenever the boat swings to one side or the other as the anchor is being pulled in, the rope and chain want to jump off their roller. It’s also a good bit of work to hold a line under that kind of strain, without an easy rest along the way; that big cabin really catches the wind, and pulls quite a bit in even a mild breeze. A chain stopper, which would also serve as a guide to keep the rode from jumping off its roller, was in order.
The simple kind of chain stopper from the boat store wasn’t going to work, because of the angles involved when pulling in the rode by hand, or when using the big winch on the side of the tabernacle. Annie Hill generously shared a whole series of photos of her arrangement that solves this problem, which helped with understanding just what was needed.
Making a chain stopper like Annie’s would involve custom welding and metalwork, to adapt an off-the-shelf anchor roller. That prospect was daunting to arrange, especially on short notice so there would be time to go sailing before the season got too late. We decided to put together an interim version mostly out of wood. This we could do right away, thanks to some help from Chipper and his band saw, and a collection of bolts that were easy to get. I already had a small metal slotted flap, which I took from a commercially available chain stopper that hadn’t worked out; attaching this small plate to a larger piece of wood did the trick as far as grabbing the chain. A picture is better for explaining:
The result is quite sturdy, and just needs a couple of additional bits of thin metal to protect the wood from wearing away when the chain drags in from an angle. In fact, the whole thing has been working so well that I’m in no hurry to replace it.
Once the chain stopper was in order, the boat really became a free bird. Supplies were loaded on – food and water – and I started making longer trips.
I had thought to sail this boat with crew, but coronavirus threw a real wrench in that plan. Suzanne had kindly come for the first sea trial under sail, but a daysail down the Bay is pretty much the limit of her interest in the actual floating part of this project. So given that there is nobody else in our “pod,” solo it was. As it has turned out, this has been workable. I’m looking forward to an autopilot, which will make things a lot easier for longer trips, but the boat is surprisingly good at steering itself with the wheel locked, and it was generally doable to go a bit of a distance.
GREAT AUK is also surprisingly capable, much more so than I expected. While my original plan was to stick to protected bays and coves, with carefully timed forays in very settled weather to get around the points that divide those sheltered waters, the boat is happy to do more. It is heavily ballasted by the large battery banks for the electric motor, as well as by the rather thick copper plate sheathing on the bottom. The boat moves happily over waves, and will run downwind with a sense of real security, including when the breeze comes up.
Going across the wind as the waves get bigger does not inspire so much confidence. Not having a keel, if the boat did go over things would be very bad. All the weight on the flat bottom, and the buoyancy of the large cabin sides, would probably keep it from rolling over – but only if gear inside the cabin did not fall and break the windows on the downside of that roll. The prospect of that gives me fits, and gear tiedowns are an ongoing project.
So I have been carefully feeling my way, both adapting to the greater than expected capabilities of the boat, and finding the edges where its design as a houseboat/barge delineates the limits of what is prudent to undertake.
Interestingly, Dave Zeiger, the designer of the boat, who has been sailing flat bottomed barges for decades, pointed out that the bottom of the boat really wants to match the surface of the water. So if the boat is sailing across the waves, completely apart from any heeling due to the wind, the boat is adjusting its orientation to match the angled surface of those waves. This is much more pronounced than in a boat with a curved hull, which tends to respond more to the weight of its ballast, preferring to be a bit more upright. In a barge, if the waves are not dangerously steep – nowhere near enough to tip the boat past its point of secondary stability – and the sail is managed cautiously, then the angle on the waves is really not the boat trying to roll over; it’s just adapting to the surface of the water that it is on. I found this very, very reassuring, and have been gradually coming to trust the boat more, at the same time as keeping an eye to the limits of its overall stability.
Dave is, of course sensibly, stressing that I am sailing this boat well beyond its design specifications. While other Triloboat designs are intended to be capable in more demanding conditions, this one really is meant to be a houseboat. But I am intrigued by what appears to be possible.
Also contributing to my sense of security is an aspect of the design that I added, drawing on traditional boatbuilding in Asia. Below deck, this box barge hull is divided by solid bulkheads into 6 separate watertight compartments. These have been functioning as intended: if water gets into one (we are still working out hatch gasketing), the other compartments are unaffected. Once the hatches are all reliably sealed, the boat is not likely to sink, even if somehow covered with water. The cabin, cockpit, and foredeck are all above that watertight box, meaning that waves where they don’t belong would be messy if they washed through the cabin, but would not affect the boat’s floating. Likewise, if there were a hole or a leak in one of the compartments, the rest of the compartments would still be intact and watertight. The only catch has been the steering cables running below deck, which has added a bit of complication, but it’s still pretty good.
I would however really like the boat to stay right side up, and I’m paying careful attention as I learn the way GREAT AUK handles.
The other funny thing going on is that, as readers of this blog might remember, a while back I had decided that I might very well be done with sailing. Then the idea for this boat came along, for peaceful floating in gentle coves, which did still seem appealing. The project has taken a good three years, from its first ideas, and while I have done a bit of local sailing in the intervening time, mostly I had a big rest from knocking myself out going distances in boats. Typical of rest, somewhat more substantial forays are starting to look a little more interesting again, especially given the opportunity to be truly comfortable at the same time.
This year, I was gone on the boat for a total of about five weeks, in a series of shorter trips with time at home in between. The longest voyage was to Rockport, in Penobscot Bay, where I had the great fun of going to see my Aunt Patsy, as well as cousins and friends.
Adventures were had throughout those weeks afloat, including a good bit of night sailing to catch the favorable wind and tide. It was a pleasure.
The boat came out of the water on October 26th.
There’s been some additional work at West Cove: bronze angle is now on the chines, for extra protection from rocks, and the “leeboard retaining bars” have each been reinforced with a metal strip (not yet attached in this photo, but visible on the floor), as the oak alone showed a somewhat alarming amount of flex when on the upwind side with the leeboard down.
Now GREAT AUK is home on the trailer, in a pullout at the upper end of the driveway.
Solar panels went on the top of the cabin over the course of the fall; wiring is still in progress. Installation of an autopilot is also underway.
The winter cover went on this past week, so the boat is snug, ready for the weather.
Over these next months, when things are warm enough we’ll keep working on projects.
*** A version of this article will be appearing in the February, 2019 Junk Rig Association magazine; for unfamiliar terminology, be sure to check out the links in the “glossary” tab at the top of the Auklet blog. For loads more information on junk rig, and to receive the upcoming JR dinghy issue electronically or in print, consider joining the JRA! https://junkrigassociation.org/join_jra ***
The Portland Pudgy is a roto-molded polyethylene double walled 7’8″ dinghy, marketed as a combination dinghy/lifeboat for cruising sailors. A sailing rig, designed to break down and stow in the compartment in between the inner and outer hull, is available complete with a telescoping aluminum mast. In many ways the original sailing rig is well thought out, but it is not designed with easy reefing in mind. Other than the reefing issue, the Pudgy is an outstanding boat for sailing on its own. This made my own Pudgy, Marigold, seem a particularly good candidate for conversion to junk rig, for local sailing from our tidal dock. An endearing characteristic of the design is that when the boat is not loaded the drain plug can be removed, which makes the cockpit self bailing, so the boat requires no attention after heavy rains. All Marigold needed was a junk rig to make the sailing just as easy.
The original rig, perpetually reefed for safety when gusty wind could come up at short notice. Photo credit: Suzanne Jean
Fortunately, this Pudgy JR conversion has been done before! Marcus Raimon, and his little Portland Pudgy Pugwash, have already demonstrated just how well it can work. Marcus kindly provided dimensions of his rig, which made for a great starting point.
Designing and building Marigold‘s junk rig was fairly straightforward. The boat already had mast partners and step, rudder and tiller, and daggerboards that fit into molded slots port and starboard. Looking at the book Practical Junk Rig, and thinking about the length of the boat, it seemed appealing to go with a Hasler/McLeod sail, with a 6 foot batten length that was only slightly longer than what Marcus was using. We really miss Theo, since moving from Holyoke – she did such beautiful drawings, but we are muddling through. Suzanne and I traced this picture from Practical Junk Rig, and then filled in the measurements. This method really suffered at the throat of the sail, because of the small scale, and I can think of better ways to do it now, to more clearly show that topmost 4 inches of the luff. But I’m including this rough sketch and notes to show that you really can make it work anyway.
This is what we built the sail from, and it does still drive the boat, including upwind. Approximate math tells us that the sail is in the neighborhood of 45-47 square feet, without the missing bottom panel, which would add another 7.25 square feet. The diagonal measurement of 7’9.5″ sets the angle of the lower battens, which are intentionally not 90° in the H-M design. That diagonal line should land right at the throat, where the yard meets the sail, and there should be 2 inches, on center, from the uppermost parallel batten to the fanned batten, and then two inches again to the yard. But it works even if you goof that up a little bit, as we did…
Construction was a simple operation with UV stabilized polytarp, cord, and tape, with no sewing whatsoever. Our approach followed the assembly guidelines on the website http://www.PDRacer.com, as well as instructions that came with a different sail kit from PolySail International, saved from another project. In the end, we used bright orange UV stabilized polytarp, bought from a generic tarp store online. The color was chosen in hopes of avoiding getting run over while sailing such a small boat.
Starting off with a flat sail design made layout particularly easy, with one complication. Actual tarp sizes are smaller than the dimensions under which they are sold. The original sail plan called for five parallelogram panels, which we happily laid out… And discovered that the fanned top of the sail ran right off the edge of the tarp. Nominal and actual tarp dimensions are not the same! Which I knew, but had not realized by quite how much. Photo above and below: Suzanne Jean
This was solved by redrawing, with one less parallelogram panel, and rubbing off the original lines.
With the outline in place, and batten positions marked for later, the next step was to put double-sided carpet tape just to the outside of the perimeter outline.
Below, Suzanne is trimming the excess tarp from the outside of that additional width of tape.
Once the tarp (now a sail cutout) was down to a manageable size, most of the rest of the work took place indoors, where it was considerably warmer. A non-stretch polyester perimeter line was laid alongside the inside edge of the double-sided carpet tape, the second backing pulled off, and the edge of the tarp folded across the non-stretch line and stuck down with the tape. Because we used tape rather than stitching, the usual edge-webbing for junk rig sail construction would not work, but the line folded into the tarp seems to be doing the job just fine for this small sail. Shemaya folding in perimeter line. Photo: Suzanne Jean
Corner patches were added to the head and throat, using more double-sided tape and triangles of tarp.
After all that was in place we added Gorilla Tape – especially heavy-duty duct tape – to cover all the folded edges. I believe that the layers of tape are also helping to take the place of the webbing that would normally be added to the perimeter of a stitched JR sail. The purpose of the webbing is to prevent stretch; the tape layers seem to be adding quite a bit of additional support to the perimeter line, together making the edge of the sail quite stable.
Once the tape was on, grommets went in at the head and throat. This could be done more simply, but we had the grommet kit already, so we went ahead with this version. For an effective low-cost alternative, check out this riveted “jiffy grommet” available from Sailrite (link included for readers’ convenience – I am not receiving anything for printing it): https://www.sailrite.com/Jiffy-Grommet
Photos below are of regular spurred grommet installation with hammer and dies.
Battens were attached next, made up of 1/2″ OD x .035 wall thickness aluminum tube (https://www.onlinemetals.com/merchant.cfm?pid=4352&step=4&showunits=inches&id=71&top_cat=60 – nope, not receiving anything for posting). Wooden molding from the hardware store went on the other side of the tarp, with plastic wire ties sandwiching it all together. We simply used an awl to poke the holes, not being inspired about breathing burning plastic that would have come with the method that involves burning – and thus sealing – holes with a soldering iron. The small holes seem to be holding up just fine in use, without the melting. Machine screws, with flat washers and nyloc nuts, fasten the batten ends, and the same screws hold webbing loops for attaching rigging. If I were to do this again, I would fasten the aft webbing loops so as to straddle the ends of the battens, which would help the sheetlets avoid getting stuck on one side when tacking. It was a bit of an ordeal getting the machine screws through the heavy tape, so I’m in no hurry to take it apart just to change it over.
The yard was not yet in place in the above photo, but it’s just a piece of dowel “closet rod” from the hardware store, 1 1/8″ in diameter. I was concerned that this might not be strong enough, and planned that if there were a problem I would add more material by lashing it on, but it seems to be just fine in use as it is. The yard is attached to the sail with plastic wire ties, as well as with lashing through holes drilled at either end for tying to the head and throat grommets.
The boom is simply another batten, on the foot of the sail, with no extra reinforcement. It’s an endearing characteristic of junk rig that the boom carries very little strain, because the sheet parts go to each batten. For this reason the boom can be lightweight, making it much less of a swinging hazard than the heavier Western variety.
The masthead fitting is particularly important in a junk rig, because of the various lines that support the sail bundle. This fitting is ordinarily a custom metal band or cap with rings for attaching the rigging. The one for Marigold, however, is made out of webbing. My many thanks go to Annie Hill for this suggestion, which is what she did on her bigger boat Fantail; the webbing masthead fitting is easy, lightweight, and simple, and works like a charm. It fits snugly on the top of the mast, and though I had originally planned to add a couple of small screws to make sure it stayed in place, inertia set in and I decided to try it without. With all the downward pull of the lines, the webbing has shown no inclination whatsoever to come loose, and being such a small dinghy it has felt acceptable to leave the webbing unfastened, avoiding holes in the wood and possible water issues with screws that are removed every year.
One caveat is that it’s important to use webbing that is UV stable. The polypropylene that is often used for sail ties will degrade in the sun in short order, completely losing its strength and becoming a safety hazard. Polyester is more suitable, as are some of the high-tech modern materials, though I used nylon because I had it on hand. The nylon seems to be working out just fine; in this use there is no problem if it stretches a bit, and it appears to be holding up well enough to the sun. For a detailed discussion of webbing material characteristics, see http://www.sailrite.com/Notions/Webbings. (Link included for readers’ convenience – I am not receiving anything for printing it.)
The knot seen in the masthead fitting picture below is the “water bowline,” which I happened to come across last year; it has become my new favorite knot. This photo was taken after the end of the sailing season, without any adjustment or retightening. The water bowline has been great for rigging, because even with slippery modern line it does not work loose on its own in the way that regular bowlines or two half hitches often do when they are unloaded and shaken, as happens so often on a sailboat. I’m delighted to have done away with using waxed thread to secure the tail of every rigging knot. As an aside, here’s my favorite video for how to tie this knot: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDhqEtfWCcg Shown on a scrap of dowel, not the actual mast. Photo: Suzanne Jean
Once we had all the various pieces in order, we had a tremendous amount of fun rigging the whole thing in the living room. I could not be more pleased at the ease of working on such a small sailboat rig. My fun seems to be magnified, the smaller the boats get – it’s easy, it’s lightweight, and something about raising the mast and sail right there in the living room still makes me laugh.
The original aluminum mast was too short for the new rig, mainly because the telescoping tubes had frozen with corrosion in the mast’s shortened “reefed” position. Being inclined for very simple test materials, we got a 12′ piece of “closet rod” dowel from the hardware store, which is hardwood of some indeterminate kind. This is the same material that we used for the yard, except that this one for the mast is 1 1/2 inches in diameter, which is the largest size available at our local store.
On the boat, a 3 foot piece of aluminum tubing with an outside diameter of 2 inches fits into the original partners and step. The closet rod mast drops down into that aluminum tube, with a bit of play at the top of the tube, which benefits from the addition of a couple of small wedges. The mast step that is molded into the Portland Pudgy is slightly tapered, so the heel of the whole arrangement has been without play, both for the aluminum tube and for the dowel mast inside it.
The original theory of this tubing arrangement was partly that it would provide extra strength at the partners, along with being the correct size for the existing partners and step. But the bigger reason was that the sail bundle, with all the batten parrels, could then be dropped down over the aluminum tubing, and the wooden mast could be removed without fussing with the parrels, which would be all in order when the mast was put back in place for sailing.
In practice, the dinghy does not seem to mind having the mast left up at the float, including in some pretty bouncy waves, and when the little boat dries out with the tide it has seemed fine as well. Some of the lines that go to the masthead are also not perfectly simple to release, which one needs to do in order to allow enough room to lift the mast clear of the aluminum tubing. Because of this complication, and because the boat was faring well with the mast in place, in the end we just left the mast stepped until the time came to break everything down for winter. I do think that the tubing has provided useful additional support for the lowest part of the skinny dowel, especially at the partners.
The sail bundle stows well in the boat when not in use. There is only one aft lift (lazy jack), and it fastens to the boom by clipping into a small carabiner that is lashed to the boom. To stow the sail, the aft lift is unclipped and slid forward, allowing the sail bundle to come down securely into the cockpit where it gets tied to one side. Photo: Suzanne Jean
The boat sails nicely with the new rig, and is generally balanced in spite of the changes, except for upwind when it rather predictably tends toward lee helm. This upwind issue is a result of the new sail area forward of the mast, and is easily corrected with the tack hauling parrel, using it to shift the lower part of the sail farther aft which restores the overall balance. Batten parrels are cut long, so that off the wind the tack hauling parrel can be let out, easing the sail forward across the mast and doing away with weather helm.
After sailing in choppy water it became apparent that the rig would also benefit from a yard hauling parrel. It’s completely unnecessary under many conditions, but in the right kind of chop the yard thrashes enough to make one worry about breakage. The yard hauling parrel was simple to add, and took care of the hazard while also improving the sailing, as it stopped the wind from being repeatedly knocked out of the sail in light air conditions with waves.
Then there’s the sheet arrangement. The original rig for this boat used a line traveler for the sheet block, simply attached through holes at either side of the tiller on the transom. With the JR rig, using 6 foot battens, it works well to run the sheet back and forth from the blocks on the sheetlets to three blocks at the transom, which are tied individually into a substitute line in place of that original traveler. In this photo the sail was reefed, so the lowest section of the sheet is bypassed, using the sheet as it exits the second stern block instead of the third.
Some discussion has been had in the JRA fora that perhaps all those sheet parts are not necessary for such small boats. I figured that rigging it this way was an experiment, and that I might end up doing away with some of those parts. In practice, I’ve liked them after all. They require much less strength than a single sheet, which is convenient when one is not in the most ergonomic position for hauling on lines, being reclined in the bottom of a dinghy.
Also worth a mention, for those of us in the “not perfectly spry” category of years or circumstance, is that I ended up leading the halyard and the tack hauling parrel back to a handy spot that is reachable from the comfort of my usual sailing position. This is not fancy: the boat has attachment points forward and aft, low in the cockpit on each side, that were originally intended for lifting the boat on davits. A scrap of line, with two loops tied into it close to hand, is stretched out between the two starboard lifting rings; those loops make perfectly reasonable spots for quick slip knots for the halyard and tack hauling parrel. Someday cam cleats might be nice, particularly for one-handed use while also steering, but the present set up is working well enough for now, and is quite an improvement over scrambling forward. This arrangement is a little bit visible in the earlier photo of the stowed sail in the boat at the float.
Photo: Craig Pursell
All in all, the junk rig for the Portland Pudgy feels like quite a success, and a real improvement on the original rig when it comes to local daysailing. The junk rig reefs quickly and easily in our gusty and changeable protected-water winds, and over the summer and fall I was impressed with how much more secure I felt in the little boat, compared to previous forays with the old rig and too much sail area, which had made for a bit of a reminder of the real possibilities for dumping an 8 foot dinghy. Furling the sail is also vastly easier than the previous arrangement, which had required standing and wrestling the sail and boom up against the mast for tying, and removing the whole business, mast and all, when not in use.
Additionally, the original rig was prone to substantial lee helm and weather helm, as wind intensity and point of sail changed. This was a particular problem with the somewhat flexible plastic rudder, which was strained by these steering issues in strong wind. Being able to shift the JR sail forward and aft, using the tack hauling parrel, has meant a significant improvement in both safety and comfort, as it has taken the strain off the steering.
Since the new rig feels like a keeper, a “proper” mast is now in the works, being built of tapered spruce and close to 14 feet in height. This extra height will allow plenty of room for adding that bottom panel back onto the sail, which was otherwise going to be a bit cramped. The new mast will fit the existing partners and step, with no aluminum tube. I am also having some small thoughts of trying a cambered sail for comparison, though there are no immediate plans.
Just as it is, the new rig has made the Pudgy even more of a pleasure than it already was, for all sorts of sailing around the neighborhood. Photo: Suzanne Jean
Over Labor Day weekend, now just past, we had a gathering of junk rig sailboats and sailors here in Joy Bay, and in Gouldsboro Bay. What a good time we all had! There will be articles in the Junk Rig Association magazine, but in the meantime here are some pictures. [photo credit Craig Pursell]
We had five junk rig boats sailing, one on the dock, and four more boats that were not junk rig, for a total of nine boats out there with sails up. MARIGOLD, my Portland Pudgy, had it’s just completed junk rig, which has been working out quite well. So AUKLET stayed at the float, while I had some fun tearing around in MARIGOLD. [photo credit: Craig Pursell]
There was another small boat, trailered all the way from Missouri, a Mirror dinghy with a bright red sail. [photo credit Jeannie McDermott]
And this one, an O’Day Widgeon, which is the boat design on which I learned to sail. [photo credit: Shemaya Laurel]
Along with yours truly, happy camper. [photo credit: Craig Pursell]
[photo credit: Craig Pursell]
Dave and Jeannie sailed over from the other side of Joy Bay, to join in the fun: [photo credit: Mike Lyons]
The biggest boat, TERRAPIN, at 38 feet was the grandest thing not only here at the junket, but that I have ever seen here in Joy Bay. Breathtaking. [photo credit: Suzanne Jean] [photo credit: Craig Pursell]
The intermediate size boats were gorgeous too. This one came under sail from Penobscot Bay:
And this one on a trailer all the way from North Carolina, specifically with the junket in mind: [photo credit: Mike Lyons]
[photo credit: Mike Lyons]
My friend Chubba brought his Cape Dory 25, as well as extending wonderful hospitality to the whole group. [photo credit: Mike Lyons] [photo credit: Chubba Kane]
AUKLET dressed ship for the occasion, and TERRAPIN came in to our float at high tide. That was extra special! [photo credit: Suzanne Jean] [photo credit: Shemaya Laurel]
We all had the best time, from Thursday until Sunday, with gorgeous weather to match. [photo credit: Luke Tanner]
Thanks to everybody, for making it such a treat!
[photo credit: Luke Tanner]
For more information about junk rig:
Junk Rig Association
worldwide membership organization; much information available to nonmembers in information pages as well as in publicly available forum discussions http://www.junkrigassociation.org
For the last couple of years, I’ve been part of a team within the Junk Rig Association that has been working on a glossary of junk rig terms, for everything from parts of the rig and types of junk rigs, to terminology related to sailing them. Others had been working on this for quite some time before I was invited to join the effort. It’s been a great project, and I’m delighted to say that the JRA Junk Rig Glossary is now available to the public! It can be found (for free – all 56 pages!), in the public section of the Junk Rig Association website: http://junkrigassociation.org/page-1858532
This link is also included in the “Glossary” tab here at the top of this blog, for easy reference. The glossary itself is a PDF, and can be downloaded from the JRA site for printing or more convenient use. Comments and feedback are most welcome; on behalf of everybody on the JRG editorial team, we hope that you enjoy it, and find it useful!
Earlier this year I had the great pleasure of sailing alongside two friends who came out under sail to meet me, when I was on the way to the island where they live. Both took pictures, and I am delighted to be able to share these photos of AUKLET under full sail, with the new junk rig.
Now getting toward the end of October, with many months, and hundreds of miles, of travel under sail I can say wholeheartedly that the junk rig is a complete success. True to what everybody says about the more traditional versions of this rig, sailing upwind is not it’s greatest strength. Regardless, I have sailed many miles upwind, including entertaining myself by tacking into or out of narrow harbor entrances against a bit of tide. Going with the tide is of course better, but it was comforting to know that with flat water (and a tremendous amount of tacking), it could be done the other way. Against the tide and with a chop, one might as well not bother to try, but this can be easily overcome with planning and/or patience (the tide always changes!) Though I sure do wish for detailed tide charts for the coast of Maine, like there are for some areas farther south.
On those long runs across open water, sailing upwind in 5 to 10 knots is ideal, and upwind is actually preferable, as the boat will steer itself with sails set and tiller fastened, with the boat adjusting its heading on its own for minor changes in wind direction. The boat will steer itself in stronger winds too, but bashing along into the waves isn’t so much fun, and there’s less windward progress as the boat is thrown back by the waves. The junk rig makes it perfectly easy to adjust the amount of sail area on each sail, and to tinker with the position of each sail forward or aft on its mast, in order to move the center of effort one way or the other. The boat responds to that, and it’s been fun.
All other points of sail are a perfect joy, as far as progress. As mentioned everywhere in discussions of junk rig, reefing is especially easy. Ironically, I’ve found that the effect of such easy reefing is that I don’t reef as early as I used to. Nowadays I reduce sail based on the angle of heel of the boat, or when going downwind, in response to difficulty steering, as well as for overall boat balance. In the past, with other rigs, I reefed based on those considerations, but even more, based on how difficult it was going to be to carry out the reefing procedure as the wind got stronger. I hadn’t realized just how much that last consideration was playing into those decisions until it became a non-issue. Lately I’ve been having quite a bit of fun sailing with more sail area than I used to for a given amount of wind.
Connected to the above, I’ve been learning that the boat makes much better progress upwind with extra sail area. Because it’s so easy to change the amount of reefing, it’s been easy to compare the effects of one amount of sail area or another – reefing because it seems sensible, observing the poorer upwind progress, and putting that sail area back up, having the opportunity to see the boat make noticeably better headway toward the wind.
On the subject of sail area, it’s been just wonderful having these enormous sails. It had been a question during the rig change, whether or not to go with larger sail area, and I debated it both ways for a long time. It was really a coin toss at the end, and I am now very, very happy that the final decision was to go large. The progress in low wind conditions is significant, showing forward motion when there is hardly a sign of a ripple on the water.
The problems I had in the Connecticut River with steering issues, related to the large sail area in following current and shifting, minimal wind, have come up two or three times since then, but not nearly so much as I would have thought. Primarily this occurs when the current is both following and changeable, with eddies and/or shear. The boat will still do pirouettes in very light winds under full sail in these conditions, and it is still true that the problem can be resolved, counterintuitively but completely effectively, by reducing sail area. Under most low-wind conditions, the boat simply sails, with the full sail area, and maintains easy steering. It’s a delight.
One of the more unique arrangements for this version of the Reddish-style junk rig on AUKLET is the ability to let each sail swing substantially forward relative to the mast.
This works using a running tack hauling parrel, a running luff hauling parrel, and standing batten parrels that attach farther aft than normal on each batten so as to allow for this movement. This is described as moving the sails forward for convenience in understanding, but the practical use for this maneuver is when sailing downwind, so that the sails are actually moved across the masts side-to-side, ending up almost centered on the masts in an arrangement a little more like a square rigger.
Ordinarily, in sailing downwind with any given sail sheeted out perpendicular to the centerline of the boat, the center of effort for the sail ends up far off to the side, beyond the outside edge of the hull. The effect of this is to make the boat want to turn, pivoting from that pressure off to the side, and this is felt as weather helm, the boat wanting to turn toward the wind. Having one sail out to each side can help to counteract this, but if the sails are radically different in area it’s not a perfect solution. Steering is more difficult under these conditions, and this is particularly noticeable when it comes to using an autopilot, which will typically veer wildly to one side and then to the other of the intended heading.
Adjusting the sails across the masts makes a huge difference in this issue. It’s extraordinary to feel the weather helm go away in that one moment, as the sail is eased across the mast by letting out the tack hauling parrel (the luff hauling parrel is left loose beforehand, though it can be adjusted later to take away wrinkles). The autopilot is the most sensitive measure of getting this right. By tinkering with sail area on each sail (reefing), position of each sail across its mast (tack hauling parrel), and the angle of each sail relative to the wind (sheet) it is almost always possible, in a relatively steady wind, to get the boat, at least this one, to steer reasonably straight on the autopilot while going downwind. For somebody who travels distances, particularly single-handing, this is huge. Prior to this rig, on this boat it was almost never possible.
In planning for this maneuver, I had originally guessed wrong on the appropriate position for the “windows” in the batten pockets on each sail, that allow for fastening the aft ends of the standing batten parrels to the battens; the standing batten parrels did not allow the sails to come across the masts nearly far enough. This became obvious during sea trials in the fall of 2014, and over the winter we put in new windows and made longer standing batten parrels. The new fastening positions were defined by the position of the attachment for the inner lazy jack on the boom, which it didn’t make sense to cross. This meant that the standing batten parrel on the boom came something fairly close to one half of the length of the boom. The yard does not change position relative to the mast when you move the sail across like this, so the line of windows angles up toward the halyard attachment, from that deep position on the boom. [photo: WR Cheney]
When this arrangement is put to use, the sail swings across the mast, with the clew dipping toward the water, and the tack rising. It’s extremely helpful to have lazy jacks that adjust from the cockpit, so that the clew can be easily raised away from the waves. I originally thought that having both port and starboard lazy jacks led to the cockpit was a little much, and that one would do the job, with the other fastened. In use, however, it’s been extremely helpful to have both (which I had, thankfully, put in after all).
On AUKLET, the original mizzen mast was tall for the size of the new junk mizzen sail, so lazy jack adjustments are not needed when letting the mizzen sail come across the mast. The sail is simply hauled high on the mast with the halyard, and the boom angle is not problematic, being well above both the water and the deck.
It’s been interesting to note that when it’s time to jibe the mainsail, one might first think to haul in the lazy jacks to raise the clew. If this has already been done because of waves, then everything is fine and it’s not a question. But in very light winds, when one wants every bit of sail area available, it can be advantageous to leave the clew low, thereby keeping the lowest panels of the sail completely extended. It turns out that it’s much easier to simply haul in the tack hauling parrel temporarily (which raises the clew), bring the sail across to the other side, and then let the tack hauling parrel out again after the jibe is complete. On a boat with a sufficiently high mainmast this would not be an issue, as the sail could be raised high enough on the mast to clear the cabin regardless. In the interest of passing beneath low bridges, the new mainmast on AUKLET was cut to the bare minimum length/height. I would not do this again – an extra 2 feet of height would not have made a difference with the crucial bridges (which, alas, still do not clear), and the additional mast height would have helped enormously for the size of this sail. Still, it all works, if with a bit of fiddling.
All in all, the new junk rig has been fantastic. It took quite a while to come upon the opportunity for underway photos of the new rig with sails completely raised, and I’ve been perfectly delighted to see them. Many thanks to Bill Cheney and to Kent Mullikin for the photos, and for the fun we had sailing around alongside each other!
Over the course of time I’ve gone to some pretty substantial lengths to get away from noise. This past week has been no exception, but the process has yielded some interesting information. After the boat went in the water on May 2, a little over a week ago, I stayed for several days at my friends’ dock in Deep River. The plan was to be at that spot until everything was organized and in order with the boat. It’s a handy place for receiving visits and for doing the remainder of the necessary projects before really setting off.
Deep River is a little noisy, with a combination of occasional machinery and young adults who like loud engines (boats or trucks). There is even a steam train that runs alongside the river carrying tourists, with attendant engine/track rumbling, whistles, and whooshing releases of steam, as the train stops to load and unload passengers for the riverboat at the nearby town dock. In spite of all of this, ordinarily there are lovely pauses in the activity, and the surrounding wetlands are often peaceful, filled with birds and their songs. At night, it generally goes completely still, making for good rest, and for gathering of resources to go forward with the next day.
This year is different. The first couple of days were fine; being so early in the season, the train had not even begun its regular schedule. Then on Tuesday some kind of substantial engine started, with the varying rhythm of a generator, a little through the trees from Warren and Margo’s dock. Once started, that engine never stopped. Day and night, something to do with a sewer construction project on the adjacent street. This was in addition to piledriving at the neighboring marina, where they were making repairs from the exceptional winter ice. I could deal with the piledriving; it was intermittent, and at three in the afternoon they all went home for the day. The generator, or pump, or whatever it is, was another story: constant, loud in the daytime, idling all night long, until it geared up again to full, raucous force when the folks went to work in the morning. By the second night of this I was making plans, and at 0600 on Thursday morning, early to catch the southbound tide, I was off.
This departure was ahead of schedule, and not everything was in order. But there was enough. All the fussy little lines were not in place for the junk rig, but happily, in the very light morning breeze, that didn’t matter! Halyards put the sails up, lazy jacks held them when they were down, and tack hauling parrels were in place, keeping both sails oriented correctly on the masts, front to back. Also crucial, sheets were in place for hauling the sails in or out.
Most of the batten parrels on the mainsail, on the other hand, were not attached, but the top two were in place, which was helpful. I remembered friends telling me that they once forgot to attach the batten parrels and went sailing, with general success. The redundancy of the junk rig is a beautiful thing, meaning that if one part fails (or is otherwise unavailable), there are plenty of others to keep things in order until there is a chance to make it better. Some of the various lines for this rig were still coiled, hanging from their attachments somewhere up the sail. No matter: off we went.
Down the river a little ways there’s a small island, with a tiny yacht club on the shore behind it. A friend had once invited me to tie up there if I needed, and with a plan for shore support on the following morning, I headed in that direction. The friend indeed came through (thank you David!), and by the end of the day on Friday, Amanda and her sister Alaina had been and gone, with many more rigging lines in place afterwards, and the mast wires run through the deck seal, so that the anchor light could work. Supplies had come and gone, and I was in business. There are a couple more shore support visits to be done, but the necessities are in order for being off the dock.
The most beautiful part of this accelerated schedule is that now I’m anchored in my most favorite creek! Amanda and Alaina cast off the dock lines on Friday afternoon, with a good southwest breeze and the current going back up the river. By half an hour later I was inside Selden Creek, setting the anchors. Here I’ve been ever since, resting and getting things in order, and happily away from the river traffic.
Now and then folks pass by, in kayaks or small motorboats, sometimes stopping for a chat, but otherwise it’s me and the birds, and a beaver that likes to whack its tail on the water as everything is getting dark in the evening. The owls have been busy calling, and with the leaves just starting to come out, once the light comes up in the morning it’s easy to see the gorgeous colors of the spring warblers. It’s great to have a rest, in the beautiful stillness.
Considering the amount of time that I’ve spent sailing, you would think that I might have developed a better grasp of the subject of sail twist before now. But that’s the fun of sailing – there’s enough to it that there is always more to learn and understand. The new junk rig, with its abundance of sail control lines, makes for a great opportunity to go more deeply into the details of sail shape and orientation to the wind.
As a result of this new opportunity, I’ve been studying more on the subject of sail twist. This refers to when the angle of the boom relative to the centerline of the boat, and the angles of each batten and of the yard relative to the centerline of the boat, are all different, making the sail into a complex curve. It’s quite pretty when it does this, and in some situations it’s ideal for driving the boat. In other situations – especially sailing upwind – it could be preferable to have less twist. Controlling this aboard AUKLET involves that long zigzag line that goes between the sheetlets (the thin lines tied to the battens) and the wooden friction block called a euphroe. That long zigzag line is called a “sheet span,” and it eventually comes back to the cockpit where it can be pulled in tighter or let out, separately from the sheet itself.
~ note sheet span tail, hanging down mostly slack
During the recent sea trials, there was a lot to learn about fastening points for all those many control lines, including for the sheet spans, of which there are two for each sail. Hardly anybody with a Western junk rig uses this traditional Chinese arrangement, of euphroes and sheet spans, and in addition to that, double sheets; it’s too early to tell whether I’m going to think it was a good idea to set things up this way. It could of course always be changed, but I’m having a good time working with it for the moment.
So far, it’s clear that for this arrangement you need a lot of cleats! Or belaying pins, or something. The mizzen sail, with the belaying pin collar around the mast and existing cleats on the partners, had almost everything it needed in the fastening-points department – except for a proper place for the sheet spans. Controlling the mainsail during the recent sea trials, on the other hand, involved a jumble of stacking as many as four lines on existing cleats that were too small for so much traffic, while I was in the process of working out where to put new bits of hardware. As a result, for most of the time on this fall trip, carefully defined sail shape was mainly a distant goal.
Still, it was fascinating. Because it was what the sails did easily, I pretty much sailed with a lot of twist in both sails, though I eventually got a better grip on the mizzen. A big contributor to all that twist is that if you ignore the tail end of the sheet span – neglecting to stack it, fastened for the moment on top of the sheet itself that goes with that side of the sail – the sheet span gradually works its way out through the euphroe, and the upper part of the sail gradually twists to a greater and greater angle from the boom and lower battens. Once all that line has worked through the euphroe, easing the sail into a nice-looking twisted fan shape, pulling the whole business back in involves shortening up on the sheet span, and then working the middle part of that sheet span through the euphroe until each batten is held in a sensible location relative to its neighbors. (There is another version of how to manage this line, involving tying the tail of the sheet span to the euphroe, but I tried and abandoned that arrangement, for various reasons.)
Before that second phase of adjusting the sheet span lengths in and out of the euphroe, what you get when you haul in on the end of the sheet span is the top of the sail pulled close, the middle of the sail farther out, and the boom close. This is not a recommended sail shape in anybody’s book. The way the line runs through the euphroe is a little complicated – it makes sense, and creates an orderly arrangement for avoiding crisscrossing among all the zigzags, but it’s not the least bit intuitive when it comes to achieving tension where you want it. I’m assuming that I’ll get better at this, with practice – in the meantime, during the learning process I decided that significant sail twist was the order of the day. It did, however, give me lots to ponder.
In sailing western rigs – the familiar triangular sails called Bermudian, and also traditional gaff rigs, with four sides to each sail (like on the famous old fishing schooners) – I had gotten as far as understanding, from various studies, that more twist would “de-power” the sail, and less twist would create greater power. You can control twist in a typical Western rig with an extra line pulling down on the boom, called a “boom vang,” and also by adjusting where the sheet comes down to the deck. That’s if you care very much, and want to go through all that. Racers care, and if I had put more effort into it, I might already be a more efficient cruiser, but somehow it never really grabbed my attention, so sail twist in my various wanderings has been pretty haphazard. (My apologies, to the knowledgeable and skilled sailing friends who are cringing at hearing that.)
What I didn’t understand is the way that sail twist can make a real difference in progress to windward. Fortunately for my sailing education, the junk rig, and in particular this junk rig, brings this issue front and center. I started asking questions, which have led to the most coherent, and simple, explanation that I’ve heard – it finally makes sense! With many thanks to Dave Zeiger…
As I now understand it (any and all errors are mine alone), when a sail is twisted, the angle of the sail to the wind is different along each horizontal line of the twisted sail. Sailing upwind, it’s quite important to have the sail at just the correct angle to the wind – too broad, and you’re not going upwind as much as you could, too close to the angle of the wind, and the boat barely moves. There’s a sweet spot in this, that new sailors learn to gauge by looking at the sail, and feeling the movement of the boat and pressure on the steering. When it’s working well, the boat moves at a good clip, making steady progress at a relatively close angle to the direction that the wind is coming from.
When a sail is twisted top to bottom by quite a few degrees, only one part of the sail is correctly oriented to that perfect sweet spot for upwind progress – all the rest of it is either pulled in too tight, or let out too far. Understanding this was a big aha moment for me – of course! So the sail, when twisted, is in fact “de-powered,” and adjusting more of the sail to the correct angle for upwind progress would increase the “power.”
There are subtleties to this: if the wind is very strong, sometimes you want to de-power the sail, so the boat isn’t getting thrown on its side in the gusts. Of course that’s also what reefing is for, decreasing sail area so it’s the right amount for the intensity of the wind. There are good reasons, I’m sure, that are not yet clear to me, for which approach – reefing or twist – is better for upwind progress in which situations. (Knowledgeable sailors, please do consider this an invitation!)
Complicating things further, in a junk rig there is the question of camber, or the bit of belly that can be built into the fabric of the sail. Most typical Western sails, Bermudian, gaff, and others, have this, while Western junk rigs used to be almost universally flat. This is presently a big topic of debate in the junk rig community, with camber having become quite a bit more prevalent among Western junk rig sails. On the other hand, there is an argument that a fanned shape of junk rig – such as the Reddish rig now on AUKLET – can work well with panels that are flat, because the twist of the fanned panels creates camber in the overall sail.
The big deal about camber is that it helps with sailing upwind. So now how about this? You want camber for upwind progress, but you want a sail with minimal twist for upwind progress. Now what?? Of course the beautiful thing about all of this is that you can go sailing regardless, and have a perfectly lovely time, and travel great distances – the only difference is that you might be more, or less, efficient along the way. Now and then this can really change your day.
As discussed in the post titled “Motorless,” on this recent trip I tried for a northbound run through Plum Gut on two different days, the second day finally getting around the end of Orient Point and through, to go back across Long Island sound to Connecticut. The first attempt was abandoned when I was not able to get around a particular tiny point at a bend in the shore, along the way toward the end of Orient Point itself. It was an upwind process, and the current had turned the wrong way, and tack and tack as I might, there was going to be no getting around that corner. With just a hair more progress on each tack, it might have worked. That’s when I started really thinking about sail twist, and realizing there was something truly significant there, that I really might want to understand.
During the afternoon of that first attempt there was quite a bit of wind, and waves to go with it. It was hard to tell for sure what sail arrangement was working better, or not so much. Along the way I tried pulling in the sheet span, with the idea that perhaps less twist would be good. This pulled in the top third of the sail or so (it was reefed to three panels), but as described earlier, it would have involved adjusting the line through the euphroe to make for a decent sail shape. In the waves (and rain!) I wasn’t so inspired to manage that more difficult project, especially since it was all experimental with my understanding at the time. In the end, I let the sheet span back out, to create a sail shape that looked better, being more evenly distributed from top to bottom, and back to pretty much its original twist.
The funny thing was, that when that sheet span was pulled in tight I had the odd feeling that the boat was moving better – uneven sail shape and all. But I convinced myself that I must have imagined that, because how could it be possible, with the sail looking so crazy. Knowing (after some effort) that it was beyond sensible in the bouncing waves to get the sail both untwisted and even, with my baby level of euphroe-adjusting skills, that was the end of that. But now I wonder if that poor middle shape didn’t matter that much. Perhaps what happened was that with the upper panel pulled in almost even with the boom, at the best angle to the wind for progress, there was indeed more drive in the sail, and it didn’t really matter so much about the middle section that was all crazy.
Interestingly, if that was true that the irregular shape was less important than having another panel at the correct angle to the wind, it would seem to say that the consideration about the fanned flat sail creating camber by twisting was not the primary issue either, at least in that particular set of conditions. It would appear that the aspect of the situation that was making the most difference was having the most sail area possible at the correct angle to the wind, and if that was the lower panel and the upper panel, with a chaotic middle, so be it. (Of course, just think, if they were all at the correct angle!) Now I wonder if I would have made it around that point, if I had left the sheet span pulled in tight like that, even with its uneven distribution and funny-looking sail.
~ earlier, tacking across Orient Harbor
As it was, with the afternoon advancing, I turned around and had a nice, zippy ride back downwind to Shelter Island, and everything worked out just fine. But I’m really looking forward to going further with this subject of sail twist and upwind efficiency. It’s a treat, to see this long-term puzzle finally becoming clearer.
This last round of sea trials has actually been on the sea. The other day the boat and I took off from our little spot behind Goose Island, early to catch the tide, with the idea of going into North Cove in Old Saybrook. This was about 4 miles further down the river, quite near to where the river opens onto Long Island sound. North Cove is a good place to stay, sheltered from the river and boat wakes, but on the ocean side of the sometimes difficult drawbridge, and a great jumping off place for trips into the sound.
As it turned out, even with some ignominious stops on the sandbars south of Goose Island, we were at the entrance to North Cove by about a quarter to eight in the morning. It was a beautiful day, and the breeze was much too nice an opportunity to decline. I had a theory that it might make sense to follow the tide out into the sound, sail around for a while, and then when the tide was going back in, to return to North Cove for the night. That definitely would have been the sensible option.
Another possibility, once I was a couple miles out from the river entrance and the tide had turned westbound into the sound, was to sail west. That really would have made sense. There is a perfectly good anchorage at Duck Island, about 5 miles west of the Connecticut River. With the tide running and the breeze, we would have been there in no time, having had a nice sail.
I really considered that option, measuring against the desire to go east… Of course one can see where this is headed. East was a bust, against the current, even with a favorable wind. But angling across, and taking a good long time about it, meant arriving at Plum Gut with the current going the right way. That’s important, for that passage – without a massive motor, there is no going through Plum Gut against the tide. Even traveling with the tide it can get interesting, as the contents of the wide part of Long Island sound rush in and out through a few narrow passages. The “boils,” or upwellings of current, are particularly impressive.
The wind does tricks in here too. It’s quite common for the wind direction in Long Island sound and that in Gardiner’s Bay, on the other side of Plum Gut, to be opposing. This leaves a big calm spot right where you would most want your best wind. No wind, and an impressive, wide, jouncy tide rip. If you line up for it properly this is not a huge problem, as the current will carry you right on through, but it’s important to be on the correct track to miss various rocks. We came in a bit low – in hindsight, it would have been better to change plans and continue down the north side of Plum Island. Instead, hoping to go into Orient Harbor for the night, with some chagrin I turned on the motor, in order to go across the current enough to maintain a comfortable margin around the bit of rocks near our path. This worked out fine, and once safely clear, off went the motor, with the boat now in the middle of the various waves, boils, and practically no wind.
The boat, already problematic about holding direction with the new rig in very light wind, thought that the concept of direction in this situation was utterly ridiculous. Knowing we were perfectly safe, I was just left with the task of relaxing about looking ridiculous to any outside observers. We traveled backwards, sideways, and did a couple of full circles. Now and then we would actually be going the right way, but then, just like in a rushing river, we would hit another swirl, and be turned wherever it took us. For a couple of minutes I ran the motor again, which sorted out the steering, but it didn’t seem worth using up so much battery reserve for something that wasn’t really a problem, so I turned it off.
By ten minutes later we were out the other side, with a light breeze from the new direction. Orient Harbor didn’t turn out to be reachable, given the wind and ebbing tide. Even getting inside Gardiner’s Island, with various possible anchorages, didn’t work out. On the bright side, what we did have was wide open water. Montauk Point was about 10 miles away in the direction we traveled easily, and if the wind quit it would be easy enough to just stay out, with no worries about things to run into in the night.
In the end, the wind kept up for long enough to eventually get to the entrance to the harbor at Montauk. It took until about nine o’clock that night, and I had some concern about going into the harbor in the dark – I’d only been there once, about 12 years ago. But it’s pretty basic, and well lit. The motor came on again, at the outer breakwater when the wind went still. By 20 minutes later we were anchored inside Lake Montauk.
“Motorless in training” has taken a bit of a hit this week – but I’m learning from every round. The boat is doing well, though it’s involving some getting used to, adjusting to the new rig. Learning the sail controls is one aspect of that, but the more noticeable change is that the boat handles differently. It’s a little frustrating, to feel so awkward at maneuvers that had become quite fluid. I used to know what the boat could do, and how to get it to do that, fairly reliably. My latest guess is that the large mainsail area forward of the mast is a big part of this different feel, and handling. The new easy reefing is worth a lot, and gosh it’s fun when the boat drives along in a good wind – I’m looking forward to becoming more adept.
It turns out that Lake Montauk is a party scene. Blasting dance music comes from clubs on the shore, and row after row of marina docks are filled with varying sizes of recreational fishing boats, and go-fast noise machines called “cigarette boats.” There’s also a substantial commercial fishing fleet, though that was pretty quiet on the weekend.
My nighttime arrival was on a Saturday, during an unusually warm weekend of beautiful weather. On the plus side, it was sweet, approaching the harbor to the smells of seafood and hot summer town. Once anchored, the music started, and then stopped, and then started again. Knockout tired, I was asleep soon regardless. There were a few wake-ups to more music, well after midnight, but eventually it was quiet. Then in the morning the engines began – for some reason that I don’t understand, cigarette boats seem to have a need to run in place for a long time at the dock before they get around to leaving. With the cost of fuel these days, I wonder at this, but maybe they want to make sure that those racecar style engines are warmed up enough to not stall when the driver hits the gas. Whatever the motivation, it was a rude awakening in the morning, that went on and on.
My original plan had been to stay at Lake Montauk for at least a couple of days, resting, and waiting for the northeast wind that was going to be coming along. By noon of that day, however, there was a sweet southwest breeze, and all I could think was how easy it would be to sail out of the narrow harbor entrance, without the motor, on that wind. And the blessed quiet that I had experienced all the previous day, out to sea.
Off we went, once again with Orient Harbor in mind. Fishers Island was a consideration, but the tide was backwards for getting through that pesky outlet from Long Island sound. The wind blew pretty well for a while, and by late in the day we had gotten almost around Gardiner’s Island, before it slacked off. The forecast was for the wind to pick up from the southwest in the evening, which was part of why I thought it was an okay idea to try for such a long trip in the first place. Later on, the breeze started, developing an interesting chop, which we were trying to sail into.
It took all night. Tacking into the chop, sometimes driving well, sometimes not so well, trying to judge the speed of the water past the boat in the dark, and the best heading, with the autopilot sometimes content and on track, and sometimes wandering widely. On the plus side, it was an absolutely beautiful, warm, perfect night. The crescent moon set fairly early, and there were lovely stars. There was no traffic, and I thought many times about how extraordinary it was to be out there having that entire huge bay all to myself. The ferries came around Orient Point in the distance, lit up like cruise ships, moving predictably and well out of the way. Gradually we advanced on the various lighted markers.
In the dark, progress was measurable both by plotting on the chart, using GPS latitude and longitude, and also by leaving lights gradually off the beam and then behind us. (Taking bearings on lights would have worked also – feeling tired, I opted for saving my strength and using the GPS.) But looking at the lights ahead was another matter, as far as judging distance by eye. They seemed so close, and at the same time so unattainable. I haven’t done that much night sailing close in to shore, and it’s an interesting process, learning to interpret what you’re seeing in the dark. After finally reaching two or three of these lighted buoys, I noticed the way they brighten when you get close, and you can see the light reflected in the water, as well as the height of the buoy extending above the skyline, to let you know that you are indeed within something like 100 yards. A chartplotter (electronic gizmo that shows both the chart and your position on it on a screen) is starting to look a little more appealing, though for now I’m still a holdout. Manual plotting of position feels both satisfying, and helpful, but I’m still working on relating that calculated position to my intuitive grasp of the situation in the face of confusing visual cues.
As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge, a couple of times my eyes played tricks – maybe from being overtired, as well as from the unfamiliar darkness. Lights on shore appeared to be close, as if they were nearby in the water. I was startled to think, at one point, that I was approaching my initial buoy goal but that it now appeared to have two smaller lights nearby, on the kind of thin stick buoys set out privately in harbors, although these did not show on the chart. I was jumpy with thoughts of hidden obstacles like fish weirs, to avoid running into. Then shining the spotlight on them, there was nothing there, and suddenly it all came into focus. My initial buoy was still there, though at a substantial distance, too far for the spotlight to pick it up, and the other two stick buoys were actually distant house lights on the shore. Jeez.
This happened again later, approaching my harbor entrance, where there was an oddly lit flag on a pole, that looked for all the world like a triangular apparition hovering about 50 feet away from the boat. Again with the spotlight there was nothing there, and two blinks later the flagpole and it’s strange lighting came into clear resolution on the shore. I keep thinking about all-night drivers talking about seeing giant bunnies the size of cars, hopping across the road – hallucinating from exhaustion. I’ve never experienced that, in spite of many all-night drives, but I wonder at the source of these strange perceptions, losing any sense of depth and distance awareness, and if it has anything to do with that sort of process.
Eventually there was a choice – slog on for another 2 miles close to the now minimal wind, to one harbor entrance, or crank up the motor and go 1 mile to the nearer harbor entrance, directly into the fading breeze. Thinking all the while about how I wasn’t exactly succeeding at motorless in training, I opted for resting sooner, blessing the fact that I had the choice. Still, on slow speed because that preserves battery energy, it took about an hour to get to the harbor entrance. But the slow speed was worth it, because when we got there the tide was rushing out the narrow entrance, and the battery still had plenty of reserve to crank up and push the boat through. The dawn started to come up as we were anchoring.
There are several things I might have done differently in that night, but staying in Montauk harbor probably wasn’t one of them. Sailing out to sea might have been nice, and would certainly have been more restful than sailing close in. You can take naps when it’s just open water. But you never know how things might go – getting back to land might have been more of a chore. As it is, there have been more boat studies, tinkering with euphroes, and learning more about how to make realistic judgments about possible forward progress against wind, current, and chop. I’ve been learning this new area, of Shelter Island and Gardiner’s Bay, and having a lovely time being back on the open water. It’s all good.
That was day before yesterday, going into Coecles Harbor (pronounced “cockles”). Then there was a lot of sleeping…
Yesterday, feeling somewhat refreshed, the promised northeast wind was getting into gear. My anchoring spot was okay, but not ideal, with the strong wind coming across a narrow spit. On top of that, in this beautiful, still harbor, the folks with the fancy estates are utterly determined, in their yard maintenance. Trucks come and go on the tiny road, and out come giant yard machines, and a seemingly constant supply of weed whackers, running pretty much nonstop throughout the day. My search for the perfect harbor is ongoing…
Just around the corner, 2 miles down, is the entrance to the next series of harbors that circle Shelter Island. This was the destination that had seemed too far the other night. The wind was now blowing about 12 to 14 knots, and made for a lovely sail out the mouth of Coecles Harbor, just, and then around the next point going east. There was some rain to begin with, but by the time we arrived inside Northwest Harbor, near the town of Sag Harbor, New York, everything was drying out.
In the search for the combination of protection from northeast wind, and a little more quiet, we anchored further up the bay, away from houses and in the lee of a great bluff with a nice stand of mature trees on top. It’s not perfectly snug – the bay is broad, with gentle but constant rolling from the wake of a continuous back and forth tiny ferry, that is distant but seems to send waves ricocheting constantly throughout the area – but it’s safe, and it’s not pounded by that big wind, that you can see shaking the trees up on the bluff. And it’s quiet. There’s just the sound of the waves breaking on the far side of the point. Quiet and out of the wind – worth a little rolling!
Tomorrow the weather is supposed to clear up, and I’m thinking about continuing around Shelter Island, to see the sights. If this works out, the waterway will eventually open again into Gardiner’s Bay by passing through Orient Harbor. Maybe I’ll finally get to see it, the long way around!