Return to the battened lug

As everyone knows, in order to think, one must always be naked, not a pretty thought.

All the delays so far have been due to weather, confronting and overcoming design anomalies, money and health, in that chronological order.

There has been no other topic where I’ve been so stridently attacked as this one, personally, quite surprising how vicious it got at one point but that’s not been a factor.

I say bollocks to those people – this is doable but it does involve getting real, plus there’ve been people genuinely asking.

The money side is not great but is doable bit by bit [for now], ditto with the health, the anomalies have been sorted and are not great but are sorted to the point of being seaworthy in blue water – were she not sound, I’d not venture to sea, simple – am I a total idiot?  And what about the crew – their lives?

The design philosophy was always, as one married couple of round-the-worlders put it some days ago – to do it on a budget whilst not compromising safety.

The added issue for me was always the boat doubling as a canal boat, as it is subject to two different sets of regulations and whichever way you cut it, 6’10” is a very narrow beam for any bluewater boat, necessarily involving high sides.  Rule of thumb is one foot of freeboard for every ten feet of boat length overall.

For me, that’s 41’8″ total length, 5’1″ freeboard [well over the odds]. With 6’10” beam, you get a fair idea of her shape in monohull form.

There is one more factor I’ve not fully addressed so far but am now – age.

Toughest thing in the world is for a man to face his mortality but he also knows himself. I’ve been ready to pack it in and walk away many times over the past two years since the … er … incident in 2017 … and if I did not think it still possible and doable, then I’d certainly have walked away.

First concession to age was to reluctantly give up the multihull solution – certainly the best answer to the beam problem but it involves dismantling and/or folding the pontoons in harbour, a right pain in the A for an older man … and one cannot rely just on crew. Plus when she has flipped at sea, which she inevitably will do in a rogue gust and/or wave, I’m afraid I just don’t have the energy anymore to live upside down.

Second concession has been to give up the dipping lugsail [front sail in the pic above] and I did find the solution to it by the way, involving two lines from the throat but more detail is not for this post. The beauty of it is its beauty, also its efficiency, and in an area of 340 sq ft, it was not unmanageable on a 42 foot boat … with a crew of two.

Why ditch it? Sadly – my age and not always having crew available. The rig does need to be handled by me alone at a pinch.

Third concession was to give up my lovely canvas, proofed or not:

Here is the one I had earmarked to buy:

The canvas, sadly, had issues of weight beyond its list weight, it also involved heavier spars. The material I was being railroaded into, but avoiding as long as possible, is the only other one readily available on roll anywhere in the world –  5.9 oz or 200 gsm polytarp anti-rot, anti UV, waterproof, 14 x 14 weave, omni-biased.

Downsides include it being so obviously polytarp and I am proud enough to not want to be seen dead with that as the sail material, plus 200 gsm is not a heavy cloth, it’s dinghy weight, plus it’s only in superwhite.

Against that, it is strong for one season in battened form @£180 [inc. VAT] per sail, against Dacron quoted at just under £3,500 for two sails, lasting my lifetime in one sense but starting to sag after 3 years, needing replacing after 5.

There really was only one answer to this – to return to the battened lug [I won’t call it junk], in the cambered panel form, such as Arne Kverneland‘s design:

His is fine, works great, it uses regular sailcloth too, much prettier and the question is why do I not use regular cloth?

Answer is not just being a cheapskate – I costed the dacron cloth and it’s doable – but wanting to get a system going of templates for each panel.

Both sails are the same, so the five panels are the same five panels, in any cloth.  If I start with poly for a few months, then I can see how she goes and then replace the panels using them as templates for the next cutting.

There are many pluses to the battened lug, not least that it takes the pressure off the cloth itself and puts it onto the spars, battens and connecting seatbelt webbing [vertical], glued and rivetted to the sail edge. The cloth then becomes a ‘filler’ between the wood and webbing work, a desirable state of affairs.

If I’m at sea and a panel blows out, then two battens are unscrewed on deck  [another post some time soon for exact details] and the panel replaced.

Initially a lot of work to make, for sure, but after that – so much easier to replace, no need for patching. Plus it can be done in a space about 40 inches by about 17 feet, or in other words in my hallway at home or on top of the boat … rather than having to lay out the whole sail  [except initially on a dry day in the yard, on carpet].

For a cruising man, an older man, it is far more doable, far easier on the bod – here is the shape below.  Ignore the lines, mine are a bit different but overall, this is the shape [my top batten is longer]:

[H/T Kasten Marine]

The way the camber is put in [thank you, David Tyler and Brian Kerslake] is not far removed from this, just a bit of tweaking:

That’s still not a whole lot of camber.  If we call the panels from the top down 1 through to 5, then N1 is almost flat, N2 is slightly more cambered, N3 and N4 are fullest, then N5 comes back in a bit, creating a rounded effect.

At the same time, the way the leading edge is held is everything. ‘Junks’ swing like barn doors but if tied in a certain way by downhaul, there is limited lift to the lowest batten [no actual boom], which creates limited fall-off in gusts if the top batten is long enough, which creates added curvature overall in the sail [lessened again by the battens], which creates camber, which helps with forward thrust and lessens heeling moment.

There are so many practical failsafes.  For example, if the batten breaks, it’s epoxied and filled at the break, then an added half inch by half inch strip is glue along the repaired batten – by working in wood and epoxy, staple and screw, the sailor, at sea, can take care of any repair.  And yes, I do have a work room below of 4′ by 7′, between my cabin and N2.

Reports, not just from aficianados have cited the reefing ability of junks downwind and that is critical for a cruising sailor following the trades. Modern rigs do not drop or reef that way, unless power-assisted. interestingly, the dipping lug in the earlier photo does drop instantly as well, but not with the same control.

This chap’s sail is too flat for mine but the principle of reefing is easily seen:

Which brings us to the question of beauty and ugliness. I do not like that parallel lower battens idea, I want the reefed sail to gradually point more skywards with each reef in a fantail, mine is designed to do that. There are reasons, not just aesthetic.

The overriding factor with this rig is safety, for sure, and the best downwind performance of any sail. Upwind, she’s fair to middling with the camber, which is all I need as there is also less heeling moment.

By the way, I’m using stayed masts.

One last thing for now – the idea is that in the winter rain and cold, the sail can be built in my hallway without sawing and drilling – needs staple gun and screwdriver.  On good days, it’s down to the yard for me.

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