As Cv eases, an older man prepares to restart building

There are those few who are genuinely interested, less in mocking my procrastination in building this boat than why it has been so, plus they’re even more interested in the construction lessons learnt along the way, the technical side.

This post is for them.

The original, overriding constraint was the 6’10” beam which is the restriction placed by the English canal system, which made the concept of a sailing vessel which would go on the canals through the narrow locks quite tricky.

There are those who can design an actual sailboat, ditto with a narrowboat – but getting a narrowboat ocean-worthy was the whole challenge all the way through.

Here’s an interesting video on Polynesian navigation I’ll come back to but it’s for those not boat construction minded and more interested in how the Polynesians managed to get about:

I can tell you I’m using some electronics, with compass, not the GPS based system most have but am using handheld radio and EPIRB, it could be called mid-tech where I wish to be.

Since 2017, the constraints have been:

1. Health. The heart attack killed most of the original design and it all had to be done again, designed around an ageing man with issues inside. Those issues are still present, plus the age factor is looming ever larger as it goes on.

This means that the boat had to be be way simpler than earlier, with far fewer moving parts and those parts easily got to by an old man and repaired or replaced from readily available, generic materials.

Frankly, the health is not up to it as at this moment – whether it ever will be does determine how this project goes.

2. Money. Major issue but against that, most of the tools are already with me, plus the epoxy for joinery, paint etc.. There’s no room to move any more, each step has to be thought through.

The threat is closely tied to the things I’ve mooted but not explained, not far removed from your own issues where you are.

3. Experience. The more I’ve learnt, the more I’ve realised that some things that seemed perfectly all right for those with the time and money are no use to me. A good youtube series is Sailing Soulianis in which they get quite technical.

It’s shown me that my original decision not to buy a secondhand monohull was right for so many reasons. Sure I could have picked one up for £4000 and with it, buy trouble forever. Watching those two trying to maintain their old engine, the leaking through the thru-hulls, the wearing of entry points, the problem with keels and GRP with age – I’m still convinced the decision was right and I’ve dodged a bullet or a hundred.

Plus I can’t stand the idea of lack of privacy – all bunking down on benches with cushions in one large salon. I’d really rather not put to sea than have to sail that way. Plus one of those is no use for the canal.

4. The very nature of the design, which has been the main subject in the sailing posts on the blog, hoping people would be interested but as all I was getting was GBH of the earhole from people most certainly not onside, so I dropped the posts.

There are certain inescapable conclusions in design, things one cannot do and things one has the room to move on. I have four different designs around the same theme – the theme being light oceangoer of around 41 feet, beam 6’10”, sail area somewhere around 540 square feet, less if efficient.

a. Monohull with shoal draft, full length keel and three cabins, plus general area, draft 2’9″, ballast 28%;

b. Catamaran or voyaging canoe of 19′ beam overall, four cabins, drawing 11 inches of water, laden, and I’ll come back to this;

c. Asymmetric outrigger, very much a workable design for ocean, yet with huge prejudice and some issues at anchor;

d. Trimaran with cramped accommodation but excellent buoyancy/safety/speed.

Each is a complete design with its own rig and can be built using the materials I have access to, one was mostly built by 2017. All displace around 11,000 lbs all up, draught of 158-176 cubic feet.

Which? The frames are largely cut for the mono but can be re-used on the cat. The cat is the simplest design of them all and gets around my major issues with the mono:

[i] Thickness of the ply;
[ii] Joinery of the keel to the hull.

This last has always been my misgiving. Dismantling of the old hull was a pain in the proverbial as the epoxied joints were stronger than the ply, impossible to take apart, even after years. people asked if I was upset by the dismantling. Hell no, I was delighted with how the joints turned out.

I admit to hovering between the cat and mono, mono and cat in 2019 – then along came winter and Cv. Both are good designs, both are not difficult in that yard, I also have a helper now, which is good. As a design, the cat is better because it’s in separate compartments, the joinery is far simpler and quicker, the rig much easier using inferior polyester.  The rig was one of the killer factors with the mono.

However, prejudice is the key factor in the UK with the double voyaging canoe. Sure it de-mounts and contracts to 6’10” for the canals but the prejudice I’ve had directed at me is beyond. And truth is that no one, no one at all up this way runs cats, let alone Polynesian voyaging canoes, which mine is. Trying to join a yacht club in order to take courses in nav has shown deep prejudice against any sort of boat like mine. Strangely, the length is the thing the sailing community does not like, plus its obvious homebuilt nature.

Were this even being built in Spain, the attitude would be entirely different. The big seas around Britain are an issue, the nature of the wave patterns, different to Pacific swells and there is an Atlantic Pacific divide that way. Whichever of the two designs is used, it’s always going to be for coastal sailing, plus voyaging/port hopping. There are big seas wherever you go.

So, listing the factors again – health, money – to that must be added this factor of prejudice and it does close doors on you in the UK. No one wants to know you. Plus with a design like mine, one stands out like a sore thumb. What does the double canoe look like? Well not unlike this:

Mine has the accommodation in the hulls, not on a platform, easier to heat in winter, the major departure is the sails. I was always puzzled how such a low sail area could push the boat along, triangles seemingly not all that efficient.

Then I found studies of these rigs and had to adjust my thinking. I can’t sew adequately for ocean purposes but what I can do quite easily is use a sandwich method of three strips of batten with the cloth wrapped over the middle one and the battens bolted – the double yard method suits that perfectly. The exposed topside has mini-battens running perpendicular to it. it’s the easiest and most adjustable method I know, so if there were some point to this rig which has escaped the west, I want to know how they got away with using it.

The ‘science’ says, so I found out, that by pointing upwards, even though the CE is higher, it does not tend to heeling, that is – the vector pushes downward on the beams, plus one more thing. The leading edge yard, if teardrop in profile, is far more effective than the other, lower yard or boom, creating lift in a forward direction, as well as downwards. Thus one angles the rig to create the optimum vectors for each point of sailing.

That’s one reason why these craft can be so narrow – they do not have the same heeling moment as the western rig, plus there’s another factor with a double hull. The critical angle is longitudinally diagonal and I can vouch for this from my own sailing – the angle of interest is from the windward stern corner to the leeward for’ard corner.

A wider beam does not translate into stability – it is that angle which counts and that is the longest length in line with the sail vectors, hence a 41 foot boat is displaying around 47 feet total length to the two sails, not three.

So that’s where I am. The N1 pro voyaging canoe factor is the seaworthiness, particularly in tidal situations, the downside is EU/UK prejudice. The N1 pro monohull factor is that doors open and people help you, plus she sails well, the downside is structural – the weakness with all monohulls is under the waterline, under constant stress.

Which is better for the amateur builder? The voyaging canoe is more forgiving of 80-90% quality of joinery. The rig options are more, the old man sails on the flat. Still waiting for the woodyard to reopen after Cv, we’re ready to restart at this end.

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4 comments for “As Cv eases, an older man prepares to restart building

  1. ivan
    May 22, 2020 at 14:18

    James, it is your dream/vision so build what fits you. All I can say is decide on a design and say ‘that’s it’, then build it no matter anyone else says – everyone will have their pet ideas and most will not fit with yours, as you have found.

    I know I have been rather tongue in cheek and mentioned a large diesel engine a few times, but that is my engineering at work, I was also brought up with the powered fishing boats working off the local beach as well as the powered house boats on the broads – sails not much good there although there were some but not during holiday time.

    • May 22, 2020 at 15:05

      Yep, it’s the double canoe – these things surf and have the pedigree of long distance voyaging. I notice they’re built double chine, which is a very strong way of carvel building, no wonder they survived as such light boats.

      But the main thing is – I’m comfortable building that, the joinery’s not hard.

  2. Doonhamer
    May 22, 2020 at 21:46

    I enjoy your technical pieces. It is good to see the reasoning and thought processes.
    It is a shame that some are so negative.
    Please persist at your own pace, and please keep us, really me, informed.
    When I was a teenager, lived in small coast town, I would willingly crew for those who just wanted to sail and needed crew. I dreamed and schemed about building my own. Sketched possibilities, read all I could. But alas my failing was a complete absence of money.
    Then moving well away from sea, job, family, lack of time put it all in the realm of a dream.
    So God speed you, good luck and thank you.

    • May 22, 2020 at 23:00

      Restarting is the thing. Once into it, should get easier.

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