August 30, 2015

An Anchoring Revolution

SOME YEARS AGO, about this time, I was pulling up the anchor on my boat when I injured my back. I herniated a disc. It was my own fault, I guess. What actually happened was that the shackle that joins the chain to the rope got stuck in the bow roller. I was in a hurry to get the anchor up, because we were too close to another boat, so I impatiently gave an extra-hard jerk on the line, instead of leaning over to ease it through by hand. The shackle popped through and at the same time a vertebra in my lower back went pop, too. It pressed against a nerve, and my right foot went numb.

I’m happy to say that my little injury has now mostly cured itself, as most injuries to the body do, given time. At least, it doesn’t hurt so much. But I still give much thought to the universal problem of raising the anchor, especially when you’re singlehanded.

You can use a winch to extract the anchor from the seabed, but as soon as it comes free, your boat will start to drift, most likely sideways into the anchored boat alongside you. The winch is just too slow for the distance the anchor must travel from the seabed to the bow roller. You need to be at the tiller and mainsheet or engine controls immediately the anchor comes unstuck. So you have no option but to haul it up by hand as fast as you can.

But the answer is simple. It was suggested in a conversation I had the other day with the owner of a MacGregor 26. It is the lightweight anchor. The very lightweight anchor. Not one of those ordinary lightweight aluminum things.

I have refined the concept and invented the Vigoranka Collapsible Anchor©. It weighs almost nothing. It saves space. You can fold it up or crush it into a tiny space without harming it. It is going to revolutionize anchoring as we know it.

The Vigoranka© works on the principle that water is very heavy in air but light in  water. So all you have to do is lower the sturdy plastic Vigoranka© into the water and let it fill. It will hold 75 pounds of water. Now when you consider that a 35-pound CQR will hold a 32-foot sailboat in almost any conditions, you can surely see the advantage of using an anchor that weighs more than twice as much.

But you can easily raise it to the surface by hand, and as it comes out of the water you simply flip a little valve and all the water drains back out into the sea, allowing you to bring the Vigoranka© aboard with one hand and no strain whatsoever.

Frankly, I am amazed that no-one has thought of this before. But then, no-one thought of Twitter before Twitter was invented, and now the world is just full of tweets everywhere. Which just goes to show you. 

Today’s Thought
The wonder is always new that any sane man can be a sailor.
—Emerson, English Traits

“How’s the bird breeding going?”
“Great. I just crossed a homing pigeon with a parrot.”
“What for?”
“If the pigeon gets lost it can ask the way home.”

August 27, 2015

All about roaches

SOMEONE CALLED BAYTRIPPER is in need of help. He or she needs advice on “how to stabilize an unstable roach in a roller-furling mainsail, especially in high winds.”

I have no idea what’s happening to this particular roach. It could be flopping off to leeward, or it might be curling back to windward, which is just as bad. I don’t know whether it’s a mainsail that tucks itself away inside the mast, or whether it rolls up on a free-standing stay running down outside the aft side of the mast.

But, despite my profound ignorance, I know of three ways in which sailmakers tackle the problem of making the mainsail roach follow the natural curve of the sail without collapsing to leeward or curling to windward.

The most usual way is to cut the mainsail with a hollow leech and thus do away with the roach altogether. That’s how jibs are cut. On a normal mainsail with a modest roach, horizontal battens are used to stiffen the sail in the area of the roach; but you’ll notice that foresails don’t usually have battens because their leeches are hollow-cut and there is no roach to worry about. The only drawback of a mainsail with a hollow leech is that you lose some sail area, but if the boat is designed to have a hollow leech in the first place, you can compensate with a slightly taller mast that accommodates all the desired sail area.

If you insist on having a regular roach on a furling mainsail, your sailmaker will probably resort to stiffening the roach with battens. You can have short battens or long battens, but both run up and down, parallel to the mast, and both bring their own problems. They have to be parallel to the mast so that they can roll up inside the sailcloth when the sail is furled, but they add bulk to the sail and can jamb in the mainsail slot if it isn’t wide enough.

I like best the idea of a roachless mainsail because it has few drawbacks and many benefits, not the least of which is freedom from the wear and tear on batten pockets, a constant and very comforting source of income for sailmakers.

I guess there will be some of you who are still wondering what a roach is, apart from an obnoxious tropical insect. Well, a roach is the curve in the side or foot of a sail. Square sails have a hollow roach in their foot to keep them clear of the mast stays when the yards on which they are set are braced up, and this is known as the foot roach. When sails are roached on their sides, as in the leech of a gaff mainsail, they are known as leech roaches.

On a Bermuda-rigged mainsail we often refer to the roach as being the area outboard of a straight line drawn from the head of the sail to the clew.  And just in case you haven’t had enough of roaches by now, Baytripper, here are a couple of links to the sites of sailmakers who know what they’re talking about:

One ship drives east and another drives west by the same winds that blow.
It’s the set of the sails and not the gales that determines the way they go.
— Ella Wheeler Wilcox

“What’s Angela’s last name again?”
“Angela who?”

August 25, 2015

Seasickness and psychology

THE FEAR OF SEASICKNESS is enough to make us seasick. That’s the opinion of Dr. Michael Stadler, professor of experimental psychology at Bremen University in Germany.
In his book, Psychology of Sailing, Dr. Stadler says:

“How often have we heard friends who occasionally sail with us exclaim in protest when told of the weekend plan to put into Heligoland, that they are always sick when they go there?

“Assurances from the skipper that the forecast is for light winds, and that some swell is to be expected no matter where one is on the North Sea, do not seem to help. There are people who, knowing they are going to Heligoland, become pallid and get a dry mouth as soon as they step on board. Indeed, many even begin to feel seasick while still ashore, at the mere sight of the boat.”

Dr. Stadler goes on the explain that this is a kind of anticipatory fear of seasickness, a fear that is learned by “one or more negative experiences in the past.” In other words, if you got seasick once before, you simply expect you’re going to be seasick again, even if sea conditions are much calmer this time.

If you are the kind of person who is susceptible to a conditioned reaction like this, once the boat puts to sea and the swell becomes noticeable, “seasickness proper, with its nausea and sickness, will set in much more quickly,” says Dr. Stadler. “Anxious people, moreover, tend to sit quietly on boat and submit passively to their fate. Motion sickness actually strikes people more quickly when they are sitting than when they are lying or standing.”

Apparently the most suitable employment for a crew member who is prone to sickness is helming. “We know from our experience of motoring that passengers (on winding mountain roads, for instance) are frequently motion sick, but never the driver himself.”

Lying down is the next best thing to steering, and after that the most favorable position is standing upright, legs slightly apart, without holding on to anything. When you’re doing this (and not falling overboard in the process) “continuous reflexive compensatory movements are activated throughout the muscular system by the sense of balance and the sense of position.” And this, says Dr. Stadler, “prevents a passive surrender” to seasickness.

Today’s Thought
One of the best temporary cures for pride and affectation is seasickness — a man who wants to vomit never puts on airs.
— John Billings, American humorist

Mary had a little lamb
That leaped around in hops
It hopped into the road one day
And ended up as chops.

August 24, 2015

Your unique footprint on earth

EVERY TIME I’ve been to sea in my own boat, the same thought has occurred to me: I’m the only human being who has been present in this space since the world began.  The farther I am from land, the greater the truth of that statement, of course.

I don’t know why it seems so significant to me but it is certainly a fact. On land, we humans follow each other’s tracks. When the first person beats down a path through the wilderness, there’s no reason to battle a new way through on your own. But at sea every vessel on every voyage finds its own path over the wild waters, a new path, a path where no boat has ever been before. Sometimes it’s not far from the paths others have made, but it is always separate in places. No two wakes ever trace the exact same path.

Perhaps it seems more significant to people like me who have grown up in crowded cities, where following other people’s tracks is the normal everyday procedure. Nobody gives it a thought, because there can hardly be any place in a city where someone hasn’t stood or walked before you.

So when I’m at sea, even on a coastal trip, I have often thought “I am the first person in the world to occupy this particular spot on our planet.”  The chances are millions to one that I will never occupy it again, of course, and it’s highly probable that no one one else will, even if human beings are able to inhabit the earth for another 4 1/2 billion years, which seems doubtful.

So next time you need something to think about on a night watch, bend your mind toward the fact that you are experiencing something unique that no other person in the world will experience. You are visiting a portion of the planet that no one has floated over before. It isn’t going to bring you fame or wealth or happiness, but if you have a simple mind like mine it is a fascinating thing to ponder.

Today’s Thought
The Sea
That shuts still as it opes, and leaves no tracts
Nor prints of precedent for poor men’s facts.
— George Chapman, Bussy d’Ambois

“I’m looking for a guard dog going cheap.”
“Sorry, sir, all our guard dogs go ‘Woof!’”

August 20, 2015

Why we sail the sea

HILAIRE BELLOC was many things in his lifetime, but I like to remember him as a sailor.  He lived from 1870 to 1953 and held dual British/French nationality. He was one of the most prolific writers in England in the early 20th century, and among his best pieces, in my view, was his description of what makes a person sail the sea:

“To sail the sea is an occupation at once repulsive and attractive. It is repulsive because it is dangerous, horribly uncomfortable, cramped and unnatural: for man is a land animal.

“It is attractive because it brings adventure and novelty at every moment, and because, looking back upon it, a man feels a certain pride both in danger overcome and in experience. But it is also attractive in another and much more powerful fashion. It is attractive by a sort of appetite.

“A man having sailed the sea and the habit having bitten into him, he will always return to it: why, he cannot tell you. It is what modern people call a ‘lure’ or a ‘call.’ He has got it in him and it will not let him rest.”

Today’s Thought
Cruising is more than a sport. The mood of it comes over you at times, and you can neither work nor rest nor heed another call until you have a deck beneath your feet and point a bowsprit out to sea.
— Arthur Sturges Hildebrand.

Paddy was crossing the fairway when a ball smacked him on the back of the head.
A golfer came up and said: “Why didn’t you get out of the way?”
“An’ why should I?” said Paddy angrily.
“Because I said ‘Fore!’ and that’s a sign to get out of the way.”
“Oh and is it now?” cried Paddy. “Well I’ve got news for you. When I say ‘Foive’ it’s a sign you’re going to be hit on the jaw. Foive!”

August 18, 2015

GPS's unfortunate downside

 AS A NAVIGATOR in the dark days before GPS, I used to do a lot of guessing. Most of it was informed guessing, however. I had my reasons.

For example, I discovered that a right-handed helmsman sailed a course farther off the wind while on the beat on the port tack than did a left-handed helmsman. The opposite applied when the boat was on the other tack. The left-handed helm was using his right hand on the tiller, his weaker arm, and so the boat rounded up more in the gusts and carved a course closer to the wind. The right-handed helm was able to use his greater strength to apply more weather helm to stay on course.   

The reason I knew this was because, in between sextant sights, it was the navigator’s task to keep a dead reckoning plot. But he couldn’t stay awake in the cockpit day and night to check that the helmsman was following exactly the course he had been given, so he asked the cockpit crew at the end of every four-hour watch to estimate what their average speed had been and what average course they had sailed. This information was then plotted on the chart to give a dead-reckoning position.

In the ancient days of commercial sail they used a traverse board for the same purpose. It was a very clever little device that allowed the navigator to see at a glance the speed and course the ship had covered during the last watch. It was nothing more than a wooden board with a compass rose on its face and 32 radial rows of holes. Every half-hour, when the sand-glass was turned, the helmsman placed a peg in the hole of the compass point that matched the average direction the ship had been steered during the last 30 minutes.

At the same time, the crew ascertained the ship’s speed on a chip log, and a peg was placed in the appropriate hole on a special speed grid. So the navigator could now come on deck and see what had been happening in the way of speed and direction while he was down below, allowing for all the zigs and zags and wavy wake lines.

He would make a note of these averages and start guessing about leeway and current and a few other things that his instinct supplied corrections for, and then he could plot a dead-reckoning position on a chart. Then all the pegs were pulled out of the board for the next watch to play with.

Nowadays, with all those clever satellites twinkling away in the sky, there’s no need for a traverse board or dead reckoning. GPS does all the grunt work and makes navigation so easy that nobody has any respect for the job any more. Ordinary foredeck hands used to step back in awe when the navigator came strolling along jauntily with his sextant box under his arm and a roll of charts in his hand. Skippers used to address navigators with civility, offer them drinks, and treat them almost as if they were human. No longer, I’m afraid. All that has gone. GPS is very clever, but it has a lot to answer for.

Today’s Thought
Navigation is what tells you where you are, and, what’s just as important, where you aren’t.
 — John Vigor

“Why do all those cows in Switzerland wear bells around their necks?”
“Dunno. Maybe it’s because their horns don’t work.”

August 16, 2015

Normal and natural errors

ONE OF THE THINGS that small-boat navigation teaches you is that nothing is precise. The best navigators make allowances for the unknown factors that always affect small boats, especially sailboats. They plot their positions within a circle of uncertainty and if they’re seeking landfall at a particular spot on a coastline, they aim way off to one side or the other, so they know which way to turn when they sight land.

When I was a lot younger I thought I knew how to navigate with precision. This misconception was confirmed when I sailed a 17-foot dinghy across the English Channel from Dover to Calais. I studied the tide tables and figured out the speed and direction of the tidal stream (or the set and drift as I used to call it then) for every hour. I then drew my course on the chart and adjusted the compass heading to account for the distance the tide was pushing me sideways in each hour. And thus, with a great sense of triumph, I arrived off the rather featureless French coast exactly at Calais.

It was beginner’s luck, of course. Nobody can forecast the exact speed of the current, or its exact direction. Nobody can tell you how much leeway your boat will make. Nobody can forecast your exact speed or distance covered during any one-hour period, and so the detailed markings you make so carefully on the chart turn out to be impractical nonsense. In my case, it was probably a matter of all the errors canceling each other out — a minor miracle in other words.

Years later, when further experience had taught me some humility, I read The Yacht Navigator’s Handbook, by Norman Dahl.[1] In the introduction he says: “When I was first taught navigation (in the Royal Navy) errors were thought of as being rather disgraceful, the sole result of poor technique by the navigator. Whilst I always accepted (and still accept today) that I was not the most brilliant navigator in the world, I was disappointed to find that, however hard I tried, errors never seemed to go away. Navigating a submerged submarine, and later, yachts of many kinds in many situations, eventually made me realize that errors are an integral part of navigation and need to be studied in their own right.”

Dahl said a major purpose of his book was to show that errors in navigation are normal and natural, and that a major skill in navigation lies in your ability to interpret the results in terms of the likely errors. He goes on to show boat navigators how they can actually use the errors to help make sensible decisions about their positions and a future course of action.

As one who had never experienced any difficulty in making errors I found Dahl’s advice very comforting, and I never again tried to do anything as impossibly precise as maintaining a rhumb line from Dover to Calais.

I expect Dahl’s book is out of print now because it was first published in 1983, before the great revolution in navigating that finally did bring near-precision to position-finding. We don’t think of errors now, because GPS doesn’t allow for that. It will tell us our position to within a boatlength in any kind of visibility, day or night.

And yet people have run aground using GPS, often because GPS is more accurate than the charts you plot your position on. There have been many reports of yachts wrecked on rocks, reefs, and islands that were where either GPS or the charts said they weren’t.

So we now all find ourselves in the position that I was in all those years ago, when I knew precisely and without doubt how to cross the English Channel. It’s surely time we started doubting again. It’s time we listened to Mr. Dahl, time we started taking all the possible errors into account. Time to accept that navigation is never precise, even with GPS.

[1] The Yacht Navigator's Handbook, by Norman Dahl (London, 1983, Ward Lock Ltd.)

Today’s Thought
The greatest of faults, I should say, is to be conscious of none.
— Carlyle, Heroes and Hero-Worship: The Hero as Prophet.

“What made you marry old Bella?”
“She was different from all the other girls I’d met.”
“In what way?”
“She liked me.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boats column.)

August 13, 2015

Don't forget the plankton

I’M READING A BOOK about one of the most fascinating stories of survival at sea in a small boat, one that ranks right up there with Captain Bligh and Shackleton and Survive the Savage Sea.

It’s called All Brave Sailors, by J. Revell Carr (Simon & Schuster), and it deals with the sinking of an English tramp steamer, the Anglo-Saxon, after a surprise attack by a German raider ship (a powerful warship disguised as a neutral merchant freighter) during World War II.

Only seven of the Anglo-Saxon’s crew managed to escape from the sinking ship in a clinker-built 18-foot open gig. They had practically no food, just a few gallons of water, and no navigation equipment apart from a compass.

Of those seven, only two survived a 70-day sail in the gig from the eastern side of the North Atlantic to Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, where they became instant celebrities.

They ran out of food and water fairly quickly, and a large part of the book explains how their ravaged bodies coped with the situation. What strikes me, however, is that they made no attempt to catch plankton, an act which surely would have saved more lives.

Dr. Alain Bombard demonstrated the abundance of life-giving plankton in his Atlantic crossing in his raft, L’Heretique. Before that,  William Beebe, the famous naturalist, writer, and explorer, undertook the laborious task of counting the number of the tiny creatures he caught in a net. Here’s his account, from The Arcturus Adventure (G. P. Putnam’s Sons):

“One dark moonless evening I put out a silk surface net, the mouth of which was round and about a yard in diameter. At the farther end of the net a quart preserve jar was tied to receive and hold any small creatures which might be caught as the net was drawn slowly along the surface of the water. This was done at the speed of two knots and kept up for the duration of one hour.

“When drawn in, the net sagged heavily and we poured out an overflowing mass of rich pink jelly into a flat white tray."   

Most of the these individuals were primitive crustaceans, which make plankton a rich, nourishing food, even raw.

It’s also worthwhile repeating that all these creatures that we call plankton were caught at the surface on a dark night. Beebe repeated the experiment in full daylight and caught only about 1,000 individuals instead of 40,000,000.

“Plankton will have nothing of the sun or even of moonlight,” he observed, “and remains well below the reach of the stronger rays.”

You might want to try dragging a net, or even a shirt sleeve knotted at the end, next time you’re at sea on a dark night. You never know when this knowledge might come in useful.

Today’s Thought
Shipwrecked men in an open boat, if their lot is cast on waters rich in plankton, never need to starve to death if they can manage to drag an old shirt, net, fashion, through the water at night. — William Beebe, The Arcturus Adventure

“How’s your son getting on these days?”
“He just turned 16. He kissed his first girl and started smoking.”
“Wow! Must have been some kiss.”

August 11, 2015

Noah and an ark of reeds

I DON’T RECALL having heard anything said about plants on Noah’s Ark. Animals, yes, two of every kind, but no flowers or trees or vegetables. Noah certainly had sufficient meat on board for a circumnavigation but he would have found it hard going without barley for his beer and rice for his breakfast crispies.

I like to think of him as one of the first yachtsmen in the business, but perhaps he was more like Thor Heyerdahl than Joshua Slocum, because, contrary to what most of us were taught in Sunday school, Noah didn’t build his ark of wood. At least, not according to The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea he didn’t.

The OxCom says that the ark, in which Noah and his family escaped the deluge with all the animals, was probably not built of wood because there simply wasn’t enough wood in the entire Tigris-Euphrates region to build it of timber.

You will recall, of course, that the ark measured 300 cubits in length by 50 in beam and 30 in height. In terms of Egyptian royal cubits of about 21 inches each, that translates to a vessel measuring 521 feet long by 87 feet wide by 52 feet high. More of a ship than a boat, actually.

This has led researchers to assume that the ark was therefore built, according to the local traditional fashion, of papyrus reeds, roughly in the shape of a tea tray, with a little local wood used in the domestic quarters, cowsheds, pigsties, and so on. It sounds an awful lot like a larger version of Heyerdahl’s Kon Tiki raft.

Of course, one has to ponder how a 500-foot-long vessel constructed of reeds would hold together in any kind of seaway, but it is not for us to wonder why. Noah had faith, which is apparently as useful as a good solid wooden keel, and is not to be questioned.

Today’s Thought
God’s revelation to Adam didn’t instruct Noah how to build the ark.
— Ezra Taft Benson

A little girl had just finished her first week of school.
'I'm just wasting my time,' she said to her mother. 'I can't read, I can't write, and they won't let me talk!'

August 10, 2015

Thinking about boat presents

I’M OF THE OPINION that you can never prepare too far ahead for Christmas. Furthermore, I have heard it said by both sexes that it’s very difficult to buy Christmas presents for men. That being the case, perhaps we men should do our bit to make this task easier, and, incidentally, thereby help the economy along.

One way to do this would be to make up a list of the Christmas presents we’d like to receive, and hand it out to friends, relatives, co-workers, and passers-by. Some of you will think this is a very crass thing to do, but it has occurred to me that a wish-list of this sort would be completely acceptable if it were presented in the form of a request for items for your boat.

You might think this a little strange at first, but it’s not really. It moves the guilt factor away from you to a third party. And people (even landlubbers) know instinctively that boats have souls. They realize that there are strong emotional ties between sailors and their boats that stop short only of kissing and hugging. Well, in most cases, anyway.

Now, you may be saying, “But people will surely query why a boat would need a new flat-screen, Internet-ready, 72-inch, plasma TV with icemaker.  Or a case of Johnny Walker Red Label whisky; or a five-year subscription to Playboy. How do you answer them?”

Well, use your common sense. Close your eyes slightly. Look wise and mysterious. Say: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Explain that the bond between a man and his boat is intimate and very private. Tell them you have this intuitive, exclusive insight into your boat’s true needs and desires.

And make sure they realize that every boat knows the difference between real Johnny Walker and the cheap hooch they distill up in those scruffy hills in Arkansas.

Today’s Thought
Ever since Eve gave Adam the apple, there has been a misunderstanding between the sexes about gifts
— Nan Robertson

He asked her for a burning kiss;
She said in accents cruel:
“I may be called a red-hot babe
“But I’m still nobody’s fuel.”

August 6, 2015

Propellers made easy

A WHILE BACK I was editing an article for Good Old Boat magazine. It said:

 “When you select a propeller, you should match every dimension of that propeller to the hull and the engine driving it to attain maximum efficiency. This makes propeller selection and calculation very difficult for those of us who are not naval architects.”

Well, that’s not completely true in my opinion. The experts in too many fields, such as navigation and splicing rope, like to spread the word that it’s more complicated than it really is.

There are two ways of selecting a propeller: theory and practice. And even naval architects have to resort to trial-and-error after they’ve tried their best with theory.

Let’s say you’re not satisfied with your boat’s performance under power, and you suspect the propeller is the wrong size. First check the diameter. Go to page 45 of my book, The Boatowner’s Handbook, where there’s a handy little graph. Lay a ruler between horsepower and prop-shaft revolutions, and see where it crosses the column marked “Propeller diameter.”

On page 47 you’ll find another graph that shows you the pitch you need. This points you in the right direction for your prop. It’s about as good a result as the naval architect will get with all his complicated calculations.

So much for theory. Now we come to the practice. This doesn’t hardly need any brains at all, so it suits me fine.
Make sure your boat’s propeller is free of barnacles and the hull is reasonably clean. Take her for a run in calm weather. The ideal propeller will allow the engine to reach the manufacturer’s top-rated revolutions per minute (and therefore full power) with the throttle opened fully. And at this stage, your boat should be achieving full hull speed.

Now, if your engine starts to lug, or emit black diesel smoke, before it reaches top-rated rpm, you’ve probably got too much pitch. It’s like trying to ride a bike uphill in top gear.
On the other hand, if your engine reaches top revs too easily — that is, before your boat reaches hull speed — you probably need to increase the pitch. You’re riding downhill in low gear and your little legs are whizzing around but you’re not going very fast.

A propeller shop can alter the pitch of most auxiliary sailboat props a couple of inches at a fraction of the cost of a new propeller. For auxiliary sailboats with the usual 2-to-1 reduction gearbox, a decrease in prop pitch of 2 inches will increase engine revs per minute by about 300 to 400.
It’s unlikely that you’ll need to change the prop diameter, but you might like to know that for roughly equivalent performance, if you decrease the diameter 1 inch, you should increase the pitch 2 inches.

You don’t need to be a naval architect to check your propeller’s actual performance this way. It’s as much art as science — plus a bit of grunt work to get the damn prop off the shaft to which it clings so determinedly.

Today’s Thought
An expert is somebody who is more than 50 miles from home, has no responsibility for implementing the advice he gives, and shows slides.
— Edwin Meese 3rd, White House counsel

A pessimist is a person who builds a castle in the air and then locks himself in the dungeon.
An optimist, on the other hand, is a person who fixes your eyes.

August 4, 2015

Racer/cruisers and vice versa

I WAS THINKING the other day that I need another little Santana 22 sloop.  I owned one about 20 years ago. I turned her into a miniature “sport cruiser” and loved her to bits. She was the first successful  design from the board of Gary Mull, one of my favorite sailboat designers. About 800 Santana 22s were built by the Schock company in California in the late 1960s and early 70s. You’d think there would be at least one still around here in reasonable condition, but if there is, I can’t find it in this neck of the woods.

Mull was one who had very definite ideas about the difference between cruiser/racers and racer/cruisers. He didn’t design either. He simply created what he called “good sailboats.”

He was quoted as saying:  “If you call one a club racer, what you are really saying is that it is a racing boat that isn’t quite good enough to race against the real racing boats. It can only do club racing.

“If you call it a cruiser/racer, that’s some sort of hermaphrodite that is neither fish nor fowl, but is probably slower than a racer/cruiser, which is also a hermaphrodite but maybe looks racier than its cruiser/racer cousin.”

Whatever other people called his designs, it didn’t matter to him. Here is what he strove for in all his boats:

* Good looks and performance. “It has to be good-looking and it has to sail well.”

* Good balance.

* An airy, bright, pleasant interior. (“So you don’t feel like you’re going to jail when you go down below.”)

* A comfortable cockpit. (“Where you can work the boat without bashing your elbows or tripping over or whatever.”)

As for cruiser/racers and racer/cruisers, his philosophy was simple: “If you want to cruise for a while, you can do it by simply loading aboard the stores and some clothes, and just do it. If you want to race it, you can do that by off-loading some of the stores and gear and going racing.

A “good sailboat” like this wouldn’t be a successful racer under the International Offshore Rule “because it’s not an IOR boat,” said Mull. “But it’s probably going to be a better cruising boat than 99 percent of the cruising boats on the market, which are caricatures of cruising boats.”

Strong words from a strong character who was one of America’s most talented designers.

Today’s Thought
To me, the drawn language is a very revealing language; one can see in a few lines whether a man is really an architect.
— Eero Saarinen, NY Times, 5 Jun 77

Rumor has it that the Feds are going to replace the dollar bill with a metal coin.
It’s called the quarter.

August 2, 2015

Squeezing in berths and heads

A READER called Eric asks: “Why do boat builders insist on putting TWO toilets/heads in a boat as small as 32 feet? C'mon, how many 400-square-foot apartments/houses on land have two bathrooms?”

Well, Eric, if I had to take a flying guess I’d say it was the boatbuilder’s sales department that demanded two heads. Apparently it’s a major selling point, especially among the fairer sex. It’s the same reason that builders insist on putting six berths in a four-berth boat, and four berths in a two-berth boat. The sales manager wants to be able to boast that his 25-footer is a family boat that can accommodate Mom, Pop, and four kids on weekend jaunts, unlike the competition whose 26-footer only has berths for two adults and two kids.

It sounds better in the ads, and looks good in the color brochure, but no boat designer in his right mind would come up with this idea on his own. He knows better than anyone how awkward and inconvenient too many berths are in a small boat, and what a wicked waste of space. He also knows how little time people spend in the head and how hard it is to compensate for the extra space a second head steals from the interior.

But he has to earn an honest nickel, and the boatbuilder is the boss, so he grinds his teeth and squeezes in a couple of berths here and a couple of heads there, knowing full well that he’s creating a travesty of boat design.

There are a few traditional designs that follow more normal rules of practical and esthetic design and, ironically, they usually cost a lot more than the plastic Best Westerns that fill our marinas.

So, Eric, I’m afraid there’s only one thing left to do, and that’s to take yourself to an old-fashioned naval architect and commission him or her to design you a boat with as few bunks and heads as you consider appropriate. You will instantly become that architect’s dream customer, and you might even feel your feet being kissed, but whether you’ll be able to find a builder willing to create this aberrant kind of boat, one so far removed from the modern norm, is quite another matter.

Today’s Thought
Change doth unknit the tranquil strength of men.
— Matthew Arnold, A Question 

“Did you visit that spiritualist last night?”
“Was she a good one?”
“No, just a medium.”