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Martha Jane

by Guest Columnist Mark Zeiger

My Martha Jane

Reprinted from a post to the Yahoo Bolger discussion group. 

I am nearing completion on the Martha Jane as originally designed, with a few minor modifications. Primarily, I am using lead ballast instead of water. This decision was made before the questions of MJs abilities or seaworthiness, and involved wanting to use the tank space for food and gear storage.

No disrespect to those who have had unpleasant experiences with their MJs, but I think a lot of people (and I fear the majority of these were armchair sailors) took a quote from a _Woodenboat_ article too far, and to heart. The article said "The MJ should be self righting . . ." meaning the author thought it would be self righting in most situations. I think this led to the idea that it WAS self righting, and when it turned out not to be in some situations (although there are many cases where MJs have come right back up after knock downs) people became concerned.

I think that the original design of the MJ is one of Mr. Bolger's most enduring designs because it offers a lot of features that make it a fine boat. If you like it, build it and sail it, and disregard the opinions of this list. What we do here is fun, but no one should live their life by committee.

Sad fact is, gentlemen (and ladies, if you're there) history is full of boats that were not ideal. The vast majority of them provided lifetimes of good sailing despite what some have now come to consider the fatal flaw of not being self righting. Many designs proved to be downright dangerous, yet people still sail them, and come safely home.

I would assert that risk is an inescapable part of any worthwhile recreation. Sailing's not as safe as golf, but it's probably safer than skydiving.

If you hear someday that I flipped my MJ and drowned, you can still quote me on this. The water isn't for the faint of heart. If you spend all your time trying not to die, you're not really living. If you have to have absolute safety, stay on shore. But watch out for cars, falling trees, disgruntled employees . . . you get the picture.

Now go build the boat of your dreams, and don't make me come back in here!

Mark Zeiger
> > Juneau, Alaska


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