To Part One ( Reports)
In case you missed the first installment of this series a month or so ago, here’s a quick introduction. I’m a 75-year-old guy living on a remote island in South East Alaska (that’s the archipelago of islands that hangs down off of British Columbia) and I am sharing the experience of building what will probably be my last boat – at least the last one that I will build. FRED (honoring my father) is a 19’ dory/pram in the style of the San Francisco Great Pelican.
In working up the design, my goal was to start with a clean sheet and make a boat that would allow me to keep sailing into my 80’s even with reduced flexibility and bad knees. I sail alone by choice and my ideal cruise is a several day affair that takes me poking along close to shore and ending early each day in a quiet cove where I can watch the natural world around me.
The fashion around here runs to ugly aluminum landing craft-types with as big and as many outboards as you can afford. It makes a person wonder when sanity and economy will prevail. A disappointment when we moved here from Puget Sound was to find that, while there are still quite a few older wooden fishing boats, there are hardly any small recreational boats in Alaska. The absence of anyone to go sailing with, together with my general attitude, puts speed at the very bottom of my priority list.
Safety, on the other hand, was right at the top. This isn’t water that anyone goes into for fun – or even expects to get out of after going into it accidentally. Kayakers surely increase their survival chances by knowing the Eskimo Roll but for me it’s a given that I will not survive if I fall out or capsize the boat. The Pelican’s big deep cockpit and those high flared sides met those needs nicely.
After half a lifetime of sailboats it seemed almost sacrilegious to want so much volume below on such a small boat but FRED is intended to be almost as much a writer’s-cabin-that-floats as he is intended to be an efficient sailing vehicle. If I can sail well with the wind free and not do too badly when I’m on the wind. I’ll be willing to call FRED a motor-sailor when I use the 5hp OB. He won’t like it going straight into a chop but with some sail up to help – and to induce some heel – I think he will be fine.
At this stage of life, I definitely felt that I had the right to insist on standing headroom to put my pants on and cook a meal. I met that need with a 4’ x 4’ doghouse that looked a lot more at home on the Pelican than it would have on a sleeker shape. I also wanted a good desk and a decent bunk – though it only needed to be single – and the enormous width that comes with a raised deck made those two requirements easy to meet. After a bit of experience with him I’m pretty sure I’ll even be able to work in a solid fuel heater.
I decided early on that I did not want the complication or intrusion of a centerboard so took the area of the Pelican’s centerboard, bumped it up a bit, and divided it between two fixed keels. I knew that I’d have plenty of lateral plane and the small amount of extra drag was not a concern but it did introduce the problem of sailing balance. I had already decided to move the mast forward about a foot in order to mount a stout tabernacle on the forward bulkhead. The lug sail could be shifted on the mast for fine balance control but left little room for adjustment in the event that I got the keel placement badly off. My solution was to scratch the whole idea of a headsail until after I’d had a season or two with FRED. So, based on the plan of just the main, I set the keels with 10% or so of lead and we’ll just see how he likes that. If I find unacceptable helm I can correct it later with either a small mizzen or a small headsail. I can easily imagine a mini version of the lugsail main mounted on that big transom with a short spar run out through it to take the sheet. The whole sail and spar package could be detached from the mast with the two parrels and stowed on the cabin top. If he cries out for a headsail it will be a light roller-reefing affair that I can manage from the cockpit.
Anchoring is something that I have always taken very seriously – in fact I have often been teased about the number of anchors I like to carry – three usually seems about right but when we cruised the Inside Passage we had four. For the first year or two at least, FRED will not be far from home and I’ll be able to pick most of my weather so I plan to skate by with just two, a 15# Bruce and a 20# Danforth. By stopping the cockpit seats short of the main bulkhead I will get the full-width of the cockpit to handle anchors and the Danforth will stow easily against the flared side. The Bruce will live under a cockpit seat. Handling will all be done from the cockpit with the help of a loop line to a big block on a post in the corner of the cockpit. Nylon and chain rode in a bucket can live wherever the balance dictates.
That’s all for this time. I hope you all are enjoying this.