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Anke and I are building our next boat, and writing about it at Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.

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Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirl gmail daughter com

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Slogging to Windward

Hell, yer all slow!
- Cap'n Combustion

When I think back over the years, our average speed under sail has got to be well under one knot. This is the result of a number of choices. I'm going to explain them, not defend or push them on you. After all, in this day and age, why choose slow?

Here are factors which contribute to slow boatin':
  • Our cruising grounds are prone to calms --

    The entire Inside Passage, broadly speaking from Olympia, WA to Skagway, AK is a place of highly variable weather. Dead calms can be found at any time of year, frequently enlivened by breeze and wind, punctuated by gale and storm (occasional in summer, frequent elsewhen). Sailors in our grounds are going to drop their averages right down.

    Pay-off is increasing wildness, the further north one sails, and fewer people.
  • Our hulls are small --

    A displacement hull's top speed is a function of its length of sailing waterline. All things being equal, the bigger the boat, the faster it goes. But we choose small.

    Payoff is a hull cheaper and easier to build, maintain and keep house. The scale of physics to human muscle favors the human. Likewise, gear requirements are less, especially if you can handle the anchor and rode without a winch. Small is simple. Temptation to fill it with gizmos and gew-gaws is self-limiting.

  • Our holds are full --

    We don't have any storage, shoreside; it's all aboard. Plus, we carry a lot on-board insurance in the form of anchor gear, heavy movers (jacks, come-alongs, BB winch), tools, spares and a lot of food and clothing ahead. All this adds up, and, on a small boat (even a barge), it slows ya down.

    Payoff is same as any insurance. When you need it you really need it! We don't pay rent ashore, nor have to make a voyage to get our hands on our stuff.

  • Our (barge) hull is boxy --

    Curvy hulls are slipperier, no doubt about it. Water slides easier past the hull, with less friction on given overall dimensions. While box barges are surprisingly fast and able, when laden and rigged for cruising, they are unlikely to be front runners.

    Payoff is maximum carrying capacity, interior volume and form stabilty (heels less) on a given footprint. Curvy hulls have to be larger to achieve the same qualities. Also, boxy hulls are astonishingly fast and cheap to build, without requiring much in the way of tools and shelter. Use of foam-board insulation is simplified. If you're already living on the fringe, box barges are in easier reach.

  • Our rig is Junk --

    That's a joke, Son. Sort of. Junk Rig has a bad reputation to windward. While that's not entirely deserved, there's a grain of truth. And we dumb ours down to maximize simplicity and lower costs.

    Payoffs are listed in my previous post, Why I Love Junk Rig.

  • We tow a 16ft dory (it's on the banner photo) --

    Dragging a tender is an effective way to slow a boat down, on any point of sail. Maybe a full knot, which is a big chunk of a small boat's allotment. Just hold the painter in hand while charging along, and you'll see why.

    Payoff is that we (who anchor up most nights) don't have to endlessly launch and retrieve a necessarily smaller tender. The long length is a better match to our LWL. It can cover some serious ground, hauling a load while it's at it. This lets us explore an area or make longer runs, on occasion. If guests show up, it can handle the extra. Should we somehow lose the boat, we've got a serious backup.

  • We're a pair of dreamers --

    Serious sailors stay focused at the helm. Noone steers a perfect course, but most probably do better than we. We often wake from a reverie to find ourselves a smidge high or low on the wind. Maybe a whole smoose. Tsk, tsk.

    Payoff is that it's awesomely beautiful all round about; beauty that's easy to miss if the focus is speed made good.

Every vessel is the result of a whole string of trade-offs and compromises, made to suit the life and style of her owners. Speed under sail is a strong pull toward one set of trade-offs. Shoe-string sea-steading is another. Some (maybe most) find a middle path somewhere between extremes. What we find to be a pile of payoff may not impress the next sailor.

To windward, we have to substitute craft and patience for mere velocity, given our choices. We maintain our sea-room, a harbor near at hand and a sharp eye to weather.

But all winds are fair, depending on where you choose to go. Our other choices help give us the economic leisure to sail by the wind's whim. Anchor up and away! Spread sails wide to run wing and wong, or broad reach 'n jibe.

Catch us if you can!

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