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Dave and Anke
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Monday, January 9, 2012

Are Shoal, Square Boats Seaworthy? An Interview with Bob Wise about LOOSE MOOSE II

From WoodenBoat Magazine, #114 OCT 1993

For her material and labor cost, 
LOOSE MOOSE is a fast, roomy, handy and seaworthy boat, 
as shipshape as a supertanker.
Phil Bolger

It is very often maintained that, when it comes to sailing offshore, A) shoal boats are unseaworthy, and B) square boats are unseaworthy.

In Phil Bolger’s LOOSE MOOSE II (a.k.a. LM2 a.k.a AS39), we have both in one go. Totally rectangular sections. These put her at toward the far end of both the shoal and square spectrum.

Phil Bolger and Friends drew an updated version of LM2 called LE CABOTIN, intended to address hypothetical problems. These changes added complexity, building time and expense. From what I gather, the boats are successful, despite the fixes being arguably unnecessary.

Bob and Sheila Wise commissioned and built the original LM2. They subsequently sailed her in the Mediterranean, the coast of Africa, across the Atlantic and extensively among Carribean Islands, before her tragic loss to lightning strike.

Bob (RLW) shares his experience in the following, reconstructed interview [Bob is quoted from email exchanges with me and forum posts. Punctuation has been added, here and there, for clarity. Brackets signify elision, transitional text or comments added by me. My questions are arranged, after the fact, to simulate an actual interview - DZ]:

DZ:  I've heard second hand reports that LM2, and thus you and Sheila, did not fare well at sea. Yet from your posts around the web, my impression was entirely different. What's the straight scoop?

RWL:  The truth is we loved the boat and while like all boats it had some issues and foibles it always kept us safe and never ever made us feel it was not up to anything Neptune could dish out.

DZ: How was her motion at sea?

RWL: The boat was comfortable and had an easy motion while sailing and at anchor it did not roll... We both remember days when other boats [' crew] in rough anchorages would be crawling on hands and knees up to their foredeck to check for chafe on their rodes and Sheila and I would be sewing flags or doing woodwork project... square boats don't roll.

DZ: But don’t flat bottom boats pound, especially with that exposed portion toward the bow?

By my reckoning we spent something like over 2500 nights at anchor and not once did we experience slamming of the hull at anchor to a point that it was problematic.

DZ: LM2 was rigged with a single, unstayed gaff main, a departure from the cat yawls Phil favored in that period (e.g., the AS29 was designed as a gaff, cat yawl). Did you sail to windward often, and how did she perform on the wind?

RWL: I was frankly very surprised with LM2's windward ability which was no bad thing as we seemed to sail to windward a lot. With only a foot of draft, an off-centerboard and a gaff cat rig we often outpointed Moody's and other European boats. Truth is we never ever had a boat pass us going to windward that did not have it's engine on...On a reach they'd have the advantage but downwind we left them behind.

Did you encounter storm force weather? How did LM2 handle in heavy conditions?

While we were doing our circumnavigation of the Med we had three serious storms/weather situations that left me somewhat shaken because the storms were scary but left me with nothing but good feelings about the boat and a renewed belief that extreme shoal draft is much safer than a any boat with a keel.

The worst storm (a force ten with 40-50 foot seas so closely spaced that it was more akin to riding an elevator up and down and up again than sailing) was a recipe for a knockdown or capsize situation and if we had been in the boat I'm sitting on right now (CAL 34) I'm sure we would have been knocked down or worse rolled but on LM2 with our board up and two reefs in we never once had even a close call.

DZ: So reports of problems with LM2 did not originate with you?

RWL: The scary thing is while we were busy sailing LM2 around the Med, down to the East coast of Africa and up the Gambia River folks were telling stories about LM2 as it had been featured in Wooden Boat and folks do like to tell a story... The fact that we were incommunicado only seemed to fuel the fire.

When the couple who had commissioned Phil and Susanne [...] to redesign LM2 into ANEMONE [ex LE CABOTIN] called us up out of the blue with questions about the performance of LM2. They were actually the first folks who had asked us stuff other than the usual dockside that's a weird fucking boat two step.

They then proceeded to tell us all of the issues they were having Phil/Susanne fix on LM2 and we were in a kind of "But it does not do that" and "Nope that was not a problem" and "WTF"?

Anyway the short version is just about every improvement for ANEMONE was based on a perceived problem that simply did not exist.

DZ: Do you have any problems to report?

The fact is that the only issue I had with the boat was Phil designed the rudder a bit too small and as a result we had a bit too much weather helm for my liking... When we reached the Canaries and finally found out we had been in Wooden Boat ( a year and a half later) we wrote Phil told him he had designed an awesome boat but about the weather helm... Two weeks later we got [a letter from] Phil who admitted that in point of fact he had had a sneaking suspicion that the rudder may have been a kiss too small and sketched out three fixes for the problem ( adding a couple of skegs, an increased rudder using a second set of wings on the wing, and using a jib).

Any last words?

One of the things we have noticed is that almost all of the changes to the newer version of LOOSE MOOSE 2 were all about fixing problems with the design that in fact were not a problem at all but simply an inexperienced builder/sailor listening to too many dock side wags making pronouncements about boats with flat bottoms and so on. So strong is that kind of word of mouth that in fact even the designer began to doubt his own work. None of the word of mouth being from anyone who actually sailed on the design...

The scow front [a.k.a. flat bow transom] was another non issue and the list goes on.

By no means was LOOSE MOOSE 2 a perfect boat (none ever are...) but for a boat built within a six month time span on a bare bones budget it has done exceptionally well... and is still greatly missed!

***** End of Interview *****

Anke and I have sailed nearly 15 years aboard ZOON (AS19) and LUNA (AS31) in Puget Sound, WA and SE Alaska. We're now sailing an even more square barge (SLACKTIDE, T26x7).

Everything Bob says dovetails with our inshore experience, blow high, blow low.

Conclusions? A) SHOAL boats ARE seaworthy. B) SQUARE boats ARE seaworthy.


A good look at the bottom in question.


  1. Always wanted more information on AS39s oceangoing ability. This puts the coffin nails in hearsay regarding Loose Mooses voyages. Wish this interview had gone even farther in depth on such things as scantlings (as per plans exactly?), ground tackle used, alternate rigs that might work better (cat lugsail rig?), etc.. Dovetails with catamaran folks findings on heaving to behavior of extreme shoal draft craft. Begs the question: how would a seagoing triloboat behave? Maybe a longer and leaner one. With beefed up construction?

  2. Ah, Gomez, you're asking for a book, not a post! :)

    Some pointers, though: BOAT BITS (one of the blogs listed on the sidebar) is Bob Wise's blog. You can contact him via

    The folks at ParaTech ( developed a huge database for hulls of all types, with and without the use of sea anchors.

    RE TRILOBOAT scantlings... If using the framed scantlings shown in the StudyPLANs, they're more than adequate for going to sea. They're sized for quick build with 2x framing (easy to hit without careful placement). The gluing/fastening area is far in excess of standard for boats in the available sizes.

    That being said, I still would not choose a TRILOBOAT if my INTENTION were to go to offshore. The AS hulls have a big advantage in that their end transoms are relatively narrow in comparison to TRILOBOATS. Their edges being farther outboard, when heeled or in confused seas TRILOBOAT transoms will contact green water far sooner than AS transoms, and loose far more energy in the encounter.

    There are several scows (very similar to TRILOBOATS) trading between far-flung Polynesian Islands... I've yet to track one of their crew down, but THAT would make an interesting, follow-up interview!

  3. A very good "interview". I've built a couple square boats and ALWAYS get comments from those who have no experience, but are VERY sure they are right. Bryan

  4. Always good to get information from 'the Horse's Mouth', rather than the other end! 8D

  5. I'd be interested in knowing why Luna no longer met your needs, since she is from the same family as Loose Moose, and was already built? What are the pros and cons of the Triloboat family vs the Advanced Sharpie family? As always, enjoy your being a provocateur :)

  6. Hi John,

    First I'd say that we'd build another AS without hesitation. I think they're superior to TRILOBOATS as sailors(upcoming post).

    TRILOBOATS sail well enough for our needs, however, and are MUCH faster to build. They have a lot more displacement, interior volume and deck-space on given dimensions.

    Here's the full skinny at LUNA's FAQ Page, The gist is that the problems with LUNA, while minor, were all the result of our decisions, and NOT with the design.

    Another item, not mentioned in the FAQ is that, I didn't have any experience sailing a full-sized TRILOBOAT. Since I'm putting info out there, I want to have a reality check available. 8)