|From WoodenBoat Magazine, #114 OCT 1993|
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?
RWL: 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.
DZ: Did you encounter storm force weather? How did LM2 handle in heavy conditions?
RWL: 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?
RWL: 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).
DZ: Any last words?
RWL: 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!
Everything Bob says dovetails with our inshore experience, blow high, blow low.
Conclusions? A) SHOAL boats ARE seaworthy. B) SQUARE boats ARE seaworthy.