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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, and wrote about it's design and construction at

Access to the net comes and goes, so I'll be writing in fits and spurts.Please feel free to browse the archives, leave comments where you will and write... I'll respond as I can.

Fair winds!

Dave and Anke
triloboats swirly gmail daughter com

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Phil Bolger: In Memoriam

Susanne Altenburger and Phil Bolger

 “Any fool can make something complicated. It takes a genius to make it simple.”

“If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn't call it genius. ”

Phillip C. Bolger: In Memorium

While I never met Phil and we only exchanged a couple of letters, I loved the man.

To me he is a font of ingenuity and inspiration. His love of KISS sailing and ultra-shoal draft inspired and informed my own.

I've heard him called arrogant, an iconoclast, lacking in aesthetics... I beg to differ. Folks of this persuasion have only usually  been exposed to some narrow slice of his extraordinarily rich spectrum. Taste a wider swathe, and one can't fail to see the humorful humility, reverence for tradition and passion for beauty that Phil personified.

That, and they have perhaps failed to adjust their reaction for EastCoast / Gloucester cultural modes of expression. Opinions are expressed forefully, in these parts. Phil had no more penetrating critic than himself, and he often turned his wry (Gloucesterian) humor on himself and his own works.

I'll also add that, while I'm writing solely of Phil, here, I'm thinking as well of his partner, Susanne Altenburger whom we had the pleasure to meet in 2012. She and Phil collaborated in his latter years and has earned much of the praise I'll be heaping, here.


Phil's Square Boats garnered Phil derision and dismissal form traditionalists. In them he is like the first, classically trained painters exploring Cubist expression... vessels such as YARROW and ROSE and even the GLOUCESTER GULL attest to his mastery of traditional virtues, while his 'Cubist' vessels are works of ground-breaking genius.

Yarn 1:

Father/Daughter friends of ours built a Bolger BRICK (shaped about as it sounds). They brought it out to Tenakee, AK for a messabout. All day, they sailed circles around the rest of us, including respected designs of similar size by Devlin, Hess and a TORO!

Later, back East, our friend rowed up to the HMS ROSE (the Bolger tall ship used in the movie, Master and Commander). The Engineer (as it turns out) stuck his head over the side and began to run the BRICK and that Bolger down, down, down. Finally, my confused friend asked whether he was aware that HMS ROSE was herself a Bolger design? The poor man's still in therapy!

A picture was taken of the BRICK in HMS ROSE's foreground, and a T-shirt printed, captioned, "Which is the Bolger Boat?"

Yarn 2:

We launched ZOON (ex Bolger LONG MICRO) in Port Townsend, Washington during their annual Wooden Boat Festival.

Sailing forth, we trimmed in and picked up to a fast clip for our size.... woo hoo!  We soon zipped through a fleet of traditional yachts, glistening with varnish.

Among them, the ADVENTURESS -- one of the big schooners -- crossed tacks with us. Must've been a hundred or so people lining her rail, staring at us and... um... frowning.

But as she drew abreast, one guy in the middle hoists his fist and shouts, PHIL BOLGER FOREVER!!!  All heads snapped as one, as if choreographed, to this brave, lone soul.

We stood by for Man Over-Board! But fortunately, today's traditionalists are largely SNAGs (Sensitive New Age Guys/Gals), and he was spared.


Phil's Works

Phil isn't one to let dogma (even his own!) get the upper hand, and he constantly reviewed, critiqued and expanded his ideas. He wrote many books containing complete designs, and articles -- many in the form of 'cartoons' (gedankenexperimenten, you might say) -- as well as a design portfolio in the neighborhood of eight hundred boats!

101 Small Boat Rigs stands out as an annotated survey for anyone contemplating a choice of rigging.

Boats with an Open Mind contains a broad range of Phil's later designs in which his concepts have been highly refined.

To get a glimps of the range of Phil's opus, check out Bruce Hallman's Facebook Page.

Bow Steering Keel Sharpie with Wheelchair Access

Technical Genius

How does one measure genius? Useful Innovation is a pretty good criterion.

Phil came up with a number of designs which combine more or less well known elements into revolutionary arrangements of high synergy. In other words, he gets these elements to work exceptionally well together with sum greater than parts. Many of these, in addition, incorporate entirely novel aspects.

The following represent what I feel to be Phil's Hall of Fame (a power boater might notice others I've missed):

Advanced Sharpie (AS) Concept -- I think of these as 'box sharpies'... they have rectangular sections which eliminate longitudinal bevels, simplifying construction immensely. Bottom and side curvature are matched in plan and profile view, reducing or eliminating cross-chine flow / turbulence, which in turn reduces drag. The bottom is carried well clear of the waterline, fore and aft; this reduces waterline length, when upright, for nimble tacks. As the hull heels, the waterline increases for higher hull speeds.

The AS concept -- incorportated in several of Phil's designs -- puts 'thoroughbred' performance in reach of the most ham-fisted builder!

To my mind, this approach improves on the intentions of the Herreschof MEADOWLARK, which was designed as a reasonably performing vessel in reach of the amateur builder. In comparison, AS hulls are much easier to build and perform better.

ST. VALERIE / VOLUNTEER Concept -- These designs feature a narrowish, rockered, plate bottom which can be built and armored with sheet materials. Sides are simple curves which may be simply built using, say, Reuel Parkers Quick- and New Cold-Molding approaches.

This approach benefits from flat and curvy advantages while keeping the latter in check.

ROMP / MANATEE Concept -- These are Curvy Dogs... rounded barge mid-sections drawn out to fine ends (as opposed to typically bluff barge ends). Ultra-shoal, very stable (a barge's form stability) and slippery fast (rounded chines and buttock lines).

In my opinion, as cruising hulls these eclipse the revered Monroe PRESTOs with increased stability and load-carrying capacity. Phil considered this type to be his successor to the Herreschoff MEADOWLARK, as a competent cruiser which could be built by amateurs.

I personally consider AS or VOLUNTEER types are even better candidates. But that's three Bolger upgrades to Herreshof's worthy goal!

BIRDWATCHER Concept -- In this type, the superstructure is composed largely of (plexi)glass and built water-tight to a midships, longitudinal gangway. This allows beam-ends knock-downs to be taken in stride, with self-righting by the crew from within the hull. Typically, such hulls can have little to no ballast, reducing overall weight for speed underway and trailering.

This concept has brought shelter, comfort and a quantum leap in safety to small, previously open cruisers. The approach may be applied to larger cruisers, as well.

Step-Sharpie Concept -- This approach stacks a wide sharpie hull over a narrow one (somewhat like a very wide, hollow keel). The lower hull acts as a cutwater, keel and provides headroom and storage.

Many have filled the lower space with battery banks to abet electric driven auxiliary power.

'Instant Boats' -- Collaborating with Dynamite Payson (Phil drew the designs; Dynamite prototyped them), he drew up a fleet of small boats requiring minimal lofting (plywood panel shapes are lofted directly on the material) and no jigs or molds (the frames and planking shape the boat).

Phil didn't like the term, but it did represent a big leap in construction ease. This has since become pretty much the norm for 'developed' hulls (made from sheet materials).



Aesthetic Genius

Phil's aesthetics have been roundly derogated, in certain circles, and lauded to the skies in others.

There is common ground, however... I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't admire a GLOUCESTER GULL (the light, plywood rowing dory Phil considered his 'ticket to heaven'). At wooden boat festivals, YARROW draws appreciation from many who hold his square boats in contempt. And the HMS ROSE is, of course, a Hollywood Star.

Being a work-boat kind of a guy, the beauty of function appeals to me. Many of Phil's design aesthetics reflect the notion that handsome is as handsome does. When form fits function, I believe, a deeper beauty emerges, to which varnish and a 'sweet sheer' is only surface effect.

In my opinion, Phil mastered both aspects.

My Personal Debt

The first home we built was ZOON (AS19.5ft x 6.5ft x 10in), ex Phil's LONG MICRO. It was only s'posed to be a short-term, winter cruiser, but a long story moved us aboard for three happy years. Its simple lines gave us rank beginners the courage to build our own.

We liked the type so much, we drew up LUNA (AS31ft x 8ft x 1ft), which we built and lived aboard for twelve years. The AS hull concept gave us the courage to design our own.

My TRILOBYTE (T16x4) was based on the BIRDWATCHER concept, which adapted readily to a box-barge hull. This begat the line of TriloBoats, which also owes inspiration to AS concepts.

We've also built two GLOUCESTER GULLS and a NYMPH as tenders. We've used or adapted several of the concepts prominent in Phil's designs (right-angle construction, free-standing masts in tabernacles, sprit-boomed mizzens, boomkins, copper plate, large windows, parallel chine/sheer).

If this wasn't enough, my brother built SELKIE, ex MARTHA JANE, and my sister now owns THEGREATSEA, ex DOUBLE EAGLE. This doesn't even mention good times had aboard Phil's designs built by many other friends.

Fair Winds to a Friend

Toward the end, Phil felt his mind begin to slip. To one whose every waking moment was illuminated by intellect, this was intolerable, and he chose to lay down life by his own hand. Courageous and Libertarian to the end.

To me, Phil was a Mentor and Inspiration. In ways that are hard to express, I felt him to be a Friend. A fellow Wingnut in the Wide World of Boats. Someone I turn to with a problem, and find, if not an answer, at least an approach and the courage to attempt the solution.

Did I mention that I loved the man?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Might and Main: Tactics for Engine-Free Sailboats

Hear no EngineSee no Engine, Smell no Engine.

A sailor's task is to make his/her boat move.
-- Paraphrased from Tristan Jones

Might and Main: Tactics for Engine-Free Sailboats

OKAY. I ADMIT IT! Engines are pretty handy things!

At the same time, they're expensive, hungry, noisy, smelly, needy beasts with big feet. The effort they save in boat handling is offset by effort in labor (to pay for them, their accessories, parts and fuel). And yada, yada, yada... in our lives, we calculate the offset to represent a net loss.

When engines fail (as they do), many vessels feel themselves to be dead-in-the-water. I'm embarrassed (as a sailor) to hear Maydays from sailboats who've 'suffered' engine failure or run out of fuel. I'm concerned for power boaters -- many with zero-redundancy -- who find themselves helpless (at best) and/or endangered through lack of alternatives.

We're often asked if we don't want an engine for safety. Answer is No; we develop more power than we need under sail. We reef to dump power when things whump up. Otherwise, no emergency. Their one possible safety advantage would be for scampering into shelter in 'the calm that precedes the storm'. Still, in a third century practicing defensive sailing in the Pacific NW, we've never gotten caught out.

Engines answer three basic needs; propulsion, maneuvering and backing down to set anchor. If we're going to get around with out 'em, we have to find other ways to get along. None of these means are new, but have scattered and dimmed since the Age of Sail.


Sailboats come alive when the wind blows. Sailing techniques are well known and documented, even unto anchoring and approaching docks under sail. I'll only mention such techniques as seem less familiar, here.

Rowing / Sculling  -- On board we might have one or two oars over the side, or a sculling oar over the stern. These are big guys; stowage, deployment,  use and stowage again take crafty thought.

Two oars make for a 'sword-dance' of the cockpit, and resist quick set-up and take-down. One oar is better, but wants to turn the vessel, which tendency can by countered by rudder once steerageway is attained.

Sculling oars are effective, leave the cockpit relatively uncluttered and can be let go of without shipping (for sail-handling, say). They turn the boat effectively and work well in tight quarters.

Poling -- In shallow waters, the mighty pole can be used for propulsion, to force a tack, and even - with the fat end out - as an oar to supplement the main set. With a soft cover for the tip, it can fend off the fancyboats. With other, sleeved and fixed accessories, it could be a bladed oar, pike pole, crab rake, net, or ???

Kedging -- This is using anchors like hands to grab the bottom, and their rode like arms to pull us along.

To begin, set one anchor as close to your destination as possible in the circumstances, and lie to it on short scope. Row out a second anchor on a long rode, pulling the first as you pass it by. Repeat as often as necessary.

More complicated maneuvers can be executed (zigs and zags). 

In some cases, you might want to Kedge between two anchors for better control, buoying and slipping the one behind for later retrieval, or as a fixed point for your future exit.

Warping -- This is like Tarzan, swinging from vine to vine. Except we hang the vines and never let go! The vines, in our case, are lines, aka warps, when used in this manner.

With this technique, we move from one fixed point to another. Fix a line at the next reachable point (walk, throw or row it). Recover your last line and haul in on this one. Repeat.

Warping is handy for gusty approaches to a dock... anchor in clear water, close in, and then row a line over to the cleat, or merely throw it to a crew-member who's rowed in ahead. Consider a grapnel, to get a hold when short-handed.

Multiple lines can be used at once to control drift set or make turns, etc.. Take your time to work out a plan for your conditions, and make sure everyone understands what's to happen.

Kedging and Warping are often useful for wriggling deep into a harbor's dock/finger layout. Harbors are usually built on shallow, first class anchoring bottom. On occasion, you might want to trail a dredge to limit your swing in tight quarters. Be aware that lots of junk can accumulate on the bottoms of some harbors. Often the Harbormaster can advise you, ahead of time.

-- In this method, the tender (aka 'yawl-boat') is used to tow, push with its bow, or tie alongside (use good springlines!) to transfer thrust to our cruiser. This method is still used by many schooners of the Northeast coasts.

The tender can be equipped with an engine. It has power for long runs away from an anchorage, while a sailboat proper will function better without engine accommodations and prop drag. The combination is perhaps not quite as turn-key, but more versatile.

Pedal Power -- Various units can use your strong leg muscles to move faster than arm powered oar/scull speed. They take up space and don't have that righteous, organic feel, but we like it well enough.

Two commercial systems that intrigue are the Sea-Cycle Drive Unit and the Hobie Mirage Drive.


Sailing Backwards -- Reverse is very handy for coming out of irons, fine-tuning anchor drops, positioning in current-against-headwind, slowing in a headwind (beating into a slip, say)... even parallel parking,

The basic method is to back a sail. Headsails (the well known method) affect the bow, while Aftsails affect the stern... by manipulating them, we can spin a vessel around her CLR (Center of Lateral Resistance). The farther ahead or abaft a sail's CE (Center of Effort), relative to the CLR, the more effectively it can be used for spinning the boat.

A fine point to keep in mind is that a backed sail can be trimmed to the wind -- just as if it were sailing forward -- for optimal effect. Consider where its force vectors point to get a better picture of cause and effect.

The rudder, too, is used in backing down; it pushes the stern one way or the other (reversed from forward operation), and still needs steerageway to be effective. Pump it at stand-still, if necessary.

Ketches, Yawls and the odd three+masted Schooner  facilitate sailing backwards, and maneuvering in general.  Each has a sail set well aft of the CLR (the point around which a vessel spins). It can be backed from the cockpit all the way to the beam (hard to do with a headsail). With an extra person, both fore and aft sails can be backed opposite one another to spin the boat on a dime.

If not wishing to fall off, alternate sides to keep the vessel fairly close to head-to-wind. Once you fall beam-to, steerage-way is lost and hull windage picks up to the point that recovery takes (possibly) valuable time. Or, if you've got an after sail, sheet it tight (to keep head to wind) and back a headsail. On many vessels, it's almost impossible to fall far off the wind with a strapped in aftersail.

Crabbing -- Similar to sailing backwards, but more sideways. Can be used for veering out a second anchor and positioning. Sails are backed opposite where you wish to go. At anchor, you'll crab out along your swing radius, while when sailing free, you'll crab aft and over. Watch your ranges to keep track of progress.

Sheering -- Similar to Crabbing, but uses current instead of wind. Use any tool (sails, rudder, pole, oars, tender) to cock the hull to the current. If you've got the power to match the current, you will sheer sideways; with less, you will sheer aft and across.

Note that a rudder often develops steerage-way in a current, so long as you are moving relative to the water. A following or headwind (back the rudder in this case), anchor, or propulsion can provide this relative motion.

This technique may be useful at anchor. One night we'd managed to sound in several reassuring pot-holes before anchoring along the edge of a high current channel. We woke at low tide, cheek on jowl with a long reef!. By cocking the rudder (which has steerageway when anchored in a current) and letting the rode run from mid-ships (to control angle of hull), we sheered away from the reef to deeper water (where we dropped a second, swing limiting anchor).

Lee Bowing -- Here, one tacks across a current running from the lee side. Current counters leeway, while sheer effect increases drive at right angles to the current. Used strategically (often timed for tidal currents) it can shave many's the mile from a traverse.

Dredging -- This is adapted from a technique used by (at least) Thames Barge sailors. To slow down on a down-wind approach, a shot of chain is payed out over the stern, which drags along the bottom. Drag is adjusted by more or less chain. The real deal used an iron sled (the dredge) at the end.

The advantage is that a (time consuming) reef may be avoided, and more sail power is available for maneuvers, should they become necessary.


Classic Set -- Sail or scull up to the drop point, rounding into the wind. Drop. Fall back paying out rode and make fast at desired scope (adjusted upward for tide range).

Problem is, a snug harbor will seldom have enough wind/current to provide enough force to set the anchor firmly. So we tend to use a disreputable method...

Downwind Set -- Run down on the drop point. Drop. Turn up about 10deg (as if the boat were a cleat for the rode) while paying out rode (in clear water, you can see it paying out to one side). Make fast on long scope. DOINK (sudden, lurching stop and/or round-up)! Pull back to desired scope.

The 10deg angle delivers a goodly amount of force to anchor, while safely dumping any excess with a quick round-up. In strong conditions, this can be dramatic, so hang on! Wider angles dump more force, while an in-line DOINK (for light conditions) sends everything available to the anchor. Consider adjusting according to conditions.

The idea, here, is to get the boat moving -- if no wind, row, tow, etc. -- and use its inertia to set the anchor at the DOINK-point (for a preddygooddoink). Unfortunately, in light or no wind, sculling in high gear is a tough slog. A mushy doink means consider reset.

CAUTION: In-line, downwind sets can be positively dangerous at high speed-over-the-ground, which has given this useful technique a bad name. We use the verbal caution, "StandyBy for RoundUp!" to remind crew to hold tight.

Jerk Set --  Fall back on the anchor rode. Pull like crazy until the line comes taut -- you may have to repeat this a few times until the rode straightens out -- then give it several, hard jerks. If it skips and jumps (you'll feel it through the line), reset / retry / combine techniques until satisfied.

Here, we're trying to use the at-rest inertia of the boat to pull against the anchor. If you haul line too slowly or jerk too often, the boat accelerates toward the anchor and reduces the force you exert on it. In no wind/current you get one, smooth shot at this. Otherwise, just fall back and try again.

Consider rechecking holding if and when a wind or current arises.

Two Anchor Set -- This is the most reliable, and I recommend it if you think the holding's iffy.

Drop two anchors in a line oriented across expected conditions, pull to the middle and set them against one another. If you're hauling in line, at least one is dragging (feel each line while pulling to determine which... you can feel it skipping). If necessary, pull the laggard and reset until both are holding fast.

Once set, one anchor can be retrieved, or we can sit in the middle (limits swing radius) or fall back to V out our rodes on long scope (for a big blow).

Consider that both rodes need adequate scope. If one is short, make sure the other is set against expected trouble.

Pulling the Anchor -- If an anchor gets stuck, it may be sailed out, hauled out with mechanical advantage (using onboard gear such as winches, haulyards, etc.) or pulled with the tide. This last is slow, but mighty powerful... consider tying on with a tow-boat hitch, in case your deck starts to pop before the anchor pulls!


So that's a pretty versatile set. They can be combined, and often are. They work well, and aren't prone to failure at a critical moment (do take care that your anchors are set, however). They layer redundancy for 'safety-in-depth'. All of the gear is likely on board already, or useful to acquire.

What's not to like?

Monday, June 10, 2013

An Arc of Arks: Comparing Hull Shapes

An Arc of Arks: Comparing Hull Shapes

Let's suppose, for a moment, that all single, displacement (non-planing) hull shapes are related, and that their relatedness can be ordered by Complexity. For our musings, we won't insist on rigor. Generalities and approximations will suffice. In other words; pull on yer hip waders!

Complexity forms the axis of the cone, above; it is least at the apex and greatest toward the base. Complexity is ordered, here, by geometry, but implies an order of construction effort. Additional hull shape increases lofting, number of parts, shaping and joining; the more complex the hull, the more effort must be expended to achieve it. 

If you prefer, you can see the cone as the space enclosing a Family Tree, tracing from a single ancestor.

Who is that ancestor? We need a reference... some point of origin, from which all others are descended. Simplicity, ground zero. I propose the simple Box; the humble float, dock or swim-platform. If we can build a watertight box, we've already arrived.

Along the left side of the illustration, I've listed features which I feel to represent a leap of of Complexity. Each is matched to the right by select exemplars. The diameter of the cone represents the increasing range of Options. As each new level of Complexity may be combined with all previous ones, our range of possibility widens.


TriloBoats, PDRacers and Thiel Barges are all what I think of as Box Barges; the basic vessel. The problem with our Box, as a vessel, is that it will plow water when it tries to move. So we we slice a wedge from the underside at each end (curved or straigh cuts). Ecco! We mutter with Gallileo, oppure se muove! But it moves!!

Box Barges are highly constrained... there's only so much you can do with Profile Curve, and the range of Options is small (represented by the diameter of the cone ate any, given level). One hull looks very similar to the next.

By the time Plan View Curve and Flare have been added, hulls are starting to differentiate themselves substantially, one from another. By the bottom of the cone, all practical shapes are included (at least given current, hydrodynamic theory), with all the variety of vessels afloat and on the board.

Most, if not all, successful hulls lie somewhere within this cone, regardless of whether they evolved or were designed.

I speculate that hulls beyond this line are beginning to show diminishing returns. Get much (or any) curvier, and construction complexity increases with little benefit. This may be why we don't (often) see hulls with (intentional) bumps, sumps and saddles. A fair hull is, in practice, constrained to a relatively small set of curves.

So, the question arises; does increased Complexity imply increased Performance? I would argue No.

I see Performance as contextual. A context that requires shoal draft will not be helped by the addition of a ballast keel, no matter what its virtues in other contexts. One that calls for amateur fincancing and construction may never materialize if compound, complex curves are involved. The Box itself may perform optimally, out-performing alternatives in the the context of a dock, or stationary houseboat.

Successful vessels appear at every level of Complexity. All are high-Performance, by my lights. Shape matching function and purpose.

Let's take a typical Performance criterion, hull speed, as an example. The upper limit for displacement hull speed is solely a function of waterline length. Among hulls of a given length, hull speed is constant regardless of shape or Complexity. 

Shape influences the amount of energy required to reach that upper limit, and speed made good to windward is an important twist. Still, no displacement hull exceeds its hull speed (for long), and hull speed is simply a function of length.

Given generally low displacement speeds, this is a matter of nuance.

An equivalent Hess CUTTER (inspired by British Pilot Cutters) sailing against a Parker SHARPIE will win the race under some conditions, but not others. The difference of their times will not be large, relative to their common hull speed. Other factors than hull shape tend be decisive. Wind and sea conditions, crew competence, rig and draft vs. lateral resistance all come to mind. But only that. The skipper of a planing hull would consider both to be hopelessly slow.

Is hull speed a sufficient standard for Performance? Only if all else is equal, and it very seldom is. Hull speed is but one factor weighed against  others in the context of use. The very fastest hulls generally make poor cruisers for couples. We constantly trade one virtue for another, according to our priorities.

And the moral is? Hmm. None, really.

I love all the examples I listed, and many I didn't, each for their own reasons. Anke and my context tends toward the Square Boat end. Their performance has met our every need. Oh, sure... if we had a magic wand, our dreamboat (ROMP-like) is high up the scale. If we had eternity stretching before us, we'd sail them all.

But, as a parting thought, if one were to impose a Bang-for-the Buck scale, things look a little different. Replacing Complexity with Bucks (representing time, effort, expense, etc.) doesn't change the conic distribution.  Bucks increase with Complexityl

Bang, however, is more or less a constant. Boats are fun, pure and simple. We don't get more fun with hull Complexity. Ask any Puddle Duck Racer. Who had more fun; the Pardeys on SERRAFYN or the Hills on BADGER? Or even ourselves on SLACKTIDE? Wrong question.

But clearly, the Bang/Buck ratio is relatively high at the Square Boat end and low among Curvy Dogs.

I'm just sayin'.

PS. The astute may have noticed the absence of multi-hulls. I'd contend that each of their constituent hulls would fall within the cone. Complexity-wise, they represent a leap for connective structures and maybe another for multiplicity of hull, in trade for other virtues. But they make my simple cone Complex. No disrespect intended or felt!

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Opportune Moment

Cartoon by Robert Weber

To everything there is a season,
And a time for every purpose under Heaven.
-- Ecclesiastes

We await the Opportune Moment.
-- Cap'n Jack Sparrow

The Opportune Moment

There be tides a'runnin' the whole world over, as the song goes. Winds blow fair and foul. Sun and rain come and go. Spring turns to summer to autumn into winter, and back again. The cycles of our lives.

Other things flow in one direction, only. Gravity pulls downward -- we must lift or push uphill. Energy flows toward equilibrium -- we must feed the fires. Matter erodes -- we must repair and renew. And we ourselves flow toward the day we die -- we must sieze the day. The very moment.

These are our givens. We work within their constraints. No amount of genius, no amount of effort can alter their sway. All that is done is accomplished with them, or against them.

The ancient Taoists admired water for being in tune with the natural flows of the world. They observed how, without the least effort, water flows into equilibrium... ever in balance. How it is soft, yet stronger than stone. Yeilding without ever being overcome. How, pent, it is patient. They were inspired by water and its way, which they generalized to all things as the Way.

Like water, we can flow at one with the Way of the world, or struggle against it.

Now this doesn't mean that we only flow downhill. It is a metaphor, after all. Those Taoists knew about work in life. They liked mountains, and wandered their high slopes. They liked to be warm, and chopped wood. Liked to drink, and carried water. Liked to eat, and planted, tended, harvested, threshed and winnowed rice. All these entail effort and exertion.

But for every purpose, there is an Opportune Moment. That moment when the Way aligns with action. When the world puts its shoulder to the task, alongside ours. When the work is light and the pace easy. When we have breath enough to sing it along. When it's fun. 

As sailors, we learn to use the wind and tides. Wait for them to come round to our favor. Chart our course along or across them, harnessing their power. Play the eddies they create -- regions of opportunity swirling along their edges, transforming foul to fair.

And we sing! Sing to raise the anchor. Sing to call the wind. Sing to pass the hours underway.

And so it may be in every moment of our lives, if we let it. If we seek out the opportune moment, matching our purpose to the world, and not the other way round. 

If we sieze each moment, and build from them all... the Opportune Life.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

CrabClaw Rig: The T-Modification

See the Crab Claw Sails?
(PS. I couldn't find/read the artist's name... anyone know?

Ahh... Crab Claw Rig! Spread before warm winds, the very wings of a pacific dream! In a thousand forms, they carried the peoples of the Pacific to explore and inhabit seas both wide and wild.

On a fringe of their world, Anke and I got to share a beat of their flight.


A quick overview of CCrig... I don't know the real terms, so I'm making this up:

Generally triangular sails, with limbs along two edges. The leech (by which I mean the unlimbed edge) is opposite the apex (where the limbs converge), and may be hollowed from slightly to extreme.

The theory I've heard is that CC sails generate vortexes near the apex, which then run along the limbs in turbulent balls, generating lift. 

Thus, the mid-fabric can be cut away without much loss (though the amount varies radically). A deep-cut sail will 'self-reef' as the turbulent balls blow off the limbs, reducing drive to the small patch of fabric near the apex.

Shape may be spoiled on any CC by drawing the limbs together, reducing drag.

Camber and draft are more conventionally present, but - I've heard - take a back seat to vortex lift.


This schematic shows some of the evolutions possible along 3 axies.

The problem with (many forms of) traditional CC for lazy sailors is that it's generally set on one side of a mast, and must be shunted across with a fair bit of effort and skill. Not a problem for Poly/Micronesians who are sailors born and bred, and often sail with family-sized crews.

One approach has been the A-Frame mast, but it is relatively heavy and limits the range of motion.

Some genius -- possibly John Rowland, or Art Lane of HSS (Horizontal Sailing Systems)? -- came up with the what I'm calling the 'T-Modification'. 

A yard is set, spanning the Crab Claw limbs. It is fixed to the top of a short mast with a universal joint. Now the sail can rotate around THREE axies (vs the usual one)!! 

Around the vertical axis, it acts like a normal sail -- haul in, let out.

Around the thwartships axis, it may be stood up or laid down!

Around the longships axis, it may be rolled over the top!! 

This last, easy maneuver solves the tacking problem. AND, as the sail approaches horizontal, its force vectors are directed upward, effectively reducing power (converting drive to lift!). AND, in horizontal position, it makes a great bimini / rain-catcher!



TRILOBYTE under Crab Claw
I first saw the T-Mod in a tiny thumbnail in Multihull Magazine whose rigging details were indecipherable. I'd been sketching up a weird little boat called TRILOBYTE (the ancestor of TriloBoats)... it seemed a match made in heaven!

Rigging was tricky, but I was able to combine control of the vertical and longships axies with port and starboard sheets. 

Here's a vid posted by... umm... ra274jags, which shows its workings: 

Anke and I cruised the rig for a couple of months in Sitka Sound. Unfortunately, we were trying out lateral resistance systems that proved insufficient. While we pointed well and developed plenty of drive, we slipped sideways...didn't actually make any progress to windward.

The rig seemed to have the potential for good handling, though when wind picked up and turned gusty, everything happened fast. We never knocked down (which TRILOBYTE is designed to take in stride), but our reactions lagged well behind conditions.

Overall, I consider the modification worthy of exploration as a cruising rig. But I'm not up to it, myself (at least not in cold waters), and we've settled on Junk Rig.

For beginners, I'd say it's either a poor choice (steep learning curve) or a great one (beginners have few preconceptions).

If you're interested, my advice would be to mount a small one on a PDRacer to try it all out, and assume that you'll end up in the water (life jacket and/or wet or drysuit where necessary).

I'd also consider a little yawl type mizzen (aka spanker or dandy) to force a round up to windward. There were several times where we were scratching our heads while racing down or across the wind before figuring it out. Luckily, we had sea-room in those cases!


I get a lot of questions about the universal joint... 

On the prototype, we used a rope grommet, seized in the middle to form a figure 8. The lower loop led through a hole in the top of the mast while the upper loop was fixed around the yard.

In the final plans, I specified a lanyard with its lower end glued into a hole bored vertically into the top of the mast. Its upper, free end is led through a close-fit hole in a plank yard. Stopper knots below and above the plank cushion and fix the yard, respectively. I've not tried this, to date, nor heard any feedback on the system.

I like the idea of a line based joint as it is cheap, quiet, easily inspected and replaced.

Look here for an interesting approach (looks similar to the rigging I worked out, but could be convergent evolution).


So that's what I know and don't know about Crab Claw Rig... 

It's intriguing, powerful, beautiful and likely to dump you if you're not careful!

For more on Crab Claw Rig, start here?