24ft x 5/4ft x 6in
~1000lbs dry / ~2000lbs loaded
Returning from the Venture
Photo by Bruce Simonson
Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future…
– From Fly Like an Eagle by Steve Miller
Time's Winged Chariot. Hopefully.
I’ve been musing aloud, as it were, in posts about sailing against the entropic wind (aging).
So we worked out a plan, built a vessel (S/V MUSTELID), and took it out for a spin. Four months and upwards of 500nm later we’re pleased with the results. Despite several stretches of conditions we wouldn’t have chosen to venture into, she took all in stride.
The trip included some big water passages with wind ranging from calm to about 35kts (in sustained gusts) and seas from flat to about 10ft (max, over 7ft predominant). Despite bouts of cotton mouth and some pucker factor, it felt safe and capable in every situation.
Mostly, though, there was a lot of reasonably efficient rowing over flat water. At a relaxed saunter, we moved along at 1.5kts. A sustainable, all-day pace averaged about 2kts (longest day was about 14hrs rowing!). In a sprint we moved along about 2.75kts (we could keep this up for about an hour before falling back to sustainable). Accordingly, our strategy was - as expected - to generally row in light conditions or wait for a fair wind.
All told, the smaller vessel was able to take us faster / farther with less effort than our larger cruiser. Lost in trade were the full comforts of home for the adequate comforts of a camper-cruiser. Most of the trip we foraged hand-to-mouth with a backbone of carbs, which let us sail remote for extended periods, beyond what we could carry in provisions.
Our priorities for the design were as follows:
Cheap and easy construction (‘cuz… well… we’re cheap and easy!)
Positive buoyancy (best way not to go down with the ship is don’t let the ship go down!)
Decent, high stability sailing (our waters are cold… we don’t want to flip)
On-board self-rescue (if we do suffer knockdown, we want to right it from on-board)
Good carrying capacity (to carry food and tools for extended trips)
Decent rowing (the wind is free; our hp ain’t)
Retractable rudder / LR (easy beaching)
Good offwind sailing (under easy to stow and handle rig)
Some onwind sailing (ditto… any windward ability is gravy)
Allowance for outboard motor (who knows?)
Shelter aboard without set-up (torrential rains after long days)
Wood-fire galley (dry heat, fuel gathered as we go)
Double berth (important for couples)
After much juggling and balancing, we came up with:
‘Flattie’ hull (flat bottom, moderate flare, moderate full-length rocker)
Sampan bow (good foredeck, easy, secure beaching)
Parallel runs aft (easy construction above and below sheer)
Spread chines (increased stability, displacement, interior volume)
Fixed shelter (no need to set up dry quarters, improved heat retention)
High reserve buoyancy (for knock-down recovery)
Telescoping hatches (mount large PV array)
Water-tight stowage fore, aft and in cockpit (positive buoyancy)
Double station rowing cockpit with rolling seats (efficient, open-air rowing)
Ljungstrom / Holopuni Quick Rig extensible hybrid (easy set, strike, reef, handling)
There’s a lot more - this boat got mutted with years of ideas accumulated over the years - but this’ll do for now.
The upshot is, we met or exceeded all of our expectations, and got some insights toward improving windward sailing (which was unexpectedly worth improving!).
At the design level, we were quite happy with trade-offs (compromise among opposing values).
The hull design is 'tightly coupled'. For example, increasing the carrying capacity (as we might wish), would ramify throughout the hull, impacting several other priorities. Deepening draft would exceed the 2ft side panel limit (materials savings) or reduce freeboard (reducing reserve buoyancy, changing oar angles), reducing forward flair and increasing sleeping platform curvature (hard on the back). And though we might wish to carry more on occasion, the half-ton we have proved ample.
In particular, the flared hull was a departure for us from vertical sides. But in this case, it allowed higher ends and rocker on a narrow panel, added spray deflection for the low sided, open cockpit and preserves reserve buoyancy despite narrowing toward the bow (reducing windage and wetted surface). It adds reserve buoyancy from about mid-ships aft, flaring as it does from the full, 4ft bottom. As a bonus, the flair is much more comfortable to lean against within the minimal interior, and gives extra elbow room at sheer level. All in all, we feel this paid for itself for this particular design.
If we were to change one thing, we would consider making the transom vertical. It's 12deg rake looks better (vanity) and accepts a square motor mount (marginal advantage). A vertical transom would allow aft beaching legs for leveling the boat on a sloped beach, increase the waterline length (marginal speed / displacement / stability increase) and simplify construction.
Rig-wise, we added a small driver aft to help keep the bow into stronger winds while rowing into them. This reduced steering effort from the sweeps, freeing them for the power stroke. Otherwise, the tendency was to blow flat, perpendicular to the wind.
Odd ideas that worked out well:
OffCenterBoards stow inboard, vertically against the sides. At anchor, they may be laid flat on cockpit cleats to form a large platform for outdoor workspace, sleeping or picnic.
A longitudinal locker / seat, cleated P&S, allows rolling seats for leg-powered rowing. These were DIYed ‘double-rolling’ style without bearings (which are vulnerable to salt water).
‘Spacered outwales’ were built heavy to take ‘accessorized’ mounts for cleats, OCB hangers, whipstaff, and what-have-you.
Six identical sails are leg-o’-mutton (triangular) and join along luff and leech for a variety of sailplans, tarps or tipis. Worked well for the most part… might upgrade to a shaped mid-ship sail for improved windward ability.
Looking back, the high count of cockamamy ideas not only worked individually, but worked well together.
The fixed shelter eased the ends of long days and made a fine hang-out during the generally cool, wet summer, punctuated by several ‘atmospheric rivers’. It’s rocket stove heated the cabin quickly and safely and cooked many’s the delicious meal. While we never had to try its self-righting feature, it was several times reassuring to know it was at hand.
Our hope is that with this vessel as our older-age auxiliary, we’ll be able to use it as a forager for our cruising home which we expect in turn to become more sedentary over the years. This trip proved to us that the smaller vessel gives us a high bar for adventure while we’re able, with plenty of room to downsize as ability declines.
Time will tell!
Plain sail Ljungstrom Ketch
|Long-haul tri-mode Schooner (As yet untried)|