Sunday 26 July 2009

The Orange Boat

The first time we spotted this fantastic orange boat was in Sete, South of France in 2006. She was in the marina along by the sea wall, which made it difficult to get very close and photograph very well.

I was fascinated by the design which has taken many ideas and features from current racing yachts to create a modern and obviously fast cruising boat.
A couple of days later we saw her again in the port of Meze on the Etang ge Thau.
The owners were not on board, and in any case my French isn't that good so we were unable to find out anything about the design or who built her.

Having seen her close up I was even more taken with the design, I especially liked the deck saloon which extended back to provide a shelter for crew in the cockpit.

With twin rudders, steering these wide stern boats can be a problem, especially when heeled, these swivel seats on the stern quarters should provide a comfortable place for the helm or watch keeper.
About eighteen months later at the end of 2008, we were having lunch at the quay at Port Olympic in Barcelona, when the same orange boat sailed in. The marina is enormous and has security gates to prevent access, so we were unable to go and speak to the owner, and no closer to finding out any more about the boat.

Then a couple of weeks ago, Robert Wise posted "Sweet Ride" on his Boat Bits blog, featuring the same orange boat, from the look of the photo's I'm guessing she is somewhere in the Caribbean. Bob kindly replied to my email asking for details, the boat is a Turbo 950, designed by Jean-PierreVillenave who mainly does plywood designs in France (He's also written a couple of boat building books on plywood).
So the mystery is solved, according to my translation the description is of a fast cruiser, built on a moderate budget, there is also a bigger 11 meter version, and for the minimalists there's a Turbo 6.5m

Friday 24 July 2009

Clue's in the title

Seen on the quay at Yarmouth Isle of Wight - made us smile!!

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Rowing in rough weather

The problem with designing something is you’re never sure that you’ve done a good job until it’s been thoroughly tested.
When I designed and built a rowing skiff (Gato Negro) a couple of years ago I wanted a boat which was fast, but one which could also handle rough, coastal waters. The sort of boats I had in mind when I put pencil to paper were John Welsford’s Joansa, Phil Bolger’s Gloucester Light dory, with a bit of a Whitehall and a Cornish flash boat thrown in for good measure.

Last Sunday was very windy, but I needed to go down to our yacht (Greta) and so took the opportunity to see what the rowing skiff was like. Launching at the hard, things didn’t seem too bad, but as soon as I cleared the moorings, I was heading straight into wind which was screeching down the open reach of the river. To give you an idea of the conditions, I only made progress on the stroke, the combined wind and frequent, nasty little waves held her back unless I was pulling on the oars. Every time there was a lull, I’d row like mad to make progress only to be stopped again while the next gusts came through.

Although the midsection design started off something like a Swampscott dory, I put some dead rise in the bottom planks, partly to make the mid section more rounded for speed and partly because I simply don’t like flat bottomed boats (apologies to those who do, it’s a personal thing). The topsides have quite a bit of flare (picked that up from dory design). It all comes together in a sharp, raked bow, which I thought would be good even at the cost of waterline length.

Overall it worked really well, fine bows cutting through the chop and pushing the spray aside, keeping things pretty dry. I previously have been concerned by slamming in big waves (and especially motor boat wash – although there were none to be seen on Sunday!). Back in June, Gavin Atkins had some interesting pictures on his “In the Boatshed” blog; of a boat rowing through rough sea, it was really useful to see how the boat worked in those conditions, something you clearly can’t do when you’re rowing your own boat. I’d previously concluded that additional weight forward might reduce pitching and thereby slamming.

On Sunday I placed a 5 litre water bottle in the bows which did the trick (apparently it works for dory’s – thanks also to John Welsford for the advice).
Coming back home was a down wind row, it was even more interesting, the wind had increased (I later found out it was over 40 knots), Gato ran pretty straight down wind, only getting slightly uncontrollable if I rowed too fast. Without rowing, she was fast enough and very easy to control by just trailing one or other of the oars lightly in the water. It was clear that she would sail nicely off the wind with a small rig if I ever go down the route of putting a sailing rig on her.

Rowing across the wind the boat she actually became more stable, the boat has always been very able to take waves on the stern quarter I presume because of the high transom and long keel skeg..

All in all Sunday was a great opportunity to test the design and I came back feeling pretty pleased.

The “health and safely police” will be pleased to know I had a lifejacket on at all times!!

Saturday 18 July 2009

Motor Boats

I don't normally pay much attention to motor boats, but rowing up the river the other week this fast and frankly fantastic looking speedboat came past and really caught my eye. I saw here later in a local marina, sadly the picture doesn't really do it justice.

Another local boat - Oniros was on the slip earlier in the year, originally built as a west country lifeboat (I think she serverd at Salcombe in Devon) the current owner has converted her to a great, go anywhere motor boat. Last season he made a trip to the Baltic and back.

I've heard that she is going back to the west country where she will be based. She has been a regular feature on the river for several years and will be missed.

Sunday 12 July 2009

More on Cat Boats

I mentioned Tom Armstrong’s post about cat boats a couple of weeks ago, and than as if by coincidence Wooden Boat Magazine dropped through the door with a fantastic picture of a Gil Smith designed catboat - Madigan on the cover, so here goes more on cat boats.

What I like about Catboats, apart from their distinctive looks, is the variety in the type, which all stem from the same basic parameters of a single sail, shallow draft and wide beam. I guess the most famous cat boat type is the American Beetle Cat, (and there are other similar, small cat boats around 12 feet in length), which to my mind make a perfect type of dinghy for pottering around coastal rivers and sheltered coves. On a practical level there’s one sail, no rigging, simply drop the mast in, hoist the sail and go.

Beyond this practicality, on the aesthetic level they just look so nice, especially with the New England tradition of having multi coloured sails.

In the US, there is still a strong following of these boats through the Catboat Association. I’m not sure how well one of these broad beamed cats would cope with the steep Solent wind-over-tide chop that we experience locally and sadly all too often. The other criticism is that some smaller catboats are sailed sitting on the bottom boards, great for keeping the weight low, but very uncomfortable after a while.

The American east coast is also home to cruising cat boats, complete with cosy cabin accommodation. These range in size typically from 16 to 20 feet going as large as 33 feet see Silent Maid.

Although cabin boats they retain the single large gaff sail, set well forward in the bows, wide beam (getting on for half the length), centreboard and the characteristic “barn door” rudder and are well suited for the sheltered and shallow waters of the American east coat.

Howard Chappell the naval architect and historian records details of a sandbagger Catboat in his book “Small Sailing Craft”. The Sandbagger was a racing derivative cat boat, evolved from the fishing boats. As summer racing grew in popularity, faster and more extreme versions were developed in the search for speed. Actually sloop rigged, these boats had the mast stepped further back than on the cat rig with a jib set on a bowsprit and very often a jib boom.

A few years ago Ipswich based Spirit Yachts, built a modern interpretation of a sandbagger – “Fatso the Blagger” using modern construction techniques including strip planking and carbon fibre.

These distinctive craft seem to me to be quintessential American classics.. I think a 22’ cabin boat would make a great weekend cruiser, but I would love to tear around the course racing with the Old Gaffers in a sandbagger!!

Thursday 9 July 2009

Baby on Board

We took last week off to enjoy England's heatwave (quite unplanned) and to see how we got on for a week, living on board Greta with baby Joseph.

Below is the nautical equivalent of those "baby on board" stickers you see in back of cars, in the admirality book of flag signals it translates to "do not moor alongside or you might be kept awake all night by a crying baby".

Having a baby on board is very much about the parents being relaxed with what's going on, for the most part Joe just enjoyed being with his mum and dad, 24 x 7 in a small space. With the hot sunshine, one of our biggest things was remember to "tack the baby" when ever we went about.
Greta is quite a small boat, so what with the cot and the pushchair, the baby seat, not to mention all the baby clothes, bottles and nappies; things could get a little crowded, as you can see the fore peak is a complete mess, although Joe doesn't look too bothered.
Most of the time he was content to sit and watch things going on, here he tries out the latest navigational aid!!

We also took the opportunity to take him for his first paddle, he's looking a little undecided about the water which was all new and very big and had waves that washed up his legs.
On Friday the weather turned and we sailed back home in a F5, mum was worried, dad was worried about mum being worried and Joseph slept most of the trip.
If there's a lesson it is - start em young, because the parents will soon get over any anxiety!!

Tuesday 7 July 2009


Feared by sailors and pirates alike, the Gribble is apparently any one of 56 varieties of a marine isopod. The nasty little creature bores into wood to ingest as food, unfortunately all too often the Gribble's dinner was the planking or keel of a wooden boat.

This amusing statue, come seat has been a feature along the harbor side at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight for a couple of years and always makes me smile.