J.B.'s Boatyard: The Maiden Voyage of Mejor que Nada

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September 1, 1996

On Saturday August 31, after more than a year of building in fits and starts, my 16' Phil Bolger designed "Windsprint" sharpie wet her bottom for the first time.  

I had ordered a sail from Bohndell in Maine which arrived last week. After several evenings of fiddling around with lacing it on to the boom and yard, I was anxious to finally get her on the water. Saturday was to be the day. All morning, it was so still I was afraid a trip to the lake would be a drifting marathon, but by noontime a nice easterly breeze of about 5-12 mph started building in. At the lake, the wind was holding in the ten to twelve range. The Windsprint design is very overpowered so prudence would have dictated a reef. Not always being the prudent one, I elected to go with full canvas.

I launched her with no fanfare -- just dropped her in with a little sigh of relief that she actually floated. I shoved off from the beach into water deep enough to get the rudder down and tightened, dropped the daggerboard into its well, and sheeted in for the first time. We settled in on an easy broad reach, the boat's flat bottom gurgling a little on the ripples, and me grinning from ear to ear. I was pleased to see that she tracked very well and was light on the helm. We then hardened up to close hauled to try a few tacks. I'm not very good at guessing angles, so I won't say yet how well she points. Pinching she proved slow. It was a much more fun to crack off a couple of degrees and make up for the angles with speed. In any case she is a tender boat. With only 4.5' of beam on a light 16' boat carrying 113 square feet of sail, that was to be expected. The bigger puffs her helm is so light that you must deliberately round her up to keep from going over. Tacking was fine, it took some effort to get her hung in irons. If she tacked any faster, she'd be a bit of monster and very prone to capsizing. After throwing a couple of tacks, I had worked myself into the lee of the shore across the cove where it was time to throw a few jibes. In the lighter breezes in the lee of the shore, the jibes came off very nicely, not so fast to snap her over. This must be one of the virtues of the balanced lug rig. From there, I moved downwind out of the protection of the shore into some fresher breezes. With all her sail area, she goes downwind like a runaway train! The double-ended sharpie shape is not the fastest thing around, but in the big puffs she sure would scoot. However, the bigger puffs were starting to have their way with me upwind, so I decided a reef was the better part of valor. I spent the rest of the day playing around with reduced sail. This made the upwind bit easier, but I wish I could have simple way to shake the reef out heading back down.

Later in the day, I did manage to dump her when I was powering back up after a tack. I think the reason for this is that the reefed sail behaved very differently on opposite tacks. On port tack, the yard and boom lie hard up against the mast which flattens the sail quite a bit and generates lots of forward upwind thrust. On starboard tack, the yard falls away from the mast approximately 12" which seems to make for lots of heeling power, but not very much forward thrust. The speed differential between the tacks bears this out.

Anyway, I was trying to really power up on starboard when something went wrong and the next thing I know is that I'm up to my neck in warm water, the boat lying on it's side. This boat is not your Sunfish or Laser. You can't just stand on the daggerboard and all's right with the world again. The first step is to unship the mast. (This is much easier than it sounds -- it just floats right out. There's one advantage for wooden masts!) You then can easily upright the boat and begin bailing. Since I have not gotten around to putting in any floatation, this somewhat inconvenient. She floated with about 2" of freeboard which became -1" if I got inside. I was forced to partially bail her from outside. This is a big job and I fortunately had sense enough to toss one of those white plastic five gallon buckets in with me before shoving off. Oh, yeah, I _always_ wear a PFD. A bunch of bucket-fulls later, I was finally able to get mast of the water out and everything re-rigged and sailing again. This took about twenty minutes, so it is not something you want to do every day. I have some ideas for flattening out the sail on starboard tack which I hope will make so I don't have to repeat that episode soon.

I will be looking for blocks of styrofoam later this week.

Overall I'm very pleased with the boat and it's sailing characteristics. She's fast, weatherly enough, with just enough challenge to keep me reasonably content for little while. That she even sails at all is a credit to her designer. Phil designs simple boats which by all accounts WORK. My own boat is a testament to that.

Now to decide what the next one will be.... (What a terrible addiction!)

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