Sunday, January 1, 2012

How I decided what boat to build

After building and sailing a couple of models with varying degrees of success it was time build the real thing. I definitely wanted a sailing boat. I wasn’t interested in water based transport, generally. Row boats, paddle boats, power boats were of no interest. I wanted a sail boat that I could take a couple of people out on joy rides. If I took people out I had to be able to get them back without wind, so I figured I need a design no bigger than 16ft and it had to be a small 16footer that I could row single handed. It had to be a safe design that a novice sailor could handle. I have no ambition to get wet when I go sailing. That ruled out all the racing classes. No international class sailing canoes for me!

One of the motivating factors for me to build a boat was the technical challenge. I am comfortable using tools and reading plans, in fact I love it. I spent a lot of time reading books like John Gardner’s “Building Classic Small Craft”but decided there was too much risk in building an old design. Design details, like the size of the rig, were missing and new glued lapstrake methods were light and many old workboats were designed to carry a big load. I had no way to predict what would happen if I built a peapod 30% of its intended weight. I had decided I needed a mizzen sail to help keep me safe whilst I stuffed around with the rig in a storm.

The design selection was being whittled down. I wrote to a few of the designers asking technical questions. Can I fit a mizzen on your design? Can I stretch your design to 16 foot? How much buoyancy do I need to keep your design afloat? I have to say answers were generally predictable like “no you can’t change my design” which is not very satisfying for a tinkerer.

In the end I opted for the Iain Oughtred designed Tammie Norrie. The design was for a 13 ½ foot open boat with a yawl rigged lugsail. At the time I wasn’t keen on the lugsail but I knew Iain had another, bigger, design with a gaff rigged yawl. I also knew that Iain was working on a version of the Tammie Norrie design that had been scaled up 10%. I decided to buy the Tammie Norrie plans scale them up 10% and modify the mainsail to a gaff. There are no details in the plans for any buoyancy so that, along with the sail and 10% scaling gave me plenty of technical challenges to get my teeth into.