Return To Messing About In Boats' First Page

August 1, 1999 Issue

August 15, 1999 Issue

August 1, 1999 Issue

Putting Some Teeth In Single Handed Sailing

by Garry Osborn

I believe it's called a comb, a toothed device located under the tiller and onto which the tiller can be lowered so as to free the helmsman's hand (his second hand, that is) for a moment so that he can dash for a Coke, blow his nose, or any of a thousand things that come up while you're sailing. I've made a couple of models for my Rhodes 19, and it's an accessory worth having if you do much single-handing.

When I'm alone, and when a halyard needs tweaking or the centerplate needs raising or lowering, the comb holds the tiller so I can leave the helm; not for long, certainly, and not when it's blowing very hard, only when conditions are moderate. It is a very handy device.

I started out using a short, bronze "rack" about 3" long, a straight, gear-like part that was originally intended as a support for a copper downspout. It's a nice little piece of hardware, but I found it too short to serve the purpose, so I began to search for a longer row of teeth. There's a great scrap yard in Stamford where browsing is welcomed and from where, I must admit, I often come away with stuff I didn't know I wanted until I got there, but my searches for a longer rack were not successful.

Last summer, as the search went on, I had to have our car repaired and suddenly, there in the mechanic's trash, I found a half-dozen long, toothed devices, timing belts, perfect for the job and free for the taking. They're made of molded rubber, of course, and they are reinforced with fabric and practically indestructible. The piece I am using has a pitch of I cm (.394"), a groove width of 5/32", width of 7/ 8", and thickness of about .07" in the bottoms of the grooves. Because it's rubber it is silent in use, and apart from its use while sailing, it keeps the tiller still while at anchor and while tied up at the dock. A piece can be cut to length and tacked to a suitably shaped block.

My comb is attached to the coaming at the back of the cockpit, on the rear deck. On the Rhodes, the rear deck extends 30" forward from the transom and it's a perfect place for the comb. For boats that have no rear deck, the problem is not so easily solved, of course. The comb is hinged to the deck and is so proportioned that when it is lying flat the tiller clears, and when it is turned up the tiller must be lifted slightly to pass over it and dropped into one of the grooves. Putting the comb into or out of service can be easily done with one hand, as can subtle adjustments of the tiller in increments of as little as 1 cm.

The blade that engages the comb is fabricated from a piece of 1/8" bronze plate and is shown in the accompanying sketch. It is screwed to the bottom of the tiller. This is not a complicated piece, and it was fashioned with only a hack saw, file, vise, and drill.

If your boat has the right relative positions of rear deck and tiller, a comb can make single-handing more enjoyable.

Boat Talk

By Bob Hicks

Boat talk, something all of us do a lot, more even than boat build or boat sail/row/ paddle. Talking about boats is the thread that connects so many of us in our shared enthusiasm. This magazine is a form of boat talk via the printed word. So, Dick Newick's idea for a symposium on boat design came naturally to its official title, "Boat Talk, Spend a Day with Nautical Design Innovators". It took place June 12th at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, scheduled as a UNH Continuing Education Course.

Who were these "nautical design innovators"? Dick had persuaded seven others to join him. From the course pamphlet we learn that they were:

Olin Stephens, dean of world yacht designers, responsible for several America's Cup winners and a treasury of nautical knowledge.

Steve Clark, head of Vanguard Sailboats, one of the world's largest manufacturers of small sailboats, and leader of the Cogito team that won, and still holds, the Little America's Cup.

Richard Newick, who has spent 40 years rediscovering what the old Pacific Islanders knew about offshore passage making in simple craft.

Ted Van Dusen, owner of Composite Engineering, carbon fiber specialist and decked canoe sailor who had 23 of his carbon fiber racing shells in the last Olympics, many of them medal winners.

Doug Martin, designer/craftsman at East/ West Custom Boats/Alden Ocean Shells, experienced in oars, paddles, hulls, hang gliders, ice skating sails and traditional small Craft.

Keith Burgess, nautical designer who has done work for a number of renowned boat building companies, specializing in composite construction today.

Phil Bolger, designer of over 600 small craft, writer of numerous books and magazine articles on boat designs, and his wife and partner, Suzanne Altenberger.

With this "faculty", Boat Talk attracted about 50 "students", some professional small builders, most enthusiastic amateurs, happy to pay the $60 fee for the day. They were not disappointed and the six hours of concentrated brainstorming over a wide range of boat design subjects, with give and take between panelists and audience, passed swiftly.

Dick had enlisted Walter Schulz of Shannon Boats, builder of cruising sailboats, as moderator. Walter opened proceedings by announcing that Dick's choice of him was based on his perceived reputation as something of a junkyard dog. This implied that assertiveness might be needed to rein in overcxuberant exchanges of opinion amongst the diverse panelists, but such was not the case. Courtesy and consideration prevailed, and Walter himself contributed pertinent opinions as a serious builder.

Walter's most trenchant remark about the nature of selling cruising boats today was his comment on how he allocates his time at the boat shows. "I find out what sort of automobile the prospect is driving. Those who respond with "BMW", "Mercedes", or similar, I invite to sit right down."

The essence of the day's discussion was that boat design is driven by the market. The market is not created by the designers or the builders, but by the consumer marketing people and their ad agencies, creating what they feel the American public wants in a boat.

The designers and builders are stuck with this, and so what they have to come up with is not what they might wish to offer. Essentially good boats are not what the market wants. Complexity and gadgetry, homelike conveniences, rule and no good entry level boats are to be found to encourage those new to boating to move up to more good boats. Steve Clark made a significant point early on when he remarked that there have been precious few new developments in boat design that have seized the public's attention and gone on to enjoy good sales. He listed the Sunfish, the Hobie Cat, windsurfers, sea kayaks and jetskis. The latter, he pointed out, have some superb characteristics, maneuverability, unsinkability, closeness to the water, that have endeared them to a growing list of waterborne officials. That they have been embraced by the exhibitionists amongst us with the resultant high level of hostility generated amongst conventional boaters is an unhappy aspect of the design's versatility. At 92, Olin Stephens has spanned the times from classic wooden yachts to today's mass (sort of) produced fiberglass designs ' When asked what he thought of today's designs he replied, "I'm sorry to say it, but not much." Olin has had to deal with rating rules for yachts throughout his long career, and the impact of these efforts to control racing competitiveness still affects the designs of today, not often resulting in good boats for everyman. Olin wistfully remarked that he still feels that "wood is so nice". Innovation just doesn't make it in the market driven boat business. Steve Clark, who builds boats like the Sunfish, Laser, and such, said that he builds what sells. An earlier effort to build and sell a lovely cold molded Delaware Ducker resulted in few sales and ultimate business failure for Steve. He pointed out how Gary Hoyt, who offered a number of really innovative designs intended to make it easier for the public to get into sailing, to get past the barriers conventional sailing techniques throw up, never went anywhere. His innovative Freedom design got a foothold, but soon adopted more conventional rigging setups when he no longer owned it.

Once discussion got a way from the market aspect, some views were offered on innovative concepts. Forward facing rowing applied to recreational shells like Doug Matrin's Alden Star; wing sails such as Steve Clark used on his Cogito catamaran to win the Little Americas' Cup from Australia; hydrofoils; freestanding rigs. Dick Newick drew chuckles when he commented that he didn't expect to see many hydrofoils on his Maine coast what with all the lobster pots lying in wait.

The most exhaustive discussion of innovative design came, not surprisingly, from Phil Bolger and Suzanne Altenberger. With Phil's discomfort with extemporaneous discussion ("I like to have time to properly organize my thinking") it was Suzanne who did most of the talking, she has no problem with that. Her presentation on the blackboard of how their concept of the Chinese Gaff rig worked was very effective. The Bolger team pressed all day their views that simplifying design encourages building. That their simplified, and often not aesthetically pleasing to conventional views designs, are unlikely to attract potential builders to produce them in large numbers was moot.

At one point the panelists were asked to tell us all what each would own for their very own boat given any choice.

Olin Stephens allowed that in view of his age and location of his home a Sunfish would be best for him.

Keith Burgess opted for a Polynesian multilmll. He's got one under construction of his own (with Dick Newicks' inputs) planned for a crab claw sail rig.

Both Steve Clark and Ted Van Dusen chose the International 10 square meter sailing canoe, Steve additionally expressing his own interest in the Freedom concept for a larger sailing yacht.

Doug Martin would like to have a boat weighing no more than 60lbs that a family of four could take out of a bag and go sailing. Perhaps he'll design one.

Phil and Suzanne opted for a trailerable, shallow draft 25' schooner rigged design, with water ballast if any was deemed desirable.

Dick Newick would like to have three boats, all the same, his own 23' Tremolino trimaran design. One would be at his home in Kittery Point, Maine. A second would be somewhere on San Francisco Bay. The third he would keep on the Gulf of California.

Other ideas were brought forth involving how to better design boats for more efficient building with today's technology. But a key issue, again raised by Steve Clark, was that design will be affected long term by the increasing difficulty of gaining access to the water, the high costs of parking a boat in a marina, the lack of more mooring space, the closure of many public shores to small boat launchings.

At 5pm moderator Walter called a halt, it had been an engrossing day of boat talk, thanks to these innovative thinkers who agreed to participate, and to the enthusiastic audience participating.

Top Of Page

August 15, 1999

See you in September

Return To Messing About In Boats' First Page
Top Of Page

Please say you found them in By-The-Sea.

©1996-1999 By-The-Sea - All Rights Reserved