Tag Archives: craft

Edwin Schoettle on catboats, Gavin Atkin on what’s wrong with yachts and yachties

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Legendary catboat Silent Maid

Edwin Schoettle’s classic Sailing Craft published in 1928 is a fabulous big old book of nearly 800 pages – so I hope no-one will mind me posting a few of them. And perhaps my post will serve to keep the memory alight.

I’d like to explain why I’ve been thinking about the catboat lately.

I’ve complained for years that many yachties¬† motor or motor sail for much of the time and I’ve often wondered what the reason might be. Well, I’ve come to think that it isn’t laziness or a dislike of sailing. The reason why they’re reluctant to use their full sailplan is that they’re either sailing alone, or effectively doing so, and don’t want the fag of having to manage sails, winches and sheets as well as steer, navigate and keep a look out.¬† And because they’re not using their full sail plan their boats are slow without the help of its engine – and that’s why most yachties motor for much of the time.

Looked at another way, it’s because we’re using the wrong rigs.¬† Instead of the Bermudan sloop with a masthead rig, big foresail, winches and the rest, we could be using rigs that reduce the number of essential control lines to very few – the cat and the cat yawl.

Of course there’s a shortage of cat yawls outside of a few designers offering plans for relatively small boats aimed at the amateur builders, so I’ve been considering the experiences people have had with the catboat.

I’ve no experience with these boats and have no firm opinions to offer, but it’s interesting that Schoettle emerges as such a fan of the catboat. I’m inclined to think a modified form of catboat, perhaps one with the kind of capacious hull that’s long been normal in family cruising boats could be seriously useful to yachtsmen in the era of expensive fuel and growing environmental awareness.

Those who find it difficult to swallow the idea of the Bermudan sloop being replaced by a more old fashioned rig might thinking about the argument in a different way – instead of describing the cat or cat yawl rig of the future as being derived from historical yacht types or workboats, just think of them as big Lasers with heavy keels.

Read more about Silent Maid in a recent post at the weblog 70.8%.

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Chebacco boat designed by Phil Bolger, built by Academy ex-student Connie Mense

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One exhibit at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show made the case that the recently deceased designer Phil Bolger should be remembered for his very pretty boats as well as his boxy easy-to-build plans.

This is an almost-complete Bolger Chebacco boat, as built by an ex-student of theBoat Building Academy down at Lyme, Connie Mense. I think it’s a terrific-looking craft and that Connie has made a very nice job of building it. The boat was on the Water Craft stand because editor Peter Greenfield is currently building a Chebacco boat from the same moulds.

There are precious few Bolger boats in the UK and I’m always interested in them, so when it’s on the water, can Julie and I come for a sail please Pete?

PS – Don’t miss the ad for Water Craft in the right-hand column of this weblog. It’s well worth a subscription!

Water Craft boatbuilding comp winners 2009

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Nick Paull’s Hazy Days, winner of the ‘most professional’ category of the 2009 Water Craft boatbuilding competition. It was built to Steve Killing’s Prospector Canadian canoe. Click on the photos for much larger images

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Mike Wooldridge’s Puddle Duck, victor in the ‘home made boat most likely to encourage beginners’ category’. It was built to the Selway Fisher Drake sharpie plans

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Chris Waite’s ingenious and effective home designed rowing skiff Octavia, winner of the ‘most innovative home made boat’ section

This year’s Water Craft magazine amateur boatbuilding competition at the Beale Park Thames Boat Show was better than ever, despite the rain. Editor Pete Greenfield’s idea of opening up the competition by offering three categories of home made boats – most professional-looking, most likely to encourage beginners and most innovative – was clearly a big hit.

Hazy Days is undeniably very smart and won a tightly contested section, but I very much enjoyed seeing Puddle Duck, which chimed nicely with my view that people should be encouraged to feel that they can build small, simple and low cost boats that they can be proud of and which are effective on the water.

However, my favourite this year was Chris’s Octavia, which must count as one of the cleverest designs I’ve seen in a long time. Yes, those scraps of ply in the plastic bag are all that was left from the three sheets of plywood he used to make the boat, but that’s only the half of it – when Chris wants to transport it, the boat divides in two to fit in the back of his car, and when reassembled the undersides of the riggers include a system of pegs that neatly hold the boat together.

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