Jeff Stobbe’s 1880s plank-on-edge 18ft racing sailing yacht built to Dodge lines. Some of Jeff’s models can also be seen on a shelf, if you look carefully
Jeff Stobbe the California-based boatbuilder working on a boat along the lines of the small 1880s-style plank-on-edge racing sailing yacht Dodge has very kindly sent some photos and information.
He’s been working on the boat for about two years, and having read about problems that can arise in sailing plank-on-edge yachts, he has made several modifications.
‘I could not resist building that lovely fantail stern. This is one of the most beautiful shapes ever drawn. I decided to slightly enlarge it to 18ft overall and rig it as a gaff sloop, with a self tending jib. I have to sail in some strong afternoon winds on Monterey Bay and I felt that 14ft 9in was a little small. I have installed a small Vetus diesel, wheel steering and a bowspirt, none of which is in Dodge. If the breeze gets beyond what the reef points can handle I plan on motoring in.
‘From making models and from reading the cautionary tales mentioned in the literature on plank-on-edge yachts, I realize this hull shape can go spectacularly out of control if pushed beyond certain limits. The long booms get pinned by the sea, and the boats round up are too slow to prevent them from filling – there is no forgiveness in the form.
‘In one of his books Uffa Fox describes sailing a larger plank-on-edge yacht and when asked “What ship Uffa?” he replied “Hardship”. Also, there is an article in the Dec 1997 issue of Classic Boat that describes sailing a 22ft loa Fife plank-on-edge cutter as a bit of a handful and wet.
‘I made a 1200lb solid lead keel along with the engine, which is entirely below the waterline and gives about 1400lb of ballast to start. The remainder will be lead ingots in the bilge. Another precaution I have added because the conditions off my home town Capitola can get very windy is buoyancy tanks. The area under the floor is airtight to the keel and the forward area from stem to 18 inches before the mast is airtight.
‘All in all, let’s say I was seduced by a lovely lady and am making allowances for her bad habits.
‘The hull is four layers of African Mahogany veeners cold molded. Kunhardt says two boats built to Dodge lines were built in England and raced on Lake Windemere and rough work on the coast. One was envisioned as a tender for a large schooner and had removable ballast so it could be hoisted on deck. Another one in the US was built for Edward Padelford.
‘William Stephens was a good friend of Padelford and eventually the boat was given to him. ‘Steve’ thought very little of the small yacht and placed it in his garden, and this is the yacht was later acquired by the Mystic Seaport Museum.
Stephens’ book Traditions and Memories of American Yachting is a treasure of information, including a history of Dodge designer John Harvey and his design theories. As well as Dodge, he designed five narrow cutters – Oriva 50ft 1881; Bedouin 70ft 1882; Wennonah 60ft 1882; Ileen 65ft 1883 and Surf 35ft 1883.’
On the modelling front, Jeff adds this:
‘I have been building boats, both large and small, since a teenager. I am now sixty. I build free-sail pond yachts with vane gear in the X Class, the M Class, and the 36R Class. With the latter class we come over to Great Britain to race in a Challenge Cup. Models allow one to be a amateur junior naval architect and experiment with many hull shapes. I did try a plank-on edge-36R and she actually sails quite well until overwhelmed – but then becomes out of control. In the larger model boats, of course, one can’t experiment too much; but I have gone from building an extremely heavy 28ft sailboat to an ultra lite 32ft.’
Thanks Jeff! Good luck, and have fun with the boat – please don’t forget to let us know how the launch goes, and how she sails out there in California.
Copies of WP Stephens’ Traditions and Memories of American Yachting are available at ABE. At some these prices I should get a copy myself!