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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A sad farewell to Philip C Bolger

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Probably Phil Bolger’s most frequently built boat, the Gloucester Light Dory is
a plywood classic that will continue to be built, re-worked and adapted for
many years to come. Writing of its popularity, he joked that it would one day
secure his entry into heaven. Photo by Susan Davis, taken from the Wikimedia

After an idyllic few days on the Norfolk Broads we’ve just returned home to the sad news that the designer Phil Bolger has ended his own life at the age of 81.

I’d like to add my tribute to the many obituaries appearing around the World Wide Web.

Phil Bolger was a man who inspired many people by alternately drawing beautiful boats, utilitarian boats, and utterly original boats that could only have come from the drawing board of someone who had a special gift for ruthlessly teasing out the logic of a design brief.

He was also a superb communicator – in his articles and books he would often excite readers about the ideas behind his designs as much as the designs themselves, and this won him many, many fans.

Bolger was often a controversial designer and frequently misunderstood by those who could not see past the boxy appearance of some of his more easily built designs. However, I think it should be clear to all that he was touched by greatness.

I never met him, but have copies of most of his many fascinating books, which I’ve read and read again many times. I’ll miss him and his writing, as will countless others, but I’m confident his influence and legacy of boat designs will live on for a very long time to come.

For more intheboatshed.net posts on Phil Bolger and his boat designs click here.

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Newly built Fowey River Dinghy number 53 launched

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Fowey River Class Dinghy number 53 was launched this weekend

This Saturday saw the launch of another local racing class classic at Fowey – a new Fowey River Class Dinghy made by Marcus Lewis for the local vicar and his family.

Built with a distinctive combination of spruce planking with thwarts and top planks of mahogany, the boat was launched at the Fowey Gallants Sailing Club and is number 53 in the class.

Marcus tells me that the Fowey River Dinghy is based on the Yachting World 15ft dinghy designed by Reg Freeman in the late 1940s with the aim encouraging people to build their own boats. Hunkins’ Boatyard at Polruan built one for a local dentist and they caught on, for by 1957 there were 15 boats in the fleet. Numbers continued to grow with other local boat builders betting involved, and the fleet reached 36 boats in 1965.

Interest in racing the wooden boats then dwindled, but over the last 15 years or so interest has returned with 15 new boats, several of which Marcus has built, and a number of restorations of the older craft. Five or six are seen sailing in regular Wednesday and Saturday racing, and the fleet swells to 15 or 18 in regatta week.

There are photos at http://jonbarkerpics.co.uk – the Fowey River Dinghies can be identified by their multi-coloured mainsails and jibs.

Marcus Lewis is based at Fowey and can be contacted on 07973 420 568.

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