I don't post here much since my boat is several orders of magnitude simpler than what seems to be the standard here and I find I learn more by reading than by writing, but I have a point of discussion that I think the community here can weigh in on and help educate a new (if not quite qualifying "young" anymore) sailor.
All sailors are welcome...
I have a semi-long term plan for my sailing which bears on this discussion. I was the recipient of a Sea Snark hull in late summer and got my first taste of sailing in about 2 weeks later after fabricating all the parts it was missing (everything but the hull and the mast step). I have enjoyed my little boat immensely, and dubbed her the "Duckling" because she's not pretty, nor especially fast, but she's kind of cute. (FYI I have all of about $65 invested in her and that includes the PFD's) I have promised my wife that she will get a new house before I get a new boat, and knowing how things work I've decided to buy another Snark (Sunchaser II) after the house to get something we can all go out in quickly, cheaply, and easy to move and sail. That will also get me a rig slightly more complicated than the lateen.
Snarks and SuperSnarks are great little boats to learn on, but not the most durable.
After getting the Sunchaser II I want to build my own boat in the mid-sized daysailer category. I've been looking at a lot of plans and most of the ones I'm seeing are gaff rig, which I can only assume is due to it being an easier rig to fabricate since the booms, spars, and masts are shorter. Most of the boats I see here are Bermuda sloop rigs. I am looking to build something in the 16' range with a small cabin. One plan that is close to what I want is the Stevenson Weekender. BYYC Pocket Yachts
I live in Nebraska so this is strictly for fresh water and small lake use. I figure it will take me at least 3-5 years to complete the project.
Question 1: How does a gaff rig compare to a sloop in ease of sail and performance?
The gaff rig is pretty simple to use. Has some controls, like the gaff halyard, that the sloop won't have... but not any more difficult to use once you get the hang of it.
Question 2: Is there something close to what I am looking for that is a sloop rig?
Yes, there probably is... I'd check with Dudley Dix designs
... they have a nice sloop sail trainer that's 14' LOA called the Paper Jet.
They also have a Explorer 18 sloop rigged daysailer:
Question 3: For puttering around a lake does the rig type really matter? I don't see myself really getting into racing, but after reading about travellers, boom vangs, topping lifts, spinakers, and such I may have an inflated sense of their necessity.
One advantage of getting a sloop-rig, is that when you move up to a cruising boat, it will be more familiar.
Question 4: What am I not taking into account?
Thank you for your help.
I hope that helps.