Question 1: How does a gaff rig compare to a sloop in ease of sail and performance?
Question 2: Is there something close to what I am looking for that is a sloop rig?
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.
Question 4: What am I not taking into account?
Thank you for your help.
I have owned two gaff rigs. A Balsam Swamp Bateau homebulit (15-1/2ft open tack & tape design) that I had Robin Lincoln of Center Harbor Sails sew up a balanced lug (a gaff that extends past the mast) for and a Mud Hen 17. Still own the Mud Hen. You lose 5% to maybe 10% (depending on wind strength) of pointing to windward to a sloop. BUT, the Mud Hen surprises most sailboats I go up against for a gaff-rigged cat. It is light (650 lbs) and when heeled the hard chine and hull shape give lift and she does surprisingly well to windward. The local Siren 17's don't give me much trouble.
But the bottom line is the sloop beats all to windward - hands down.
Now, when I turn downwind and can wing out that (relatively) large main with no shrouds to interfere and pull the board up we scoot. No advantage to the sloop unless they're flying a big genoa with a whisker-pole.
But I'll tell you what. We can drive to a local reservoir and go from parking lot to sailing in 15 minutes with that Mud Hen. No shrouds, a tabernackle for the mast (I can step in by my self), boom gallows so the mast boom & gaff and sail can drop and be lashed down quickly.
I leave work and we go for a sail and have a picnic supper aboard. The simplicity of the rig gets us out there instead of watching TV baceuse there isn't time to set and tension a sloop.