Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Friendship 31 sloop
I assume that you happen to be talking about a gaff rigged Friendship Sloop that is 31 feet long and not a particular model such as the Friendship 31. (There is a Dutch company that produces modern boats called Friendships)
The Friendship sloops were named for Friendship Maine where they were originally built. They were a development of the earlier Essex sloops and were adapted to be used in the lobster fishery around the start of the twentieth century. Their low freeboard and deep sheer made it easier to haul the lobster traps aboard. They carried a compartively large sail gaff rigged sloop sail plan with very small headsails and a huge mainsail and many were rigged to carry fidded upper mast and a gaff topsail which really have them an enormous sail plan. These were boats that were designed to reach well and for their day they were excellent sailing boats. Of course their day was over a hundred years ago.
In their day, their hull form was really revolutionary. Compared to the working watercraft that preceeded them, Friendship sloops shared some things in common with the current direction on yacht design. For their day, Friendship sloops had comparatively fine bows with their center of buoyancy quite far aft. While these were easily driven hulls for their era, they were intended to be quite burdensome and had a lot of wetted surface resulting in huge amounts of drag as compared to a modern design or even a vessel of that era that was intended to be a yacht.
One hundred years ago, before winches, the Friendship Sloops huge mainsail and small jib rig proportion was an ideal single-handing rig although timing the running backstays in a jibe was not the easiest of jobs to do single-handed. In those days all of the mechanical advantage came from blocks and tackles and keeping the headsails small and the mainsail big meant that the big mainsails were self-tacking and had multi-part tackles on their throat and peak halyards.
I don''t know how much experience you have sailing gaff rigs, but they are a fun rig to sail. If you care about performance at all or get caught in changable conditions, they require a lot of adjusting and fiddling. Getting a proper adjustment between the peak and throat halyards is a bit of an artform in and of itself. This is a rig that is optimized for driving a comparatively tender for their relatively high drag hull on a reach. They are not at their best either beating or running. While the Friendship Sloops were moderately weatherly for their day, by any objective standard any halfway decent modern design will out sail them on all points of sail but especially upwind.
Despite the rhetoric that seems to suggest that Gaff rigs are simple, there is nothing terribly simple about them. They have a lot of moving parts and huge quantities of running rigging that tends to have comparatively short lifespans. Due to the geometry of a gaff rig, preventing chafe is a constant battle.
While they do have a lot of sails, sail changes were frequent. Friendship sloops are comparatively tender and with their low sheer and large cockpits, swampings were pretty frequent. Boats going lost was a pretty common event even in thier comparatively protected inshore fishery. They needed a lot of drive to be able to be sailed in lighter winds, but that meant striking the gaff topsail and tieing in a reef as soon as things picked up. In a breeze these boats can really develop a massive weather helm that was generally handled by a ''manila Mike'' or later by worm gear steering that was at best high friction and slow responding. These were boats that really require a lot of skill to sail, but that is part of the fun of them.
As cruisers an authentic Friendship Sloop tended to be quite cramped down below for a boat of their length (especially the wooden ones) but offered a nice size cockpit. There have been a number of nice yacht adaptations of the basic Friendship Sloop design but there are also some very silly designs that pretend to be Friendship Sloops in name only and offer none of the virtues of a true Friendship Sloop.
For Florida, authentic Friendship sloops tend to be pretty deep. They take up a lot of dockspace for their length on deck. A 31 foot authentic Friendship Sloop would typcially be 41 feet from the tip of their bowsprits to the tip of their boom (which overhangs the transom) which means paying for a lot more dockage than a boat with that kind of interior space usually needs. With their comparatively poor manueverability docking can be a bit of a trick as well. The originals were kept on moorings.
I guess that the bottom line on these boats is that if you are into re-enacting the past and get a kick out of understanding what our forefathers had to deal with,and if you are handy at markinspike seamanship and the highh maintenance of a gaff rig, and if you are comfortable with the compromises in sailing ability and seaworthiness, and if you are a very skilled sailor, boats like these are really neat to own and sail. But if you simply want to have a boat that you can just get aboard and go sailing, then these are probably not the best choice.