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t4li3sin 06-11-2009 12:44 AM

Old Lifeboat converted with Gaff rig!
I love the looks!
Got the specs here
"it has a gaff main sail / jib / staysail...length 22 plus tiller @ bowsprit @ 4 ft. / beam @ 7ft. / draft 18" / displacement ? 2500lbs. Full keel. larch lap strake on oak ribs / plywood deck and cabin. Sailed ...lake simcoe ont. / lake ontario / port hardy"

I asked to go see it. I wonder if those lifeboats had a ballast? Wonder how it sails, probably very poorly close-hauled. But I like it! Ahah!
Hey! If I buy it will you call me stupid?

CalebD 06-11-2009 01:15 AM

If I recall correctly Joshua Slocum sailed a boat like this around the world around 1890 or so. It was called the 'Spray' and he did it single handed without an engine.
Perhaps the name 'Slocum' has got you under it's spell but you should sail it before you buy it.
It looks to be all wood (aka, a woodie) and lazy people seem to prefer plastic (FRP, GRP>>) boats over wooden boats for several reasons.
Hey, if you like the boat and bought it I would call you lucky or 'Slocum'.
Good luck.

tager 06-11-2009 01:57 AM

I will say two things. Nice looking boat, and be very careful. VERY CAREFUL.

The two best types of boats are ones that can be carried, and ones you can live on. I once spent the night on a converted navy whaleboat around thirty feet, but it was on land, and half of it was a cabin.

That is about all I know of wood boats. They are great, and beautiful, and if it has no keel, it's probably unsinkable. Don't let it put you off of wood, but it is a risky proposition to buy older wood boats. You don't buy a wood boat, you marry it.

svHyLyte 06-11-2009 11:17 AM

As a matter of fact, Joshua Slocum’s “Spray” was a semi-abandoned, rotting, 36’ Oyster boat that had been propped up in a pasture for 7 years when it was given to Slocum in 1892. Nearby Oak Trees fell victim to Slocum’s hand axe to provide the timber needed to rebuild the boat.
As for decked over Life Boats, following WWII many life-boats were converted to sailing cruisers, particularly in Holland and England where there were an abundance of abandoned ship’s boats and frugal—read poor—but ingenious would-be sailors. In 1951 one Michael Verney authored “Practical Conversions and Yacht Repairs” dealing with the conversion of Ship’s Boats from 16 to 30 feet while another author, one John Lewis, authored “Small Boat Conversion”, the supposed best book on the subject which detailed his own conversion of a 26’ life boat to an auxiliary ketch. These “conversions” proved very robust and seaworthy—living up to their names (“lifeboats”) and made some fantastic voyages. On that, remember that in 1789 William Bligh navigated a 23 foot open ships boat on a 47 day, 3,600 mile voyage from a point near Tonga to Timor in the Dutch East Indies; and, in April 1916, Ernest Shackleton navigated a partially covered lifeboat—the James Caird—from Elephant Island in the Antarctic Sea to South Georgia Island in the South Sandwich Islands over 15 daze that included enduring a hurricane.<O:p


s/v HyLyte

t4li3sin 06-11-2009 11:53 AM

Ill keep you updated after I see it. Too bad I dont have a camera.

Jeff_H 06-11-2009 02:52 PM

HyLyte hit the nail on the head, but to add a bit more, What generically is called a lifeboat varied very widely with the country of origin and period of build.

The boat in question looks like a conversion of an English lifeboat which is in part supported by the larch planking and lapstrake construction. She clearly had her sheer raised when the deck and cabin were added. The cabin construction details and the railing/bulkwark installation suggests that this was not a particularly expert conversion. She looks a lot like a lifeboat conversion that a hippie friend of mine owned back in the 1970's that he used to sail back and forth from Miami to the Bahamas.

In general, wooden lifeboats had a tough life living out in the sun (dry), yet being expected to be water tight when the hit the water. They were expected to have a roughly 10 year lifespan and that was it. They were often iron fastened and had species that were suited to be stored dry and then suddenly launched and being water tight, rather than a species that is rot and borer resistant as would be desireable for a boat living in the water.

Lifeboats needed to be burdensome (in order to carry a lot of wet passengers). By the mid-20th century most were not expected to actually sail or be moved under oars more than very short distances. For the most part, they had hull forms that were buoyant but very poor for sailing or any other form of propulsion.

Those that had sailing rigs were unballasted and carried either a gaff rig, sliding gunther rig, quadralateral sprit rig, or a lug rig of some kind. In other words, rigs that would reach quite well but with limited upwind ability, developing a lot of drive with minimal heeling.

The best sailing conversions were performed on Monomoy style lifeboats which were intended to be rescue type lifeboats and so rowed very well and sailed better than most other forms of lifeboats. That said they had lower freeboard and so the sheer needed to be raised to convert them to a sailing yacht.

After the war you could buy lifeboats dirt cheap. Wooden Lifeboats could be bought for under a $100 and so they were often bought and converted. Some had brilliantly conceived conversions with long fin keels, cast ballast and decent rudder designs. The skillful conversions were quite yacht like and made great offshore pocket cruisers by the standard of the day. But by the 1960's you saw a lot of ill-conceived and poorly executed designs. The basic hulls, now 20-30 years old, were in rough shape and the hippie type owners were not big on craftsmanship or even knowledgeable in how to do a decent job. Many of these were about as minimal a conversion as you could imagine. In an earlier post on this topic I described 'Grace', which was just one such conversion.

'Grace' had a bit of deck added all around. Above this deck was a small cabin trunk but to call it a trunk cabin is to exaggerate a bit. It was really a trunk cabin top supported on wooden stanchions. Ratty old canvas curtains, stained a mottled ochre by rust and salt and mildew, could be rolled down on the forward end and the sides of the trunk to form the side and forward cabin bulkhead and when properly battened into place could almost keep out the rain and spray when needed. ‘Grace’s’ rig was the original lifeboat's gaff rigged sloop; a small telephone pole for a mast held up by plow steel wire."

In any event, if lovingly maintained boats like these can be a cheap thrill and fun in their percular way to own. If you buy one, your personality should be such that you enjoy working on the boat as much as sailing and need to be very patient when sailing. A well done lifeboat conversion will sail almost anywhere, but not get there all that quickly.


Quotes regarding the Monomoy Lifeboats:

"The Monomoys are 26’ long with a 7’ beam and draw of about 2‘ with the crew on board. Most weigh over 2,000 lbs. The rowing configuration is double-banked, that is, the eight rowers sit in four pairs side-by-side on fixed thwarts (benches). (In single-banked boats, like racing shells, rowers sit fore and aft of each other, each on their own seat.) Each rower handles a single 12’ wooden oar. The oars range in weight from 11 to 15 lbs. A coxswain stands in the stern and steers with a 16’ oar. In a BAWRA race, a 10th person rides in the bow for added safety."

“The Monomoy design is an evolution of the classic utilitarian whaleboat: a double-ended, lightweight, cheaply constructed boat to be rowed or sailed under all conditions in pursuit of whales and for use in general ship's work. In 1934 the U.S. Coast Guard standardized the design for contract purposes, and thousands were built for use as lifeboats and gigs aboard not only naval and military ships but also commercial freighters and ocean liners.....The boat is quite simple and Spartan.”-- From Wooden Boat Magazine, A Tale of Two Sisters: Carvel vs. Cold Molding, January/February, 1982 By W. Tay Vaughan, III

t4li3sin 06-12-2009 11:42 PM

So, can you rig up some ballast from the inside ? How hard would it be to conceive a more elaborated keel? I tried to see the boat but cant get very fast responses from seller. Soon I hope! Thanks for the info guys.

Jeff_H 06-15-2009 03:05 PM

Many of these older lifeboats had some inside ballast, but because these boats were never intended for inside ballast, it will greatly shorten the life of the boat. But more to the point I think you are really asking how to convert these old lifeboats from what was essentially a rowing boat to a sailing vessel.

You have to start with the basics. The framing on a wooden sail boat is somewhat different than the framing on a rowing boat. While both will have transverse frame and floor timbers (a term which refers to the heavier frames that cross the keel and tie the two sides of hull together). In the case of a rowing hull, the floor timbers only have to keep the two sides of the boat together. But in the case of a sailing vessel, the mast, keel, rudder and rigging loads are trying to twist the boat apart and the floor timbers have to absorb that twisting force and distribute into a large enough area of the boat to prevent the boat from damaging itself. Typically the bolts from the external ballast keel pass through these floor timbers and so the timber has to be thick enough that the bolts won't split the timber apart.

Therefore retrofitting a lifeboat to be a sailing vessel therefore requires adding deeper, heavier floor timbers.

Adding a ballast keel means that there is a load perpendicular (vertically) to the keel as well and a lifeboat keel was not designed for that load so a keelson (inner keel timber) is added to distribute the load fore and aft.

When you see chainplates bolted to the outside of the hull of a wooden boat, they are typically bolted through a heavier frame on the interior of the boat. This frame typically has a hanging knee that ties that frame to the deck and sheer clamp.

Lastly while woodenboats are typically keel stepped, the keel of a lifeboat was not really designed to take the vertical thrust of the mast and so a timber gets added above the keel that distributes the loads two three frames fore and aft of the mast step and of course big floor timbers are added here as well.

Once you have done that, you can easily add a lead shoe, or a lead fin keel.

Once you have done all of that then the lifeboat will have the strength needed to be a sailboat and if it has a proper rig, sail moderately well, but not great.


t4li3sin 06-16-2009 12:55 AM

I saw the boat. It had a full keel and ballast, which looked like a good job, but the wood was rotting and drying. The boat pretty much looked like it was falling apart. I dont know why he was asking 3800 for it. Looks more like the kinda boat you would GIVE away. Needless to say I didnt make an offer. I learned a bit about lifeboat conversions thou. Now with the rest of my life.

AllThumbs 06-17-2009 02:00 PM


I dont know why he was asking 3800 for it
All $3800 is for "sentimental value", which any new prospective owner would need to compensate the original owner for.


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