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Old 08-10-2003
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"classic" Yachts response

James,

You have a way of asking a huge number of questions all at once. Yes, there are plenty of classic wooden boats out there that might meet your needs. There are also a collection of Garden designed, or rip off of Garden designed, Taiwanese heavy cruisers that were built with fiberglass hulls in the late 1960''s through the early 1980''s. For the most part these sail dismally and were quite poorly constructed when seen on any kind of objective basis.

Many of these swashbuckling details while neat to look at really hurt the seaworthiness of an offshore-intended vessel. (Poop decks and portlights in the transom for example) Big wheels are nice because they get you out closer to the rail, but then again wheel steering was pretty rare on traditional working craft below 45 of so feet. (Catboats might be a notable exception but even there the working cats usually had tillers while the ''livery'' and yacht cats had wheels)

Bruce King of Ericson fame, designed a whole range of boats that were traditional above the waterline and modern below. Probably the best of these for your purposes was the Ericson Independence 31, which was available either as a sloop or a cutter. The sloop was the better all around sailor but the cutter typically with a short bowsprit. These are great boats and would be high on my list of comparatively inexpensive ''go anywhere'' cruisers.

Bristol Channel cutters are one of the nicest renditions of a traditional working watercraft based design that has ever been built in fiberglass. (The Atkins Ingrids such as the Alajuella is another excellent example) These are highly regarded little boats in many ways. There is the minor issue that some were home completed and so can have some really bad ''innovations'' but most are absolutely beautifully finished. They sail extremely well for a boat derived from a 19th century working watercraft, but obviously do not sail as well as a well designed modern design in any conditions. (I know that the BCC guys will jump on this last item and insist that they are better heavy weather boats than most modern designs, and I actually agree with that which is why I added the modifier "well designed".) While boats like the BCC really come alive in winds over 10-12 knots, they do not point, offer very good over the bottom performance (especially in lighter and heavier conditions), or handle a chop as well as an equally sized modern boat (either sized by length or weight). But that is not what boats like these are about. They are about and aesthetic. I enjoy sailing traditional boats but I enjoy sailing them for completely different reasons than I enjoy sailing modern boats.

There are also a several of fairly accurate fiberglass replicas of historic sailing types. The two best that come to mind are the Friendship sloop replicas and the VanDyne designed Tancook Whaler replicas, which are really super little boats.

Bowsprits are a pain in the butt in almost all ways. Based on my experience sailing on quite a few boats with bowsprits and having owned a 1939 Stadel cutter for over a decade, I sincerely believe that bowsprits make no sense as a place to tack a headsail for a boat going offshore. When things go wrong out there this is a very inhospitable place to be. It is no coincidence that the traditional term for a bowsprit is a widow maker and that in the evolution of working watercraft bowsprits were pretty much abandoned by the first quarter of the 20th century. (I know about the exception of such semi-protected working watercraft as Skipjacks.)

About bowsprits and balance, working watercraft generally had comparatively little stability as compared to their displacement. As a result a great effort was made to keep the sail plan as low as possible. Since their underbodies generally precluded good windward performance, rigs were optimized for a lot of reaching power with a minimum of heeling. Gaff rigs do this very well and but, in a general sense, for a given mast and boom position, gaff rigs tend to move the Center of Effort aft in the boat which without counterbalance of extending the headsails forward means a lot of weather helm. When you add that to the properties of an attached rudder which tends to also develop a lot of weather helm just because of the side loads of sailing in a breeze, the need to dynamically balance the helm traditional water craft meant that bowsprits (or extended bows like the ''Bluenose'' type)were necessary. Most Bermuda rigs can be balanced without a bowsprit. Low stretch sail cloth and line, lower vertical centers of gravity, more efficient hull forms and keels make complicated expensive to maintain, tricky to sail rigs like the gaff rig pretty much unnecessary (except that they can be fin and challenging to sail well) and with this greater efficiency, make bowsprits as a part of the standing sailplan (as opposed to a specialized deep reaching sail plan) an affection with little practical use in the real work.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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