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big007 02-08-2004 06:59 PM

Friendship 31 sloop
I am interested in any info on sailing characteristics of this type of boat. I do coastal cruising in Fla and New England. It seems that the different sails offer possibility of adequate performance in a wide range of conditions;
Jim Marron.

Jeff_H 02-09-2004 03:02 AM

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.


drynoc 02-09-2004 03:33 AM

Friendship 31 sloop

I''ve often wondered about Friendship sloops myself, and you gave an excellent thumbnail description. I do have one more question: why do they have such high displacement? They seem very heavy for their size.

Art_Holloman27 02-09-2004 10:07 AM

Friendship 31 sloop

You should read Nick Finneran''s book STANIEL CAY. Two teenagers find an old Friendship sloop in the mangroves in Biscaye Bay in 1948. They fix up the boat and go sailing around the Caribbean. Great sailing adventure story.


Jeff_H 02-09-2004 02:34 PM

Friendship 31 sloop
Another good Friendship Sloop book is Joe Richards series on the "Princess". Joe bought a wreck of an old Friendship after WWII and fixed the old girl up. I actually knew Joe and worked for his brother at a boat rental place in the mid-1960''s.


Jeff_H 02-09-2004 06:15 PM

Friendship 31 sloop

There are a lot of reasons that they were as heavy as they were. Some related to the intent of thier construction which was fairly robust to take the abuse of being worked. Some had to do with workmanship which was crude and cheaply done (double sawn frames and chunk forefoots.These boats were seen as somewhat disposible.) Some weight came from the very heavy rig. Much of the weight came from carry cobblestone internal ballast. It takes a lot of ballast to get much stability out of a low density placed that high in the hull. But also as a work boat the Friendship sloops had to be able to carry a proportionately large amount of cargo.


mikewrightoo 06-23-2011 04:19 PM

friendship sloop sailing and handling
well i just got in from a couple of days offshore the westcoast of vancouver island with my fifty foot friendship sloop. What a pleasure to sail...i singlehand it with a alado roller furnling jib and a gaff rigged main.

i built this boat, steam bent yew frames, the best materials although i have blocks and lots of ropes, once you practice a bit, raising and lowering the main is actually a peice of cake. ive owned plenty of glass sloops thirty feet and up and some multi hulls too and all in all they all have stuff to learn and they all have good and bad to deal with.

the friendship sloop is a very stable boat due to width and ballast combinations and is infinitely adjustable. surprisingly it was well known for windward and ive been experimenting with it and shurely it points very well, as well as my previous glass sloop. you just have to have good sail shape and let it climb, its quite fascinating. the long sloped keel with its flat sides keep a good grip on the sea, and having the max draft at the rudder post makes for a pleasant ride in following ten foot plus seas as ive just experienced.

Now there are a lot of armchair sailors out there, and there are a lot of lazy jacks now days, too fat to haul in a line, too pooped at an early age to do anything but press dont fret, try one of the old timers out and learn......its worth the effort and they look a heck of a lot better than they make em now and probably ride the sea better too..........thanks sincerely mike

svHyLyte 06-24-2011 08:45 AM


Originally Posted by Jeff_H (Post 38275)
Another good Friendship Sloop book is Joe Richards series on the "Princess". Joe bought a wreck of an old Friendship after WWII and fixed the old girl up. I actually knew Joe and worked for his brother at a boat rental place in the mid-1960''s.


Actually, Joe bought his boat in the winter of 1937 and spent 3 years restoring her before he took off for the "Caribbean". His book "Princess" is a classic. We were friends with the family and remain in contact with his daughter, Susan, who is still selling reproductions of Joe's wonderful paintings.

If you are interested in the Friendship type yacht, you might find the Nonsuch yachts of interest. For example, see 1988 NONSUCH 30 Ultra Sail Boat For Sale -

WanderingStar 06-24-2011 09:52 AM

The Dictator model, Jarvis Newman's 31' Friendship is an excellent boat. True, it is not a modern sloop. But it performs well, pointing high and sailing fast for a classic boat. (I've sailed on one). Jeff gives a good thorough description of the type, though I only know of one that capsized and sank, that while racing. I owned and sailed a 26' Pemaquid for several years and found her very seaworthy, great in big seas. If you're very interested, contact Jarvis, he still brokers the boats.

Jeff_H 06-24-2011 10:17 AM

I had not remembered that he bought Princess that early. Its been a very long time since I read any of his writings. In the mid-sixties he was still talking about restoring "Princess" like it happened yesterday. Joe was a colorful guy, and as a kid, he seemed way bigger than life to me.

His brother, whose name escapes me, ran a sailboat rental and sailing school on Manhasset Bay. As a kid, I worked at Sigsbee's Marine during the week, which maintained the wooden Pennant sloops that Joe's brother rented, and on the weekend I worked at the rental as a boat boy, prepping the boats at the beginning of the day and cleaning them up at the end of the day, and giving sailing instructions when requested or sailing with non-sailors to keep them out of trouble.

When I think about it today, I am amazed that even back in those simpler times, it somehow made sense to send out total non-sailors in leaky old wooden boats without an engine with only a 15 year old kid as the sailing instructor or chaperone, especially when I consider how little I knew then about sailing compared to what I know today.

I terms of my reference to capsizing and swamping, this refered to the older working Friendships which were worked in all kinds of weather, generally single-handed or with only a man and a boy. The yacht version tend to have higher density ballast, placed lower in the keels, and less sail area for their displacement giving them more stability and less likelyhood to capsize or founder. One of the glass versions that i sailed on had a self-bailing cockpit as well.


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