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Hi, I just finished reading Slocum's Around the World Alone. Every sailor must read it!

He mentions that a major factor in his success was that the Spray was notable for holding a course with sails set and the wheel lashed. He brags that he did so for thousands and thousands of miles with possibly a slight correction now and then.

What characteristics of its design (or lack of design :) made it self-steering?

I myself have sailed one 28' modern fiberglass boat that was able to do so for short periods in the harbor without lashing the wheel. Are our modern boats better designed and thus able to mimic the Spray's ability if conditions are right?
 

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Hi,
IMHO, the original spray was a horrible design. It eventually killed him.
'Cods Head and Mackeral Tail' beamier forward means downwind or beam reach with CE close to & ahead of CLR, self steering is possible within 5-10 degrees.

It had a flat bum, long keel and was originally a yawl, I believe. He got rid of the mizzen sail. It would cause him to round up or even eliminate the effect of the rudder on certain points of broad reach sailing.

He was a sailor of incredible skill and knlwlede and resourcefulness. He could have sailed around the world in a bathtub!

SOme designs are able to sail well balanced without weather or lee helm. But not on all points of sail. Narrow fin keels cannot emulate this feature of a long keel. Try manourvering or even reversing a long keel in a crosswind. Best going in a straight line.
just my views
 

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It had a flat bum, long keel and was originally a yawl, I believe. He got rid of the mizzen sail. It would cause him to round up or even eliminate the effect of the rudder on certain points of broad reach sailing.
It's been a quarter century or more since I read the book, so my mushy brain could be playing old harry with me. But I seem to recall that part way into the voyage he added a mizzen to create a yawl, although he continued to refer to Spray as his "little sloop." If memory serves, adding the mizzen was partly intended to improve self-steering.
 

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Ok John,
I am going by memory as well. If I am wrong, I apologise.:confused: A mizzen on a long keel can take away your steering. If he was going where he wanted, its a good thing. I know this from experience on a gaff ketch, much bigger than the Spray.
Its a good topic to discuss/argue over. I just sold a self steering system - Auto for us now, although we can sail quite balanced as long as I stay in one place!
 

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Ok John,
I am going by memory as well. If I am wrong, I apologise. A mizzen on a long keel can take away your steering. If he was going where he wanted, its a good thing. I know this from experience on a gaff ketch, much bigger than the Spray.
Its a good topic to discuss/argue over. I just sold a self steering system - Auto for us now.
No need for apologies!!!:) Who knows, maybe I'm remembering incorrectly.
 

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>>IMHO, the original spray was a horrible design. It eventually killed him.
Taking him safely solo around the world wasn't good enough? My theory is he knew he was old and tired, so he shoved off to chose his resting place. :)
 

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He also had some good Trade Winds. I believe Graham had the same exprience as Slocom on Dove and he was only about 17. I might have the 2 storys a little confused though they both took similar routes and Robin would reffer to Slocom travels many times in his book. I do agree with Toast great book. You might want to try "Over the Edge of the World" by Laurence Bergreen.
 

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Thanks John,
No other photos on this comp -. Waitoa is a TI (Thursday Island) Pearling Lugger. Gaff Ketch, 56' on deck. 2" kauri pine hull and oregon deck. Only recently -15 years ago we put on winches and added a furler on the bowsprit. This is why I have a GRP yacht!!!

I spent my childhood and half my adulthood on her. Dad (age 74) was antifouling her last weekend.
 

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Thanks John,
No other photos on this comp -. Waitoa is a TI (Thursday Island) Pearling Lugger. Gaff Ketch, 56' on deck. 2" kauri pine hull and oregon deck. Only recently -15 years ago we put on winches and added a furler on the bowsprit. This is why I have a GRP yacht!!!

I spent my childhood and half my adulthood on her. Dad (age 74) was antifouling her last weekend.
Very nice. Slocum would be proud!

Toastchee, I tend to agree with you that Captain Joshua was astute enough to recognize her limitations, and content to let any fate befall him at his stage in life. I always felt that he knew full well what awaited him when he set-off on his final voyage.
 

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What characteristics of its design (or lack of design :) made it self-steering?

I myself have sailed one 28' modern fiberglass boat that was able to do so for short periods in the harbor without lashing the wheel. Are our modern boats better designed and thus able to mimic the Spray's ability if conditions are right?
Good fore-aft sail plan balance is always the key for a self steerable boat. That and the trimming habilities of the sailor himself...

Also one should not forget that back in those days it was not very usual for a boat to let itself be managed by a crew of one...

Out of curiosity, my father owns a Phillippe Harlé Gros-Plant 6.5 that he built himself (this design finished 2nd on the 1979 mini transat) which is the closest thing I know to a self steerable boat (not to mention every two sail dinghys I've ever sailed). In my father's case the self steerability derives directly from the huge skeg and near perfect fore-aft sail plan balance...

Azul (my dad's boat) is able to steer itself for large periods of time independently of heel angles or points of sail and it is amazing why some designers insist on developing configurations that behave like nightmares, rendering the skipper to tiller slave duties for almost the intire duration of their journeys.

My boat is a trimaran but these are natural course keepers (due to their long, narrow hulls) and should not be compared to monohulls in that aspect.
Regards
 

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What characteristics of its design (or lack of design :) made it self-steering?

I myself have sailed one 28' modern fiberglass boat that was able to do so for short periods in the harbor without lashing the wheel. Are our modern boats better designed and thus able to mimic the Spray's ability if conditions are right?
The Spray had a long sail plan and a full keel. Joshua Slocum was also an incredible sailor. By reefing and adjusting the amount of sail fore and aft he was able to keep the boat balanced. The full keel would help it track straighter than a modern fin keel design. The long sail plan and skill gave rise to the ability to self steer.


I have a question to about boats with bow sprits...I find these boat generally to be quite beautiful...but I friend who is a very experienced sailor said he believes that this is 'bad' design trait...he think that the boat should be longer if it needs a bow sprit?

Has anyone else heard this theory?...bow sprits generally aren't seen on new designs...
 

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Spray was an oyster sloop, converted to a yawl during the trip. She was able to self steer because of her long keel and spread out rig. Slocum sailed her downwind in the trades by sticking a spar forward , extending past the bowsprit, and flying a big headsail from it. She had to go downwind like that. She was a good boat for what she did, replicas have also circumnavigated. I'm not Joshua Slocum's equal, and I never will be. I also own a beamy, long keeled boat with a divided rig (ketch). I sail her mostly alone, and mostly let her self steer, just tying off the helm. Then I go about the boat, tending to her gear, or fixing lunch. My old gaff yawl, a fishing design (like Spray), could sail the same way. It makes single handed cruising easier, without autopilot.
 

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GW, I like bowsprits, they extend your rig. Traditional boats used then to pile on sail with a lower center, less heeling. Also, before modern rigging (last hundred years) Taller rigs wouldn't stand.
They look great, and you can stand on it while she sails.
 

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The bowsprit, in addition to adding the ability to run multiple head sails and spinakers for downwind sailing also makes for an excellent platform to haul and carry multiple anchors keeping them off the for-deck and out from underfoot as well as keeping the anchor rode away from the hull a bit when the vessel is "against" itself in a current contrary to the wind.
As for the merrits or short-comings of a ketch or Yawl rig. I prefer the yawl, as it also can serve multiple uses. for example; a good anchor sail, rigging a staysail for of the aft mast to maximize light wind sailing ability, crane for lifting, a great place to mount a wind generator,radar,ect.as well as a means to balance the added headsails from the bowsprit.
Let's not forget that if the aft sail isn't aiding your progress you can always furl it.
I have a mast that I fully intend to add onto my 32' center cockpit sloop making it a yawl and adding a 4'-6' bowsprit as well ! As my main mast is 40' deck-stepped I hope to be able to raise and lower my masts w/out the need of a crane, giving me more autonomy, and the ability to get under a low bridge increasing my possible gunking/sailing possibilities.
When I sailed into Oriental NC for the first time I was disappointed to see the Bridge was just a bit low for me to comfortably continue up into the river and it limited me to the small anchorage at the entrance to the town waterfront.
 

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The bowsprit was also known as a widow maker... So the fishing schooners were started being built with a longer fore deck and a reduction in their sailing ability. These were the "Knock-About Schooners". After about a decade or so they went back to the bowsprit...
BTW I've sailed as an A/B on a charter schooner out of San Pedro Ca. for one summer. One time when sailing on the west side of Santa Catalina Isle, the seas built up a bit and the Diosa Del Mar buried her bow into the seas. I was furling the jib all the way out on that sprit... Got soaked to my chest... Woo Hoo!! What a ride...
It was ashamed that Diosa Del Mar was wrecked about a decade later. She was a beautiful Schooner...
 

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No No! Slocom took off cause he couldn't stand his wife! He may still be out there.
I like that thought: Maybe he is still out there, helping other sailors as he claimed he was helped by the spirits of ancient mariners.;)

P.S. You mean his second wife, of course. He cherished his first wife dearly -- they were very close and she accompanied him on many of his voyages as a ship's captain, including when they got shipwrecked on the coast of South America and the family sailed back in the tiny Liberdade.

I got the impression he had very little in common with his second wife, except for the fact that she was a relative (a cousin, I think?).
 
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