This is the story of how I came to realize that bigger and bigger boats is not a way to a meaningful life.
I once had a 13 feet long rowing boat Anna that I had converted to a cruiser by decking her. 1967 I sailed her on the Swedish west coast and in Limfjord Denmark. 1968 I sailed her to England via Denmark, Germany, Holland and Belgium. In most of the fifty harbors I visited the grown ups had advised me to get a bigger boat. It would be safer, faster and make me more happy they all said.
Obediently I went back to Sweden were I found the hull of a 40’ steamboat. She was made of iron 1885. I named her Duga and converted her to a staysail schooner and sailed her to Rio Brazil. On the way in Las Palmas, Canary Islands, a 72 feet Camper and Nicholson Ketch dropped her anchor next to Duga.
She flew a Norwegian flag. It was father and son, his wife and baby. They were on their way to the Caribbean to do charter and wanted the boat to be shiny. I was asked to do the masts. First they had to be scraped, then varnished seven times, a big job that would take plenty of time. As a bonus I was invited to have all my meals onboard. After a few weeks on board the huge luxuries ketch I found her size to be just right. In the evening after the days work was done it felt embarrassing and unfair that I had to row back to my much smaller Duga.
In less than a year my comfort zone had grown from a 13 foot converted rowing boat to a 72 feet ketch.
During the long sail to Rio I realized that I was trapped in the hedonic treadmill. It was a sobering lesson. The grown ups had promised me that I would be more happy in a bigger boat. It was true initially but not in the long term. I had been fine in my 13 feet Anna. After Rio I sold Duga and built Bris a small boat that I sailed happily in for many years.
Most people do not realize that they adapt to the size of their boats so they want bigger and bigger all the time. Science has found out about that and given it the name hedonic treadmill.
It is a consequence of hedonic adaptation. When your boss gives you a raise you will initially be happier. After a time you habituate to the larger salary and return your happiness set point. Even if you win a million on the lottery the same thing happens, first you get happy, then you return to your happiness set point. Luckily this also goes for bad luck. You lose your job and your house burns a thing that happens to many in war but after some time you return to your happiness set point.
In our consumer society most persons waste their life upgrading their possessions to be in the false belief that they will get happier.
2011 in Porto Santo Madeira I witnessed an example of how a family had wasted their life’s saving in the false believe that they get more happy in a big expensive boat. They planned to sail around the world and wanted a new boat from a yard with good reputation.
They had ordered a 36 feet long boat. They had to wait 2 or 3 years for delivery. After a year or so the salesman told them that now there was a new model and that that model would have a better second hand value. The new model was more expensive but the family did not like to louse money so the upgraded. Then the salesman told them that there was problems with fresh water in the Pacific and that they better get a water maker. The water maker was expensive but they liked to have plenty of water.
Then the salesman told them that it would be stupid to run the main engine just for the water maker. He told them they better get a gen set.
At this point the family was about to run out of money so the said that they had to wait and see.
The salesman then told them that it would be far more expensive to install the gen set after the boat was built. The family got the gen set too.
Now the boat was so expensive that they had to sell their house. Not only that they also decided to work an extra year to better their economy, losing a year of cruising time.
Now the boat was so expensive and contained most of their life savings so they decided they better get an insurance.
Now the insurance company said that once they got into the Pacific the insurance would be more expensive because it was so dangerous to sail there. That drained their economy even more.
Also as the boat was so expensive they had to worry about her and the wife told the husband that he had to clean and polish the boat very often so that it did not depreciate in money and the wife had to worry about the inside was shiny and they did not have time to be happy.
I was feeling very sorry for the family. There I was at the same dock, enjoying the same landscape, paying less harbor due as my boat was smaller. I had no expensive insurance and I did not have to polish my boat. I had an oar instead of an engine. I did not have to change oil on my oar nor change any fuel filters on it and so on. I could spend my time enjoying myself.
Even sadder this story is not unique, there are thousands of families like that.
The solution is to have simple habits. With simple habits you can live on a small boat have a meaningful and not worry about economy and other boring things.
It is not easy to live a meaningful life in this world full of salesmen and plenty of advertisement but a simple habits is a good start.
I got my introduction to simple habits in an unlikely place.
The spring of 1962 I was living with eastern orthodox monks on the Mount Athos peninsula in Greece.
The Autonomous Monastic State of the Holy Mountain is a region in northern Greece. There are twenty monasteries and different villages and houses that depend on them. Around 2000 monks live there in seclusion, introspection and prayer. The landscape is sometimes called “Christian Tibet”.
I was there to learn from their different lifestyle. I was young and searched for answers to the big questions.
After some time among them I noticed that lived a very repetitious life. Everything was done over and over and again and again. They had fixed habits for everything. As I was walking in the landscape I became friends with an eremite. One time I asked him about all those habits.
”You do everything over and over. Do you not find it boring always having to do the same thing all the time?” I asked him.
Sven, he told me,
”What you are noticing is my worldly life. You do not see my inner life. What I live for is to talk with God. I therefore simplify my worldly life because that gives me more time for God and that is what is important.”
I am an atheist. My passion is to find out about life. That eremite thought me something of value. Since then I have simplified my worldly life just like the monks on Athos. That gives me time to think about the mystery of life and each time I find out something it gives my life meaning.
Many humans are bored, their minds are fettered by worldly things. That prevents them living a meaningful life. Free animals are not bored nor should humans be.
One of my zeal’s is for the good boat. I also try to find answers to the big questions. That way of life is not for everyone. A meaningful life can also be found by gardening or painting or writing or like a bird just sitting on a twig singing all day. The main thing is to be interested in something and not caring to much about consuming.
Yukio Mishima expressed it well when he was asked how come he always delivered his manuscript so punctual. He answered: My fellow authors live bohemian lifes but their minds are bureaucratical. I live a punctual life that way I can write original books
If you like to be a free spirit, live a life of simple habits.
In the sixties people lived simpler lives, boats were smaller and people were not less happy.
One hundred years ago life was even simpler, there was no electricity and people were not less happy.
1845 Thoreaux built a cabin near Walden Pound and lived a meaningful life.
1750 Rosseau urged people to go back to nature.
For thousands of years wise men have urged people to live simple meaningful life’s. Building a small boat and sailing the huge oceans is one of many way’s of doing it.
More beam, draft and lead increase stability and most sailors wants plenty of stability.
Why then do I eschew beam, draft and lead and instead favor narrow, shallow draft boats that lack much ballast?
Everything is a compromise, cruising boats more so than many things. I look at the intended use, the whole picture. I consider many aspects of cruising before committing myself.
Beam increases stability but reduces its range. Beam is very useful at small angels of heel but catastrophic when the boat heels more than 120 – 140 degrees because then the beamy boat gets negative stability it flips over and takes up a stable upside down position. An extreme example of this is the catamaran. A beamy boat is like a floating 2X4 plank it will not come back if you flip it. It is stable on its two flat sides.
Draft reduces cruising range. A boat with much draft cannot cruise shallow water. Same of the nicest cruising is in shallow water. I do not like to end up upside down. I do not like to limit myself to deep water sailing. It is as simple as that. Thats why I like slender boats with small draft.
I also like an easily driven boat. Lead and beam increases resistance. Rules and regulations have for hundreds of years taxed length, therefore boats have become fat rather than long and narrow. The more bureaucratic a society is the fatter its boats are.
When you compare fat and slender boats of equal weight it is evident that the long narrow boat slices through water with much less resistance than the fat one. You can confirm it with a simple experiment. Drag a hull through the water the normal way, then try to drag it with its beam at right angles to the direction of the movement and you will immediately feel how the resistance increases. It’s not hard to understand that the boat with the smaller the cross sectional area creates the less resistance as it has less water to push aside.
Common is to build boats that are 3 beams long. I favor boats that are 6 beams long because when the two boats sail at the same speed the 6 beams long boat sails at a lower Froud number. It is not so close to its hull speed and therefore it creates a fraction of the resistance of the fat one. That is basic fluid dynamics.
In consequence the slender boat needs a fraction of the sail area to propel her. With less sail area the healing moment is smaller thus the long boat needs a fraction of the short boats stability. So there you have it. By reducing beam you increase stability. It is important to look at the whole picture, its basically economy of stability. Its balance between income and expenditure. A few years ago I earned more than General Motors not that I earned much but they were losing money.
If you are not familiar with Froude numbers there is a more detailed explanation of that and my idea of the low energy boat on my website at MANIFESTO.
With my low energy boats I do not need much stability but I am thrifty therefore I like a hull shape that maximize it.
So what is stability? Most people realize that it has to do with beam draft and ballast. They therefore design beamy boats that have a lot of lead low down in a ballast keel.
Thats part of the answer, but only a part.
Stability is a righting moment. Its arm is the horizontal distance between the center of the boats gravity and her center of buoyancy. The force of gravity and buoyancy are equal. The product of the length of the righting arm and the force is the boats stability.
On a catamaran the righting arm is very long therefore catamarans have a lot of stability even without any ballast at all.
I have known many world leading multihull designer including Dick Newick, James Wharam and Nigel Irens. In fact 1975 – 1976 I was Dicks assistant.
I like the way multihulls achieve stability without ballast. I therefore design my hulls to achieve stability by the use of buoyancy rather than ballast. I design my boats so that the center of buoyancy moves fast and far to lee with small angels of heel.
The higher the hulls center of buoyancy is located the further it moves to lee when the boat heels.
From this follows that a square, boxlike midsection with a flat bottom is best for initial stability.
An advantage is that a boxlike midsection gives the most stowage space inside the boat. A further bonus is that the flat surfaces dampens out rolling.
If that idea is so good why is it not used more? The answer is that many boats are big and flat surfaces on big boats is not a good idea. It makes them pound and no-one likes a lot of noise. Big boats are therefore round bilged to move with less noise. Convex surfaces are also stronger than flat ones.
Luckily my small boats makes no noise because the surface of their flat bottom is not large enough also a small boat do not have problems with strength.
Stability has two roles to play on a boat, the one we all are familiar with is to keep the boat from healing too much so that the sails can convert the wind to a propulsive force efficiently. The second function of stability is to provide safety in heavy weather so that the boat can come back on an even keel after a wave have capsized her.
Safety gear is a drag and an expense most of the time, but when they are needed they safe lives. Most production boats have a positive stability range up to 120 – 140 degrees of heel. That is not enough for me because when most boats heel more their stability becomes negative and they end up in a stable undesirable upside down position.
More about that in my manifesto.
A deep keel is no guarantee for a self-righting boat.
Gerry Roufs an acquaintance of mine capsized his boat in the Vendee Globe race 1996 – 1997. The boat never righted herself despite that huge waves were battering her for many months in the Roaring Forties. She had a ballast bulb of several tons and a draft of about 4 meters. The boat ended up on the Patagonian rocks. Gerry was never found. In the same race other similar boats also ended up in stable upside down positions.
As a consequence of the tragedy the boats now have to be built with a convex deck and a canting keels. That gives the desired stability range of up to 180° heel but that technology is so expensive and complicated that it cannot be used on production boats.
I do not agree with deep ballast keels. There is a smarter way for a small cruiser like mine. I achieve a stability range up to 180° with the help of buoyancy.
Buoyancy is cheap it is light and it involves no moving parts. I achieve this by having a beam to height ratio of about 1:1 and by keeping the center of gravity low with the help of a strong bottom and stowing water food and the necessary gear low down. I keep my water in 5 liter jerrycans. If at the end of a voyage I find that I lack stability I can always fill them up with saltwater and store them at the windward side but I have never had to do that.
The idea of using buoyancy to create a self-righting boat is not mine. That is idea much older than the ballast keel. Pulling lifeboats have been using it for hundreds of years. It is a well-tried concept that works well. Today all of the ocean rowboats are using it.
To visualize the idea imagine a hull with a flotation device on deck something like styrofoam or empty barrels.
When you turn her upside down the flotation device displaces water. That rises her center of gravity and she becomes unstable. The gained potential energy then brings her back on even keel with a splash into a position of the lowest energy.
It is simple, childlike engineering, almost everyone understands it. If you do not, convince yourself by do experimenting with models.
I have already mentioned that a slender hull makes for an easily driven boat that do not need much sail area to propel her. By placing that sail area close to the deck the heeling moment is reduced to even less. In contrast production boats have high triangular sails. It is hard to imagine a set up that heels a boat more.
By distributing the sail area along the boat on several masts the healing moment is even more reduced. With that achieved the boat can be made even lighter that reduces resistance further and so on in a good circle.
But the grown ups say that a high aspect ratio triangular sail is more efficient than a low aspect square sails.
To that I answer that the sails efficiency depends on the angle of attack.
One aspect ratio is not optimal on all points of sailing. If your choice is to race and sail close to the wind I agree with the grown ups. At that point of sailing you should chose the high aspect ratio because it is best for a given area.
However my kind of sailing often on a broad reach when I can ease the sheets low aspect square sails shine. With a free wind my sails are 50% more efficient than the tall racing ones.
There is more on rigs in my post: ” Rigs”.
Like most cruisers I have studied the worlds wind patterns and sail mostly with fair winds. Triangular sails are developed for racing boats to get a good rating on a rule when they sail to windward. They not good for small cruising boats. If you are cruising do not use tall rigs.
Buoyancy and shallow draft is lighter and cheaper than deep draft and ballast. It waste less non renewable resources.
Simplify and simplify again because that leads to create cheap functional uncomplicated boats. That in turn helps us in a small but important way to create a more sustainable world.
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Living systems maintain a steady state of internal, physical, and chemical conditions such as body temperature, fluid balance, pH of extracellular fluid, the concentrations of sodium, potassium and calcium ions, as well as that of the blood sugar level. These conditions help organisms to functioning optimally.
When I design and build my boats I try do it in such a way that they keep their internal conditions of temperature and humidity in a steady state whatever the outside weather. Into this, for the sake of good seaworthiness, I also include the orderly, methodical and harmonious arrangement of all gear and stuff including myself.
At sea there is this deal between my boat and me. My boat gives me good internal conditions. That way I can be in optimal shape and navigate her to a safe haven. Thanks to this deal I do not have to worry when evil storms are raging, when waves in their terrible fury are battering my boat I am resting snug in my bunk reading a pleasant book.
Sure my boat and I in her will be tossed around by the waves but animals have since dawn of time been used to such quick movements and adapted. Do we get seasick when we are moving quickly when we run in broken terrain or are engaged in a fight on life or death?
We are not because the motion that causes seasickness is different. It is slow and unnatural. Lots of inertia is involved when a big ship moves in bad weather. Our genes have had no time to adapt to such movements that’s why some people get seasick.
Here are some of the qualities I have designed into my boats:
My boats are so strong that no matter how furious the storm is they will suffer no damage, not to their hulls, nor to their deckhouses or riggings.
My boats are waterproof at all angles of heel. Even when they are 180° upside down no water enters. They are as tight as a corked bottle.
There is a place for everything and everything is in its place, even after they have capsized.
The humidity and temperature in cabins is within a comfortable range.
As my boats have the above qualities I am safer in them at sea than on land. I also feel safe out there no matter what.
Not all sailors feel safe at sea. Same sailors are dead scare. When I 1980 cruised the Falkland Islands the islanders told me about a single hander who had stopped there on his way to round Cape Horn. He had kept procrastinating; there had always been one more thing to do. After months of delay the day to cast off had finally come. He was a nice man and his new friends where there to see him off.
He raised his sails and cast off and sailed away but after only half a mile he run into the opposite shore. The men could see no signs of life so after some time they went to investigate. They found the man dead. He had died of fear.
Death by fear is common in scary times. During world war two many lifeboats drifted ashore with plenty of dead sailors aboard despite fine weather and only a day or so in the lifeboat.
Same thing happened with the airplanes crews that parachuted into the North Sea. When the rescue boats found them a few hours later in their inflatable life rafts they were already dead, dead out of fear.
Over the years I have know several sailors that out of fear have refused to leave port, in Madeira and Canary Islands and other places. Of course they did not say so but they always had some ridiculous reason not to leave just then and so they kept delaying until it was to late.
I do not fear fear because I have my trusty boat to which nothing can happen. That is a wonderful thing.
How do I achieve this? It is a complex problem. It has taken me many years to figure it out partly because I had to unlearn much of what the grown ups have been telling me. Here are a few of my rules.
First rule, small size is fundamental to strength and safety. Science has known this since Galileo who lived from 1564 – 1642. His square cube law says that the weight of a structure increases by the cube of its scale while its strength only increases by the square of its scale. Example, if you double the scale of a structure its weight will increase eight times but it will only become four times as strong. This is why bridges and buildings get more and more difficult to build the bigger they become until it is impossible to build them any bigger. To build a small bridge on the other hand is child’s play. If you want something to be strong, keep it small. Do not trust the grown ups. Trust fundamental engineering.
Second rule, I use my sandwich-structured composite. It gives me insulation, therefore the temperature and humidity in my cabin is fine. It gives me buoyancy therefore my boat cannot sink. It gives me strength and that combined with her small size makes my boat unbreakable.
Third rule. I make my boats waterproof. How this is achieved is a bit more complicated to explain. Here are a few details. All my deck hatches have deep gasket’s and are bolted down in heavy weather. That way even when boat is upside down they let in no water.
My ventilation system is also waterproof. Fresh air is ducted from one side to the other then down to the bottom of the boat were a dorado box separates any water from the air. The dorado box drains into the center board case.
Everything remains in its place, nothing brakes, no water enters, and soon my boat is back on even keel, therefore there is no reason to worry when the boat is upside down.
Illustration Pierre Herve
Fourth rule. I have a place for everything and everything is in its place. This includes myself. In my bunk and at my eating place there are safety belts that I use. They keep my fixed in my desired position.
Fifth rule. My boat has a positive stability range up to 180° of heel. It is accomplished by designing her so that the center buoyancy is always to lee of the center of gravity. Before I set out on voyage I do a rollover test.
Video showing roll over test.
If you pay attention to the above simple rules you can have a cheap and safe boat that can take you to most places in the world. The idea of homeostasis is as old as the beginning of time.
Mitochondria are a good example of how an organelle has found a peaceful life. As I understand it, long time ago there was no or little oxygen on earth. Then cyanobacteria started to produce oxygen causing the great oxidation event, which in turn caused many spices to die out. Oxygen is a terrible corrosive poison. However Mitochondria use oxygen to burn fat and carbohydrates and as a byproduct ATP is produced. ATP is concentrated energy.
A cell once swallowed one of these mitochondria. The mitochondria ignored that she had been swallowed and continued to live inside the cell as if nothing had happened.
As she was eating the dangerous oxygen and producing energy the cell that had eaten her was very happy. The cell got rid of the oxygen plus it got energy. And the mitochondria were happy because inside the cell she had a safe place with plenty of food.
Today you and me have hundreds of mitochondria in almost every one of our cells, still the mitochondria is a stranger to us because she has her own genes.
When sailing the oceans it is important to believe in oneself and not to trust the grown ups. It is important to design for safety and logic instead of rules because the rules of production boats as specified and made into law by the EUs Recreational Small Craft Directive severely limits the seaworthiness of boats. Category A Ocean does not require that a boat be engineered to survive any stronger winds than a force eight gale. It is well known that out on the vide ocean it is not rare for the winds to exceeds force eight. Nowadays an alternative for a safe boat is to call for help, but that’s not my strategy.
I have mentioned mitochondria because I used the idea of homeostasis when designing my boats supply so that they can create a safe environment like the cell supply mitochondria with a safe environment. No person can cross an ocean by himself but with the help of a small functional boat we can live in a safe environment and sail between the continents. We humans must do this in a sane sustainable way.
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Somehow I hope to leave Sweden end of June. How depends on Corona but I find a way. Most of the food and equippment are now stowed.
Below photo of raincollector that will supplement the 125 liters on board. I use about a liter a day.
.I desire simple, rugged and handy boats. They should weigh less than one ton empty because then I am able to tow them my behind a car, to transport and store them in a container.
With a weigh less then one ton I can drag them up on a beach with the help of a winch. That’s extending my cruising range because.
I have had boats made of wood, steel, aluminum and sandwich composite. Steel is stronger than sandwich-structured composite but I prefer sandwich composite because besides being a structural material it also gives flotation and insulation.
A composite can be made as strong as desired and still be light. To obtain the wanted strength just pick the right fibers, cores and resins.
For decades I have been lucky to be sponsored with epoxy from Nils Malmgren AB, with Divinycell core materials from DIAB and carbon fibers from Svenska Tanso AB. Not only have they been supplying me with the materials but they have also and that is very important given me the necessary technical know how.
There are many varieties of sandwich-structured composites. I have designed one combines, great strength, positive buoyancy and excellent insulation. My formulation differs from more normal ones in that my core is extremely thick for a boat my size. Its core is often 50 mm or 2 inches. If you have a 6 meter long boat with a beam of 1.2 meter and a height of 1 meter the hull surface gives you more than a cubic meter flotation. That volume will float a ton. It is nice to know that your boat cannot sink whatever the circumstances.
Yes, a thousand times and more, people have been telling me that, that was what they said about the Titanic. Still there are millions of surfboards and similar devices around the world that do not sink and cannot sink.
As a Swede I spend much of my sailing time at high latitudes. Today my boats have good insulation. This has not always been so. I have learnt that it is important to avoid condensation because it leads to molds. Molds are no good, they present health hazards, gives allergic reactions and cause respiratory problems. They also give of a bad smell. Molds turn a nice boat into an unpleasant one.
In May 1980 I was sailing south from Mar del Plata, Argentina towards Cape Horn, I had an aluminum boat. I had insulated my boat as best as I could but there were still plenty of unavoidable thermal bridges at odd places where cold leaked into the boat and caused condensation points. Such places were around windows and hatches.
After a week at sea I saw the first green slimy things. It was so cold that I was in sleeping bag most of the time with a cap on my head and gloves on my hands. The molds soon started to grow on my sleeping bag. After a month in those conditions the bravest of them had even invaded my beard.
There was no heating in the boat. The cabin temperature was about 7° centigrade. I tried to get rid of the condensation and the molds but they were growing all the time. In the end I had to ignore them as best as I could. After 40 days I docked and could clean the boat and myself.
In contrast 1989 I sailed from Ireland to Newfoundland. That part of the Northern North Atlantic Ocean must be one of the world’s foggiest places.
Outside humidity and dampness was everywhere.
In my cabin it was warm cozy and snug. That was due to the 50 mm Divinycell and uninsulated widows that were acting like condensation plates absorbing the dampness drying the air. Even the salt was enjoying the dry atmosphere and was happily running smoothly without any lumps. Compared to the aluminum boat the difference was like day and night.
An alternative is to have a heating system burning all the time. I do not consider that a simple cheap alternative, nor is it environmentally friendly.
In September 1962 I sailed into Kopenhagen with Blekingsekan. I tied her up in Christianshavns kanal outside an old Baltic Trader. Most of my time I spent in libraries studying boatbulding and mathematics. When the last library closed at 22:00 I went to a cheap café to seek more information and advice from the city’s many university students.
Usually I was not back to my boat before one or two a clock in the morning.
One December night when it had gotten very cold and damp in my uninsulated boat I fired up my kerosene stove to get some heat in my cabin. A curious thing happened. My kerosene lamp started to dim. I turned up the wick but within a minute it started to dim again. I checked the reservoir I had just filled up.
It was full.
This was mighty strange.
Why did my lamp not work?
Conscious or unconscious I must have opened the cabin door a bit. Fresh air entered the cabin and my lamp started to shine brightly.
A lesson: If you burn fuel for heat bee sure to supply oxygen.
Ten years passed. September 1972 I was on my way south through the Danish islands in my first Bris, a wooden boat. The topsides and deck was 10 mm plywood. The nights were cold and the condensation so bad that it started dripping on me. To cure it I covered the ceiling with 30 mm Styrofoam. It worked fine. Later in the spring when I trailed her back to Sweden from Holland to fix the centerboard and rigging I also did a better job on the insulation.
The winter 1975 – 76 I worked with trimaran designer Dick Newick on Martha’s Vineyard. During the winter I lived in Bris on Daffy Ducks boatyard where we built the Val trimarans. At a thrift shop on the island I had bought a small bread toaster for 1 dollar. It kept me warm the whole winter despite some cold northerly winds
An insulated plywood boat is an alternative to sandwich-structured composite, but it is not nearly as good. The composite boat has an inside that is much easier to keep clean, as there are no crevices and hollow places that hide cockroaches’ bugs and molds. Every surface on my boat is accessible to clean.
Besides that and this can be very important the composite boat is far stronger than a wooden one. It is good to have extra strength for the unexpected.
1979 I was navigating Brittany’s inland waterways in Amfibie – Bris together with Olga. We had left Redon and were on our way to La Gacilly. I had been sculling Bris up the Aff, a small river. We had tied up at the dock at Glenac in an etang a small pond.
It was the end of March and we were the only boat at the long dock.
Olga had started to prepare the evening meal when we saw a canal boat, a small steel barge entering the etang from the other side. Everything happened very slowly until in the end when everything happened fast and all at once.
The barge was slowly coming closer across the pond and heading towards us despite all the empty places on the dock. In Sweden people are keeping their distances. We do not so much mix with strangers. Well I thought, now we are in France and here people are more sociable. The barge was headed straight for us. They did not slow down. They rammed us broadside on.
A steel barge even if it is not big coming with the moderate speed of 3 knots will give a very big impact; especially as our case we had the dock at our other side of us acting as an anvil. There was a big bang as.
Shaken I rushed up on deck. On deck of the barge there were two French couple “ Excuse nous, nous sommes debutants” I heard they said unison. Excuse us we are beginners.
A good enough explanation.
Any ordinary boat would have sunk, not so Bris, her rubrail got a bit deformed but that what they are there for.
I like the French, but they sure are a bit odd. Another time now in Paris, 1964 I think it was, I was driving my Volkswagen when I had an accident at slow speed. This time the driver came out and said, “ Excuse me I was looking at my wife”.
On two other occasions during the same voyage Amfibie – Bris was unexpectedly hit in different ways but not as hard as the first time. It is good to have a strong boat.
Other small boats do not have 50 mm closed foam cores. At most they may have 10 mm. Strength increases very rapidly with thickness. When a boat gets hit the outer laminate gets compressed and the inner one is stretched, compression and tension. In the middle there is the neutral axis.
If a boat has a hull that is 5 times as thick as another boat it takes a force 5 times as big to break her inner laminate. The impact is distributed over an area of inner laminate that is 25 times as big. To increase my boats strength even more I use carbon fibers in NM-epoxy for the inner laminate, the skin that takes up the tension. Also the volume of the Divinycel core that takes up much of the impact energy is 125 as big as the thinner composite.
The materials I use are all expensive but a boat with a displacement of 600 kilos uses less than 5 % of the amount of the material that todays cruising boats in the 40 to 50 feet range uses.
In conclusion, a small boat built with high quality materials is much cheaper than a big boat built of cheap stuff. Besides other expenses on a small boat is also small.
I have owned slops, cutters, and schooners, three of them, but no ketches or yawls. I have nothing against ketches and yawls. I have been experimenting with different rigs and have changed my mind over the years as I have gained more experience and better knowledge.
Traditionally there were many small working boats with spritsails on the Swedish west coast. The bigger working boats had gaff sails. Yachtsmen tended to have Bermudan sails.
To support the sails you need masts. Bermudan sail need much taller masts than four corned sails about twice as high. Why do then sailboats use so Bermudan sails and tall masts?
There are two very different reasons. One is that a four corned sail needs an extra spar to spread out its canvas. On small boats that is no problem but as boats gets bigger and bigger the handling of that extra spar gets more and more difficult.
The second reason is racing rules. One would think that cruising men would disregard racing rules. Not so, a cruising sailboat is a very big investment. They often cost as much as a house therefore the buyer consider the resale value. A boat that can be raced has a higher value on the second hand market. Therefore even if the buyer never intends to race he invests in it. The next buyer also he considers the resale value and so on ad infinitum. Those even the second hand market ends up with boats that have bad properties that few cruising men are interested in
Racing rules do not even measure or calculate how fast a boat will sail. They measure speed producing elements, like sail area, waterline length, displacement, to name a few that are easy to measure and with a help of an arbitrary formula comes up with a number that is the rating. It is impossible to produce a fair sane formula for speed. Racing committees have tried it for hundreds of years. Sure racers need rules, but cruising men should not sail boats that are built to race. If you are concerned with money get a smaller boat, it is cheaper, it is good for nature, it lets you sail more often.
When you are racing the most important point of sailing is close hauled. At that point of sailing, the high aspect ratio sail is most efficient according to aerodynamics, but only if you compare equal sail area. If you instead measure mast length, high aspect ratio sails such as the Bermudan sail is much inferior. Had the rule makers instead measured mast length, the Bermudan rig would have been created, as it would never have won any race.
Never trust the grown ups. 1967 I sailed from Sweden to Limfjord Denmark with Anna. I had the Bermudan main up also I had an old spritsail. The wind died out I changed to the spritsail. To my great surprise she started to sail very much closer to the wind. The difference was really incredible after all I had read of how much better the Bermudan sail was supposed to be and the sprit did not even reach the masttop.
Just for fun belov Amfibie Bris 1988 with her spritrig
The science of aerodynamics is created and paid by the airplane industry. The science of airplanes is many times more advanced than that of yachts. Superficially a wing is a wing if it is attached to a boat or an airplane the science is the same – right – no wrong you cannot leave out the important question of stability.
A high aspect ratio wing is good engineering on an airplane but a disaster on a yacht. The reason is; the wing on a boat causes a healing moment. To counter that moment a yacht needs a ballast keel. On a top end racing boat that ballast is as heavy as the rest of the boat. It stands for 50 % of the total weight. That extra weight equals 50 % of the resistance, it can be substantially be reduced by lower aspect ratio sails.
On airplanes the healing effect of one wing is counterbalanced by the wing on the opposite side. That is why high aspect wing is good engineering on airplanes. There are no one-winged airplanes with a ballast keel on the opposite side.
To design a good cruiser it is important to se the whole picture, to take into account that cruisers sail a lot downwind and that stability is part of the picture and that it is important to reduce the amount of ballast and that the cargo carried by a cruiser adds to stability if it is carried low down.
The conclusion of the above is that it is advantages for a small cruiser to have a rig with a low center of effort. Rigs with sails that have four corners have much shorter masts and lower center of effort than those that have three corners. They have much lower healing moment and need much less stability. Today after much slow thinking and experimenting I have come to the conclusion that the balanced lugsail with a freestanding mast is the best for my boats. Here is why.
A short mast on a small boat can easily be designed to be freestanding. On a mast that has no shrouds and stays, the sail can pivot all the way forward if need be. This increases safety. That setup will let me spill the wind in a sudden squall. It will also let me reduce speed when docking. Obviously it also reduces chafe, as there is no shrouds that the sail can rub against.
The more you let out your sails on a downwind course the more stable is the configuration, the risks of gibes are reduced, the boat will also be more directional stable. Hence the sailing becomes more safe and pleasant.
Like the balanced rudder, the part of the sail in front of the mast “balances” the pressure of the wind on the sail. When tacking it catches the wind and helps the sail pivot across. When gybing it reduces the amount of force when the boom comes across. When running downwind it keeps the center of effort closer to the centerline of the boat reducing weather helm. The force on the sheet is very small. There is no need for winches and blocks. The rig is also self tacking, just put the helm a lee.
A third of the lugsails area is in front of the mast. In fact the French call it “voile au tiers” meaning “sail of thirds” or something like that. It is not a new idea birds invented it a long time ago. A third of the area of a birds feather is in front of the stem.
The downhaul of the lugsail is attached to the boom 20 % behind the luff. There is no metal fitting on the lugsail. There is no gooseneck attaching the boom to the mast, nor is there any slides attaching the sail to the mast or track on the masts. This makes the rig very cheap, simple rugged, robust and very easy to maintain. In fact Exlex masts are discarded Europe-dingy masts whose mast tracks or luff grooves was not intact.
A further advantage is that the position of the downhaul prevents the boom from lifting; there is those no need for a kicking strap or boom vang.
The mast interferes with the flow over the lugsail but there is nothing to disturb the flow over its luff. The Bermudan mainsail on the other hand has a mast in front of the luff that disturbs the airflow over the whole sail and that is particularly bad at the top of the sail, even the forestay disturbs the airflow over the jib.
It is imperative that the boat works well especially in bad storms. A short mast, as short as possible is a good start when designing a seaworthy cruiser.
For an equal sail area the lugsail gets away with a mast half as long a Bermudan sail needs.
A short mast has many advantages. If a mast is supported it will mostly fail in buckling. According to Eulers law if you shorten a mast to half its length it becomes 4 times as strong. This means tall masts affect stability badly.
Also a tall masts peripheral speed, the speed at the top of the mast is much higher than that of a short. That means that when the boat is capsized or pitchpoled it will hit the water with much higher speed.
Water is soft when you touch it slowly and gently but when you hit it with a fast mowing object it becomes very hard. You can waterski on it. In fact going fast enough you can waterski on your heels.
This combination of the above factors causes great danger to boats that capsize. Most often their masts break.
Should a small boat with a short mast capsize it is unlikely that anything will break.
Yeas storms can be bad to big boats. Still some sailors hate calms more than storms. The reason is that that big boats roll and the sails flaps. This after a long time can drive many hardy sailors completely nuts.
Not me. Not because I am more hard than other sailors. I love calms because I have a small boat and the sails of my boat do not flap and the boat does not roll and in a calm the weather is fine and I can go for a swim.
The reason is that my masts are short, my sails are small, my boat has flat bottom and no deep ballast keel. The Sargasso Sea is not for everyone but Exlex with her short masts thrives in calms and storms.
Racing rules penalizes sail area. If you are not racing do not limit your sail area. On a cruising boat there is no law against plenty of sail. Put up as much as your short mast can carry, just make sure that you can reduce it quickly.
Most cruisers use autopilots and selfstearing apparatus. They complicate the boat and are in the way. Also they break down frequently. I prefer the old way as practiced by pioneers like Slocum and Voss.
Slocum rigged the Liberdade, a boat he built in Brazil and sailed to the US with his family, with three masts. The sails were in fact balanced lugsail with full length battens AKA junk sails.
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I was born on the windward side of Brännö a small island close to the North Sea on the Swedish west coast. Our house was 50 meters from the water.
A neighbor had a Bohuseka, a rowing pram. He told my mother that I could use it anytime I liked when I could swim 50 meters and tie a clove hitch. That was no problem and I was out on the water at a very early age. Although it did not have sails, that boat with its very shallow draft was the best plaything I ever had. There was plenty of surrounding islands, inhabited and uninhabited to discover. I thus got it into my blood that a boat without a deep thing hanging below could land most anywhere.
I was exploring and wandering around in my little craft. To wander is to move or go about aimlessly, without plan or fixed destination to ramble to roam.
To cruise is to travel without destination or purpose. Today few yachts cruise in that original sense of the word. They have even turned the ARC the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers has turned into a race.
Today boats are too big. They are like trains that take a long time to start and an equally long time to stop.
When I am out walking it is easy to stop and look at something.
When I are on my bicycle it is a bit more difficult but still very easy to stop when I see something interesting.
People that drive cars very seldom stops to look at something interesting it’s too much of a hassle.
For a passenger on an airplane it is not even possible to stop and look at something interesting.
What I mean with the above is that a small boat is very handy. You have good control over. It lets you that decide where to go and where to stop. Ocean going production boats are not small and they do not have shallow draft. You are not really longer the Captain; your big boat has become the master.
I build my own ocean going boats because production boats lack many of the properties I desire.
Among them is smallness and shallow draft. Its advantage starts in workshop. When I build I can stand on the shop flour and do most of the work from the outside. That saves much work as I can have my tools cart and do not have to climb down a ladder when I need something.
Building is one thing but you might ask: Is a small shallow draft boat seaworthy enough, because generally speaking the deeper draft a boat has the better it will perform.
As an aspiring yacht designer I had read much about Cape Horn. It had an awesome reputation. If I could round the Horn east to west in a small boat I would be able to answer yeas to that very important question.
1974 I had tried the Horn in 20 feet long Bris a boat that I had built in my mother’s basement to get her out of the door she had was a narrow beam of 1.72 meter. To get her shallow draft I designed her with a centerboard. Her rigging was standing lugsail on two freestanding masts.
The constraint of the basement door caused other problems. First I built her hull cold molded. I then built the interior, deck and deckhouse attached with screws. To get her out I had to take her apart to reassemble her in the garden. Unfortunately there was lots of rain. The humidity made the wood damp. Gluing the deck and deckhouse went OK but the centerboard case I did not get right in those days before epoxy.
She leaked. I fixed the worst. Another problem was that the mast got too heavy. Most mast is supported. Today a few are freestanding. Those days they were rare. The sparmaker who was making them for me made them extra strong to stand up to the Cape Horn storms I was going to encounter. That was bad because that made them very heavy. I had already made extra heavy specifications. The masts ended up more than twice as strong as intended.
With a leaky and tender boat I started to sail south September 1974. In November I stopped in Holland to fix things but didn’t get very far without my tools.
I had very little money so I decided better be sure than sorrow and convert her to a conventional design. I went back to Sweden borrowed a car and a trailer and drove Bris back to my mothers house.
Out came the centerboard case. Reluctantly I installed a small ballast keel and converted the rigging to a Bermudan sloop with an aluminum mast supported by stays and shrouds.
Then I left again. This time even more determined, I sailed across the North Sea out between Orkney and Shetland.
The weather across the North Sea had been very find but as soon as I came out into the Atlantic I was meet by a series of gales that I thought would never end. I drove my small boat against them as hard as I could. Finally after 45 days out of Norway I made a landfall on Funchal Madeira.
It was July 1973 and at the time I was the only cruiser in the harbor. From Madeira I sailed to Rio then to Mar del Plata in Argentina.
In early 1974 I headed south for Cape Horn. At first progress was good but then one wave capsized Bris, that came as something of a chock. My idea had been she would ride like a seagull on top of the waves.
There was a mess in the boat. Lots of water had entered her cabin and things had been thrown around. Still it could have been much worse. She was in good shape; most of the damage had been done to my and my boats pride.
I got rid of the water put things back in their place. More wise, I did as much preparation for bad weather I could with my limited means and kept sailing towards the Horn.
A week later, a sudden wind of hurricane force hit us. Sudden come, sudden go I thought. To my surprise the wind just kept increasing. I tied a tire to along rope and through it in the water to act as a drogue. It kept the stern of my little double ender against the storm.
Everything seemed to be fine despite the roaring wind. I relaxed and started to read a book on physics. Time passed everything was fine despite the raring wind and the heavy breakers that hit her like a hammer.
Then suddenly Bris pitch poled. She capsized stern over bow.
Sven, I heard Janneke scream.
“We are in heaven.”
I have not told you that in Holland I had met a girl with a vivid imagination. She had signed on. Anyway now she thought she was in heaven.
She was keen on classical music and had a cassette player. It had hit the ceiling and Bach music was streaming. That explained the trumpeting angels she thought she heard. I soon got her back to earth bailing.
Thanks to the preparations we had done since the capsize there was now less water and less mess in the boat.
Still enough was enough. I started to draw a new boat, but it was a long way to my mother’s basement and I had not any money either.
I saw a tiny dot on the pilot chart, Tristan da Cuhna. I did not know if it was possible to land there or if it was inhabited but it gave us a chance. We headed east with the prevailing westerlies.
After two months and many storms we made a landfall.
The island was inhabited. 293 persons lived there. There was no harbor but they had a landing place. Thanks to her small size Bris was lifted a shore the willing islanders who thought that we were shipwrecked. I told them that I was an aspiring yacht designer doing research on the seaworthiness of small boats in stormy seas.
Then you have come to the right place I was told.
I stayed on the island 4 months.
I cruised for some more years in Bris. I sailed up to the US started to write for Cruising World magazine and worked with trimaran designer Dick Newick for a year on Martha’s Vineyard. There I learned about epoxy and carbon fiber. 1976 I sailed Bris back to Sweden and started to build the next boat.
June 21st 1980, midwinters night, with a moon shining brightly, and a rare near calm, I entered Port Stanley after finally having rounded Cape Horn east to west in 19 feet Al-Bris.
The Falklands is a windy place. During the four months I cruised the islands, the wind speed reached one hundred knots on three occasions.
I had successfully rounded Cape Horn from east to west. It had been a cold dark voyage with much stormy weather.
I had not planned to do the passage in winter, but during the passage from Madeira to South America I had noticed a bulging area on my stomach. I had no idea of what it was, but it surely did not look healthy. At the yacht club in Mar del Plata, Argentina I asked a doctor.
It is inguinal hernia. He said.
Is it anything I should worry about? I asked.
If your intestine comes out through the abdominal wall it can be life threatening. He said.
I turned pale.
Don’t worry, he said, now you are in Argentina. We will help you. Coming all the way from Sweden in that tiny boat you are a hero to us.
A few weeks later I was at the hospital undergoing surgery.
I had worried about an Argentinian doctor operating on me but they were, all went well.
The problem started when I began to walk. It was painful.
That’s normal, The doctor said, after some time the pain will go away, but you have to wait at least a month before setting out towards Cape Horn.
My problem was that with all the waiting the good season summer was turning into winter and I had neither the money nor the patience to wait one more year. I was eager to find out what Cape Horn was about and I was confident in my little boats seaworthiness.
I cleared out in the month of May 1980.
Those days there was no alternative to astro or celest navigation. To find your position with a sextant in the trade winds were the sky is clear and the sun is up all day is a piece of cake once you have learned how to do the calculations.
The basic idea is that with the help of a sextant you measure the angle between the celest body and the horizon. An angle of more than 20° is most desirable.
In my case after leaving Mar del Plata it was much more difficult. The further south I sailed the less the sun rose above the horizon and the further north the sun mowed the less the sun rose above the horizon, a double effect.
Finally south of Cape Horn in June the sun did not rise more than 11° above the horizon at noon. This was aggravated by big waves and the wintry weather. Most of the days the sky was so overcast that it was impossible to get any observations at all.
A sextant is not some kind of old fashioned GPS. It is a precision instrument made to measure angles, nothing else. It does not give you your position but if you measure the angle between the sun and the horizon with an accuracy of minute of a degree you can then with the help of a nautical almanac and spherical trigonometry calculate your position line.
For those not familiar with celest navigation there is 60 minutes to a degree. That’s how precise you have to measure the angle from a rolling boat in heavy weather.
It is imperative that that measurement is taken vertically, at right angle to the horizon, that is right below the sun. If you hold the instrument at an angle you get a reading that is too big. To eliminate that error you swing the sextant back and forth a few times using the sun as the center.
That trick must be done at that very short moment you are at the crest of the wave otherwise you do not get a true horizon.
In overcast weather sometimes I had to be on deck sextant in hand for a long time to get a glimpse of the sun.
Obviously I could not use gloves when adjusting the instrument to get the correct reading so my hands got cold. When I finally got an observation I had to write down the time to the second. For safety I always took a series of reading and averaged them.
One observation gives one line of position at right angle to the sun. Somewhere along that line you are. To determine where on that line you are you have to take a second observation of the sun after a few hoers when its bearing or azimuth has mowed preferable 90°. Where the two lines cross there are you. If you have moved you must make a running fix. If you are a good navigator and make no errors you can with this method if the weather is OK usually get your position within 3 miles after a few hoers obviously in my case there near Cape Horn I had to calculate with a much higher degree of accuracy.
One more problem I had was that the sun rose and set at about the same place as it does at high latitudes in the winter. The two lines of position was therefore nearly parallel and the fix even more unreliable.
To do those observations and the calculations correct was for me a matter of life and death. I would not have survived a shipwreck on the coast near Cape Horn in the winter, probably not even in the summer.
Why did I tell you all this about how difficult it was to navigate with the sextant?
Unknown to many Cape Horn is not the most southerly part of South America. The most southerly part is the Diego Ramirez Islands, about 60 miles southwest of Cape Horn. I was in danger of being shipwrecked on those island.
At the time of my rounding there was a conflict between Argentina and Chile over some Antarctic islands and all lighthouses were shut down.
There are strong unreliable currents in the area and I did not feel sure of my position.
There are bold pilots and there are old pilots, but there are no old bold pilots, the saying goes.
I am a prudent navigator. I was happy to have rounded Cape Horn from east to west.
I had already experienced more of the stormy Cape Horn conditions than I needed to design small seaworthy boats. It was important that I came back alive to tell the story and design more boats.
Once again I decided enough is enough. So after having taken a few pictures of Cape Horn in a rare moment of clear sight I sailed some extra miles west just to make sure, then I turned and headed east south of Isla des Estados and then for the Falkland Island.
I had designed Al-Bris with deep draft to make her able to stand up to the frequent Cap Horn gales. Now in the Falklands I had problems finding a calm anchorage.
There were protected creeks and sheltered places that dried out a low tide. Those places would have been a perfect place for my boat if only she did not have so deep draft. In consequence I had to suffer discomfort but I had learned some good lessons.
On my next boat, the 15-feet long Amfibie-Bris the problem of draft was solved with a centerboard. I placed it forward of her mast and used the rudder as second lateral area. With the help of that innovation it did not to interfere with the cabin space.
By pure luck I had found a new girl. We had transported Bris on a trailer behind a car to La Trinite sur Mer in Brittany and cruised the area for some time.
On 22 April 1989 we left Le Croisic. It was my 50th birthday I had planned to eat some ice cream as a celebration that day but the weather was fantastic so left we did.
We sailed to Baltimore close to the famous Fastnet Lighthouse on the Irish south west coast. It’s a rather small fishing harbor and visiting yachts mostly have to anchor outside on the roadstead. A gale was announced and as Bris had a strong flat bottom and shallow draft, now unlike on the Falkland Islands there was an alternative. A quarter of a mile southwest of the fishing harbor is cove, aptly named The Cove it was a fantastic place with a nice sandy beach. We went there at high tide, waited for the water to ebb and walked out the anchor. A day later the gale came up the other yachts with deep draft had less than comfortable nights on the open roadstead.
The Cove was a convenient place to fill up Bris stores before we sailed towards Newfoundland our destination.
But can a 15-feet centerboard go to windward out on the deep ocean? Crossing the Northern North Atlantic Ocean against the prevailing westerlies?
Glad you asked.
We did very well. At one time there was a series of gales that lasted for 11 days.
Also this was voyage was done before the advent of GPS. When the weather had moderated and I got out my sextant we were further west than we had been when the gales had started.
The customs in St Johns was not too pleased with our landfall. They told me that I was irresponsible, that their waves were too big for my boat.
Cheeky I told them that compared to the Cape Horn waves that I had experienced their waves were just blah.
That infuriated them. The result was that they put a red stamp in my ships paper saying that Bris was seized.
My boats small size had angered the Canadian custom men and caused trouble. Now her small size, her centerboard and shallow draft offered me a way out of a tricky situation.
While the custom men watched St Johns only harbor entrance so that I would not leave. I rented a U-Haul truck, put my boat into her and drove to the US.
At the US/Canadian border the custom employees asked if I had furniture in the truck.
It is the smallest boat ever to have crossed the Northern North Atlantic against the prevailing westerlies.
Is it a record? The officer asked friendly.
Yes Sir it’s a record. I answered.
He saluted and I was in the land of freedom with my dear little boat.
Up in St Johns the customs used to big cargo boats probably are still trying to figure out how their seized boat could have disappeared without them noticing it.
A small boat and shallow draft solves many a problem.
Go small, go shallow draft and live a simple, sustainable life.
Losing ones rudder is with, sinking, fire, and dismasting one of the major calamity’s that can happen to you out in the ocean. Many yachts have been abounded because of a broken rudder.
I have had rudder problems two times, first in 1962 and then in 1974. Luckily no harm was done either time.
The first time it was with Blekingsekan a not very seaworthy boat. I acquired her to be a shelter for me and my belongings. I only intended to move her along the coast in good weather.
I had left Halmstad in the morning and was sailing south into a strong breeze bound for Torekov on Bjärehalvön. It was about 20 miles distant. I had crossed Laholmsbukten. It had had a lee shore. The wind had been forward of the beam. I had had problems getting my boat to point high enough. Blekingsekan was not a very weatherly craft and progress had been slow.
It was late August with most of summer gone. The sun had set many hoers ago. Blekingsekan was not really intended for this kind of sailing but I had grown impatient with Halmstad and wanted to press on.
I had no navigation lights and no compass. I had a kerosene lamp but it was in the cabin and at the moment it was of no use to me, as I could not open its door. The door was blocked by the piece of plywood that I was sitting on.
I used the plywood to prevent the waves that were constantly breaking over the boat from swamping it. In that situation there was no way I could look at my small scale chart that covered a large part of the coast and was not detailed. I did not have a very clear idea of the lay of the port I was to enter. Darkness had come to soon or rather my progress had been much slower than I had anticipated due to a contrary wind change.
It was early in the morning and very dark before sunrise. I had been sailing for more than sixteen hoers, but finally I was so close that I could see the outline of the little fishing harbor. I headed in that direction and hit a rock.
In the turmoil, of the darkness and breaking waves the rudder got a knock and fell of its gudgeon’s. It did not float away as I had attached it with a string, made of hemp in those days before manmade fibers. I jumped in the water pushed my small, shallow draft, but now rudderless boat of the rock. It was a crucial moment.
But in a flash I had a solution.
My grandfather went to sea when he was 13 years old. He sailed the big square riggers for many years. Five years later he was back in Sweden. In his seabag there was a purse containing gold coins that paid for his navigation school where he got his Masters papers. I understood that he was very found of those years but never really spoke of them as he was a taciturn man. He had books of sailing ships and a scale model. During childhood I had looked at the model many a times. One thing that had struck me was that it had such a tiny rudder.
I once picked up courage and asked him about it.
“We steered with the sails. The rudder was only there for trimming.” He answered tersely, but it had been enough for me.
Now in that dark windy night I remembered his words.
I sheeted in the aft sail, and shore enough, now she headed up into the wind. By adjusting the sails of Blekingsekan, who was in fact a small schooner, I got her safely to the dock.
Next day in daylight and when the wind had eased it was no problem to hang the rudder on its fittings.
Many years later I found the book: The Way of a Ship (1953 Charles Scribner’s Sons) by Alan Villiers among the belongings that had been my late grandfathers. The book describes in deatail how a square rigger is handled. It is a very interesting book, well worth reading even if you are small boat sailor.
Modern times have seen the development of the windsurfer. Even that is a sail powered craft with no rudder. The sail and crew is moved to stear the craft. The steering of smallest and the biggest sailing craft are using a similar idea.
The secound time I lost stearing was less dramatic, even fun. The boat was my first Bris, the one I built in my mothers basement. I was approaching Martinique in the Carrabien coming up from Saint Helena in the South Atlantic. At that time I had sailed Bris many thousands of miles and knew her very well. She was a simple and uncomplicated boat without an engine or electricity.
She did not have a windvane selfsteering apparatus I made her selfsteer by balansing her sails and moving her center of gravity. Sheating in her mainsail made her sail closer to the wind. Walking forward on her deck made her sail closer to the wind. Mowing my weight to windward made her sail closer to the wind and so on.
I had an inside stearing wheel for adjusting the rudder. The wheel was connected to the rudder quadrant by wires.
Crossing the Douldrums there had been a lot of heavy squalls. It had frayed the wires. Now they were quite worn. As I was closing in on Martininique the wire broke. I went up on deck to steer her with my weight. By walking forward and aft, mowing to lee or to windward I had complete control.
Towards evening I reached bay of Fort du France. The anchorage was filled with boats but with ease I tacked between the closely anchored yachts and found myself a nice spot in relatively shallow water. There at leisure I dropped my anchor.
A few days later when I had settled down after the about the about 3800 miles long sail I changed the wire for a spare one I had carried for years.
An intenet search for “lost rudder” gets plenty of responses. The problem is well known and frequent despite the danger it puts yachts into.
The present Exlex is a three masted shooner. Her sail area is well spread out fore and aft. When I sheet in the aft sail she will sail closer to the wind.
The first and secound masts are all the way up in the bow. They are freestanding. That allows the sails to be let out more than 90°. If I sail wing on wing, having the two forward sails out one on each side and sheated out more than 90° it will create a very stable downwind configuration.
Exlex lateral area will also help, as instead of fixed keel, there is a daggerboard that can be raised thus giving her lee helm when desired. I can thuse be give Exlex weather helm or lee helm as desired.
Exlex have a spoonbow that does not grip the water running downwind. It reduces her tendency to broach too.
In conclusion. In the unlikely event of Exlex losing her overbuilt rudder I have some ideas to help me to figure out a way to steer her. A broken rudder will be inconvinient but hopefully no catastrophe.
Every yacht is a compromise, but to different degrees, the fewer compromises you have to make the better boat you get. Therefore it is important to have its intended use clear in mind. If not, the boat may end up like the famous Swiss Army knife, with screw-drivers, cork-screws, tweezers, awls, pens, rulers, nail-filers and countersinkers. A product that can do many things passable, but that cannot do anything well. If I have a good functional knife I do not add a cork-screw to it because I know I get an inferior knife.
In the same I do not approve of adding watermakers, fridges, gensets, and other conveniences to my boats because that will convert her to a nearly useless Swiss Army knife. I prefer to get a smaller purposeful boat and go cruising now instead of staying stuck in marinas spending my time and money servicing its machinery.
For about 60 years I have been in the searching of the good boat. 1962 was the first time I left Sweden on my own keel. I was 23 years old, contrary and stubborn, set in my ways. I had immense self-confidence. I was misfit in society, but well fitted for the cruising life. Already I had experienced more than most grown men. I understood that there must be more to life than doing routine work. I realized that hidden beyond the bourgeois rules and regulations existed a fantastic world and wanted to discover it and be part of it, but I had very little money.
The solution was a small boat. I am sure that today there are thousands of men, young and old, and women of all ages and many others that feel the same, that also wants to explore their inner and outer worlds in a simple sustainable seaworthy boat. If you are one of them read on. This is for you.
Unfortunately, sailing magazines, more often than not, place photos of big shiny yachts on their cover pages. They try to make you believe that a yacht needs to be big, to have a deep ballast keel, and a powerful diesel engine in order to be seaworthy and stand up to the stormy seas of the oceans. That’s all wrong. Stormy seas are kind to small boats; they yield to the breakers.
To be attractive, according to the established doctrine a yacht must be confortable. That is also wrong. Comfort breed’s boredom and it makes you lazy and fat. Consequently it does not fulfill its purpose. It is just a pain that cost money and takes up your time.
My boat, back then in 1962 was 15 feet long or 4.5 meter. Its intended use was a safe shelter for my few belongings and myself, a place where I could read and reflect on the mysterious world I was living in.
In calm weather I should be able to mow her safely from place to place along the coast. In those early days harbor dues were no problems as there were so few boats about that it was not profitable to collect them.
Encouraged by how well the idea worked my ambitions grow. Continents beyond oceans tempted me. This was the time before cheap air travel. A simple boat was the solution I realized. It had however to be more seaworthy. It must to be able to handle furious storms. At the same time should not be big and complicated. It had to be cheap.
It is not more work to build a good boat than a bad one, but you have to know what you are doing.
A wise friend of mine from the time I served a prison sentence, a dangerous murderer in the cell next to me, had advised me as our ways parted.
Yrvind, he said.
Never do what I have done. Instead if you have a problem, go to the library. Books will guide you.
If you like to build a radio receiver, there is a book about that.
If you like to learn French, there is a book about that.
If you want to know how life after death is lived, there is a book about that.
And, he added: It is the smartest men that ever have existed that have written those books.
That was potent advice. Now that I wanted to cross oceans, surely there must be a book about that. I was not mistaken. In libraries I found shelves after shelves of nautical books. For many years I studied, not only boatbuilding and navigation but also mathematics, astronomy, meteorology, fluid mechanics, physiology, nutrition and much more. In fact there was no end to all the knowledge that there was. I read and read and I got wiser and wiser. At the same time I experimented with different small crafts.
Finally in 1967 I had a good boat. I named her Anna. She was a 4.25-meter (13 feet) long rowing boat that I had decked and converted into a small cruiser.
The summer of 1967 I cruised the Swedish west coast and the Danish Limfjord in North Jutland.
For a change I now also had a bit of money. I had got a job as a pedagogue working with a team of psychiatrics, psychologists and social workers to teach mathematics to children with problems. Despite the fact that I was an ex-convict and a certified psychopath I had gotten the job. The mathematics I had thought myself and my calm personality had convinced the staff of the institution that I was the man best qualified for the job. But now in 1968 I planned to sail around the world in my little 13 foot boat.
It was early May. A cold northerly wind was blowing, but I had convinced Martine, a French girl I had met at the library, she was on her way to see North Cape, that she make a detour and make me company to Kiel in Germany. After Holland and Belgium I ended up in Cowes, Isle of Wight.
Cowes is England’s sailing Mecca. There I made a beeline to the local library and found a treasury. There were shelves filled with books on yachting. A paradise.
After a while I found friends among the local yachtsmen and a place for my boat at the Folly Inn up the Medina river. The locals were amazed that I had come all the way from Sweden in my little boat. I let them believe that I was a clever man. I did not tell them that it was not more difficult to sail a mile in Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Holland than in England because they treated me well and I wanted them to continue to do just that.
Henry Ford used to say: Everything is possible; just divide the task into small enough pieces.
It had become September. Summer was mostly gone and so had most of my money. I lived mostly on blackberries. Those I found on a disused railroad track. No one but me was attracted to the ripe sweat berries. In perfect silence, in contemplative mood, in bliss I spent hours by myself in the prickly shrubs. The weather was nice to.
My next leg on the way to the continents beyond the ocean was the mighty Atlantic. In doubt I hesitated. Was my small boat really up to it? Was I a better judge of the mighty sea than all the grown ups that warned me. I had been in over 50 harbors. I had spoken to hundreds of yachtsmen, all more experienced than me.
You must have a bigger boat, they all had advised.
A bigger boat is much safer, it is faster. Besides that it will also attract more beautiful women. In short a bigger boat would make me more happy. They all agreed about that.
The one that takes guidance is wise, while the foolish think his own way is the best.
With some doubt, because I was very content with little Anna who over the years had been so loyal, had given me so little trouble.
I sold Anna in Cowes to a lighthouse keeper. I visited Martine in Paris; she was back from North Cape. Then purposeful I went back to Sweden.
My intention was, like Slocum, to find an old wreck and convert her into a cruiser.
To get money I sold most of my cameras and lenses. I found and the hull of an old steam launch built of riveted iron plates in 1885. She had had an eventful life. During the war she had caught fire and sunk up in Munksjön Jönköping.
A truck driver bought the wreck. He had found her on the shore with a tree growing through her hull plate. He had transported her to Göteborg. His intention was to convert her to a motor yacht. Considering all she had been through she was mostly in good condition. Iron rusts less than steel. But there were many things to fix before the conversion could start. Now it was November and he had not even started. It had been raining after that northerly winds had brought cold weather. The water that had collected in her bilges had frozen. He was discouraged.
I had been touring the boatyards for some time. I had seen her before, but 40 feet long she was much too big for me. Then one Sunday there was a man in her, covering her for the winter.
Nice shape I said as an introduction.
You can have her for 2000 kroner (about 200 Euro or Dollar) he said. It was the biggest wreck I had set my eyes on, but it was also by far the cheapest, for good reasons. She needed a lots and lots of work. But I had done a bit of welding before and I know were the scrapyards were. In my mind, nicely painted the rusty wreck grow into a beautiful schooner that sailed the trade winds in the South Seas with me as a Captain and a beautiful girl crew. I had the money from the sold cameras in my pocket and gave it to Johnny. He took them, but then suddenly he changed his mind, but it was to late, she was already mine.
Of course 40 feet Duga, as I named her, was immense. This is 50 years ago and boats those days were much smaller. With the help of a friend I worked hard the whole winter and spring. As time passed she kind of shrunk in size.
In August, after eight months of intense work, we launched her. We were anxious to get away from Sweden before winter so in a northerly gale we departed Göteborg and headed for Kiel Germany. We docked after 30 hoers.
My advisers had been right. A big boat is faster than a small and Duga was very fast. Anna had used a month to get Martine and me to the same destination.
On the other hand, with Anna we had had a wonderful time in Denmark. Duga showed us nothing of Denmark. After having crossed the Bay of Biscay in October I found myself in Las Palmas, Canary Islands.
One day a big Camper and Nicholson Ketch dropped her anchor next to Duga. She flew a Norwegian flag. It was father and son, his wife and baby. They were on their way to the Caribbean. They had been there before in a Colin Archer doing charter. From one of their wealthy American customers they had borrowed money and bought the boat in Italy.
They know the trade and wanted the boat to be shiny. My friend and I were asked to do the masts. First they had to be scraped, then varnished seven times, a big job that would take plenty of time. As a bonus we where invited to have all our meals onboard. After a few weeks on board the huge ketch, from morning to evening, I found her size to be just right. In the evening after the days work was done it felt embarrassing and unfair that we had to row back to the much smaller Duga.
In not much more than a year my appetite had grown from a 13 foot boat to a 72 feet one. It was a very sobering lesson.
Those that adapt survive. This is true for all living things. Coming from the sunshine into a cave you are blind, but after a few minutes your eyes have adapted and you can orient yourself.
Three years ago I started to eat once a day. My body thought I was crazy. It protested. After a year she had adapted. Now she never gets hungry except just before lunch every day, the regular eating time. It saves me time and money and keeps me more healthy and fit. And my body thanks me and tells me that it is the best thing I have done.
Epicurus pointed out that the expense of an extravagant lifestyle outweighs the pleasure of partaking in it. He therefore concluded that what is necessary for happiness, bodily comfort, and life itself should be maintained at minimal cost, while all things beyond what is necessary for these should either be tempered by moderation or completely avoided. Wise men of all times have favored the simple life unfortunately economists do not agree.
That said the size of a cruiser depends on its intended use. Day sailing and circumnavigation calls for different sizes and size is best measured in displacement. An Olympic single scull is 8.2 meter long. It weighs 14 kilos. An Allegro, a Swedish cruiser is 8.03 meter long. It weighs 3400 kilos.
My friend jumped ship in Las Palmas. With a girl crew I sailed Duga to Rio in Brazil. Did 40 feet bring more happiness than 13 feet? No, but 13 feet Anna would have had problems carrying food and provisions for a long ocean crossing.
I sold Duga and in 1971 I was back in Sweden. A bigger boat had not made me more happy.
Adapting from a big boat to a smaller was a smart thing to do I realized. Small boats, small problems. Big boats, big problems.
I started to build Bris as I named her in my mother’s basement. The drawing of my self designed boat showed a 20 feet light displacement cruiser. I think her empty displacement must have been something like 800 kilos. It was a happy boat and I made many ocean crossings in her with and without a girl crew. Last time was in 1983 when I delivered her from Göteborg Sweden to Museum of Yachting in Newport R.I.
The present Exlex is 5.8 meter (19 feet) but her beam is only 1.22 meter compared to 1.72 meter for Bris and weighs 600 kilos empty. Exlex is those much smaller than Bris. Where I will sail Exlex depends on Corona. The next few months will tell.
I am already thinking of my next boat. Her design gets better every day. At present she is, 7.8 meter long (25 -26 feet) with a beam of 1.3 meter. Six beams long, no measurement rule. I think she will come out with an empty displacement of about 800 depending of how heavy I build her. I like to have a boat that I can spend longer spend up to a whole year at sea without resupply, hopefully with a nice girl crew.
Why do people want boats bigger than that? Conspicuous consumption maybe? One thing is sure; the boating industry combined with yachting magazines does its best to sell us boats more expensive than we can afford. Also most, but luckily not all women go for the guy with a bigger boat.
My advice for what it is worth is. Adapt to the smallest and simplest boat that will meet the needs of its intended use. The cost of a smaller boat is a fraction of the big one. Its upkeep is a fraction of the big one and sustainability is many times greater.
Most people, but sadly not all care about our planet, they just need to be educated. Please educate yourself so that you can become one of the good ones.
Why do I like to spend so long time at sea? Of all the animals in the world only humans are bored. A bird on a twig is happy, not even the snail that travels so enormously slowly is bored.
Also you can find inner peace but it takes time to find the calm. A week at sea is usually needed just for the body to adept, a month for the soul. After that time stops to exist and you are in bliss. It is a bit like when you were very young you literally “lived in time”. You had no awareness of its passing. It is a pleasing experience. You cannot be bored.
The old man complains you say. Yes it was better before, or it might be worse now. The fact is our world has grown less and less safe.
Younger persons do not realize this because they nothing to compare with. They have not experienced that world that existed before they were born. They have grown up with cellphones and TV.
Already Thoreau in the 1850 complained of modernity.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 1750 pleaded back to nature.
Some philosophers maintains that the agriculture revolution that happend 10,000 years ago when there was maybe only one million inhabitants on earth was humanity’s worst catastrophe.
When I was a child the world population was about 2 billion now it is close to 8 billion. Our finite world now have to feed four times as many inhabitants, inhabitants that per capita now consumes many times as much as the persons that lived the old kind of life. Clearly the food is less ecological and nutritious. This has been said many times before, but we have not acted on it therefore I again bore you with the facts. I think that they need to be repeatedd once more.
When I started to cruise there were no marinas and no harbor dues. When I arrived and I just dropped my anchor.
With increasing population and communication crime have increased at an alarming rate. Big populations favors crime. Nowadays many places are not safe.
1845 Henry Thoreau borrowed an ax and walked down to Walden pound. There he cut down some trees and built himself a 10X15 feet cabin. In the cabin he lived a simple life for a year or two.
A hundred years later, 1944 Harlan Hubbard and his wife could still build a shantyboat in the old fashioned way. Thiers had a 10X15 feet cabin, same size as Thoreaus. They built it on the shore of the Ohio River. When it was completed they slowly drifted down the river. In the summers they tied up some nice place on the riverbank and grove a garden. They lived a simple life. Eating mostly what they themselves produced. This was repeated each year for seven years until 1951 when they reached the New Orleans delta.
Today, in most places, this is neither permitted nor safe. There is however one exception. It is the mighty oceans. They cover 71% of the earth’s surface. There is no law that will prevent you to drift far out into the immense ocean in a small craft and live there in peace. You can stay there until you run out of food.
The Sargasso Sea is one such place. If you sail there in a small boat it is a wonderful place, because a small boat if rightly conceived will neither roll, nor will it flap its sails. It’s all peace.
It’s the only ocean in the world without shores, its bounded on the west by the Gulf Stream, on the north by the North Atlantic Current, on the east by the Canary Current, and on the south by the North Atlantic Equatorial Current. It has an area that is more than 12 times as large as Sweden and Sweden with an area of 410 000 square kilometer is a large country. The Sargasso Sea has no known human inhabitants. Sweden has 10 million inhabitants and is sparsely inhabited.
The Sargasso Sea water has a distinctive deep blue color and an exceptional clarity. Its underwater visibility is up to 60 m (200 feet). The average depth is 5000 meter and that suits me fine. It is situated below the Acores high pressure system so there is nearly always good weather, except for the occasional hurricane, but that’s nothing that’s worries my sturdy small boats.
The swimming season in Sargasso Sea lasts from January to December, twelve months per year! During those months, Sargasso Sea water temperature does not drop below 68°F/20°C and therefore suitable for comfortable swimming. The average water temperature in Sargasso Sea in winter reaches 72°F/22°C, in spring 72°F/22°C, in summer the average temperature rises to 81°F/27°C, and in autumn it is 81°F/27°C.
I have 10,000 books and the complete Wikipedia in 6 languages stored on my tablets. Fact-finding will be no problem. Solar panels will supply all the needed electricity pollution free and noiseless.
The Sargasso Sea is a good place to hide in in these times of troubles, Corona and other.
In August 1665 Isaac Newton avoided the Great Plague by moving to his mother. Cambridge University was temporarily closed. One day as he, in a contemplative mood, sat in her garden, he heard an apple fall to the ground. He asked himself. “Do the apple and the moon obey the same laws?” That was how he started to figure out the law of gravitation.
Drifting in the Sargasso Sea the risk of me being hit in the head by a falling apple is pretty slim. Still out there, there might be other phenomena that will inspire me to come up with worthwhile ideas that I can incooperate into my next boat as part of my pursuit of simple, sustainable living.
Also. I am an independent reshercher. Not supported by governments or other institutions. Do you like my results. Please support me. On Wendsday 22 April I have my 81 birthday.
He ask if it is not better to have more dense material in rudder and centerboard as not to stability due to flotation.
Heavier materials low down will give more stability. Added lead will give even more stability. In the case of the centerboard, when the board is raised, more weight will make the boat lose stability.
Almost every boat is designed as if it was to be a racing boat and the same with books about yacht design. Exlex is intended for cruising, when cruising I sail mostly down wind, even though I plan to round Cape Horn, 50° south to 50° south, east to west. Exlex is designed as a low energy boat and cruise at low Froude numbers around 0.3 this reduces the energy needed to about 1/6 of a conventional boat. See my Manifesto for a more detailed explanation.
More weight in the appendices will put more strain on them; they have to be designed more heavily. This added weight would make the boat slower down wind. It will also make the boat bigger and heavier and more expensive.
I think most boats are sub optimized for windward work. Neither do I think a cruising boat shall have weather helm.
Nostalgia, sehnsucht, saudade, I suffer from it all. I am a stranger in this world so far removed from my youth. I have not gotten older, but as times have gone by the world have changed. The fundamental things that once were part of my world are no longer here.
Already the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1712 – 1778 thought contemporary society was too removed from nature, so did, Henry David Thoreau 1817 – 1862. I agree.
In my youth world population was two billion now its more than seven billion. This has changed the landscape. Buildings and roads are everywhere and everything is bigger despite the need for smaller things, things more suited to human scale. There is no silence anymore stress is everywhere. A friend crossing the Bay of Biscay told me, when the speed dropped below five knots we started the engine.
Only the true, eternal, endless, blue, wet, deep ocean is the same.
Only the true, eternal, endless, blue, wet, deep ocean can cure me from nostalgia, sehnsucht and saudade and bring me back to the spiritual state of my youth. That’s why I long to be out sailing again.
On the wall of my small flat I have pinned a Admiralty Routing Chart for the month of June covering the North Atlantic. I marked my point of departure and from there I have drawn a circle with a radius of 60 nautical miles, the distance I hope to cover the first day hopefully with the help of a tow.
If all goes well the first day I will have the wide open spaces in front of me three- four- hundred blissful days at sea.
I look at the chart several times a day. It fills my heart with joy.