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.
I now spend much time watching the internet to be updated on Corona.
I saw a video from Italy on an intensive care unit. The Doctor told the reporter: As you can see most of the patients hera are obese.
I have always been on the fat side but I am controling it by eating only once a day. I really love to eat, icecream, cakes and other sweet thing. In preparation for my long sail I had the tempting idea to eat not only healthy food. Of course it was not realy rational. It was like an alchoholist always finding a rationale for a drink. Anywhay when test sailing my boat in Hunnebostrand quite a few persons invited me to a resturang. I chose icecream over healthy food.
My weight is now 78 instead of my maximum BMI 72. I realised that I have to get more healthy. To do something about it I now run every day for one and a half houer and after that do exercises for 30 minutes. The idea is to get bigger lungs and get back to a healthy BMI, to get very fit.
What is worse our gouvernment do not think it is important with face masks and social distance. Our neighbors Finland, Denmark and Norway do as do most other contries. The Corona will be very happy about that.
Even worse. We do not have enough equipment to handle the sick. Therefore instead of getting better hospotals The Council for Hospital Ethics have come up with new guidelines and regulations: Older persons should be unplugged to give place for younger. It certainly is an easy way out, but it scares me.
I am 80 and most persons are younger. I ask my readers to help me. If you see a Doctor trying to unplugg me from a lifesaving machine. I plead to you all, talk them out of it. Tell the Doctors that Yrvind is good for an other 80 years. If not, you can be sure, there will be no more posts on this site.
I sincerley hope nothing bad happens to me, I keep myself isolated. If Norway opens up I leave from Ålesund, If not I start from Bohuslän the Swedish west coat. It is not good sailingwise but the only left option. I have AIS also now thanks to Bövik Marine 2 strobelight of good quality.
My distination still depends on Corona, but the general idea is to sail south, west of Madeira, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, crossing the equator, keep sailing south until I reach high latitude. When I run out of food after 5000 – 10000 miles I try to find a small port and restock. There I will reorient myself with respect to Corona and make a new decision.
On the latest post I write about the idea of starting fråm Ålesund Norway becouse the Corona gave problems trailing Exlex to Ireland, many contries have blocked their borders.
Now also the Norwigian border is closed.
I also got a phone call from Madeira telling me that all their marinas are closed and it seams that many ports worldwide now are closing. It is to early to make decisions. But it seams that I will have problems to be able to round Cape of Good Hope before December. It is important to sail the Indian Ocean in the summer.
What to do?
I am not shore. I do not feel safe to cross the North Sea single handed even with AIS, but maybe if I get desperate I will do it anyway. I did it singlehaded 1973 and 1976 without AIS but it was tiring to keep awake.
I am about to pack food but if the situation do not improve very quickly I might be forced to do the voyage to NZ with more stops, that will take two years. An other solution would be to figure out a very different, long, interesting, non stop route that takes me into stormy weather. I now have all the food and I really like to start this summer, but of course such an voyage would be meaningless if it did not test Exlex in difficult conditions. I have some ideas, but they must come to maturity. This new type of simple sustainable boat ideas needs more testing before I start building Next Design, now 7,8 X 1,3 meter, six beams long.
Corona is a world wide problem. Besides medical problems there will be economical problems affecting many more than me.
I have heard that 20 % of those like me over 80 years will die even if they get good hospital treatment. I am over 80. I do run once a week and do 20 min exercise evry day. Now from tomorrow I will run twice a week hoping that it increase my chance of survival to 12 %. They say that 70 – 80 % of the population will get infected.
Untill the situation becomes clearer I will work on the next design a boat in wich two persons can spend a long time at sea.
The plan was to trail Exlex to Ireland in May and from Dingle sail her to Madeira. Due to Corona I now plan to sail out from Ålesund Norway in the beginning of June. The distance to Madeira is more than twice as long and in tougher and colder conditions. I see this as the best alternative even though this later will press me time as it is important that I round the Cape of Good Hope not later than 1st of December when the summer down there begins. Below is the planned track Ålesund – Madeira drawn with a lead pencel by me on the British Routing chart for June. First I will sail west to not have much of the Gulf Stream against me. I will also try to keep well west of Scotland, Ireland and the Bay of Biscay before going east to catch the northely winds outside Portugal.
Click once or twice to enlarge.
Below frequency of gales for the same month.
The time at sea will be much more demanding, on the other hand time on the road behind the car will be a piece of cake compared to the trail to Ireland, no ferries and a distance of only 1000 kilometers and a stunning Norwegian fjord landscape. Deep water is just outside Ålesund, I like that.
Unfortunately the Boat Show in Stockholm has been stopped. It was meant that I should have given 3 talks in Stockholm about the ideas and development of Exlex. I hope to write something about here here instead.
Yesterday the Mullion insulated flotation suit arrived from Bövik marin. In September 2007 when I and 19 year old Captain Grahn crossed the North Sea from Norway to Scotland in an old Albin Vega we where cought in a equinoxial storm. We had no heating it was could and our ship Maja leaked from abouve. It was the Chinese water torture. Fortunatley Bövik Marin had supplied us with the Mullion insulated flotation suit. That saved the trip. Do you also want to have comfortable voyages across stormy seas? Contact Bövik Marin and they can supply you with the comfortable Mullion insulated flotation suit. Old leaky Vegas are cheap. For example today there is one on Blocket for 10 000 kronor and you are all set to escape the Corona virus in comfort.
Below me in the Mullion insulated flotation suit close to my beloved Exlex the pride of all the oceans.
It comes in a handy bag.
Besides reciving fantastic gifts and donations now and then for which I am grateful, I am working with the sails. I have healed Exlex about 45°. That enables me to step the mast and rise the sailes. That way I will be able to trim lazyjacks and and sheets.
The week after next I plan to travel to Stockholm and give talks at the boat show. Coming back about 15 of Mars it time to start making food for 250 days and fill Exlex whit it, well stowed.
I like to thank the following for help with the video
Part one the rollover test.
Petter with the help of a boat hook is confirming that Exlex rightning moment is positiv at all angels up to 180 degrees.
I am inside Exlex during the rollover test. The idea was that it was going to be a controlled rollover. However, Exlex is exceptionally unstabel upside down, dispite lack of ballast keel, but due to plenty of boyancy in her topsides so she just flipped over, and a good thing that is. I was not prepared and using one hand to hold my expensive phone I did not like to drop it so it was not easy get hold of something to hold on to, but on a small boat a rollover is a small problem. Now the are safety belts in the two cabins. I am in good shape and did not get hurt.
The secound part of the video show her sailing in Hunnebostrand. She is very stabel and easyly driven. The two sails each has an area of 2 square meter about the same as an Optimist dingy. Exlex is loaded with 70 kilos of water 4 anchors and some chain maybee 40 – 50 kilo and 4 40 amps batteries also my friend Thomas Grahn guessing 80 kilos. Thomas Grahn 2 anchors will stay ashore. 130 liter water more and about 150 kilo food will be added and maybe 50 – 100 kilo other things including one more mast and 2 square meter more sail area. During the passage from Dingle Ireland to Madeira I will only be carrying 70 liters of water. It will test the boats speed and behavior. In Madeira I will load her for 200 days and 13400 miles to Dunedin NZ. She will at the beginning be overloaded but the first part of the voyage is in the relativly light trade winds of the eastern part of the North Atlantic. Already when reaching the equator and the South East trades she will be lighter and when passing south of Africa she have lost half of her load and hopefully me and her, we have found our peak performance.