|Tuesday, February 13, 2001 11:24 AM
Random Proa Thoughts
Attached are a couple shots of John Harris' proa, Mbuli (he says it's Swahili for
"foolish"). Launched last Sunday, 11th. We got in about a 45-minute sail
with only one knockover, and that we think could have been prevented. With the help of the
chase boats we got 'er righted. Water was about 38 degrees so we had all sorts of
waterproof stuff on.
Brrr. Cold hands but otherwise OK after our dunking.
said (I didn't see the action as I was too busy falling over) that the sheet he'd selected
was too fat for the boom blocks and jammed when he released the sheet when we got a big
puff... he was trying to head up and accelerate the boat, the ama lifted, and then the
sheet would not release the foresail boom. In theory we should have come back down on
releasing the foresail.
We did reach and run and head up successfully and easily, and the shunt, while slow due to
inexperience with all the steps to take, was simple enough.
Actually, aside from working out kinks, the boat sails very, very nicely and this is what
they call "shakedown cruising". A capsize beats sinking to the continental shelf
in your new submarine!
wingmasts are 99.9 percent sealed - only the halyard block opening at the masthead - and
they make great outriggers so the boat floated way high and dry. John was joking that they
have more buoyancy than many catamarans but at 24 feet long with a big airfoil section
added he's about right. The problem was that we simply weren't sure what the best recovery
technique is and two guys leaning backwards while standing on the chine isn't enough. We
had the chase boat guys lift the mastheads up while we leaned back and that did it.
John has a short list of things to fix, some are probably long-range rather than "fix
for the event in March" -- for example we're agreed that the ama is currently a
little too much on the minimal side. It doesn't sink, but it's not conducive to a
comfortable ride: too low, too wet. There's a "theoretical approach" that seems
right and then you discover the practical issues by testing. I guess that's what makes
is a very light boat (two people can pick up the main hull and carry it). Aside from
stepping the masts, which are also experimental,the boat goes together easily and the most
tedious part is lacing up the trampoline. We're working on that.
I could see a version built from plans with a couple aluminum pipe masts, sealed with
plugs so they float, sprit-boomed sails, masts rotating in the tabernacles, being very,
very easy to set up and rig - otherwise identical - and very nearly a cartopper boat. The
main hull would need a small trailer but only for transport, not for launching.
Everything else goes on cartop racks.
probably over-rigged for winter Chesapeake winds, but in a 5kt breeze summertime on the
Chesapeake you'll actually go somewhere and that's what the design brief is all about. Our
next outing will involve sailing with reefs <chuckle>.
John is busy working out some rigging tweaks and I'm making growling noises about the
ergonomics of trampolines on cruising boats, but the gist is that we'll take it down to
the Watertribe Challenge around Mar 2nd and go
from Tampa to Key Largo. I'm sure there will be some reportage after the
race/regatta ends. We're not really in it as a race, more like a cruise/test
flight/whatever but making time would be real nice <grin>.
Friday, February 16, 2001 5:41 PM
Those who get WoodenBoat will have seen the take on a Bolger "cartoon
proa" by a fella in Florida name of Norwood. I've tried to get more info from him
without much success, but at least something akin to Bolger's cartoon has been built. This
includes the wacky triangular sail, which no one has been able to have work -- I know
personally of three experimenters who could not control the sail.
On another Bolgeresque proa: John Harris and I took his 20-footer to
Tampa Bay for the Watertribe race, got off the
beach in 20-knot winds running south under bare poles. We averaged about 5-6 knots with a
few bursts of 8-9. The waves can best be described as "boisterous" and around 6
Bare poles in John's case means 48 sq. ft of wingmasts.
had planned an outside transit down Fla's west coast, skirting the beaches, but with 20
kts and up to 10 ft waves outside we decided to go through the bays and sounds.
Unfortunately we mistook a navigational marker at the south end of Tampa Bay and ran upon
a sandbar, bending one rudder shaft. This mistake is understandable given the rough ride
and poor visibility, and in normal winds it would have not damaged the rudder and would
have been a moment or two of shoving to get the boat over the shallows. It's designed to
sail on the Chesapeake in summertime, after all, where the water is shallow and the winds
are about 7mph average.
After putting the "good" rudder in place we set off again looking for a place to
land to assess the damage better and promptly ran onto ANOTHER sandbar, bending the other
So we got the boat off that, and sailed to a nearby beach using paddles to steer.
After another series of amusing mishaps including capsizing in 2 inches of water, we
retired from the race and went on down the coast in support of Kevin O'Neill who was
sailing a CLC SailRig Mark II.
also suffered from the rough conditions though his boat (a Chesapeake 17) and rig did not.
He got salt-water blisters on his hands and also dropped out.
So the short story is that the proa John designed works quite well and was an exciting but
not scary ride in conditions which were very much outside it's "design
envelope". We're disappointed that the winds were so nasty, but it is unusual in
Florida for March and of course you cannot pick the weather. If it looked as if the high
winds were one-day and expected to calm we would have waited, but as it turned out the
forecast was for 2-1/2 days of wind; reality showed that winds were still higher than
normal for 3+ days.
And so it goes.
However if you look at the photos of John's proa "Mbuli" you will see that the
lower hull owes much to Bolger (flat, rockered, some flare) and the upper hull owes much
to the Birdwatcher cabin style.
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-- Professor of Boatology --
-- Macintosh kinda guy
Friend of Wanda the Wonder Cat, 1991-1997.