A relaxed launching
by John Welsford
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She’d sat in the back corner of the shed for ages, in fact she’d filled up the garage while I built the shed! I’d started her with the idea of wanting a nice touring rowboat to go camp cruising in and I’d got the design drawn and the shell planked up when the opportunity to owe the bank even more money and move to a 6 acre block presented itself. We did the move, bringing the half built boat with us, and putting it in the only space we had along with a heap of woodworking machinery etc while I got on with knocking a workshop and a stables for the horses together.

Even when the workshop was up far enough to be comparatively weatherproof, and she went in there, other priorities seemed always at the top of the list. There was a canoe here and a sailboat there, furniture and trailers, more designs and rebuilding machines for customers. So it has been almost 5 years since poor Huffboat was drawn and planked up. It had got to the embarrassing stage.

She’s a bit long for the trailer, but so light that it does not really matter.

So when the latest project was done, and summer approaching with no boat to hand, I got into it and finished her off.

Huffboat's an experiment, a whole lot of experiments in fact. From her shape which is designed to reduce pitching in those horrible little waves you get in fresh water and to run really well at cruising speed rather than a high top speed, to a new method of drawing the lines ( which works, sort of, but won’t be used again. We learn a lot from experiments that don’t work as well as we would like) and a construction method with was intended to explore the limits for building fair boats over moulds with very light plywood lapstrake planking.

All of the experiments worked well enough for me to be pleased with the results, but for instance I will specify 1/4in ( 6mm) ply rather than 3/16 ( 4.5mm for the planking and the boat will be much easier to build and only a few pounds heavier. The method of drawing her will not worry the builder as I will do full sized templates for the moulds but I will return to the conventional method, plank edge drawings are just too complex when you are dealing with 7 planks a side! Dark blue interiors are indeed too hot, and I would prefer both the footrest and the rowlocks to be slightly wider. Anyone building one of these in the future will benefit from the experience that I am having right now.

It really raises the eyebrows to just pick her up and walk off. I don’t even worry
about taking the oars out as the combined weight is not an issue.

The rowlock sockets with their self lubricating UHMW liners work beautifully. The seat, rowlock and footrest geometry work nicely. The carbon fibre shafted oars with their laminated blades and lead filled hardwood handles are wonderful and the lanyards for controlling the oar position ( you have noticed, I know ,that she has no “buttons “ on the oar leathers) are as good as ever.

And the shape: she looks sweet apart from a bump in the sheer caused by my being in a hurry, and performs really well. She accelerates very quickly, cruises on very little effort and coasts for an impossibly long time when you rest. I have over geared her with oars that are possibly 2/3 inches longer than optimum as the low resistance means less slip than I had calculated, but at only 22 strokes a minute she is sliding along at almost 6 knots. Sustainable all day ( I rowed for 1 ½ hours, had two small blisters and slightly tight shoulders, not bad after a five year break without any rowing) and the kind of exercise that leaves you feeling good.

The boat carries weight well, even with Denny sitting in the stern and me in the midships rowing position the trim is not so affected that she is hard to keep tracking straight and the deep vee bow and flattened sections aft do their job of damping pitching quite effectively.

First touch of the water, I’m getting the oar lanyards organised,
this boat seems to hardly touch the surface.

All in all the experiments have been worthwhile.

I’d been getting close to launching for several days, fussing about with the clearances in the fancy plastic bushed rowlocks, fiddling with the footrest and so on, there are always reasons to say no, I just need to get such and such done, but Sunday looked as though the rain had let up for a while, and the wind was offshore leaving our side of the lake nicely calm so it was onto the trailer with the boat, Denny, Brendan and I into the car and off down to the water.

We’d planned to put in at a tiny beach in a sheltered corner of Lake Rotorua, and after driving around for half an hour looking for it found out that it had been overtaken by housing developments and although still public ( you cannot, in normal circumstances, own a beach in New Zealand) vehicle access is no longer possible.

So we drove for a while until we found a sign saying “Lakeside Reserve” and drove down to find a delightful quiet spot sheltered by Willows and pines. While Brendan went off to explore and Denny fiddled with the camera I untied the 85 lb Huffboat, picked her up, walked into the water and simply put her down.

Coming in from the first short row, she is still moving quite quickly here.

The easiest launching ever, I splashed her nose with the pure lake water and said

“I name you Huffboat,
May good luck go with you ,
and all who travel in you.”

Got into her, slid the oars out and a couple of strokes later was 50 yards out into the lake.

She felt good right from the start, initially as tender as you would expect from such a narrow waterline but the rounded sides mean she gained stability much faster that a straight sided dory as she heels and she felt almost firm at quite a small angle of heel.

I pulled at the oars for five minutes working out which way to cross the hands and what the stroke rate should be then went back to pick up Denny.

Pulled up on the bank outside the Yacht Club, the long low lapstrake
sides a real contrast to the aluminium planing hull behind.

We told Brendan we would be back, and cruised off up the shore, it’s a couple of miles to the Yacht club and they seemed to fly past in spite of being tail heavy and rowing into a sharp headwind. In this area there are houses all along the shore and it is as though they have their formal faces toward the road, with the more relaxed atmosphere and sunny terraces facing the lake where we quietly slid past. Odd what you see sometimes.

The Yacht club was heavily involved in a junior dinghy championship meeting which is why Brendan was not sailing, he is still a junior and is not at that level yet, but it looked as though it was going to be frantically busy when the kids, their supporters and the officials came in for lunch, so we rowed back to the car, all good speed this time , dropping Denny to pick up Brendan and the car, while I poured on the coals getting back to my apron and rubber gloves and making up hamburgers for the hungry masses. Fun to meet them, ( I’m a very new member there, everyone knows me but I haven’t got the names yet) lots of comment from both the yachting people and the Rowing Club next door on Huffboat pulled up outside the club, and we had a really nice sociable afternoon in the sun.

For a launching day, it was very successful, we had a lot of relaxed fun, I did some miles that suggested that I am fitter than I deserve to be and the boat performed just about as expected. There are a lot more miles to do yet before I draw the plans for the Mk2 version that will be the for sale one, but so far, so good.

John Welsford,

A water level view of the very fine bow.