The 9.5 Laura Bay - Part 6
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design by Warren D. Messer - Seattle, Washington - USA

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6

The Sea Trials

She's finally in the water and I've had a chance to row and sail her. As any proud father, I'm hesitant to describe the experiences without paternal embellishment. But has that ever stopped any parent?

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One of the things that has always gotten to me, was that when it's windy I'm beach bound. The whole time Laura was laying on her back waiting for the hull paint to dry and then cure for seven plus days, it was windy at my local lake. What happens when it's time to go sailing? Yep, no wind. No wind for over two weeks. But I had my oars and it was sunny and warm out. In the Seattle area that's rare, but this summer it was the norm.

So as soon as her bright white System Three Marine Enamel hull paint had cured; it was time to strap on the wheels and roll her down to the lake. I really like doing that, as it seems to take people away from their cell phone conversations and wonder what the hell am I doing and where am I going. The men smile, the women wonder, and it's always fun for me. Even when the local fire chief drove past me in his big red SUV as I was standing in the crosswalk, pointing to the crosswalk sign, while trying to cross the only major street along the way. I guess an old person in a yellow lifejacket, pulling a bright white, 9 ½ foot boat is hard to see.

Once in the water I shipped the oars and was off on a circumnavigation of Lake Wilderness. They always seem to name things after what they were before they destroy them. Not much wilderness at the lake anymore, or trees at Maple Ridge Estates. I had the seat in the aft position and was gliding along without too much effort. A 9 ½ foot boat still rows like a 9 ½ foot boat. They only go so fast and it would take someone like Samson to get them on a plane. Needless to say I can only row to hull speed, but it was fun. I've found that if I want to get an idea of how well the boat is doing, I like to stay close to shore. That way I have a reference to my actual speed, and not just more water going by the hull when rowing out farther in the lake.

I was pleased with her handling and performance, but I still wanted to go sailing and to see what happens to the boat's balance with someone in the stern seat. So I asked my oldest friends (34 years) to come down to the lake and help me out and to take some photos of me in the boat. So I got Eddie to sit in the stern seat, while I took to the middle seat in it's forward position. I also moved the oarlocks forward. The hull sits like I wanted it to and I am quite happy with the moving middle seat. It will be a part of all my plan sets in the future.

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click to enlarge

As you can see from the photos, the hull has a little bit of volume still left in the bow to take on a load of supplies or a child. For three adults, I would drill another set of dowel holes to move the seat back a bit to re-balance the load and bring the hull back to it's lines. But you have to remember to limit the total weight. Just because three 200 pounders can get in the boat, the U.S. Coast Guard will not be smiling. Nor will I. Be safe and respect the weight limits designers place on their hulls; there is a reason for them.

There's only so much excitement generated from rowing a new boat around a very familiar small lake. I want to go sailing! After a week or so, I just couldn't take it anymore; I had to go. There was just a hint of a wind at my place so I rolled the boat out of the barn and pulled it down to the lake. There was just a slight breeze at the lake, but enough of a tease to get me to rig up the sail and cast off. I didn't get far, or very fast getting there, but at least I was sailing. After an hour floating around the lake, I packed up and went home to wait for better winds. I did find in light winds that if I sat facing forward, with my feet on either side of the daggerboard trunk, I could lean back against the seat and steer with my head.

Luckily for me the weather was changing and a high came in from over Eastern Washington, and with it warm sunny weather with a good east wind. Back to the lake and it was blowing good. Blowing good in Lake Wilderness has it's caveats. While the wind was up, it is never steady in speed or direction. Being in a slight hole (bowl), the winds come in all directions and shift at the mere thought of it. One has lots of chances to practice quick tacking, but I was able to get enough steady winds to get her over on her side and up to speed a few times. Laura accelerates to apparent wind speed in the blink of an eye and I was a very happy camper. I just kept hoping for a long steady burst of wind on the more open sections of the lake, but alas it never came to be.

With a smile I headed for shore and home. When I got close to shore I pulled up the gybing daggerboard (which does quite well) and pulled the rudder. What I neglected to check as I pulled in was: was I really close enough to the shore? As my waist hit the gunnel, my feet were still a foot from the bottom. Instead of measuring the volume of the hull by math as I did to calculate total weight carried, I should have just taken along a gallon container and counted the total I bailed. I was a whitewater kayaker, so I've been in deeper (Uh Oh) water so to speak and enjoyed the chance to see how high the extra flotation materials floated the boat. I will have to put on my drysuit and try it again in deep water for self rescue practice.

My next chance to sail the boat was in Seattle. Chuck and Sandra Leinweber left their Duckworks in a row and stopped in Seattle for a few days; so I invited them down to Green Lake in the center of the city for a row and sail. It was a beautiful day, with a hint of wind. The wind would come and go through the mid part of the day, but built in the afternoon as it usually does.

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I had also called Robert Perry, the Seattle based yacht designer that morning, to let him know that I had the boat rigged up and would be down at the lake for the afternoon. He showed up as Chuck was coming in from a short sail. I introduced him to Chuck and then we stood around looking at Laura and discussing her design. I had talked to Mr. Perry before about the design and I wanted to show him the moving middle seat option and the removable mast partner. He wanted to go sailing, and took Laura out for a quick spin as Chuck and I snapped a few photos of this event. How often do you get a chance to have someone of Robert Perry's fame to come down and sail your boat. He said that he thought it was the first time he had ever sailed a sprit rig. I just wish the wind would have been the same as it was an hour later.

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click to enlarge

After Mr. Perry left, Chuck and I went out rowing together, so I could show him how the boat balanced with the seat in the forward position. We spent more time just sitting around talking about boats than actually going anywhere with the oars. Sailing was what we had come for and our wait was rewarded. After the wind picked up, we alternated taking Laura out sailing around the lake. With the stronger winds, I was able to swing around and sit on the windward side and make her get up and go. I wished I had attached the vang to keep the boom down for more power off the wind. It makes a very big difference with a boomed sprit rig in power and pointing ability. On my last trip around the lake, the young women from the Green Lake Rowing Club were out for rowing practice in their 2's, 4's, and 8's shells. When I crossed the stern of one of the eight's; the girls all said what a pretty boat I had. I returned the complement by saying what a pretty bunch of girls their boat had.

I would have to say that after rowing and sailing the Laura Bay, the experience has been as enjoyable as the kiss from the young woman that gave her her name. I now want to take her out on bigger waters, waves, and winds. Time to get out the 4mm BodyGlove dry suit.

Thank you for reading all the stories on building the Laura Bay, and the helpful comments you have written in response. Check in often here at Duckworks Magazine for more stories and how to articles I will be posting in the future. I also have several other new boat design PDF model files that will be available for download soon.

Warren Messer
Red Barn Boats