I live in places where a litter of small craft defines the boundary between front yard and open water. In 1983 I had a home on Portage Lake, connected to Lake Superior in Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula. The kids were born there, and before long they were splashing about, drifting off shore on air matresses, and hosting sleepover birthday parties with friends from school.
||The front yard, sometime in September in the 1990s.
A home on the water needs a tende-something easy to haul up on the rocky beach, small enough to ride on the car top, and seaworthy enough to handle rough conditions if one of the kids needed a rescue. My cousin Steve and I settled on a Phil Bolger Nymph, described in one of Harold Payson's dogeared books on my Dad's bookshelf. Four months later she was anchored off shore.
She served that little home on the water for more than a decade - rescuing kids, serving as a coach's boat when I taught them to sail, and taking me a mile off shore in the middle of night to lie back on the longitudinal thwart and watch a spectacular show of the Northern Lights. The last day we lived there, I took her out for a 6 mile row.
Her next home was an obscure patch of yard in Hood River Oregon. That house is a half mile from the Columbia River, and with the cartop loaded down with kayaks and windsurfing gear, she fell into disuse and neglect. As the kids went off to college, she grew a cloak of ivy, the gunnels and skeg rotted, and 2 years ago a family of partridges made a home under the protection of her inverted hull. It seemed a fitting end for a tender. When the partridges moved on, I hauled her up onto a pair of saw horses to poke at her hull and frame - curious to see how far the rot had progressed before making the long sad trip to the landfill. The sacrificial gunnels and skeg - white pine fastened on with bronze ring nails - had rotted away. The hull and frame, AC exterior plywood, West System Epoxy and cloth using the methods described in Harold Payson's "Build the New Instant Boats" were completely sound. I poked and scraped, looking for a reason to let her go - but couldn't find a thing. As a Scotsman, I will neither throw away a perfectly good boat nor pay someone else to deal with problems caused by my own neglect. She needed a new coat of glass on the bottom, new gunnels and a skeg, and a coat of paint. I had it to do.
Photos above show the progress, and after a month of evenings she was as good as new - about 8 lbs heavier with another layer of 6 oz glass tape over the gar strake seams and a complete layer 4 oz glass cloth from the bottom up to the shear strakes. I've learned a bit over the decades, and workmanship on the repairs exceeds that of the original build.
That would have been the end of it, except I didn't need a rowboat, and it was late October. What I did need was a winter project. I dream of small sailboats, and I have several books from my father's shelf committed to memory. Constant study makes for interesting dreams, particularly when the text is Phil Bolger's "100 Small Boat Rigs." I decided to convert her into a small one-person non-planing technical sailboat.
Phil Bolger sketched a sailing rig with a leeboard. I've studied leeboards and I like them, but not for this project. Here's why - the multi-chine round and narrow bottom of Nymph is wonderful in waves, but has less resistance to rolling than a flat-bottomed boat like a Puddle Duck Racer or an Optimist Pram. When a boat with a leeboard tips, the leeboard moves up and down - stabbing at the water alongside the boat. Leeboards work well on broad, flat-bottomed hulls where the hull shape provides stability and the board is only needed to keep the boat from making leeway while sailing. A daggerboard centered on the bottom of a boat pushes against water when the boat tips. One can quickly get a feel for the increased stability provided by a daggerboard on the centerline by standing up and walking around in a dinghy with the centerboard up or down.
The daggerboard trunk for Nymph was an interesting design project, though it was a bit traumatic cutting a hole in the bottom of a perfectly good boat. I took the board dimensions from boats with similar sail area. All else being equal, the ratio of sail area to daggerboard area should be roughly constant, and somehow related to the density of the two fluids. I've rigged enough windsurfing sails and chosen appropriate fin sizes for various wind conditions that my intuitions are reasonably good. I've also taught engineering for half my adult life, and based on exams I've graded and some of the boats I've seen, it appears that "To err is human - to really foul things up requires an equation and a calculator." I made some initial calculations, sketched something that looked about right, and then put the daggerboard slot where it had to be - just forward of the midship frame. I wasn't sure if I'd gotten it right until I finished the experiment. After a summer of sailing in all conditions from ghosting to overpowered, I can confirm that the daggerboard slot is in the right place. One thing I'd change next time is that I made the slot too narrow - a half inch - relishing the woodworking and epoxy precision that required. That constrains the shape and strength of the daggerboard. I recommend 3/4" or even an inch wide on a boat this size.
Photos above show the daggerboard slot. It's beautiful, and the most precise bit of woodworking on the whole boat, but it still should be wider.
The added daggerboard trunk was finished by early December, so I ordered some Racelite gudgeons and pintles from Duckworks and started designing the kick-up rudder. Some places I sail don't need a kick-up rudder, but a favorite sailing lake does, and I didn't want to have to worry about getting the daggerboard up and unshipping the rudder as I approached the sandy shore. If I only sailed in the Columbia Gorge, I'd build a strong, single-piece rudder. From January to June I messed around with sailing rigs - everything from a Rube Goldberg arrangement with a full-battened windsurfing sail to a drop-in mast partner for the rig from a Super Snark. All of those were rigged in the back yard, but none of them actually made it into the water. On a whim I decided to give her a small gaff rig with a tiny main and jib. For really light wind, I could add a topsail and ghoster set flying from the end of the bowsprit and top of the mast. My younger daughter had graduated from college (that's her in the blue jacket in photo 1), and needed a winter sewing project, so I sketched some sails that looked right and had Sailrite make up the kits. She had the sails finished by April, about the time I finished up the spars and standing rigging.
To be continued...