Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sail Power

I had long wanted to gain experience with the sprit rig and to find out how adaptable it would be for outrigger sailing canoes. I had brought two sails with me to Fiji; an 89 Sq Ft sprit sail cut out of an old beach catamaran sail and a small 46 Sq Ft triangular sail for high wind sailing. The bigger sprit sail had a row of reef points that allowed it to be reduced to 63 Sq Ft. All three sizes were used quite a lot. It is possible to reef the big sail at sea, but it is a precarious undertaking because you do have to stand up on the foredeck to lower the sprit to the new position. Fortunately there was always a small island nearby that allowed this to be done more easily on the beach. No doubt with a few more tracks and blocks etc, it could all be done without standing up on the deck, but I was trying to keep it all as simple as possible.
Once the sail is reefed down, it is possible to reduce the area even more by removing the sprit all together and pulling the peak down and wrapping it around the mast. This only seems to work well when the peak is pulled to the leeward side and means that you have to change it if you tack. With this in mind I decided to have a dedicated high wind sail and with the frequent 25+ knot days, I think it was a good decision.

My first main sheet arrangement used a cam cleat mounted on the block. These are nice because they take all the strain off your hand and only need a lift and a jerk to release them. I guess I'm a slow learner because I've capsized in the past because of these things. The 1.5 seconds that it takes to release the sheet is still not as quick as an outrigger can put his ama well up into the air. I didn't capsize this time but came close enough to say " this is enough" or "I'm too old for this sh*t".

You used to be able to find "snubbing winches" in marine hardware catalogs, but I haven't seen them lately. So I made a "snubbing cleat" and mounted it on the aft crossbeam. It's carved from 2" wood and allows a single or double wrap of sheet line around its base. With a single wrap, it will slip when you release it, but relieves the strain on your sheet hand while you're holding it. I had no more close calls after this was installed and will only be using cam cleats for less critical tasks.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The four day wonder

Having completed my Tamanu in Fiji, and my neighbor John Caldeira having completed his two latest kayaks, we decided to help a local Peace Corps volunteer, John Leonard, build a 16' paddling Wa'apa.

Between the three of us, it was ready for paint after four days. A few details like the stems were changed to the simpler method that I use on the Tamanu. The sheer at the ends was also lowered slightly to make it easier to paddle in the strong winds encountered in the area.
The side panels are 4mm ply and the bottom and deck are 6mm. There is no fiberglass or epoxy used in the structure. Polyurethane glue with bronze boat nails hold the panels together.
The ama is bamboo with forked sticks providing the connection with the iakos.

Outrigger canoes are easily moved around on the beach with one set of wheels provided you tip it up on its side.

John is paddling from the aft seat but you may want to change to the middle seat when paddling into a strong wind.
John and John held a planned capsize drill immediately after launching. With a low buoyancy ama like this one, you right the canoe by sinking the ama. This helps to empty most of the water from the hull as it is rolling back upright.

The extra bamboo above the ama provides secondary buoyancy if the ama is pushed under the water.

The deck hatches are made from the tops of square plastic containers with snap on lids.
John reports that the canoe has already caught many fish and is a definite chick magnet.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Back to reality or back from reality?

We returned from three months in Fiji a couple of days ago. Coming from balmy trade wind breezes to a late winter cold spell in NZ is quite a shock. I have a funny tan on my feet from wearing Crocs out in the canoe; brown dots on the top of my feet.
The whole project went very well with the 20 foot Tamanu hull completed in about two weeks. A few more days for the 2x4 crossbeams and PVC pipe ama and we were able to at least go fishing with the 2 hp Yamaha motor. Meanwhile I made the spars, rudder, and leeboard from Fijian Kauri (Dakua).
Of course I made a few changes from the prototype that I had built two years ago. I tried to optimize the hull for subsistence fishing with eight feet of the mid hull undecked (for throwing fish into) and I recessed the fore and aft decks 4" to allow storage of rods, gaff, etc to be stored there without falling overboard. There was still six feet of water tight storage at each end. I used plastic barrel tops for hatches and I can't praise them too much. Industrial strength and a big enough hole to throw an anchor through.
I had always wanted to gain experience with the sprit rig along with the fact that it was one of the first European style rigs to be adopted in Oceania. I brought an 89 Sq Ft sail cut down from a beach cat sail. It had reef points that reduced it to 70 Sq Ft. I also brought a 50 Sq Ft triangular sail for the high winds I was expecting at this time of the year. I wasn't disappointed as the wind was frequently around 30 knots or more. My old sailing gloves will never recover. The small sail was used quite a lot and 12 knots of boat speed was easily reached.
I was very impressed by the performance of the sprit sail. It was certainly excellent to weather. Reefing it can be tricky standing on a very narrow canoe but fortunately there was always a beach nearby where it can be done more easily. The mast for this rig is unstayed and rotates. This is especially useful when approaching the shore downwind because you can sheet out until the sail is luffing out over the bow.
My wife Rose is an addicted fisherman (fisherwoman?) and a lure or two was always trailing behind us. I've never eaten so much fish in my life. The drill that we developed when we had a strike usually just involved luffing the sail and passing the rod around the mainsheet if the fish was coming in from the wrong side. I was the gaff man and greatly enjoyed swinging them up and into the bilge. When it was a Barracuda my feet stayed up on the gunwale until it was killed.
Over the next weeks I'll cover some of the lessons learned and some other experiences we had in Rakiraki, Fiji.