Log of SV Free Spirit and ships company

The chronicles of the schooner Free Spirit and her crew, embarking on an open ended journey upon the great rolling heap. Free Spirit is currently pursuing humanitarian and commercial goals in the Dominican Republic, on the island of Hispaniola. Working under the Ocean Reach USA and Paradigm Research banners, she is serving as logistics headquarters, workshop, and development laboratory for many ongoing projects. This is the log of her journey.....

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Looking back on tomorrow

Looking Back on 20 years of sailing

My first memories of sailing were dreaming about foreign lands and the freedom to travel afar. My initial thoughts were towards a power boat, as I knew nothing about sailing, save that it depended on the wind. Many daydreams and fantasies later, I began to desire a more concrete idea of what a voyaging boat might be . At the local library, I found a book of designs by Herrishoff - Sensible Cruising Designs. It contained lines and planviews of many vessels, mostly sail but some power as well. I began to read about the boats, their capabilities, and for what purpose they were designed - a glimmer of understanding eventually flickered to life.

What I wanted to do, I now understood, required a sailboat. A vague understanding of boats and their properties had given me a vision, a possible dream, even if still beyond the means of a boy in my situation. So inspired, I studied the physics of sailboats. I was fortunate enough to already possess a strong aeronautical background , and sailboats quickly made sense to me.

I became a student of Herreshoff -he was an artist, and from his pen sprang creatures of extraordinary beauty. Using my basic sailing knowledge and chainsaw carpentry, I converted our 9' zodiac to sail - all the while hoping that my mentor Nat G. could not see the unsightly results from his perch on high. Dual permanently extended leeboards, a catboat style rudder, and a simple sloop rig of spruce pole and heavy black visqueen tarp brought her to life underneath me.

I was hooked - even though working to windward was tenuous at best, it could be done. I learned the plight of the sailor, and I would flee from my duties on the farmstead if ever the wind came up above ten knots.

Although the exact timeframe eludes me, the next few years brought 3 more boats. Two of my own design , A 7' black scow, and 10' truncated sharpie, along with a seventeen foot plastic sloop by Vandstadt and McGruer.

The Scow was a smashing success, even though of heavy and rough construction. The sharpie was an attempt to avoid compromise, and was a performance failure. 4 feet were added to her stern, and then she was abandoned to the elements, a failure, but not a defeat, for I learned some very important lessons from my errors.

I learned that compromise is as much a part of small boats as wood and nails. I learned that a boat is designed to do one, or at most a couple of things well. Trying to get her to be a jack of all trades will only result in tears. Build her for one purpose, then live with the limitations - just like one accepts the peculiarities of a lover.

The Plastic sloop was bought for me by my girlfriend, now my wife (who wouldn't marry a girl that bought you a boat!!) Named Laura Ann after her, she was 15.5 feet on the waterline, with a small cabin equipped with berthing for four. (they all looked so happy and relaxed in the brochure, how were we to know they were gnomes?)

She was a happy little ship, if perhaps not of the best manners. With a fierce weather helm when heeled - which she did easily - she was pretty good at keeping you out of knockdowns, but was tiring on the helm. Many hours were spent sailing her on her ear, water sluicing freely in and out of her cockpit, testing the limits of her self righting abilities.

She took us on many adventures, from the reservoirs of Ohio, where I was pursued by a menacing sea monster* to San Diego bay, where we learned about tidal currents, to the lakes in interior Alaska and Canada where the williwaws lurk.

*My errant danforth, at the end of the rode, leaping and diving alternately one hundred feet astern with great splashes. Don't laugh - it was scary. You would have been scared too, if you were there, after all, there was no escape from this horrible beast that perused me relentlessly in the failing light. I was alone, with too much wind to close with land, roller reefing hopelessly jammed, a helm that could not be left -lashed or not - for more than ten seconds, on my second time in a sailboat over ten feet. I learned some things about sailors on that day.

We had her, Laura Ann, for many years. In those years I also spent time at sea, deckhand then engineer, then first mate on an 80 foot tender in Bristol Bay, Alaska. After herring season in Prince William Sound, We towed a 200 foot barge up through False Pass in the Aleutians to get to Bristol Bay for Salmon. At full speed, we could only manage four knots with our burden, and during a stormy week at sea were lucky to make foreword progress at all. That’s when I first learned about bad weather and big seas - the fear, the awe, and the sheer beauty of the raging ocean storm.

When we grew to a family of five we reluctantly sold up to a 1970 Venture 24. Still a good trailer boat, but large enough to take us and our stores for a couple of weeks, she has pleased me well with her speed, manners, and ease of handling.

When we got her, she was built rather light, but we refit her with additional backing for all deck hardware, a structural bulkhead amidships below the cockpit sole, and many other small improvements. She is now as stiff and strong as one could want, and with impeccable manners to boot. You can see the influence of NGH in her lines - especially her entry - and this I credit her performance to.

Last year we sailed her down Prince William Sound from Whittier to Crab Bay, and she proved perfect for a crew of three adults. She sailed well, though I rarely took the helm, preferring as captain to stand no watch so as to be always available and refreshed if needed. She fetched many destinations that would have been unreachable without her particular set of qualities, and provided us all with memories to be treasured.

In the last half decade, I have also acquired the Schooner Walkabout (a bare hull only) , Schooner Free Spirit, and Westward, A Roberts 25+2 sloop. Now, on the dawn of our great journey, I face the prospect of selling all but Free Spirit, for I will no longer be nearby to benefit the other little ships.

Of these, I am sure, it is the Laura Ann II that I will miss the most. So one more season it is to be. We'll spend a month on the sound, then a month at Harding lake for entertaining new suitors. Fond Memories to be sure, my fair plastic friend.


Blogger SV Free Spirit said...

The Gifted writer strikes again :-) I am soooo proud of you...

8:15 PM  

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Introducing Propcalc 4.0

Use Propcalc to easily match your hull with your engine, transmission, and propeller
Put the known data in the top fields, then hit the Update button to get the answers.
Results, of course, should be verified by a Naval Architect or qualified surveyor.
Data is provided for three bladed propellers of average type
For two or four bladed props, use the modifiers shown below.

Fill out the fields as follows:

Vessel LWL (ft) = Waterline length
Vessel Disp (lbs) = Vessel displacement
(max) HP = Rated Engine Max HP
Engine RPM max = Engine RPM at Max HP
Engine RPM cruise = Desired or estimated cruise rpm
(Cruise or Max) Kts = Speed to work the calculations for
Slip = Propeller efficience. 45% is average for a displacement cruiser.
Gear ratio = 1: Gear ratio of transmission
SL Ratio Adj. = This value will be added (or subtracted, if a negative value) to the calculated S/L ratio.

Key information:

If the "hp required" is greater than the "cruse HP", you have your cruise RPM set too low for your engine parameters.
If the "hp required" is significantly less than the "cruse HP", you have your cruise RPM set too high for your engine parameters.
If the "hp required" is greater than the "Max HP", then your target speed is too high for your engine/hull parameters.
The S/L ratio is calculated automaticaly based on your input. It can be adjusted if necessary, but normally it should be left alone.
If the calculated S/L ratio exceeds S/L MAX, then the results are likely to be non-predictive. Try a lower speed requirement.
SL Ratios of 1.1 - 1.4 are typical of displacement hulls. Semiplaning or planing hulls can go higher.

Typical propeller slip values:

Sailing auxiliary, barges, etc less than 9 Kts............45%
Heavy powerboats, workboats 9 - 15 Kts....................26%
Powerboats, Lightweight Cruisers 15 - 30 Kts..............24%
High speed planing boats 30 - 45 Kts......................20%
V bottom race boats 45 - 90 Kts...........................10%


it is possible to get irrational answers by irrational input , I.E specifying excessive speed for hull type and length
Any attempt to exceed hull speed (1.34 times the square root of the waterline length in feet) with a displacement hull are likely
to fail unless the hull is extremely fine (multihull) or otherwise exceptional. In such cases, an S/L adjustment would be in order.

2 and 4 bladed props:

For two bladed propellers, multiply the diameter by 1.05, and the pitch by 1.01
For four bladed propellers, multiply the diameter by .94, and the pitch by .98

Vessel LWL (ft) =
Vessel Disp (lbs) =
  (max) HP =
  Engine RPM max =
  Engine RPM cruise =
  (Cruise or Max) Kts =
  Slip =
  Gear ratio = 1:
  SL Ratio Adj. =
  Prop rpm max =
  Prop rpm cruise =
  Pitch =
  Diameter =
  Static Thrust =
  Cruise HP =
  Cruise HP% =
  SL Ratio =
  DL Ratio =
  SL Max =
  HP Required =