The Boat Page
The Boat is a ten ton work in progress. She is a Friendship Sloop built on the Maine coast in the later half of the 20th century, a sister ship to a boat built in 1903. When we bought her she was only eleven-years-old, but a lack of proper maintenance had led to a rapid decline. We bought her in 2000 (I say we because I co-own her with a family in Oregon).
I took a three month sabbatical from work to do the major repairs and to strip out what there was for an interior. We sailed her that first summer with only the rough pine bunks and bulkheads that I could throw together in the last three days before launch. This actually proved to be a blessing.
All through that first summer as I changed crews and we traveled the coast of Maine from Kittery Point to the Bay of Fundy in Canada and back there was constant opportunity for an exchange of ideas about where everything should fit in the final layout. For specific comments I kept a number two pencil handy and asked folks to write their comments directly on the temporary interior. Thus at the end of the first season the interior was peppered with little inscriptions like “this bench needs to be an inch lower”, or “these need to be three inches further apart”. Much to my surprise virtually none of the comments were mutually exclusive.
Over the next winter I worked to replace the temporary interior. It was the kind of work I really enjoy. As each part of the temporary interior was removed (complete with graffiti-like comments) it became a template for a finished part of the interior.
Having these working templates in full scale allowed me to concentrate my efforts on the construction of the actual components and not be constantly worrying about whether what I was making would fit, or was going to be in the right location.
By the start of our second full season the foreword bunks and bulkheads were complete, as were the bunks and settees in the main cabin, and the bulkheads enclosing the head. It would take another winter to get the galley laid out, and a third winter before the coal stove and ice box were installed.
It would take another winter to get the galley laid out, and a third winter before the coal stove and ice box were installed.
Of course at the same time that I was working on the interior there were other issues to be seen to as well. The topping lifts had never worked, and needed the addition of gun tackles at the mast head in order to become functional. I had never been able to get the main topsail to set properly. After many attempts, and after seeking the advice of more experienced sailors, I still could not get this sail to draw efficiently. It then occurred to me to look at the original rigging drawings, which showed me that our gaff was too short. The next winter I fished 14” onto the end of the gaff, and relocated the sheave for the Main topsail sheet; now the sail sets beautifully.
There were other, less critical, puzzles to solve too. Our dinghy is a stout craft, and she serves us well, but no matter how the length of bow line is adjusted; she does not tow well. In fact she is sometimes referred to, not without affection, as the bath-tub. After much consideration the solution I kept coming back to was the addition of boat davits.
This was not as simple as it seemed. Our little ship has beautiful lines, I needed davits that could safely lift and secure the tender, but they also needed to compliment and not detract from such a beautiful Friendship Sloop. In the end we decided that even the perfect davit design would not always look right, an in some instances would even be in the way. The best solution appeared to be davits simple enough that they could be shipped and unshipped with ease. In the end I designed davits made up of oak laminates over white pine cores, and edged with steam bent rock maple. The result is strong, good looking, can be shipped in about five minutes, and struck below in even less time.
Clearly, the end design did not happen overnight; in fact it was fully two years between the first discussion and the final design. However, arriving at such a neat solution was not only worth it, the time spent tinkering with ideas, making mock-ups, and figuring out the details, was a lot of fun.
As you can see from the pictures above, our trusty vessel is big enough to be comfortable below decks. Above deck, she still provides ample room in the cockpit for crew or guests to spread out. These qualities have made it easy to introduce a number of friends and acquaintances to sailing. With a crew of one or two experienced sailors, she has also proven herself a sound and well-behaved sea boat in rough weather. Everything, however, has its price. The down side of running a small ship like this is apparent when I don’t have any crew. Taking out a ten ton, deep displacement, gaff-rigged boat alone is a bit like juggling running chainsaws. You can do it, but it takes lots of practice, and mistakes have grave consequences.
If you look at the rigging plan, above, the size of the rig becomes a little more apparent. The length of the vessel on the waterline is twenty-nine feet, on deck, thirty-five feet, but the overall length from the tip of the bowsprit to the boom end is fifty-three feet.
This particular Friendship Sloop carries a topmast, and is rigged so that the topmast can be “housed”; that is struck, or lowered, down on deck in case of heavy weather. This evolution is mostly theoretical, in our case, because it would involve someone going aloft to remove the fid at the masthead while someone else slacks the topmast backstays, and someone else eases the heel ropes, while a fourth crewman is at the helm.
If you are interested in the rigging details; click on the thumbnails below to see the rigging diagrams from the ship’s log book.
THE BOAT SHED
When we took on the stewardship of the boat, we decided to build a boatshed within walking distance of my home (see related post). The shed is a basic pole barn with a packed dirt floor to keep the humidity needed to allow a wooden boat to stay tight over the winter. The main structure is built of timber frame bents that are placed on granite blocks that extend down below the frost line. The roof is enameled steel roofing supported by conventional 2″x6″ trusses. The siding is rough-cut board and bat from a local mill.
Before we started, we checked with the town to find out what the building regulations were, and to get a building permit. They were the ones who suggested we use granite blocks rather than poured concrete for the foundation. They made the suggestion based on how the building would be assessed for tax purposes. Using granite blocks for the foundation put the building in a different assessment category resulting in a lower tax. Since we already had a large pile of granite nearby at the building site, this also reduced our materials expenses. The point is that it is worth having a discussion with the town clerks office before you start a project like this.
The shed is designed so that simple staging can be hung on the interior walls of the building at about the waterline level of the boat; this allows us to work on any part of the boat without using ladders. Part of the area in the roof has an animal proof loft for storing sails, boat cushions, and anything else that you don’t want rodents getting into. The cost of the shed was equivalent to the cost of indoor storage for the boat for two winters in an average boat yard.
If you came to this page directly from another site and you would like to read more posts related to friendship sloops; go to the category column at the right and click “Friendship Sloop” .
The above clip was made sailing across Muscongus Bay in Maine in the Summer of 2007.
Related to the last post (see Raised Panel Bulkheads)…When we bought our friendship sloop, one of the few areas that needed a major rebuild was the cabin roof. This created an opportunity to build any kind of skylight that we wanted. The skylight that most people think of when they think of a classic wooden boat is the traditional “butterfly” hatch. I have always loved the look of these, but know of few that do not leak. What we decided to do instead was to build a version of this hatch that, as far as I know, legendary builder Bud McIntosh developed. It looks like a traditional skylight, but actually functions more like a large “dorade” ventilator.
This solution has proven to be a particularly good one for our boat because when the boat is at anchor or on a mooring, air is continually circulating in the main cabin because of the way the skylight works. The Skylight looks great, allows for a lot of natural light below, and does not leak.
Another alternative to the more traditional butterfly skylight is to build a regular hatch opening and build the actual hatch in the shape of a butterfly skylight.
I took this picture of a hatch on a Jarvis Newman friendship sloop at one of our gatherings. It is fairly self explanatory.
The Friendship Sloop Homecoming in Rockland is held each year one weekend in July. It is a great opportunity to meet and visit with other boat owners, swap information, share yarns, and see other boats in the water. While other commitments kept the ship’s wolf and I from being at the event the entire time this year, we did manage to get out to the parade of sail on Saturday morning and to follow along with those of the fleet that were racing.
The video below is a condensed version of Saturday’s race…
February 15, 2007
My nearly constant companion for the last eight years has been a small wolf-hybrid named Saxon. Like any mix between a wild and a domesticated species, you never know what you are going to get. In this case, I think I won the lottery.
Along with genetic inheritance from Canis Lupus, my familiar spent most of the first two years of her life with wolves or wolf-hybrids, so when she came to me she had almost no domestic traits. However, she also came to me with few, or no, aggressive traits. The only times I have seen her become at all aggressive were when she thought children in her care were being threatened.
When I first introduced Saxon to sailing on the Friendship Sloop, she had some reservations. For wolves, however, being part of the pack and participating in the activities of the pack are a huge part of their identity, and if the pack is going sailing, then she is going sailing. It has been great fun to watch her apply her considerable powers of observation and assessment to cruising. She is now a tested sailor having sailed from Kittery, Maine to New Brunswick, Canada, and back four times, with many cruises in between.
While sailing is still not one of her favorite things to do she has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to make herself comfortable and useful at sea, and has become quite the sea dog…ah, wolf. Some of what Saxon has learned about cruising makes up what plot there is to the children’s book I wrote (see the post: “The Children’s Book“), here are a few more things she has learned:
Take a nap whenever you can, you never know when you may have to get up in the middle of the night.
When you are on watch, keep a good lookout.
Learn new skills.
And, a red sky at night, really is a sailor’s delight.
New and Old
April 28, 2008
Most of the rig on our friendship sloop is what is now called, perhaps euphemistically, “traditional.” In reality, this is a bit of smoke and mirrors. Sure we have the big gaff rig, no winches (too modern), deadeyes and lanyards, and a seemingly endless array of blocks, lines, hanks, and beckets that allow the deck gang to set, trim, and strike sails as the conditions warrant. Look deeper, however, and the compromises to modernity do begin to reveal themselves. Sails that are actually made of Dacron, stainless steel shrouds and stays, and even the occasional bit of plastic…yikes!
In fact, one of the compromises that I have been perfectly willing to make involves a material that sounds like something used in some sort of medical implant: Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene. This material is manufactured, and sold specifically to woodworkers to make parts for power tool jigs. It is incredibly tough and has a slippery surface that makes it particularly good for jig parts that need to be able to slide smoothly.
One place I have used this high tech poly-stuff is on hatch slides. The main hatch had four bronze slides that did work, but that created a lot of wear on the wooden tracks in which they slide. The wear, in turn, caused the slides to stick. I replaced the track and at the same time replaced the slides with the high density jig stuff. The hatch now slides smoothly (almost too smoothly) and the wear has been all but eliminated.
Another area that this material has worked out well has been in sheaves for blocks. In particular, we were having a lot of difficulty with the jib-sheet blocks that are hanked onto the jib clew. The sheaves were very small in diameter and the bronze blocks themselves tended to foul in the mainstay. Tacking into a head sea has its own challenges without having to go forward and overhaul the jib sheets after each tack because either the blocks have fouled in the stay or the sheets refuse to slide through the blocks. As an experiment, I made up a pair of traditional bullet-blocks and stropped them onto the same thimble. I turned the sheaves out of the new-fangled jig stuff and hey-presto, the combination of traditional design and modern material did the trick.
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2009 Friendship Sloop Races
This year the Friendship Sloop Homecoming and regatta in Rockland, Maine had twenty two boats in attendance. In addition on the second day of the races, a number of schooners formed a parade past the breakwater. The combined effect on this hazy afternoon of light air was a stately dance of traditional sail. I have put together four clips below. If you are so inclined, spend a few minutes watching a sight that used to be common on the Maine coast, and is now all too rare.