Thursday, October 27, 2011

Missing identity

Readers of this blog spot no doubt appreciate my addiction to all things Moth Boat and Europe Dinghy related.  One little mystery that I've failed to work out is the identity of the builder of my all wood Europe dinghy, GYPSY.  A previous owner thought that she was built in Italy but offered no proof to back up that assumption.  I'm fairly confident that my boat is NOT a Roland or a Christalli (the excellent craftsman who took over Roland's shop in Belgium) for reasons which I will advance in the following photos of both GYPSY and a genuine Roland-built boat.

First, let us exam a boat known to be a Roland
Note the athwart-ship frames running across the cockpit sole of this boat.  The aft one serves as an attachment point for the hiking straps.
Here we have GYPSY prior to her restoration.  Note the absence of those athwart-ship frame elements.  Instead GYPSY sports a pair of  fore and aft stringers on either side of the timber keel which the Roland-built boat does not have.  Another distinctive feature between this boat and the Roland is the shape of the hatch cut out in the main bulkhead: triangular on GYPSY and rectangular/oval on the Roland. Finally, although not visible in this photo, GYPSY's toe straps terminate at a clam cleat on the keel just ahead of the transom. Thanks in advance for any help identifying the builder of this boat!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Skol! (Rondar Skol, that is...)

No, not Skol, as in the traditional Swedish toast, or Skol like in snus (snuff to English speakers) as in "just a pinch between the cheek and gum".  No, this Skol is the name given to a Moth Boat designed in Britain and built by Rondar Boat Works when they did business in New Milton, Hants.  To make a long story short, last Saturday was fall work day at the Brigantine Yacht Club and after  floating docks were broken down and hoisted out of the water, hoses drained, race committee boats tidied up for winter shrink wrapping, etc. your diarist had a bit of time on his hands and so I met up with a friend who knew of a Moth that wanted liberating from her long period of slumber.

This was my first view of Moth Nr 4065.  She was leaning against the side of a garage building and appeared, from the layer of grunge, to have been undisturbed for many winters.

Here she is flopped down on her keel.  Love the pine needles trapped under the 'whales.

Her owner (from new) told me that the boat had been picked up by a wind storm and dropped onto dock pilings.  I can believe it.  This photo, while representative, doesn't begin to show all the damage to the decks and bulkheads.

Here's a view from the stern.  This boat is clearly crying out for some TLC.

The builder's tag is missing part of the Boat Work's name.  She was built by Rondar Boats Ltd. doing business in those days on Stem Lane in the town of New Milton in Hampshire.  Rondar is still in business but at a different location.  I ought to write them to see if they can supply an intact builder's tag with the old address.
Well, what can I say?  I'm a sucker for a Moth Boat what's down on her luck.  I made the owner an offer and he took it.  The hull was promptly loaded on my trusty Volvo's roof racks and off we went to Maryland.  On the way back to Maryland every time I touched the brakes, brown murky rain water gushed from the holes in the deck onto my windscreen!  After arriving home she was a good deal lighter than went we hoisted her up to the roof racks!  A few days later I decided to wash as much of the filth as possible off the hull to see what I'd purchased.

After a vigorous bath she looks great from 10 feet away! She doesn't look like the same boat does she? I love the Swedish flag blue.

The Mk I Skol has a very fine entry and less rocker than either a Duflos or a Mistral.  Also, towards the transom she's as round as an apple and thus trickier to sail than the Mistral design which flattens out towards the transom.  The difference is that when these two designs heel, the Mistral gives her pilot a few vital seconds to mend his evil ways before going for a swim.  The Skol on the other hand is much less forgiving: once she starts to roll she keeps right on going!  And that ultra fine entry is also a mixed blessing.  Yes it knifes through the chop with the greatest of ease but it lacks the buoyancy of a fuller bow shape and thus is some what prone to "submarining" down wind when a big gust hits the rig.
Washing a boat gives one the opportunity to really see what's what.  Here we find a puncture in the bottom near the transom that wants mending.  Also visible in this photo is evidence (extreme lip of the hull) that the boat was dragged along the beach during launchings.

Here is a repair of an ancient war wound--evidence of a port/starboard encounter at some long  forgotten regatta.

Yes, the gel coat is rougher than what the photos suggest.  Indeed there are lots of gouges and deep scratches, lumps and bumps but there are no soft spots in the laminate so this hull is worth the effort to breathe back into life.  The next step will be to flip her over and remove the deck hardware in preparation for new decks a la Joe Bousquet's famous roll tank deck system:  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Annapolis Sailboat Show

Columbus Day weekend marks the annual in the water sailboat show in Annapolis, Maryland.  The following weekend is given over to an in the water show for powerboats.  Your Diarist and diaristwoman enjoy the show regardless of the weather.  This year the weather couldn't have been nicer:  mild temps and sunny with a slight, cooling breeze.  Unlike previous years we parked at the Annapolis High School instead of the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.  The Stadium is where boat show visitors usually park and then ride shuttle buses to the dock area in the old park of town.  This year the Stadium parking lot was filled with "tail-gaters" doing their thing prior to a home Navy football game.  So it was over the the high school to catch the same school buses to the docks.  As can be imagined, Annapolis traffic was rockin' with both the boat show and a Navy home game going on at the same time.

Don't even think about parking downtown during boat show season.  Just go to one of the remote lots and ride the shuttle bus.
Diaristwoman had prepurchased our tickets at the boat show's website so we went to the head of the queue, showed our preprinted tickets, got wristbands and breezed in with minimum fuss.  I love it when stuff like that actually works.

We concentrate mostly on the small boats and the vendor's tents.  E. liked this "little" Herreshoff H-121/2.
My bride has a good eye!  Sadly, even this little boat exceeds your diarist's pocketbook.  I'll stick with Moth Boats!
The boat show exudes a carnival-like atmosphere.  There are lots of demonstrators hawking polishes, glues, odd tools, hardware etc. Here is a sampling:

Of course there are big boats in the water.  I used to go aboard these luxury yachts but don't bother any more.

This one costs more than most people's homes.
In comparison, these seem almost reasonable!

The boat show stands common logic on it's ear.  This sign is the reverse of the ones I more usually encounter which state something along the lines of "No shoes, no service".

When you're done gawking at how rich people live and come off the boat, the rule of thumb is if you can't find your shoes at least get a good pair.

A new and warmly received addition to this year's boat show was the Hendrick's Gin barge.
Free drinks!  What's not to like?

I'm hoping that Mt. Gay Rum takes note of this and steps up to the challenge next year!

After being refreshed by the Hendrick's folks, we took another stroll through the small boats and spotted several nice dinghies, canoes and other small boats.
I can't imagine the number of hours required to varnish, let alone build this lovely canoe.
Details from the  canoe shown in the previous photo:  m'lady's cane bottomed seat.
Another canoe, this one has a small sailing rig.
A local Annapolis builder, Chesapeake Light Craft, had one of their "Pocket Ships" in the water.  This design is perhaps the largest offering from this company, better known for it's line of kayaks and canoes in kit form.
After one last look around, we made our way towards the exit.  The dome of the Maryland State House is currently shrouded for painting.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Tenth Annual Carl Patterson Regatta: Chestertown, Maryland

Carl Patterson (right), with his older brother Harold building a Skip Etchells "Connecticut" design Moth circa mid-1950s. The boy with the lively expression is Harold's son Craig.  Family photo courtesy of Nancy  Patterson Tidy.

Carl Patterson was instrumental in establishing the Moth Class at his home club, the Yacht Club of Sea Isle City, New Jersey during the the 1950s and '60s.  Carl built boats not only for his children/relatives but also for other club members as well.  Carl passed away in 1968 but his memory is celebrated each October when Classic Moth Boats come to Chestertown, MD to race at a regatta organized by his son Bob at the Chester River Yacht and Country Club.

Bill and Shane Boyle rig up prior to the Skipper's Meeting.
Two weeks after the Nationals, those of us who attended this year's Carl Patterson Regatta had even more wind and cooler temperatures than we'd seen in Elizabeth City.  At least the expected rain held off until later that night. John Pugh and I were waffling back and forth on whether or not to try our "big" sail experiment, by entering our Europes in the Gen II division with the Europe Class-legal "fat head" sails instead of using the CMBA's "pin head" sail and sticking with our usual Generation I division assignment, but I reasoned that the 120 lb elite women who originally sailed our boats in the Olympics only had a big sail to race with and they survived. With that in mind, we shouldn't think too deeply about the BIG gusts which were singing through the flagpole halyards while we were rigging up on the beach and just get on with it. And, so we did.

This photo gives a good comparison between the slightly larger Europe Class sail (Nr 110) and the CMBA-legal sail carried on the following boat (Nr 64).  Click to enlarge the photo.
For those not familiar with the Europe Dinghy, that boat started life as the "Europa" Moth design back in the early 1960s.  When newer Moth designs made the Europa obsolete, the Moth Sailors in North-Western Europe broke away from the Moth Class and formed a separate strict one-design class around that particular design.  (Moths are sort of like religious denominations--there are a number of splinter groups...)  Later, the Europe Dinghy, as it was then called was selected as the single-hander boat for women in the Olympics and served in that capacity for four Olympic Games starting with the Barcelona Games in '92 and finishing with the Athens Games in 2004.  Since the 2004 Olympics the Europe Dinghy has been replaced by the Laser Radial Dinghy and because of this a clutch of excellent Europe Dinghies were offered for sale at fire sale prices.  The majority of those boats have been recycled back to being Classic Moths by substituting a CMBA-legal sail for the Europe Class item.

During the time of the break away, the Europe Class introduced a number of improvements to the boat, including an update of the sail shape.  Europe sails still fit Classic Moth spars but the Europe sail has a much more efficient shape, particularly at the head of the sail compared with the ancient "pin-head" shape retained by the Classic Moth Class.  This can be seen in the photo above.  At present, the Europe Dinghy sails as a Classic Moth in our Generation I division, providing the boat remains at the stock weight of 99 lb and carries a CMBA-legal sail.  Compared to the fastest designs in the CMBA's Generation II division, the Europe suffers by being heavier (99 lb vs 75 lb) and by having more wetted surface than designs such as the Mistral, Duflos, and Skol.  John Pugh and I wanted to know if the more efficient Europe sail would off-set the weight and wetted surface penalties with which the better behaved Europe design suffers.  We reasoned that the combination of a better sail and a good skipper might allow the Europe to punch above her weight.

An additional twist in this year's Carl Patterson Regatta was that 6 former Moth skippers, none of whom had set foot in a tippy Moth Boat in about 50 years, were planning to come spectate.  Instead, Bob, operating under the conviction that it's better to race than merely watch, got several of us to bring extra boats to loan out to the "geezer" fleet.  We had three loaner boats for six skippers so a "round robin" series was cooked up with the six skippers rotating through the three loaner boats.  That all looked good on paper but the wind had its own ideas, which I explain directly.

John Pugh gingerly tests the conditions during the early going, no doubt wondering if my notion of using bigger sails for this event was one of my better ideas--or just another fine mess that I'd talked him into!
After rigging the boats and attending the Skipper's Meeting we started to launch into the Chester River.  The wind was blowing around 15 mph out of the NW with gusts just a touch under 20 mph.  A lot of big boat sailors scoff at this amount of breeze but let me tell you something: in Moth Boats, when the wind strength starts to approach 20 mph, with harsh, unpredictable gusts tossed in, these little boats get seriously physical!  After sailing out to the starting area I told myself that conditions didn't seem that bad.  Of course right after thinking that thought, I flipped!  The river water temps in early October are still "refreshing" so that wasn't too bad.  The bad part was that during the capsize I managed to break the hold-down mechanism on my rudder.  This allowed the rudder blade to float like a pop-tart which in turn made the boat uncontrollable.   The upshot of this is that I missed the first race (taking max penalty points) while I floundered around attempting to lash down that *%&!@## rudder blade with  my bow line--a great start to my big sail experiment!

Rudder repairs!
Diaristwoman was the PRO for the race committee and she later remarked that she didn't know whether to score me as "DNS" or "DNF" because while hanging off the end of the boat putzing with the rudder I did actually drift across the starting line to the on-course side.  I suppose I should be thankful that she didn't mark me down as "DSQ" for that race!  Meanwhile, I did manage to get the rudder to "sort of" stay in the down position, but with even a small amount of backwards rake in the blade from vertical, the boat acquires a massive amount of weather helm. At least I was able to sail the boat in the next two races with  4th and 3rd place finishes.  At the lunch break John Pugh produced a length of thin, hi-tech line and with that, he and I were able to make a more effective repair for the remaining two races of the day.  While I was struggling with the rudder, the rest of the fleet was engaging in various bits of drama as well with several capsizes, swamped boats, car keys lost overboard, etc.  Did I mention the winds were strong?

Bottoms Up!
Swamped Shelley during race 2.
Mud on the head of the sail after this boat turtled during a capsize.  Moth masts are about 16 or so feet above deck.  We now know the depth of the Chester River in the racing area off the Club's dock!
Ben Tice flipped and swamped and lost his truck key during the early going.  Much to his credit, he bailed the boat out and continued racing while waiting for a locksmith to arrive.  The boat is my son Erik's former racer "FLIPPER"--a most appropriate name for this yacht!  FLIPPER is a Challenger design Moth from the mid-1950s.  Challenger Marine Corp. was an early leader in using the then new fiberglass technology on a production scale.
So, was the Europe sail experiment a success? I will grade it a qualified success. The busted rudder muddies the water a bit but by the end of the day I was second to Mike Parsons although he was steadily pulling away from me as that particular race wound down. I need another chance to race with that sail to learn how to shape it while sailing. For example, I discovered late in the day that I had way too much vang on.

At the end of the day Mike Parsons was first and Bob Patterson was second in Generation II, while Victor Stango was first and Bill Boyle was second in the Generation I division.

And what of our "Geezers", none of whom had stepped into a Moth Boat in almost 50 years only to be thrown into unfamiliar boats on a VERY windy day? They were impressive! Although the swamped boats and retirements due to gear failure don't permit a full and fair analysis, from what I was able to observe, Frank Adshead, John Hilferty, John Leonard  Harvey Ludlam and brothers Brian and Kevin McAnaney still have fire in their bellies. Harvey took the Geezer prize--don't ask me about Bob's convoluted calculus for making that determination--but I can say that during the last race in which I finished 2nd to Mike Parsons, Harvey was sailing my wooden Europe Gypsy (so he and I were in equivalent hulls) but he didn't have my advantage of a fat head Europe sail. Even so, he camped out on my transom the whole race and if I'd have made one mistake he'd have rolled me! So hat's off to the geezer fleet. I hope we'll see some of them get Moth Boats over the winter and come back next season.

Just like that group photo of the Browns Mills sailors which I posted a while back:

From left to right: Bob Patterson, John Leonard, Brian McAnaney, Harvey Ludlam, Frank Adshead, Mike Parsons (holding large trophy), Bill Boyle, John Hilferty, Shane Boyle, Kevin McAnaney, your diarist and Victor Stango.