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Friday 23 December 2011


Here’s something very different from Dave Zeiger of TriloBoats which are a family of barge/scow hulls that have been adapted for fast and easy construction in plywood. Dave and his family have what might appear an alternative and enviable lifestyle living aboard their 26 foot Trilo - Slacktide among the islands of Southeast Alaska's Alexander Archipelago.

If you think of Dave and family in terms of Ralph Waldo Emerson then perhaps Slacktide is analogous to Walden Pond. At 26' x 7' x 1' Slacktide is engine-free, a junk ketch-rigged sailing barge “not one of those curvaceous barge-babes, either, but a four-square and unrepentant box barge”

Slacktide is wind and human powered so sailing, sculling, drifting and idling are important pastimes. When the wind is fair and the tide a'rising, she will skim the shorelines or thread tiny passages between islets. When at anchor or waiting on the next tide Dave and family are afforded the perfect location from which to while away the day, drawing (boats from Dave, plants and animals from Anke), making music and exploring realms of the senses.

Compared to many of the boats featured on 1001 Boats “Slacktide” might be described as plain or even odd, but that’s to miss the point and a long history of slab sided working boats such as the sharpie, scow and barge. Reference England’s east coast barge trade, square section barges of 80 to 90 feet carrying immense cargos of up to 100 tons under sail through the shoal rivers and right into the port of London, often crewed by just a skipper and mate speak of an efficiency and fitness for purpose. In her way Slacktide draws many parallels, her form is a direct consequence of her intended function and owners purpose.

That’s not to say that Dave’s aesthetic is constrained by straight lines functionality, as he comments on his blog,

“.. don't get me wrong! I love curvaceous beauties, gleaming golden in every lissom line! The glint of brass and stalwart patina of bronze. Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!”

If I had a magic wand… sweet and curvy would suit me just fine. She'd be cold-moulded and dynel sheathed. Copper plated, from the boot-stripe down in strips hand-spilled and hammer fit by masters. She'd be tricked out with bronze hardware and copper running lights. Teak decks and resin plus gel-coat in lieu of paint. For easy maintenance, you know. A custom, welded stove would warm her, reminiscent of the old Shipmates, right down to the embossed anchors on the face.”

But I think of our box barges as the Least Common Denominator in boats. They are, quite literally, the least possible effort you can expend and still have a capable cruiser. KISS, even by barge standards. By almost any performance criterion, it's uphill from there. They are the lowest of the low. The bottom of the barrel.

But that's kind of empowering, don't you think? Look at how well they do... look at all the fun you can have on one! Their virtue is that their bang-for-the-buck ratio is through the roof. If any dreamboat is in reach, it's this kind, and it just gets better. And they do have sort of work-a-day good looks to them... don't they? Anyone?”

The answer to which is “yes they do.”

For further proof point of Slacktide’s fitness for purpose we should perhaps look at Dave’s previous boats. The first was a 19 foot Phil Bolger built Micro called Zoon, despite her small size the family proved to themselves that such a sailboat, even a small one “might be a good place to live.”

Zoon was followed by Luna, described as 31foot and “Bolgeresque” a slightly larger interpretation of Phil Boger’s Advanced Sharpie AS29.

With Luna sold and lessons learned, Dave and family used their unique experience when they embarked on the design and build of Slacktide, as the next generation vessel which incorporates several features ranging from unusual to outright experimental.

Sea trials were aimed to answer questions about the viability of the following:

Slacktide is a box barge – while there are several examples of sailing box barges, few if any sail as general cruisers in anywhere near the range of conditions found in SE Alaska, in particular, could she make good in moderate gale conditions?

The bottom is a trampoline structure, there are no internal stiffeners over the large and dead flat cabin sole (the inside of the hull). It's designed to flex. As a result the copper bottom plates were glued, not fastened to avoid barnacle-like nail-heads

The large, side-windows are little more than a foot above the waterline.

The low foredeck is just over two feet above the waterline in order to maximize the forward windows and allow good steering visibility from a sitting position, inside the cabin.

Her centre boards are arranged on cable travellers to allow them to stow aft providing a clear and unrestricted view while at anchor.

The mizzen mast is off-center – displaced over one foot to port.

The junk topsail cut is unusual – inspired by Polynesian crab-claw rig.

A SeaCycle ® Drive Unit has been fitted for windless propulsion – this is like an outboard, but with rotary pedals (like a bicyle's) in place of the motor

SLACKTIDE was intended for year-round, live-aboard cruising, since Dave and family have been living continuously aboard now, through two and a half seasons sailing about 428 nautical miles, they have had good opportunity to test her suitability. Details of those extended sea trials are available on their web site, in the sense that Slacktide is a boat that gets you where you want to be, the photos suggest that she does the job well




Sunday 18 December 2011

Foxer Dinghy

Members of the Hamble River Sailing Club Foxer Fleet can be seen sailing every weekend, out on the water all year around summer and winter alike.

Designed by David Thomas (who also designed the Sigma 33) as a versatile sailing dinghy and yacht tender, the Foxer attracts some very experience helms and the fleet is characterised by close and competitive racing.

Length: 3.25m (10' 8")
Sail Area (Mono): 6.3m² (68 sq ft)
Beam: 1.37m (4' 6")
Weight: 78 kg (172 lbs)

The FOXER is a boat you sail IN rather than on. The exceptional stability and simple to control rig means there is no need to perch on the sides or hang overboard when sailing to windward - helms aged 8 to 80 with any degree of physical fitness can sail within their limits, while enjoying outstanding sailing qualities and safety.

The distinctive red, black and white Foxer sails have become and integral part of the Hamble weekend waterfront.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Nicholson 48

I’m not really a fan of centre cockpit yachts, but the exception proves the rule as they say. The first time we went aboard a Nicholson 48 was in Scotland Bay, Trinidad. Growler monkeys could be heard among the steep and thickly wooded shore as we rowed over to swap some books, our conversation led to an early evening beer and on to a dram from the ships supply of single malt.

Our hosts proudly showed us around their boat and what we discovered was a strongly built and hugely practical long distance cruiser. Designed in the 1970’s for serious offshore cruising the Nicholson has a full, encapsulated keel, comfortable motion and well planned accommodation. With a sail area to displacement of 12.07 the Nic is perhaps a little under canvassed but the ketch rig, with everything in board, is easy to work with a small crew. The deep centre cockpit with permanent cover works equally well offering protection and security from the in the blazing Caribbean heat or the cold, wet waters of the Western Isles.

Although the styling places the Nicholson firmly in the 1970s – touches such as the venetian blinds seen on many examples, the design has a timeless quality and an image which speaks of quality and fitness for purpose which has aged well.

LOA 47' 6"
LWL 34' 3"
Beam 12'
Draft 7' or 5'5" (shoal draft version)
Displacement 31,300lbs
SA/Dis 12.07
Bal/Dis .32

Wednesday 7 December 2011


Bernard Moitessier will always be remembered as the strange Frenchman who might have beaten Robin Knox-Johnston to be the first man to sail singlehanded non-stop around the world. Instead, on the last leg of his journey, when heading North in the South Atlantic towards the finish, he put the helm over and headed back into the roaring forties on a second lap of the globe.

At the time, in March 1968, he had been closing rapidly on Knox-Johnston, who was sailing a much slower boat but had started ten weeks before Moitessier.

Moitessier's powerful 39' ketch "Joshua" - named in honour of the first solo circumnavigator, Captain Joshua Slocum - was built in steel in France in 1962 to a design by Jean Knocker. Her immensely strong double-ended hull, welded, with minimum framing, in thick gauge steel plate, is clearly heavily influenced by Colin Archer's famously seaworthy norwegian yacht and lifeboat designs. By coincidence, Knox-Johnston's 32' "Suhaili" was also based on a Colin Archer design.

Joshua was not built specifically for the Sunday Times Golden Globe Challenge, the competition won by Knox-Johnston for the first non-stop solo circumnavigation. She was conceived and built, however, with shorthanded long ocean voyages in mind. Moitessier had already made a number of ocean crossings in home-built boats of his own design. As both his previous oceanic adventures had ended in shipwreck, he was no doubt keen to make sure that Joshua would be built as strongly as possible. Her construction was financed by the royalties from the book he wrote about his previous voyages, and by the time of the Golden Globe race, Moitessier had already tested her thoroughly, in ocean voyages from France to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal, across the Pacific to Tahiti, and back to France by way of Cape Horn.

After these voyages Moitessier wrote another book and many magazine articles about his experiences.

Although he became renowned as France's most intrepid ocean voyager, and financially comfortable as an author, Bernard Moitessier was a quiet man, never comfortable with his celebrity. It seems it was the anticipation of the public and press hullabaloo that would result if, or more likely, when he won, that persuaded him to abandon the race and continue sailing, just at the moment when victory began to look probable.

"I am continuing, without stopping, towards the islands of the Pacific," he wrote, "because I am happy at sea, and also, perhaps, so that I don't lose my soul". He sailed on as far as Tahiti, then spent many years living and sailing in the South Pacific, earning his living writing about his voyages.

Joshua became another of Moitessier's shipwrecks, when, ten years after his famous one-and-a-half times round-the-world solo voyage, he accidentally piled her up on the shore in Mexico. This strange man then gave the boat away to a couple of young men who helped to recover her. Later she was purchased and restored by the Maritime Museum of La Rochelle, where she remains afloat and active to this day.

Moitessier died in 1994 and is buried in Brittany.

Images: Wikipaedia

Links to more information about Joshua and Bernard Moitessier: