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Thread: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

  1. #1
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    Default The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    I randomly searched for sailing movies on Amazon Prime Video and the film _Following Seas_ came up.

    I suspect that many people here know of the Griffith family and their two Ahwahnee ships. And their multiple circumnavigations.

    If you don't know the film, it's mostly composed of footage shot by Nancy Griffith during their voyages and narrated by her later in life when this film was made.

    An excellent, excellent film.

    One thing that struck me is how they built a second Ahwahnee in ferrocement based on rough measurements of the bones of the first Ahwahnee after it was wreaked on a reef at a mostly deserted Pacific island. They didn't dilitate over exactly what and how to build, they just got busy doing the best they could under the circumstances... because they wanted to get back to sailing!

    There's a design based on the two Ahwahnees at Karston Marine, discoverable by googling.

    Edited to Add: Kasten Marine Designs has a prototype design, Ahwahnee III 48. The original Ahwahnee is an Uffa Fox design in wood at 53 feet. Kasten calls it a sailing canoe hull design. The Griffiths in the movie repeatedly just call it "fast". http://www.kastenmarine.com/awahnee_III_48.htm
    Last edited by chollapete; 11-23-2020 at 03:50 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    just viewed the trailer...looks very interesting and I will be watching it when I can. thanks for posting.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    Me too, thanks chollapete…… there are still a few older wood fishing boats around in Tasmania that were built by eye on beaches from what grew behind it. Bark stillon thr brsnches on the framing. And g'day Bernie, good to hear from you.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    I worked with them on the construction of Awhahnee 2 in Whangarei N.Z. She was very rough but strong. Fine finish was not what they wanted. I would not say they did not have Maurice Griffiths original plans, Bob used them but made his own decisions on the framing and suchlike. He did have a lot of help from the ferro-cement community around him too. From memory there were two "Marco Polo's" building and several 40 plus footers handy, a whole bunch of "Hartley" of various sizes and Rich Hartley himself was around the scene, so Bob and Nancy were not out in the wilderness. Speed was everything to them both.

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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    "Fast" is the way people describe boats with good light air performance when they have pure displacement hullforms. Wich is a nice way to say it means nothing.
    Thanks for the movie recomandation.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    Awhahnee was an Uffa Fox design called Hearts Desire. The movie is excellent thanks for the recommendation.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    ...so Bob and Nancy were not out in the wilderness. Speed was everything to them both.
    They seemed very interesting from the film. Thanks for commenting.

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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    A photo of Awahnee II sailing and Uffa's drawings of Heart's Desire.
    AwahneeII.JPGHD01.jpgHD02.jpgHD03.jpgHD04.jpg
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    Quote Originally Posted by Rumars View Post
    "Fast" is the way people describe boats with good light air performance when they have pure displacement hullforms. Wich is a nice way to say it means nothing.
    Thanks for the movie recomandation.
    That's right, it means a boat can maintain its average speed over a wider wind range than a boat with poor hull design or which is undercanvassed.
    And speed in cruiser terms means range , usually expressed as 24 hour runs. In our case we can budget on 175 average with some days less and some more.
    We go to Fiji or come home in 6.5 days.We have friends who have taken 14 but most boats take 7 or 8 to 10 days. One boat took something crazy like 23 or 28 days, but there might have been some competence issues there.
    Whatever it is , it's extra days at sea and that can have a very big cost . For example the boat that left a couple of days after us last year and arrived off our coast 3 days later than us, They were overwhelmed by a weather system , the boat sank , and the skipper died, 3 survived.46 ft Bavaria centre cockpit that had circumnavigated.
    So speed ie range over available time actually means a lot.
    Last edited by John B; 11-24-2020 at 01:18 PM.

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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    I actually agree with you John B, but people don't usually back their claims of "fast" with numbers and even if they do they rarely add the conditions and effort required to keep that average speed. The word is just to meaningless, not only is absolute speed a moving target but peoples perception of it is purely subjective.
    A better way would be to talk about the boats inbuildt speed potential and the effort it requires to attain 70-100% of it under different sea and wind conditions, backed by numbers and sailor experience.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    I see what you mean now, Rumars. One of my friends, a very experienced boat builder and sailor has an Atkin Thistle. Lovely boat and one he built and has owned for multiple decades. After a trip to Tahiti which took in the region of 20 something days he said to me, ' what you have to realise John, is she's a hundred mile a day boat'. That's pragmatic and comes from experience.
    So probably the best objective measure of a cruiser performance I think , a fair average you expect from a type. Not that yacht club bar 'oh she does 200 miles a day ', when it's a once in a blue moon occurrence in the trades and a flat sea crewed by 5. (And I'm just as guilty of that as anyone)
    8.1 knots is easy, 8.1 knot average over 24 hrs, not so much.

    Anyway , I can see attributes in Ahwahnee that would make her eat some miles, they're a bit before my time but I could go to my sea spray mag collection and find articles, I remember reading them.
    Last edited by John B; 11-24-2020 at 02:59 PM.

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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    Yes that's what I'm talking about. Realistic average performance for the real averge cruiser, framed in a known time. Uffa Fox describes hitting 200 miles/day in a 70ft yacht as excellent performance, and it was in race mode with 6 young guys on every watch. Ridiculous we might say today, but it was 1931. I am sure if one of the Vendee sailors goes cruising, the average boat will exhibit some previously unthinkable daily averages. Similarly, if I go sailing their Open 60 they might think the boat is broken.
    So, when I read or hear some oldtimer saying how fast and comfortable their boat was back in the day, I approve and say how great you enjoyed it. I only ask about daily passage averages, indoor shower, hot water and refrig if they become obnoxious.

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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee


  14. #14
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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    I never knew that Ahwahnee was Heart's Desire. I'll have to grab my collection of Uffa books.

    As far as "fast" claims goes, it's often interesting to read reports of enormous speeds and then to check the actual day's run. Trimaran innovator Piver was perhaps the ultimate BSer when it comes to bizarrely dishonest speed claims and the proof that he was a liar can be found in his own books. It's quite depressing that such an interesting designer could be so deeply delusional and dishonest.

    When bar claims and BS are so common, I find that a more reliable estimate of comparative speed comes from racing handicaps, whether created by experience (PHRF, OSIRIS, etc) or by measurement. Sure, they are imperfect, but they are a lot closer to reality than hype is.

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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    I have to agree about some performance claims.A few years ago I bought a book about the development of faster boats in New Zealand.A great deal was quite fascinating and a real eye opener for somebody from the other side of the world.I knew of the Australian skiffs and their terrific performance and had seen a scow Moth or two.I also had a hankering for a Cherub until I realised I wasn't light enough for one.What I found hard to credit was an account of a boat in the early years of the twentieth century achieving almost forty knots under sail in New Zealand.At this time of the evening I can't recall too many details but I really find it hard to credit an open boat with a gaff rig hitting that kind of speed with cotton sails and vegetable fibre ropes.As I say it was an account from afar and the author referred to a few designers of the times but seemed to be unfamiliar with any British boat designers after Uffa Fox.The likes of Ian Proctor,Jack Holt and Austin Farrar didn't get a mention.These days with a great deal more information available at the click of a mouse we can hope to be better informed I hope.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    Ahh, I know the book. I'm an admirer of Kiwi designs, which is why I own a couple, but some of the claims some of their "historians" (as opposed to true sailing historians like Harold Kidd and Robin Elliott) are full of jingoistic hype and nationalistic egoism. There's a claim in it, for example, that Kiwis invented hiking which is utter BS since the US had hiking aids including sliding seats back when dinghy sailing in NZ was far less evolved. Similarly, there's a claim that the Kiwis invented the vang in about the 1950s, which is obviously silly since Uffa's Int 14s show them in pics and plans published in the 1930s.

    Even before the internet, the fact that the writer of that book ignored Uffa, Farrar etc shows that he just didn't do the proper homework or blindly ignored the top designers of the northern hemisphere. In some ways it doesn't matter, but it does because some of the Kiwi and Aussie writers falsely insult people from other countries, and there's a word for that..........

    One interesting thing is that the really successful designers actually do respect northern hemisphere boats, and realise that when the designs are different it is not because ours are "better" but because they are designed for different waters and different societies. Julian Bethwaite, for example, understands that, which is part of the reason why people all around the world sail his designs.

    The flipside is that in the '90s there was the craze for people in the northern hemisphere to say "skiffs are the future" without doing their research and noticing that even where they came from, they were restricted to a minority of areas where they suited the local society and waters, and that most of Oz and NZ sail a different style of boat and most sailors here sail northern hemisphere designs like Lasers and Optis.

    I think the claimed speed you mention was probably that of the Patiki Kahurangi; a great boat but as you say, the idea that a boat that was basically an A Scow type went far faster than a modern A Scow could hope to come close to is utterly unrealistic. It's a bit like the claimed speed of 30 or so knots from the 1930s 18 Foot Skiff Aberdare; the deeper you dig the more different accounts you get, and the more apparent it is that it's utterly unrealistic. I've sailed her replica and even with modern sails and lines and a former "world" champ in control, there's no way she reaches the sort of speed that it was claimed her original reached.

    Similarly, there's a lot of evidence that boats down here were not actually as fast as claimed, compared to the northern hemisphere craft. The FDs could often beat the 18s of the 1950s, and the FDs were about the same speed as the 1930s Renjolle from Germany so the German boats of the '30s must have been quicker than the skiffs of the '30s. The early 22 and 24 Foot "skiff types" were no faster than the One Raters, which were of the same type as was seen around most of the world.

    The boats were great, but the one-eyed hype and the insults to craft and sailors from other countries are a bit depressing to read.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    I've never heard that claim, 30? 40 knots? Not likely is it.
    what's the book?
    Fast light Boats?
    Last edited by John B; 11-25-2020 at 02:11 AM.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: The cruising family Griffith and their ship(s) Ahwahnee

    I think it's in FLB. There's also a 1948 claim, quoted in Southern Breeze, that a Napier Patiki averaged 20 knots for three miles, while another allegedly averaged 27 knots for five miles and "touched nearer forty (mph)".

    These boats were 10ft shorter than an A Scow, which are claimed to reach 25 knots. While the Napier Patiki sailors would have been good and hard driving sailors, guys like Buddy Melges were not exactly whooses either. There seems to be little chance that a 1920s scow type would be faster than the speed record proa Crossbow was over a shorter course until 1973

    Decades after the Patikis, MAnder reckoned that his 18 Footer Intrigue reached about 18 mph at one stage, and could possibly have touched 27 mph under ideal conditions. When they had a speedo onboard I think it never rose about 15mph or so.

    It's significant that the media of the '30s and '40s gave specific time, place, condition and timing details about Aberdare's record one-mile run, in which she did 11.9 knots. Somehow that has now become "26 knots" in 18 Footer publicity, and even more in other media. Like fish, speeds grow in the telling.
    Last edited by Chris249; 11-25-2020 at 05:50 PM.

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