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Thread: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

  1. #1
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    Default Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    Hello all,

    I want to build a Michael Storer Beth sailing canoe. I've never done anything like this before, but the Beth is a simple plywood design. I'd try something slightly bigger, but I'll be building in my basement, so it has to be narrow (beam ~36" max) to get it out. And I love the idea that I might be able to car-top a Beth single-handed.

    Mr Storer himself warns that a Beth needs an experienced racing dinghy sailor in anything more than light winds. I am certainly not experienced. In fact I'm a fumbler, and I'm currently trying to polish my skills by renting a sunfish every weekend (that's all I can rent around here.) But there never seems to be more than about 8 knots wind on the very sheltered water where I plan to sail (Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York).

    And if there is ever more wind, then either I won't take the boat out, or I'll accept the risk of a few dunkings.


    Reasonable or crazy? Comments much appreciated.

    Cheers

    Tim

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    crazy. but do build her and present lots of photos.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    I built and sail a Beth canoe (check out my build thread over on Mik's forum if you're interested).

    I'd say it's pretty reasonable as a first build. The build instructions are very detailed and for the most part things are pretty straightforward but there are a lot of parts. That being said, I wouldn't really call it a simple build - it is surprisingly time consuming to fit all the various parts. It took me about 200 solid working hours and I'd built a 12' lapstrake plywood dinghy and a skin on frame canoe before it.

    I built it with the idea that I could easily car-top it, but I've never actually done it. The hull itself would be fine, except you have 6 spars, a centerboard, tiller, and rudder to deal with as well. Plenty of people seem a lot more willing to deal with roof racks than me but I always put it on a trailer until I started storing it at the local sailing compound on the water. I figure it would take the better part of an hour to put on a rack and all strapped down, and then the same at the water, and then going back home. That very quickly cuts into sailing time.

    I have quite a lot of sailing experience (going on 15 years) but rarely sailed on anything racy until I started sailing my canoe. I never had any problem sailing the boat, but am young, fit, and pretty nimble. You have to react quickly, and do need to develop an intuitive sense of what to do. I've been racing the boat weekly since April and I'm always prepared to go for a swim (I wear a drysuit, since our water rarely hits 40F). I've been out in up to about 15 knots and it's a total blast in those conditions - screaming along in a cloud of spray and foam as you plane across the waves. Of course, I'm also hiking out hard to keep the boat up - toes under the lee cockpit coaming and the rail in the middle of my thighs. This gets quite tiring. In lighter stuff it's more leisurely - you can move along in the slightest breeze and with 5 knots of wind you're moving along nicely.

    What are you really looking for in a boat? I'm gradually finding that it's important to figure that out before following dreams too far because dreams can be very good and brushing over the details that make the difference between joy and frustration.

    Are you looking for a fast, exciting boat to sail, or more something leisurely for poking around in? You might consider a less extreme sailing canoe or something like the duck punt to meet your width restriction and be easier to car-top. The Beth design is a blast to sail, but it's an "always on" kind of boat.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    Quote Originally Posted by timstammers View Post
    Hello all,

    I want to build a Michael Storer Beth sailing canoe. I've never done anything like this before, but the Beth is a simple plywood design. I'd try something slightly bigger, but I'll be building in my basement, so it has to be narrow (beam ~36" max) to get it out. And I love the idea that I might be able to car-top a Beth single-handed.

    Mr Storer himself warns that a Beth needs an experienced racing dinghy sailor in anything more than light winds. I am certainly not experienced. In fact I'm a fumbler, and I'm currently trying to polish my skills by renting a sunfish every weekend (that's all I can rent around here.) But there never seems to be more than about 8 knots wind on the very sheltered water where I plan to sail (Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York).

    And if there is ever more wind, then either I won't take the boat out, or I'll accept the risk of a few dunkings.


    Reasonable or crazy? Comments much appreciated.

    Cheers

    Tim
    Reasonable...

    Trust yourself, and your own commonsense with this one. She'll ghost along nicely on light days and grow with you as your skills and confidence develop. Get a dry suit and PFD and stay closer to shore when pushing it. You'll be fine!


  5. #5
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    831

    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    Go for it. There may lots of bits to put together, but broken down, each step looks like fairly straight forward boatbuilding. I think Oyster Bay is an ideal training ground. My wife frostbites a Laser there all winter. Sailing canoes are ideal for learning good boat handling skills. I sailed C Class canoes for years, and that's where I developed all my survival instincts. I think Beth is a boat you can grow into, as long as you are comfortable in the Sunfish.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    I honed my skiff sailing skills in this class,


    so now, at 70 sailing a canoe is actually quite relaxed.
    http://vauclusejunior.wordpress.com/photo-gallery/

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    Tim,

    I like what andykane had to say.

    My perspective: I'm not only an 'approved builder' for Michael Storer, I was the first in the Americas to build his Goat Island Skiff design. I really like his work, and love how he manages to combine a relatively simple, inexpensive build style with a heap of performance. I've been a boater, surfer, swimmer, and overall water-rat all my life... but never a sailor until less than 10 years ago. My style is "don't make me set my beer down".

    Therefore, I think it's important to focus on ak's comment that the Beth is an "always ON" boat. The GIS is not really designed to be a "leisurely" boat - but it can be sailed that way (usually). The Beth? Not so much. If you think that is the type of sailing you want... then good on ya. I'd be inclined, though, to start with something less demanding, for fear that the frustration level would be high enough to put you off of sailing entirely.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    How about a small catamaran or outrigger canoe? Two narrow simple to build hulls that lash together at the launch site. Stable fast, car toppable. Many proven designs available.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    Quote Originally Posted by David G View Post
    ...the GIS is not really designed to be a "leisurely" boat - but it can be sailed that way (usually). The Beth? Not so much. If you think that is the type of sailing you want... then good on ya. I'd be inclined, though, to start with something less demanding, for fear that the frustration level would be high enough to put you off of sailing entirely.
    David G has a good point here.

    Beth measures in at: 15' 6" x 2' 10" and 70 lbs.
    Goat Island Skiff: 15' 6" x 5' and 125 lbs.

    I think something in between the two would be nice! Single balanced lug. Decked over, fore and aft, like Beth...but with a slight increase in beam....remaining car-toppable and around 100 lbs.

    Beth's hull shape is quite nice to my eye:


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    No one has discussed the ability of reefing to keep Beth under control. When decked sailing canoes were introduced by the British in the 19th century, they were conceived as miniature cutter yachts--heavily ballasted and sailed from an inboard, seated position without hiking. Though heavily rigged, they could be reefed instantly by pulling a line to shorten the sail like a window shade. Without a ballasted centerboard or shot bags under the decks, Beth would be quicker in her motion, but the hard bilge would improve her stiffness, and the crew is expected to hike. Why not reef in time?
    Peter Belenky

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    There are plenty of folks who would find an ordinary 34" wide canoe unstable. Hanging 60 squares of sail on one makes for a much more exciting ride and not a cruise in the park.
    Before I would commit to building this I would buy a plastic canoe, rig it for sail and find out if it suited my abilites. If it didn't I would still have a canoe that wasn't boxed in with decking that could be used for a wide variety waterborn activities.
    So, if sailing a boat that has to be contantly balanced like a bicycle is your thing go for it. If leasurely cruising is more your style I would pass this one by.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    Thanks everybody. The Duck Punt looks good (especially if it can be built in a week.) Because I'm such an inexperienced sailor, It's difficult for me to understand how hard a Beth would be to sail in light winds. Chuck's comment about it having to be constantly balanced gets the point across I think. I know that in Oyster bay, the water is calm but there are some motorboats with large wakes....

    I will keep thinking. Maybe see if I can buy or try a plastic sailing canoe, and look for some plans for a small cat or outrigger canoe. But the Beth really did catch my eye.

    Thanks again.

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    Quote Originally Posted by timstammers View Post
    Thanks everybody. The Duck Punt looks good (especially if it can be built in a week.) Because I'm such an inexperienced sailor, It's difficult for me to understand how hard a Beth would be to sail in light winds. Chuck's comment about it having to be constantly balanced gets the point across I think. I know that in Oyster bay, the water is calm but there are some motorboats with large wakes....

    I will keep thinking. Maybe see if I can buy or try a plastic sailing canoe, and look for some plans for a small cat or outrigger canoe. But the Beth really did catch my eye.

    Thanks again.
    You have a good eye. But maybe not for a boat to learn on.
    David G
    Harbor Woodworks
    https://www.facebook.com/HarborWoodworks/

    "It was a Sunday morning and Goddard gave thanks that there were still places where one could worship in temples not made by human hands." -- L. F. Herreshoff (The Compleat Cruiser)

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    I reckon one of the OzRacer scows would be an excellent boat to learn in. A relatively simple build, with some decent performance too. At only 8' and light in weght it's also car-topable. Can also be reefed and handles a chop very nicely too.

    http://www.woodworkforums.com/f169/l...ml#post1668331

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    Howdy,

    Some good advice here ... a direct comparison can be something like a Laser, when the wind comes up you will be capsizing. I remember in the early days of Lasers that people shifted from something a bit more relaxed, enjoyed the laser during a moderate weather test sail.

    Then they went out in a 20 knots club race and capsized again and again six or eight times in a row.

    Beth can give something like that experience. Someone who can sail a Laser comfortably in all winds and accept that they can go over if they try something fun on the water ... that's the attitude with BETH.

    She's less strenuous than a laser because waves don't stop her so easily and she will track in a straight line without broaching.

    But she is for a specific type of sailor.

    The idea of rigging a plastic canoe specially to try out what canoe sailing is like is a bit troublesome .. there's a lot of messing around and as a beginning sailor it is difficult to make decisions on what to do during such a build. It might sail ok or it might sail bad and you would never really know if it is you or the boat

    It is better to get something that will sail well from scratch ... whether a second hand boat or building a simple boat. Get your hours up and then consider a Beth.

    If your local conditions really are under about 12 knots most of the time then it might be possible to quite enjoy Beth as a beginner sailor, but you would have to think about wind strength all the time.

    She does reef.

    A note on the "fast" reefing systems from the 1870s. It's actually one of the photos that helped me integrate all the things I wanted to try into BETH (you can see the ideas that I was playing with listed here.



    I had the reef line guides and battens and everything stitched into my original sails. The way to reef sails in boats of this size is to drop the mainsail completely, sit on it and tie in the reefs and rehoist. If you are overpowered ... you need to get the sail down.

    There's a useful handling tip or several about mizzens and how usually it is not much use to haul in the mizzen really tight. The first five or so paragraphs here have some useful info about heaving to with mizzen before it descends into a rant

    MIK
    Last edited by Boatmik; 07-30-2013 at 09:42 AM.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    "And if there is ever more wind, then either I won't take the boat out, or I'll accept the risk of a few dunkings."

    Then you've chosen the boat, now go ahead and build it.
    You can learn to sail anything, some folks have learned on Optimists, others have learned to sail on a 49er.
    I know someone who learned to windsurf on a sinker. His first accomplishment had to be a waterstart to get going. It all depends on how persistent you are. He now windsurfs really well.
    If light winds are predominately where you sail, you'll be fine, and your skills will grow as the wind strengthens.
    And you'll have the boat that caught your eye.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    I built the boat. I’ve sailed it for one and a half summers. I loved building it, and now I love sailing it. I’ve tried to keep this follow-up post short, but sorry to say I’ve failed. Maybe it will help anybody else who was in my position.

    All of the comments above were right on the money. It took me three years to build -I’m a slow worker, and before I built the boat my carpentry was very limited. Even allowing for that, I can understand why Andy Kane mentioned the much simpler Duck Punt. Beth is more an intermediate's boat. It’s all very do-able and it wasn't difficult to learn, but the learning takes time for a beginner.

    Sailing it: My sailing experience boils down to two or three summers in a Sunfish and then Minifish. I’m confident in the Minifish in 20+mph winds, but that doesn’t say much. I found my Beth (the Rhonda Jane) challenging at first. It didn’t take too long to learn the boat, but even now, it’s not always a relaxed sail. Chuck’s comment about this was bang on. In winds of ~8mph or more you can sit on the side, which is perfectly relaxed. But in weaker winds, you can’t do that or you’ll capsize. Instead you must crouch in the cockpit, so you can move quickly if there’s a gust. That’s a little uncomfortable, although still fun to sail. Beth will take two people quite happily (loads more room than a Sunfish.)

    With my limited experience, Beth seems fast. My best moment was when I was sailing downwind in about 12mph wind, on the same tack as what I think was a ~25ft racing sailboat (narrow, no cabin.) I'm sure I was keeping pace or even overhauling that boat – until its crew finally got their spinnaker filled.

    Beth is beautiful. I sail on Manhasset Bay, New York. Every time I go out, I get praise from other boats. Every time.

    Drawback: Recovering after a capsize is difficult if you’re sailing solo. Every time you try to climb back in, Beth capsizes again. You need a far better feel for the boat and sails than I do. Mik says it can be done, with practice. I gave up trying, and built a folding outrigger. Now if I capsize I drop the mainsail, deploy the outrigger, climb in, raise the sail, take off the outrigger, and I’m away again. Pretty easy.

    BTW: Mik’s instructions are really clear, but AndyKane’s pictures and log for his build are a great top up, at http://www.woodworkforums.com/f169/b...=Beth+andykane

    My one piece of build advice: Make your fillets much larger than other people do. I saw a photo somewhere in this forum of a cracked fillet around a knee on a Beth (sorry, I can’t find the picture now.) A pain to fix. The cracked fillet was small, but not much smaller than the fillets I’ve seen in how-to-make-fillets videos on Youtube, using tongue depressors. I made my fillets the same size that Mik recommends (in one of his blogs somewhere), which is a lot bigger.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Beth Sailing Canoe as First Build?

    Congratulations!

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