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Thread: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

  1. #1
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    Default Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Folks already know that I am fond of Phil Bolger's Storm Petrel design, but to take advantage of the "adventure dinghy" intent of the boat, I think it needs some rails or lifelines especially if sailing in rough and/or cold water. On either side of the cockpit, some padded covers could make them into handy backrests. What would be the best way to add those to such a relatively small (16' 4" x 5' 2") boat?

    bruce hallman storm petrel 10.jpg storm petrel profile.jpg
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    I'm a big fan of safety equipment, good handholds, reliable traction, and lifelines.

    And I'm willing to let any/all of that detract from the looks of a boat.

    I'd half to do some drawings to be sure, but I suspect real lifelines would look ludicrously out of proportion on that boat. And lifelines with less height become as much a tripping hazard as an added safety feature. I doubt I'd do it.
    David G
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    A toe-rail along the sheer and a hand-rail along the cabin roof should do.

    For seating comfort, make sure that the bulwark (hull above seat surface) should be angled outboard to provide comfortable leaning your hips back on it. It looks like you are there now.
    Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    What's in the box amidships? That looks like the biggest impediment to safety to me. It keeps you from staying on the centerline when going to the mast. You don't walk around on a small boat like you do a big one, lifelines would be very much in the way for coming alongside, rigging the mast, using oars.

    The best thing you could do for safety is not cleat the sheet, and wear a lifejacket.

    The keel won't be very handy for beach cruising. You'll almost need a dinghy for your dinghy. Nor will it perform very well under sail. The same hull with a ballast shoe and foil shaped centerboard would be self righting but also beachable and considerably higher performing under sail.

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    David G, yes, full-size cruising stanchions and lifelines would look silly, 24" above the deck would be higher than the reefed boom in the profile view. The top of the box hatch cover is about 16" above the deck so I was thinking no higher than that.

    mmd, yes, the hull sides are already angled out. Hand rails on the cabin roof would require a substantial change to that part, which is now a loose (or perhaps hinged) box top over the hatch, hence the thought of fixed rails or lifelines.

    J.Madison, the box amidships is the "house" (really a box hatch cover) over the storage/shelter area belowdecks. For the rationale behind the design as well as some criticisms, take a look at this thread including the original Bolger article attached about halfway through. http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...r-Storm-Petrel
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Toe rails and hand rails for sure. In a boat of that size I would opt for a good safety harness and a number of strategically-placed pad eyes to clip on to. Wearing a safety harness and being always clipped in is the best insurance for staying in the boat.

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Thanks, in my mind a lifejacket, harness, and tether go without saying especially in rough and/or cold water. Ditto a drysuit for the cold water. I do still think that there is something that can be done to make the cockpit itself a little more secure. For example, the modified Storm Petrel active for many years on San Francisco Bay had a modified house and rig and simple wood and rope lifelines.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by cluttonfred; 04-19-2021 at 08:24 PM.
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    You might also consider some sort of self-rescue system, if you do find yourself in the water and being towed by your safety harness. A fixed boarding ladder, or permanent steps up the transom. I never went in the water thanks to my harness, but I doubt I would have been able to reboard. The memory of some of the dicey situations I put myself into give me the heebie jeebies now and then.

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    That a great suggestion, though it’s hard to see how anything but a rope ladder would work on that little transom.
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Interesting design brief from Bolger. It seems he wanted the absolute smallest boat to survive a real storm at sea, including repeated capsize. The horror of laying inside that coffin as the boat is regularly thrown about and rolled is almost to much to contemplate. I can't imagine why anyone would want a dinghy intended for those conditions, especially seeing the designers claim that it won't sail well and should be regarded as a motor sailor. It's a 12' scow with a ballast keel and a tiny rig. Unless you are intending to sail blue water in a dinghy, almost any other boat would serve better. In fact, Bolger also states there isn't enough room for stores or fuel, so it isn't intended for blue water either. I guess it's just a life boat for one person. I don't know how one could conceivably run into a storm at sea cruising this little skiff, considering nearly all small boat sailing is done in sheltered waters.

    I know we all have different taste in boats and that's a good thing. Maybe there is a niche for this one that I've missed.
    Last edited by J.Madison; 04-19-2021 at 10:03 PM.

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Ask yourself why this design style has not reproduced. Darwin could explain it. IMO it is a dead end designed for an impossible fantasy.
    Apologies for being harsh but my first build was the same. It looked good to me on paper but otherwise sucked on every level. You've been warned, I wish I had been.
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    There's a good chance that a boat that small will capsize before you go overboard, especially if your weight is against a life line on the leeward side.
    I would want to keep that boat unhindered at the rails. As mentioned handrails and toe rails should do it.

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    I'm not a big fan of tethers and lifelines for small boats. If you really are out there in rough weather ("rough" for small boats doesn't have to be very rough at all), then you're more at risk of capsizing than you are of falling out of the boat. And if you do capsize, the last thing I want is more lines tangling around me as I try to right the boat. Maybe not the same with this design and its heavy ballast keel, but generally true of unballasted boats, I think.

    I also agree that this design is probably not worth the time and attention, really. It's quite crude--often, I suspect that is a major part of the attraction, a kind of thumbing your nose at the yacht club set with a "Look what I can do with my little cheap box boat!" attitude. I get that--my first few years of cruising were done in a very similar (thought keel-less) Bolger design.

    Beyond the crudity of the design (which may or may not offer appeal to a particular sailor), it also strikes me as wildly impractical. That's not just idle speculation--that's my opinion after a few thousand miles aboard small boats, sometimes for weeks at a time. This boat looks uncomfortable above and (especially) below: not much room, and not a big variety of seating positions (and no backrest). The lateen rig does offer the shortest possible mast, but then you have that looong yard to mess with. Might as well just have a taller mast and a more effective/handier lug rig instead.

    While I get the appeal of the ugly little crude boat out there doing cool stuff--really, I have a special place in my heart for that kind of boat--this boat is not one that I would want to spend long days aboard, or sleep aboard. There are just too many other recent designs that will look better and perform better for this one to be worth it.

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-20-2021 at 08:29 PM.
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Other safety issues that I value:
    Minimizing the need to leave a safe location to do something necessary. Run halyards and other such controls back to the cockpit.
    Provide a means to get back on board if you fall overboard, like steps on transom or rudder or Garelick telescoping ladder.


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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    I might laminate a small "bow" above the transom. Like a conestoga wagon thingy,but small,2 or 3 feet tall. Place for the awnsl to attach .
    mmmbut dat bote iz regawdamdiculus
    the computer makes a homely boat even uglier

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    There are just too many other recent designs that will look better and perform better for this one to be worth it.
    Amen to that.

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Not for the first time, I feel that coming to this group is like asking for advice about what tires to put on a car and, if any advice on tires is offered at all, it is followed by, “That’s an ugly car and you’re an idiot for driving it.”
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Quote Originally Posted by cluttonfred View Post
    Not for the first time, I feel that coming to this group is like asking for advice about what tires to put on a car and, if any advice on tires is offered at all, it is followed by, “That’s an ugly car and you’re an idiot for driving it.”
    And if it's true???

    You're trying to breed a nautical dead end and we are trying to save you years of wasted time, money and natural resources. I love to see successful projects and encourage them.
    Pretty soon I'm gonna start encouraging you just to morbidly watch the low speed wreck.
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Quote Originally Posted by cluttonfred View Post
    Not for the first time, I feel that coming to this group is like asking for advice about what tires to put on a car and, if any advice on tires is offered at all, it is followed by, “That’s an ugly car and you’re an idiot for driving it.”
    You come here for advice, and you are getting the best advice you're likely to find anywhere. Some of the people on this thread have spent decades building boats, sailing boats, and dreaming boats. You should listen.

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    But truth is, it's always different horses for different courses. The advice in question sometimes comes from boaters with a very specific view and experience. On the other hand, this tendency isn't 10 percent on this forum what you'll find on virtually any facebook boating page you might trip across.
    -Dave

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Quote Originally Posted by cluttonfred View Post
    Not for the first time, I feel that coming to this group is like asking for advice about what tires to put on a car and, if any advice on tires is offered at all, it is followed by, “That’s an ugly car and you’re an idiot for driving it.”
    We are giving you the advice we have gained from decades of building, sailing, and (at least on my part) designing small boats in response to your questions. It is unfortunate that you are receiving advice that you do not want to hear, but that is a function of advice. Disregard any advice that is about mere appearances; one person's ugly is another person's darling. But when these folks advise you on strength, seaworthiness, construction methods and materials, and suitability for the task, you should listen. As a group we are just trying to save your project, your money, and possibly your life.

    To be blunt, cluttonfred, you come here sometimes with some rather amateurish ideas that we recognize very early on as paths to error and disappointment as well as needless expense, and we tell you so. You do not seem to take negative comments well, though, and react poorly. Please let me assure you that, with this crowd, advice that you do not like is still good advice.
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    All good points, but in this group there is often a very snooty attitude toward simple and inexpensive designs that comes through loud and clear, sort of "I did it the hard way and it cost me an arm and a leg so you should, too." I have already built several Bolger boats from 6' 6" to 16' to row and sail and paddle and had a lot of fun for less investment than some people have in one Nutshell pram. I used to chuckle at what I though was almost paranoia when Phil used to refer to "right-thinking boatmen and other snobs" condemning his work out of hand, but now I see what he meant.
    Last edited by cluttonfred; 04-20-2021 at 06:37 PM.
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Quote Originally Posted by cluttonfred View Post
    All good points, but in this group there is often a very snooty attitude toward simple and inexpensive designs that comes through loud and clear, sort of "I did it the hard way and it cost me an arm and a leg so you should, too." I have already built several Bolger boats from 6' 6" to 16' to row and sail and paddle and had a lot of fun for less investment than some people have in one Nutshell pram. I used to chuckle at what I though was almost paranoia when Phil used to refer to "right-thinking boatmen and other snobs" condemning his work out of hand, but now I see what he meant.
    I think you might misunderstand what you're hearing--certainly you misunderstand if you think I am an advocate of some kind of arbitrary boat snobbery. Here's the boat I sailed for 8+ years, including many local(ish) trips, two multi-week trips to the North Channel, and one completion of the Texas 200:

    Jagular.jpg

    Pretty crude, but simple and cheap. Note the polytarp sail (poorly built with double-sided carpet tape and no sewing) and the closet-rod boom. The cheap non-marine plywood. A typical Bolger design. It's strengths?

    1. Cheap and simple to build. Took less than a month of part-time effort, and cost less than $300 total, including the sail.
    2. Plenty of flotation, and (marginally) recoverable from a capsize single-handed (marginally because it's quite unstable filled with water).
    3. Enough room to sleep aboard.
    4. The "look what I can do with my cheap simple boat" appeal that I loved.
    5. Shoal draft, and light enough to drag up on shore when needed.
    6. Aft deck helped maintain good trim so the transom didn't drag.
    7. Rowed decently(ish).

    Deficits?

    1. No shaping of foils whatsoever--not even slight rounding of the edges. So, pretty poor windward performance. I don't think the plans showed how to shape foils and rudders.
    2. A ridiculous lateen rig with an 18' yard (in a boat that's only 14' 6" long)--I replaced it with the balance lug shown after learning quickly how impractical and unhandy it was.
    3. Crudely built (my fault, not Bolger's).
    4. Limited comfort with no seats--I really appreciate getting my seat at least some distance above my feet, which wasn't possible with no seat.
    5. Flat bottom made it difficult to tack in any kind of waves, and a bit poundy in choppy windward sailing.

    Despite its limitations, I think it's a far better cruising boat than Storm Petrel. Why?

    I don't like Storm Petrel's crude heavy keel--it robs you of one of the MAJOR advantages a small boat has: shoal draft and beachability. The ability to tuck into tiny little protected spaces right close to shore, almost anywhere, is a major safety feature. Also, a flat bottom centerboarder/leeboarder is FAR easier to trailer and haul out. These are very real, very practical concerns, not "boat snobbery."

    I also think Storm Petrel creates something close to a "worst of both worlds" scenario as far as ergonomics go: not all that comfortable in the cockpit (limited space, no back rests), and even less comfort belowdecks. After thousands of miles in small boats, I'm a firm believer in choosing a "best of both worlds" scenario with either a cabinless boat where all space is available when sailing AND when camping, or a boat with a comfortable cabin with at least sitting headroom (about 38" for me) and a cockpit big enough for comfort (but then, those two are difficult to achieve in boats of this size). But I'm quite biased toward "no cabin at all" because it gives you the most space and comfort in for small boats.

    Then, the rig. Where will you stow the sail if you have to row? There's little space, and the yard might actually be as long as (or longer than) the boat itself. For that matter, where will you stow oars? How will you reef the sail?

    Tom
    Last edited by WI-Tom; 04-20-2021 at 08:24 PM.
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Quote Originally Posted by cluttonfred View Post
    All good points, but in this group there is often a very snooty attitude toward simple and inexpensive designs that comes through loud and clear, sort of "I did it the hard way and it cost me an arm and a leg so you should, too." I have already built several Bolger boats from 6' 6" to 16' to row and sail and paddle and had a lot of fun for less investment than some people have in one Nutshell pram. I used to chuckle at what I though was almost paranoia when Phil used to refer to "right-thinking boatmen and other snobs" condemning his work out of hand, but now I see what he meant.
    You know, you are absolutely right and I just couldn't see it. The Storm Petrel checks boxes I hadn't even considered.
    You should build this boat. Keep us up to date on the build and let us know when you launch. I'd love to see it.
    ​​♦ During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    If I were in your situation, I would look at the various transoceanic rowboats and see what they did about the lifeline issue.
    WI-Tom makes, I think, and excellent point about recovering from a capsize.
    Good luck.

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Good job cluttonfred, your thread at boatdesign.net was so embarrassing to the home build community that it was deleted. Wake up!
    You're unwillingness to listen to counsel does not reflect well on you. Or, unfortunately, us.
    Henry Ford had his place in history, so did Bolger. This is the the 21st Century, wake up! Wellsford, Oughtred, Lillistone etc. are light years ahead of of your fantasy.
    Yes, I'm being tough but you are being obtuse.
    ​​♦ During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act
    ♦ The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it
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    ♦ George Orwell

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Interesting reaction...

    To answer CF's question, I would build some chairback type supports at the points were I was comfortable helming, strong enough to act as hand holds.
    In a UK magasin, they tested a boarding aid. Fitted to a 19ft Shrimper's transom, it was a simple hook that folded down to get that below water step to heave oneself back on board. Fully geared up staffer, 'fell' in, then deployed it and got back. Very simple (cheap) and effective.
    Likely I would fit them to another Bolger boat (as I am) but, what-ever gets you afloat.
    Lifelines on such a boat are not practical. Better handholds and a short tether
    A2

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    If Bolger drew lifelines, it was for a reason.
    If he didn't, do you think he forgot?

    R
    Sleep with one eye open.

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Autonomous, your friendly and helpful demeanor has been a true inspiration.

    Quote Originally Posted by Autonomous View Post
    And if it's true???

    You're trying to breed a nautical dead end and we are trying to save you years of wasted time, money and natural resources. I love to see successful projects and encourage them.
    Pretty soon I'm gonna start encouraging you just to morbidly watch the low speed wreck.
    Quote Originally Posted by Autonomous View Post
    You know, you are absolutely right and I just couldn't see it. The Storm Petrel checks boxes I hadn't even considered.
    You should build this boat. Keep us up to date on the build and let us know when you launch. I'd love to see it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Autonomous View Post
    Good job cluttonfred, your thread at boatdesign.net was so embarrassing to the home build community that it was deleted. Wake up!
    You're unwillingness to listen to counsel does not reflect well on you. Or, unfortunately, us.
    Henry Ford had his place in history, so did Bolger. This is the the 21st Century, wake up! Wellsford, Oughtred, Lillistone etc. are light years ahead of of your fantasy.
    Yes, I'm being tough but you are being obtuse.
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Thanks, Andrew, I'd love to learn more about that boarding aid. Got a link to the article or any photos?

    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew2 View Post
    Interesting reaction...

    To answer CF's question, I would build some chairback type supports at the points were I was comfortable helming, strong enough to act as hand holds.
    In a UK magasin, they tested a boarding aid. Fitted to a 19ft Shrimper's transom, it was a simple hook that folded down to get that below water step to heave oneself back on board. Fully geared up staffer, 'fell' in, then deployed it and got back. Very simple (cheap) and effective.
    Likely I would fit them to another Bolger boat (as I am) but, what-ever gets you afloat.
    Lifelines on such a boat are not practical. Better handholds and a short tether
    A2
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    www.cluttonfred.info (I also like homebuilt airplanes!)

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Think it was in Watercraft and name escapes me, but quite a few years ago. Easy enough to make one out of 20mm SS tube.

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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Thanks, but I am still not quite sure what you mean. Are you talking about a U-shaped hinged transom step or ladder, this sort of J-type emergency ladder, or something else?



    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew2 View Post
    Think it was in Watercraft and name escapes me, but quite a few years ago. Easy enough to make one out of 20mm SS tube.
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    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Something else..
    It was a hook, sort of triangular shaped, on a tube about 2 ft long. Formed by bending the single tube, hinged on a bracket near the water line. Something to hold it up (friction?) so just reach up and swing it down. Obviously some other handhold would be needed, depending on transom height.
    Maybe a mail to Pete Greenfield (editor) would help.
    A2

  34. #34
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    northwestern Wisconsin
    Posts
    10,740

    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    I think I prefer the boarding sling that Howard Rice et al. have rigged for the Scamp--Scamp has freeboard high enough that reboarding could be very difficult, but that sling makes it easy. Fred, I think you already referenced that in a thread somewhere, right? If not, check it out--it looks slick.

    For my current low-freeboard boat, and my current capabilities, crawling in over the gunwale works well. Partly because my boat comes up flooded on one side (the far side relative to the person reboarding), and empty on the near side. The drain tubes that link the different areas of the cockpit are very small, so it takes a while for the water to redistribute itself. Meanwhile, the weight of water on the far side is a perfect counterbalance to the weight of the person reboarding. It works surprisingly well. If I were a boat designer, I might design in a feature like that on purpose.

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  35. #35
    Join Date
    Mar 2011
    Location
    Christchurch NZ
    Posts
    439

    Default Re: Rails and/or lifelines on a small boat

    Have you considered foot straps?
    On a boat that small you will always be sitting to windward in any breeze so keeping one foot under a strap probably won't be too wearing. It also makes emergency hiking possible (that lifelines would preclude).

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