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Thread: Mirror rig on a light sail/oar dinghy

  1. #1
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    Default Mirror rig on a light sail/oar dinghy

    Hi Everyone,

    I'm new here and am researching to build a sail/oar dinghy.

    I love the idea of building an Oughtred Skerrieskiff, Oughtred Elf, CLC Skerry or Selway Fisher Medway Doble 15. (All those boats also look great.)

    I'd love to have a boat that has a simple rig, can be trailed, launched and recovered very easily, and can be rowed or sailed equally efficiently in shallow tidal waters. And it would be an enormous accomplishment to build it myself.

    What's holding me back is cost... I'm on a shoestring, or, more precisely, my other half doesn't want me to take 2,000 pounds to build a boat when we have two second-hand dinghies anyway (and can buy any number of old wrecks for two/three hundred pounds and be done with it).

    So I'm trying to think laterally.

    Those designs I mention above are some of the cheapest and most elegant designs out there. Correct me if I've overlooked a prettier and cheaper/better/lighter sail/oar skerry or dory... honestly, I'd love to hear! (Admittedly, the CLC Skerry and SF Medway Doble will be easier to build than the two Oughtred designs... but the Skerrieskiff is Oughtred's simplest design and the Elf is cheap in kit form from Jordan Boats at about 700 pounds.)

    One thing that has occurred to me is that there are hundreds of old wooden Mirror masts, gaffs and sails out there and that the Mirror's sail area (main = 50 sq ft, gib = 20 sq ft) is an approximate match for any of the boats above.

    I am clutching at straws a bit, but would any of those boats above work with a Mirror rig?

    I can build a spankingly beautiful rowing version... and then economise on the rig by fitting an old wooden mast and tan sails Mirror rig from Ebay. I love sailing, but it's only estuary crawling single-handed, not racing or showing off...

    Thanks for views!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Mirror rig on a light sail/oar dinghy

    Hi, welcome to the forum.
    If the rig is about the same size, and you can arrange the center of effort of the rig in the correct place on your chosen hull, it should work. You may have to build the mast step and move the sailing thwart to achieve that, but it will be doable. Just a matter of aligning the drawing of the Mirror rig with its CoE on the drawing of the chosen boat's rig.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  3. #3
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    Default Re: Mirror rig on a light sail/oar dinghy

    And I think most of those have the mast stepped through a thwart and onto the keel while the original mirror is on deck. You might have to scrounge a longer chunk of tubing for the mast and use the Mirror masthead and heel plugs. Or pick up a couple of them and dowel them together to lengthen them a bit. You'd probably only need another foot or so.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Mirror rig on a light sail/oar dinghy

    Is the mirror a Gunter gaff rig? Could you adapt it's sail and wooden spars into a lug rig for an elf (which has a lug). Not sure about the other designs but the lug rig seems to be one of the most common/best small sail/oar boat rigs for the ease of dropping everything into the boat if needed.

    My understanding that the single biggest cost of the rig is probably the sail. Though one would think England might be an easier place to find a used lug sail. Reasonable spars for that small a boat could be made out of relatively short lengths of lumber (10-15') You might have to pick through the pile a bit to find clearer pieces but they could be made relatively cheap. I'm not sure about UK Lumber prices though. Rope is generally best bought new but used blocks could be had and you need less for a lug rig. Then there wouldn't be much or any redesign.

    My relatively inexperienced 2 cents

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Mirror rig on a light sail/oar dinghy

    The smaller length sail and oar boats have the same beam but less length than the longer ones. Apart from less waterline length it also gives them a smaller waterplane. Add in double ended'ness over a transom'd boat and you've got less reserve buoyancy to fall back on. They are easier to fit in a small garage, lighter to move around on a trolley etc though, but just saying a small sail and oar boat, will need a small rig that has a low center of effort.

    There are certainly plenty of cheap Mirror donors around and the simple mirror is a good little boat and frankly is all you need for what you want to do.



    Against using that rig, it's stayed, so you aren't going to be hoisting and dropping it 'mast and all' on the water if you wanted the least windage. It's also got the complication of the jib and sheet leads plus the mast step is foredeck stepped, so you'd need a foredeck in the right place. Doable, but for a sail and oar boat you'd be better served with an unstayed rig and drops in and hoists with a single halyard. If you were to use one, the Oughtred Shearwater has a deck stepped gunter option very similar in arrangement to a Mirror.



    Having thought about 'off the shelf rigs' for a canoe a while back, I think the Topper rig is a better donor.



    It's unstayed. The sail reefs around the mast so it stays as a neat package when down, and when reefed you still keep luff length and it'll keep going to windward. Also cheap to find as a whole boat (300) it comes with a daggerboard which should fit in an Elf's slot for example. Cheapish pattern sails available for kids if you wanted a new sail one day and they do a 4 and 5 sqm sail which would suit a skinny short sail and oar boat or canoe. So that would be my pick. The boom can be clipped to the mast and all the rigging with it. If you really want it stored the mast is two piece. I think there's legs with that one. The sailing canoe rigs from Solway Dory use the same rig in principle, and Dad had a few of their canoes so rigged and liked the rig alot. I think theirs is 4 sqm.

    I'd build the Elf personally. Dad had a Skerriskiff once (purchased from the builder) he said it rowed well, but was not a good sailer. Too little reserved buoyancy though it can depend alot on how the rig and boat is built. I won't repeat his exact words on a public forum, but it didn't survive more than a season before he got rid of it. It's a bit windy generally for small sail and oar boats on the south coast here though. He sailed an Elf once and loved that one.

    If you want to protect you're investment though (but from plans there's only 4 sheets of 6 or 9mm occume for an elf - less than a kit price) you're going to need a trailer/ trolley and really a new owner will want the sail and rig 'as drawn' unless you go real cheap and practically give it away or sell it as a cheap rowboat. Just saying. The Jordan kits include the molds though and do save time. You're going to have to consider where to pitch your financial investment but the Elf kits are good value and a very beautifull boat.

    Prices have risen due to Covid though last time I looked on Jordan's site: about 900 now plus fuel to collect, so a grand...he moved up North a bit back. 4 sheets of 6mm will be 300. The UK importer of French Joubert Occume plywood International Timber is at Purfleet not too far from you, he was cheaper than Robbins when I asked a few years ago. It's a more expensive time to build a boat out of ply at the minute, though they should drop down over the next year I should think, though you're only looking at needing 4 sheets. Crappy plywood used for molds is also twice the price 45 instead of 20, so I'd use some suitable arranged 1" pine and keep it old school, for that now to save cost.

    For a quick off the trolley row boat that has a real quick rig, Iain's Acorn Skiff at 15ft with it's little sprit auxilliary sail is very quick off line for after working working hours quick trips on the water. That's miles up the river before anything gunter rigged has got launched. Its got waterline too. Should probably also be 4 sheets of carefull cutting. More strakes than Elf but more waterline.

    A true sail and oar boat should have a 'small conservative rig'. Partly because of the reduced stability, partly because it's a narrower easier driven hull, but also it can be rowed directly to windward in a straight line at 4 knots when needed.
    Last edited by Edward Pearson; 09-05-2022 at 05:49 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Mirror rig on a light sail/oar dinghy

    Building a new keel stepped mast is not going to break the bank. Use the scantlings specified by the designer of the selected hull.
    As to this advice, working sail and oar boats were adequately canvassed.
    A true sail and oar boat should have a 'small conservative rig'. Partly because of the reduced stability, partly because it's a narrower easier driven hull, but also it can be rowed directly to windward in a straight line at 4 knots when needed.
    358-Haughty-Belle3.jpg
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Mirror rig on a light sail/oar dinghy

    I think you can. I've switched rigs in a couple of boats with success. Make your best estimate and some adjustments after trying it.
    You might think of building an SOF (Skin On Frame) dinghy to save some time and money.

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