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Thread: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

  1. #1

    Default Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Hello everyone - long time lurker here, coming out of the shadows to discuss my fevered plans for building a boat in the near future.

    I live in Midcoast Maine, and used to singlehand a 26 foot George Stadel sloop around the Penobscot Bay area. I sold her some years ago, when her need for a rebuild was becoming urgent, and I didn't feel I had the skills and dedication to take on that project. A few years later, now, I'm feeling the urge to explore the coast again . I'm thinking I'll take the camping cruising approach this time, though - seems like a better way to spend more time on the water and less time/money on maintaining the boat.

    The Beachcomber Alpha appeals to me because a) it's the biggest dory in Gardner's Dory Book, and b) it looks really sexy. Besides, I've got just enough room in my barn to build one diagonally.

    Which brings me to the modifications to the traditional design:
    - Glued plywood construction (of course).
    - Addition of another mast step at the fourth thwart, in addition to the step in the usual location. I've got some ideas for mast gates that would allow some adjustment of mast rake.
    - Short foredeck, both to keep some green water out and to provide space for (light) gear stowage.
    - Reefing bowsprit - smaller headsails will set from it run all the way in to the stem head.
    - Area abaft the fourth thwart closed in to form stern sheets/deck, again for gear stowage.
    - Removable side benches, with hinged hatch covers to provide a continuous sleeping platform at the height of the thwarts - like the Alaska Skiff. (Photo: http://www.dhkurylko-yachtdesign.com/alaska_images/Alaska 020x.jpg Yes, I do plan to learn how to post photos here.)
    - Frames under the second and third thwarts replaced by a pair of bulkheads each. Or more precisely, the second and third thwarts will sit on top of bulkheaded plywood boxes. The simpler box under thwart #3 will be a locker for gear stowage (again). The construction under thwart #2 will be two iceboxes (on either side of the centerboard trunk), with structural bulkheads reinforcing the trunk. My thought is that a) this will keep the weight of food, drinks, and ice in a good location, and b) foam insulation will do double-duty as flotation. (Or is that the other way around?)

    My initial rig will probably be a sprit-rigged ketch, with a boomed staysail like Bolger's Light Schooner. (Outhaul made fast a little ways back on the club, so that luff tension reduces sail twist.) Total sail area in the neighborhood of 140 sq. ft. I'm planning to build my own sails, so there may be a new rig every year. And yes, of course she'll eventually have a traditional leg-o-mutton, probably built two sizes too big to be prudent.

    Any thoughts or comments?
    Last edited by Jeff R; 10-11-2012 at 08:33 AM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Any thoughts on where you might put the centerboard?
    You've described a very significant change to the sail plan, which will affect balance. Have you done the calculations to determine the location of the center of effort and the center of lateral resistance?

    Also, the sprit ketch with boomed jib is a darn complex rig for such a small narrow boat, albeit long. I've long thought that boat would handle well with a lug-yawl rig.

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Headsails? Bowsprit? Built-in iceboxes?

    Jeff, I think you're still thinking like a guy with a ballasted keelboat. The heavier and more complicated you make your dory, the more it will suck to row. Or were you planning to mount an outboard on her too?

    What's your real goal here, to build an efficient, safe, open cruising boat? Or to play around with fanciful details and concepts? I think your spritsail ketch with a boomed staysail idea could hardly be less well suited to actual expedition sailing. I can't hardly imagine a rig more awkward and cumbersome to set, reef or strike at sea. That's a rig for an afternoon daysailer that gets set up on the trailer at the launch ramp.


    The Alpha Dory is certainly a respectable enough place to start for a hull suitable to adapt to sail and oar cruising, but you really ought to keep simplicity and handiness foremost in your mind if you're actually going to take her places. Unless you're planning to burn hydrocarbons as well as calories. . . .

  4. #4

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    Balanced out the rig on paper, using three sails that are available as stock kits from Sailrite. Center of effort comes out pretty close to the same spot - maybe a touch lower, which I like. Centerboard will retain its traditional, way-too-far-forward-appearing location. I want to have the option of sailing her in her traditional configuration. If I'm not quite happy with how she balances under any new rigs, I'll mess with mast rake and how far out I run the bowsprit.

    And yeah, I realize that it's a complicated rig. I have to admit that that's almost the point - I want something to play around with. (Years ago, I was chief mate on Victory Chimes, so anything with fewer and smaller sails seems like it would be lots of fun.) Most importantly to me, though, is that this rig could be shortened down to practically nothing while underway. West Penobscot Bay can get a little boisterous at times, especially when the afternoon southwesterly is opposing a strong ebb current. I don't have to be so picky about the rig for most of my cruising area, but I have to cross the West Penobscot to get home at the end of the cruise.

    As for the lug rig - yup, will probably experiment with that one too. I've got a yen for sprit rig at the moment, though.

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    The location of the CB in the Alpha-Beach not only looks like it's too far forward, it is in fact too far forward. These were working boats and the CB was located way forward in order to have more room in the center of the boat. They were a famous racing class, yes, but they were raced in their original working boat configuration. The racing dories that were actually built for sailing performance, the X-Dory, the Indian, the Crocker Compass, the Mower dory, and others, had the CB more centrally located. You might look at Pete Culler's sprit-ketch Swampscott for an idea of where that CB rightly belongs with such a rig.

    So if the CE of your sprit-ketch rig falls roughly in the same place as the CE of the Alpha rig, then you can expect strong weather helm. I might add that I logged a 900 mile coastal trek in a sprit-ketch dory with headsail, and it's the very last rig I'd ever recommend for that use.

  6. #6

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    James - Yeah, I know it sounds like a lot of stuff to cram into a small boat. I'm cognizant of the problems of wrecking sail performance with too much weight, so I'm still going to keep the construction as light as possible. (The removable side benches seem like the likely worst offenders.)

    As for the ice boxes: my thought for building them in is that a) portable ice boxes always seem to be in the way or underfoot in small boats, and b) I have to find places to build in foam flotation anyway. (A little over three cubic feet, if I'm working the calculations right.) Might as well have the foam serve a dual purpose, and keep the weight of provisions in the middle of the boat.

    And the boomed headsail - maybe I didn't explain that part very well. I'm thinking of something like on Bolger's light schooner, or what's seen on a bunch of R/C sailboats. It's a sail that sets flying, with the foot laced to a club. You send it out on an outhaul, which is bent to the club a short distance back from the tack. Luff tension levers the clew end down. The big advantage is that your sheeting arrangement can be pretty simple, as it doesn't have to take the twist out of the sail. (This is why it's great on R/C boats - the sheet can be a single part, leading to a hole through the deck on the midline.) Setting this sail underway would be no different from setting a regular flying jib, except that you bend the outhaul to the club, rather than to the tack of the sail. Might even be able to rig up a bungy stop or two, so that it can be sent out to the bowsprit with "rotten stops," like we used to do for getting big flags up through the rigging.

    So yeah, it all sounds like a lot, but I think it might work fairly well. And if it doesn't . . . well, let's just say that I'm not going to use 5200 to bed any of the interior furniture.

  7. #7

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    Terry - what did you dislike about the rig?

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    The forward placement of the centerboard on the boats leaves about 7 1/2 ft clear aft of the case .You could bed down on the centerline ,on the floorboards .That could be a nice little world with a boom tent . I think the tiny jib was used as a balanceing sail with the main being the driver .It seemed to work .

  9. #9

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    That's not a half bad idea about sleeping on the floorboards. Only concern is thwart #3. Could make in removable, but I'm leary of tampering with something that seems to provide so much stiffness to the hull.

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff R View Post
    Terry - what did you dislike about the rig?
    The rig was fine off the wind, but was poor to windward. But the biggest problem was all the fiddly lines that needed tending. Three halyards, two snotters, three sheets, plus all the reefing lines. Way too much for a solo beach cruiser. A rig that needs little tending is nice to have when on a solo cruise, and a rig that can be trimmed to sail a straight path without constant attention to the tiller is even better. The lug yawl would be my choice for simplicity and balance for a beach cruiser.

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    "Reefing" bowsprits on a boat this size can be pretty simple. My boat has one that slides out through a hole in the stem with the heel fitting into a socket just forward of the mast. Jib halyard tension keeps it in place. It can be reefed or set while standing at the mast. No drama.

    Brian

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff R View Post
    That's not a half bad idea about sleeping on the floorboards. Only concern is thwart #3. Could make in removable, but I'm leary of tampering with something that seems to provide so much stiffness to the hull.
    You could add a frame or two or increase the scantlings on the existing frames to stiffen the hull in way of thwart number 3, but there are all sorts of what I call "knob nuts" and "knob bolts" available to secure the thwart when underway and allow for quick release when necessary. Lee Valley has quite an assortment on page 204 of the Sept. 2012 catalog.

    Here's what I mean;


  13. #13

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    My general thought for the bowsprit is for the heel end to sit between a simple pair of knigtheads, with a piece of rod for a fid. With several holes in the sprit, it should be a fairly simple matter to get the tip of the sprit where I want it. Haven't decided whether to put it on the centerline or alongside the stemhead, but one way or the other, the gammon iron will be a simple affair of bent metal. No bobstay, of course. The sprit will be square-sectioned, with no taper save for the last few inches - should keep it from rattling around in its irons too much.

    I'll put chainplates on the hull when I build her, but don't intend to use any standing rigging with this rig.

    As for the number of strings to pull: jib and mizzen will be self-tending. Granted, I'll have to pass the main when I tack (about 80 sq. ft.), and timing will be important to sheet it home without too much effort. Just have to practice. Used to be pretty good at it in the family's Sabre 28 with an oversized genoa, and could usually sheet it home without taking the winch handle out of its becket. Timing should be even a touch easier with the main instead of the jib - less of a problem with killing your tack if you're a touch early.

    As for the lug yawl rig: I like 'em too, but I think you'd have to move the CB aft to try it with this boat. I'm sure my Cornish ancestors would push heavily for lug rig too. But I'm thinking that if I'm going to use a headsail on a bowsprit to tame the wild weather helm, a sprit-rigged main might be a good solution to keeping a tight luff with no standing rigging. You know, the old bow-and-arrow analogy.

    Performance to windward . . . well, that's always something to worry about with designing a new rig. But if the slots between the sails aren't too tight, the CE of the rig is kept low, and the weight of the hull is kept low and amidship . . . well, I'll cross my fingers and hope it works out.

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    I actually built and owned a Bolger Light Schooner that had that balanced club jib.

    I think it works on RC sailboats because of the small size. On a full size boat, it was a saggy, awkward nightmare, and was the very first sail to get rid of when the wind piped up over, say five knots. That Bolger Schooner was the least practical open cruising boat out of all the dozens I had built. It was such a chore to get everything set up each time I wanted to go for a sail that after the novelty wore off, I couldn't wait to get rid of it. A total blind alley.
    As for the number of strings to pull: jib and mizzen will be self-tending.
    I think you're completely missing the point, Jeff. You're still thinking like a ballasted keel boater. The amount of strings you'll need to pull to set up or strike those sails in an open, unballasted dory is a frightening amount of challenging work when the weather pipes up. I can tell without you even saying it that you've never experienced trying to reef a spritsail in a chop. And were you seriously considering a boomless overlapping mainsail? Is that what "pass the mainsail" means? Cause if so, now you've also compromised the downhill performance to go along with the guaranteed poor windward performance of that clubbed jib. And practicing sheeting in an oversized genoa in a ballasted Sabre 28 has nothing whatsoever to do with sailing an open dory.

    Jeff, I want you to succeed. I just think your perspective isn't quite on target yet. You're not scared enough of capsizing yet. You've got too much tophamper and clutter. You also need to go try to reef a spritsail a few times to get some perspective on how nasty that job can be.

    I don't think you'd need to move the CB aft. A yawl mizzen instead of a ketch mizzen, and maybe a better, higher aspect kick-up rudder instead of the trad. dory rudder will thoroughlycure all helm-balance ills.

  15. #15

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    James - I do value your input here. (If I didn't want any opinions, I wouldn't have posted in the forum.) One question, though: if the sprit rig is so poorly suited to open water, then why was it so popular on ship's boats and on dories, both in inshore and offshore work? And why does Pete Culler speak so highly of it?

    BTW, I haven't included my full resume, but I assure you that my sea time isn't limited to ballasted keel boats - nor would this be my first experience with sprit rig.

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    A spritsail is an efficient way to put up a lot of sail area for the length of the spars. It works pretty well with low-tech materials. A little spritsail with the spars wrapped up in the sail can make a useful downwind aid that stows pretty well out of the way in a little row boat. It is a compromise, like any other rig.

    But that doesn't mean there aren't other rigs that have specific advantages over the spritsail for modern uses. For one thing, you have to remember how very, very much poorer and less weatherly old time boats with old time foils and sailcloth materials are than modern Dacron. Olde timey boats spent a lot more time just rowing to weather than most recreational sailors care to do. When your long-keeled ships boat won't point higher than 60 off the wind anyways, you're not going to spend a lot of time trying to beat to weather, you're going to take to the oars. Those old guys were tough, with rowing calluses you wouldn't believe. Of course this applies to the lugsail rigged ships boats that were common on the other side of the Atlantic just as much as the spritsail rigged ones. . .

    Some of the preferences between spritsails and lugsails surely had to do with regional traditions of course. But all of that is somewhat irrelevant for modern sailors using modern sails and modern sail shaping techniques. The modern computer-lofted balance lug is an entirely different animal from a canvas and rope one. The unobstructed leading edge of the lug has many of the same characteristics that make a genoa jib so weatherly, and yet it still retains the simplicity of an unstayed mast and minimal running rigging. The biggest advantage of all is how quick and easy and effective it is to reef compared to a spritsail. Although the cluttered leading edge of a spritsail laced or robanded to its mast is nowhere near as aerodynamically clean as the luff of a lug, that's not the part I dislike so much. It's the shenanigans and hassle of trying to reef or strike that sail with the hazard and inconvenience of the sprit and its tackle which I find so heinous.

    If you slack the halliard on a spritsail to try to lower the hoist and gather up the foot, the sprit gets loose since it is no longer in tension, and now you have a pikestaff flailing about up in the air, trying to beat itself to splinters against your mast. It's entirely possible, maybe even likely in a big wind, that the sprit will come loose from the peak while you're at it, so now the ragged end of the sail is uncontrolled at the exact same time your sprit is now pivoting down to chew up your varnish or clobber you. And let's not forget that the spotter tackle is right in the way of letting the sail come down too. If you just brail up the foot, then yes you have reduced your sail area, but you've done nothing to lower your center of effort while you're at it. If you do get the sail lowered despite yourself, then you've still got to re-adjust your spotter tension to get the sail to set properly, and this often means that the sprit now has to protrude further in front of the mast with the reefed sail to adapt to the shortened area. And don't get me started on the absurdity of "Scandalizing" as a reefing strategy. That's maybe an emergency strategy for running off in a sudden squall, but it's in no way a reasonable substitute for proper, progressive reefing for a weatherly sailboat. It's way too big a bite, all at once, and it leaves behind a particularly crappy shape for a windward sail. And what exactly are you supposed to do with that long, awkward sprit left over when you scandalize, anyways--besides throw it overboard to get it out of your way?

    And even just striking a spritsail just isn't easy. Brailing it up is the commonly mentioned option, but now you've got this only moderately contained and unruly wad of cloth and sticks waving high in the air. And that whole big bundle needs to be picked up and lifted out of its step all at once. All of the problems with reefing a spritsail apply just the same to lowering the sail as well--unless maybe you have sail track and slides or something, which is a whole 'nother set of complications. And what about a boom? You could go boomless to enjoy the awkward sheeting and poor setting downwind shape complete with the dreaded rhythmic oscillatory Death Roll, go with a conventional boom which pretty much needs the complications of a vang, not to mention jaws or a gooseneck, or you could go with a self-vanging spritboom so you can enjoy the complications of an entire extra snotter in the way of your reefing.

    So why did Pete Culler speak so highly of it? I'm assuming you're thinking of his Swampscott Feather, perhaps? Ummm. . . .how many Culler boats have you actually sailed yourself? I think he was a great rowboat guy. . . . .uhh. . . . . very salty and picturesque designs. . .erm. . . .an entertaining writer. . . . .
    Maybe I'm just jaded from having spent my youth on higher performance racing dinghies. And Feather is no Alpha Dory.
    Last edited by James McMullen; 10-12-2012 at 12:35 PM.

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    I think that there are rigs which work okay for summertime afternoon daysailing in predictable weather. And though I've only sailed on the east coast a couple of times myself, I've been told that the afternoon conditions are practically something you can set your watch by. Maybe you can get away with a rig that takes more time and forethought to set up and adjust than we can here on the unruly leading edge of the continental weather patterns. But I am so used to putting in and shaking out reefs three or five or even ten times over the course of a single day that I just can't imagine putting myself to that extra work.

    You should hear what Tim and Eric have to say about spritsails, since they both have more recent experience having had to deal with them. (I gave them up finally for good and good riddance about eight years ago.)

    According to Tim: "What's the recognized International Signal of Distress for an open boat? It's hoisting a spritsail before trying to cross the Straits."

    You can do better with the same amount of sticks and string.

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Im going to echo what James said. I have a sprit on my peapod, and haven't been brave enough to attempt reefing it on the water. I tie it in at the beach or dock if I even consider that I might have to reef.


    I love a good experiment. By all means, build this boat and try out whatever rig combination you want. But, do it close to home, and where there are other boats nearby that could render aid if need be. I don't think the North Atlantic is any warmer than the Salish Sea.

    And then report back to us! Experience is a great teacher, and we would love to learn from your experience.
    There's the plan, then there's what actually happens.

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    16' W. Simmons Mattinicus double ender ​Matty

  19. #19

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    Well James . . . wasn't expecting quite such a treatise, really, and appreciate that you took the time to write it. (And I realize that tone is often lost over the Internet, so I'll just come out and say that I'm not being at all facetious.) So, to address a few of your points . . .

    Reefing underway: in general, it sucks. I have encountered a few rare exceptions, and they have generally been on heavy-displacement craft set up for offshore work. I have also, on the other extreme, reefed a beetlecat underway in deteriorating conditions and lived to tell the tale. Ugh. (Not that it really helped much, anyway. If ever there was a boat that needed a second reef band . . . )

    So my general preference is to do whatever reefing I'm going to do before getting underway, but carry additional sails if I don't need the reef right away. And yes, you can almost set your watch by the wind increase in some conditions - you'll want to strike the outer jib or change down to a smaller staysail sometime between 1300-1400 on many days. (And where reefing underway is awful, changing headsails underway is exhilarating.)

    Which brings me to the rig I'm describing here. I don't really intend to reef the main underway. Instead, I'd douse the headsail and mizzen and sail under main alone. I'm planning on an sail area of 80 sq. ft. for the main, with the C of E pretty close to that of the full rig. (Also plan to build a mast gate that allows for some adjustment of rake.) Compare this to the rig Gardner drew: about 125 sq. ft. overall, with a mainsail of just over 100 sq. ft. So, a reasonably substantial reduction in sail area. If I expected conditions to become especially boisterous during the course of the day, I'd reef the main before getting underway, then carry the other sails until it's time to get rid of them.

    As for the headsail: I mentioned Bolger's light schooner just because I thought that readers here would be familiar with the design, not because of any great faith in the capabilities of the boat. (Sure, it looks like it could be fun with a bunch of people in a warm lake, if you're cool with the idea that you'll end up swimming at some point.) But there are some issues with the execution. Notably, a clubbed staysail of this description lives or dies on proper luff tension. Much as I respect Bolger's designs, I think that the bowsprit on the light schooner is a little too skinny to lack a bobstay, and the fore peak halyard doesn't balance the tension of the jib halyard. It looks to me like the foremast must bow forward when everything is in tension - that makes the luff of the jib sag, and also puts that crease in the foresail that I see in so many pictures, caused by the fore peak halyard's upper blocks moving aft.

    That's no reason to throw out the entire concept. You just have to recognize its requirement for solid attachment points. I'm planning on a fairly substantial square-sectioned bowsprit, with only a moderate amount protruding beyond the stem. At the upper end, the masthead is kept from bowing forward by the tension along the head of the sail, stretched out by the sprit.

    (Note to self: need to figure out a way to keep everything in balance with a reefed main.)

    (Note to autocorrect: please quit assuming that I'm writing about marijuana, and changing the word to "reefer" every damned time.)

    Anyway, I think this is proving to be an interesting discussion. It's been said here before (was it in the Dory History and Design thread?) that the beachcomber alpha might be more popular if there were were an alternative to the big leg-o-mutton rig. So this is my attempt at it - and if it doesn't work, I'll try something else.

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff R View Post
    Reefing underway: in general, it sucks.
    My dear sir, you've simply been using the wrong rig. Reefing a cat-yawl with a balance lug fores'l in a boat of the size we are talking about is so quick, effective and simple that you would be shocked. It is an exercise that is very nearly downright pleasant. Seriously, you'd have the ability to shorten or increase sail area pretty much on a whim in something less than two minutes of mild effort.

    When you have a rig that is so convenient to reef, you'll never have any need whatsoever to just slog along undercanvassed or with sails feathered and flogging while overcanvassed just because you can't spare the time.

  21. #21

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    I could make you seriously fear for my sanity by saying that the thought of a standing lug sometimes crosses my mind . . .

    Then I take my meds, and the urge subsides.

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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Over the last six years, I've singlehand sail'n'oar'd upwards of 350 miles or so a year. Sometimes gracefully, sometimes not. I do lots and lots of overnights, day trips, and when I can get the time, extended trips. At this point, I have a pretty good handle on what it takes to safely come back home.

    I started off with a sprit sail on my peapod. In fact, it's the same sprit sail BBSebens mentions above. And she was a bear to reef, mostly because the windage stayed aloft while reefing. I'd say it took me eight or nine minutes to reef that little sail. Meanwhile, god knows where the current was dragging me. Usually toward a lee shore or a shipping lane. It might have been easier to reef at the time if I'd had a mizzen that allowed me to heave-to.

    (I finally traded that sprit sail to Ben for a sanding machine. I think it was a good trade for both us. For me, the sanding machine has been much more useful to my sail'noar lifestyle.)

    I've since converted to a lug-yawl. I now reef in 90-seconds to 2 minutes, but more important, I can heave-to to reef, to tweak my sails, check the tides, take a leak, check a chart, put on a jacket, etc. And usually, I swear I don't need to do anything of these things until the wind is humming along 20+. Without the ability to heave-to, controlling your boat at all times isn't particularly plausible or safe when you're all alone, because no one else is going to be there to help keep your nose to windward.

    Which leads me to the original post, I know that Jeff's considering a reefing plan where a singlehander would strike sails as you go. I watched Alex (AJZimm) work his ketch-rigged Alaska like this up at Barkley Sound this July. He was pretty efficient at adapting sailplans to the conditions.

    I'm not completely against that rig, except if the plan calls for striking the mizzen at any time. Unlike that novelist McMullen, I'm not even really against jibs, sprits sails, or other non-balance-lug sails ... as long as there's safe and easy way to heave-to once you've hit Force 5 or 6. So far, I'm not seeing it. Which leads me to suggest airtight bulkheads and hatches.
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.
    Quote Originally Posted by AJZimm View Post
    I basically copied what McMullen, Yeadon and Hvalsoe use because it worked so well.

  23. #23

    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    WRT to airtight bulkheads and hatches: yes, that is something I've thought about. Definitely want to get the equivalent of 3-4 cubic feet of flotation in there. My current thinking, though, is that I'll roll up my drybags with lots of extra air, then secure them ender the short foredeck and the sternsheets compartment in such a way that they can't easily float out. (Bungee netting, perhaps?) Would probably use flotation bags when not carrying gear. Foam blocks in the ends and foam sheets under the thwarts will hopefully make up the rest. I really want to make sure that she'll float with the top of the CB trunk above water before taking her out very far.

    Though while we're on the subject of watertight compartments, I'll revisit those reviled built-in iceboxes I mentioned earlier. I kind of got the idea when I saw the video of Dan Noyes's boat in the Small Reach Regatta, where I noticed what looked like a big block of foam secured under thwart #3. Got thinking that this would be a good place for a cooler. Eventually hit upon the idea of filling in the spaces under thwart #2, on either side of the CB trunk. Would get a total of maybe three cubic feet (probably a touch less) of enclosed, airtight space, surrounded by foam. Figured I'd have to eliminate the frame that ordinarily goes there, but use the bulkheads to take its place. Just need to make sure that the top doors have a secure, flush-mounted latch. Doors would be part of the "thwart," which would actually be more like a wide piece of trim on top of the plywood box.

    Granted, you lose bouyancy by filling the space with provisions - but you're starting with about 192lbs of flotation, minus the weight of provisions. Will be sure to fill the space with water jugs when I do her flotation test. (That's what I'll do to keep stuff cold, too: frozen jugs of drinking water, rather than loose ice.) I figure that the air in between whatever is packed in there will help a little.

    Gotta run, so I'll stop writing here.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    I think you are starting off on the wrong foot simply by suggesting that reefing the main underway is something to be avoided.

    James is a dramatist. But his drama is largely based on experience. I dealt with a spritsail for some time
    on my little boat, including reefing underway. It was not quite the beast that James describes, but it could be difficult and unhandy in challenging conditions. As with Tim, I never got around to employing a mizzen to heave to and tame the spritsail. And I never seriously deployed a jib, although it seemed like a whimsical fun sort of thing try, more of an affectation than a seriously useful tool.

    I went straight from a single spritsail to a balanced lug yawl. The lug yawl combination is a great singlehanded cruising rig. I think the sprit still has a place for more casual sailing. The balanced lug is a superior performer. I can't see achieving a more effective foil with an unstayed rig that can be struck and stowed easily. I'm working on my two minute drill for reefing.

    So Pete Culler was stuck on spritsails, at least on little boats. Shockingly, that does not really amount to a hill of beans. People draw what they know, and know what they draw. These guys were some of my influences too. A lot of this early reference material came from working boat types. Not everything about those boats and translates ideally to recreational usage. With different rigs it is possible to push the performance envelope without undue risk.

  25. #25

    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Hey James - lookit what I found when I was searching the forum for something else:

    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen
    However, the Alpha Dory could well serve as the basis for an excellent all-weather expedition cruising sail & oar boat by substituting a handier and more practical open water sailing rig in her, such as perhaps the spritsail rig that Pete Culler used on his own Swampscott dories.
    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...ing-the-Plunge!

    So, um . . . in this instance, were you being correct, or were you being convincing?

    (BTW, I don't use smilies, but if ever there was a time I was tempted to start . . . )

  26. #26
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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff R View Post
    Hey James - lookit what I found when I was searching the forum for something else:



    http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthre...ing-the-Plunge!

    So, um . . . in this instance, were you being correct, or were you being convincing?

    (BTW, I don't use smilies, but if ever there was a time I was tempted to start . . . )
    I'd be curious to know whether the Culler rigs used jibs, though. I have to say, having cruised small open boats rigged with:

    1. spritsail
    2. lateen
    3. standing lug
    4. balance lug

    that I would never go back to #1 or #2. I haven't made up my mind between standing lugs and balance lugs, but if you want a boat that can be safely and easily reefed out on the open water (and why in the world would you want anything else for beach cruising?), the lugsails are far superior to spritsails. A spritsail can be set up for reefing (Ray with that Slider catamaran does it) but it looks like a helluva lot of mess and strings and expensive fittings (relatively speaking; of course it's still cheaper and simpler than a stayed rig).

    I would also never go back to using a jib on a small boat. They just don't offer any advantages that are worth the hassle to me.

    But overall, when it comes to lugsails being great for small boat cruising, it ain't just James McMullen sayin' so--this may be a case where he's actually right.

    Now, his bias in favor of double enders? Hmm...

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

    www.tompamperin.com

  27. #27

    Default

    To my knowledge, Culler's boats didn't carry jibs. The rig I'm describing still isn't entirely new on the face of the earth, however. I've seen a painting of a mid 19th century yacht race, with a spectator boat in the foreground carrying almost exactly this rig. (Minus the cantilevered club on the headsail.)

    To a large extent, jibs are wrecked by having an overly narrow head angle - the top part of the sail never really sets properly. This is especially true on small jibs, but can also be the case on big ones: e.g. the fore staysail on Victory Chimes. We spent a bunch of time trying to get it into some sort of proper shape, but at the end of the day, its only really redeeming feature was that when backed, it was great for getting through a tack.

    In my proposed sail plan, I'm picturing something with a relatively low aspect ratio for the jib. Should be pretty attainable, between the shortish bowsprit and the mainmast retaining its original position, farther aft than would probably be typical with a lug yawl.

    I guess that my general plan is to match the forward location of the centerboard with a rig whose CE is fairly far forward as well. Also, even if I change down to a smaller jib (like the one usually carried by Alphas), I could still moderate weather helm by shoving the sprit a notch or two out beyond the stemhead.

    And again, with the reefing: don't want to do it underway if I can avoid it. Would much rather just dump entire sails as the wind pipes up.

  28. #28
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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    When I mentioned the Culler rig, i think this was in response to a Dan Noyes post where I was trying to show him an existing example of a dory with a different rig than the sloop one that he used. I think it is definitely better for sail and oar cruising than the absurdly long-sparred stayed rig that was the summertime racing rig of the Alpha, though it is not nearly as handy as a cat yawl.
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff R View Post
    And again, with the reefing: don't want to do it underway if I can avoid it. Would much rather just dump entire sails as the wind pipes up.
    I don't hardly know what to say here. That is so utterly foreign and contrary to my experience in small, open sail and oar boats. I have no idea why you'd prefer to go to so much extra effort or why you could be content with the lack of fine-tuning to efficiently adjust to changing conditions. I really don't get it.

  29. #29

    Default

    WRT fine tuning the amount of sail area: I'm looking at about 30 sq. ft. in the headsail, just under 80 sq. ft. in the main, and another 30 in the mizzen, for about 140 sq. ft. So, starting with a full main, my first reduction would be to take in the mizzen (and probably rake the main aft a touch.) Now I'm carrying 110 sq. ft. Next is to take in the jib, bringing me to 80.

    If I begin the day with a reef in the main, my options are roughly 120, 90, or 60 sq. ft. In a pinch, I can set the mizzen on the main, and I've got 30 sq. ft. Also, carrying an additional smaller jib gives a few other options.

    Now, I may be a "ballasted keel boater" (which, I must admit, is unique among the epithets ever sent my way), but this is how I've done almost all of my sailing, on vessels between a quarter ton and over two hundred tons. (With the exception of a few offshore boats, as previously noted.) Whatever reefing you're gonna do, you do it before you get under way.

    Sure, lug rig is easy to reef underway - but if I'm going to be some sort of stubborn eccentric who wants to carry a different rig, my plan for reducing sail will also be different.

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff R View Post
    WRT fine tuning the amount of sail area: I'm looking at about 30 sq. ft. in the headsail, just under 80 sq. ft. in the main, and another 30 in the mizzen, for about 140 sq. ft. So, starting with a full main, my first reduction would be to take in the mizzen (and probably rake the main aft a touch.) Now I'm carrying 110 sq. ft. Next is to take in the jib, bringing me to 80.
    Well, your way will obviously work--there's no one "right" way to sail, and you seem to know what you're doing as you set up your new rig.

    I probably won't be the only guy to point out, though, that by dropping the mizzen as the first sail reduction option, you've just given up your biggest advantage for docile handling--just as you're starting to get into conditions where you really want it! I'd prefer a rig that keeps the mizzen up all the way through the reefing sequence, ESPECIALLY when the wind starts to pick up.

    As for choosing a rig that's simple to reef at sea, I'm with McMullen there. Sure, you might reef on the beach whenever possible, but if you're cruising (this thread is partly about cruising, right?) then having that be your only option really limits the kinds of passages you can make sanely.

    Good luck, and enjoy the process of deciding what to do and who to listen to!

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

    www.tompamperin.com

  31. #31
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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    I've got a 3-sail rig (see my avatar); the main is a standing lug, no boom. I used to have an Elver with a large sprit rigged main. The lug is much easier to reef and un-reef than the sprit rig.

    To unreef the sprit rig, I found I really needed to unship the sprit to get the sail back up the mast, but that may have been because I had the snotter tied off to a line running to the throat of the sail so it would go up and down with the sail.

    I was out a couple weeks ago in 20 kt winds gusting to 25 in my current boat. The first thing I did was reef the main; that kept the slot between the jib and main and gave me good upwind sailing. It was still too much sail and I had to keep the main slacked off and luffing a lot, especially in the gusts.

    So, then I dropped the jib and kept the main (still reefed) and mizzen with the mizzen sheet slacked off so it was just drawing and did not flap around too much. That still gave me pretty good upwind sailing. I could have sailed the rest of the day like this, but just for fun I dropped the main and raised the jib back up and sailed with just the two small sails. I lost a lot of upwind performance and could only "tack" through about 140 degrees and could only complete a "tack" by coming to a dead stop and backing the jib. Under this rig it would be hard to get to windward if much tacking was involved because of the ground lost on each tack.

    I am not sure how much changing the rake on the main will help when you drop the mizzen. You will also need to change the halyard on the jib if you rake the main. I would keep the mizzen up as long as you can, if you are going to have one.

    Brian

  32. #32
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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Just for clarity, the arguments I've heard against sprit (especially un-boomed sprit) rigs amount to:
    • reefing trouble
    • controlling sail shape, esp off the wind


    While the arguments in favour of lug are ... the inverse. The argument in favour of a boomless rig was simply that the rig could be got out of the way while working the nets etc.

    The question that comes to mind for me, and which I've never yet understood plainly, is why the boomless sprit was so heavily used among the North American atlantic small working craft, when the lug was in lots of use elsewhere. Surely all the same arguments on each side applied then - and surely fishermen in open boats wouldn't have been so hidebound to be willing to risk their necks in Winter storms for the sake simply of fashion and tradition ... or for the ease of getting a boom out of the working area. They didn't do that with gaff rigged boats, after all.
    If I use the word "God," I sure don't mean an old man in the sky who just loves the occasional goat sacrifice. - Anne Lamott

  33. #33

    Default

    Okay, I'll admit that I don't know for sure whether I'd dump the mizzen first, and won't know until actually sailing the boat. With lots of boats, they'll develop additional weather helm simply as a function of submerged hull shape with a higher angle of heel. If the Alpha behaves this way, then the mizzen would be the first to go. If not, I'd maybe think of changing headsails first.

    As I'm picturing it, the mizzen will set in a mast gate on the forward side of thwart #4. Getting rid of it will involve dropping it forward. Hopefully won't be too difficult to get it back up again. If I needed it in order to heave to, I'd probably step it again with nearly anything bent to it to provide windage.

    On my sloop, I found that when I was getting ready to anchor, the jib worked better if I hauled it down to the sprit but left it loose. Didn't provide any drive, but the windage provided balance. Worked pretty well for maneuvering through anchorages under control.

    My thinking is similar here. For heaving to, I just need to get the CE aft again. It might be awkward, but I'd still have the option available if I really needed it.

    Hopefully won't need it very often, if I plan ahead for conditions.

  34. #34
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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Any consideration of the Leg-O-Mutton rig?
    I recently survived a sudden 35kt blow by letting the sheet run free so the sail was like a flag and we blew downwind to safety under bare pole and luffing sail. There was just enough steerage to keep the stern into the chop. We were already reefed but there was suddenly way too much wind. I don't know what would have happened if the rig had shrouds to prevent the sail from going all the way the way forward.
    =~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~=~

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  35. #35
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    Default Re: Beachcomber Alpha as a camper-cruiser and traditional rig test bed

    Sounds like fun, eh?

    I've never used a leg o' mutton; how is to reef? I completely agree that avoiding shrouds is a good thing.

    Of course, you can let a lugsail weathercock like that, too. It still seems a handier rig to me. In fact, you could probably drop the sail and run off under bare poles almost as easily as loosing the sheet like that.

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

    www.tompamperin.com

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