Maiden voyage, May 15, 2004: The first sail finally happened on Candlewood Lake in New Fairfield, CT. The winds were very light and fluky (as to be expected on lake lollipop) which were good conditions for the first time out. Right away it became clear that the upwind performance left a lot to be desired, mostly because of problems with the boom flexing and the sheeting system (see below). As soon as I figured out what was wrong and temporarily fixed it by pulling on the boom in the right place, the boat seemed to do pretty well upwind. I’m sure it will do even better once I stiffen the rig. Even with the bending boom, the boat was very fast downwind considering the light wind conditions.
I also found out that it was pretty difficult to pull the rudders down but very easy to pull them up, quite the opposite of what happens on land. It turns out that the hollow rudders are so buoyant that they put up a good amount of resistance to being submerged! This will have to be fixed by adding a 2:1 purchase on the rudder pull down lines. I also tested out my homemade oars and the boat rowed quite easily. The side-mounted oarlocks are permanently mounted to the hulls and the oar shafts (fiberglass tubes) and oar blades (3/8” plywood) detach so that the shafts can be stowed inside one of the crossbeams while the blades and oarlocks go in the tramp bag. This system worked very well and I could brake out the oars and be rowing in less than 5 minutes.
Most importantly, the boat was a pleasure to setup and break down. Lifting it onto the trailer was so easy, as was setting up the masts and sail. Overall, it went as well as could be expected for such an experimental design. After a few critical adjustments, I’ll try it out on Long Island Sound, hopefully with a little more wind.
First launch on Candlewood Lake:
May 31, 2004: The next time out was at Hammonasset State Park in Madison, CT on Long Island Sound. The wind was a steady 10 mph with choppy 1-2’ waves. Since the maiden voyage, I had temporarily stiffened the booms by sliding some copper tubing into the straight portions of the fiberglass spars (over the winter I will probably make new curved booms that will be stiffer and lighter). A 2:1 pulley system on the rudders also made putting the rudders down much easier. I also added some bungee lines to the tack to keep it more centered. The results were very encouraging. This time I sailed with a friend so the total crew weight was about 320 lbs and the boat handled it very well. Though the booms still bent a little too much, causing some wrinkles, the sail shape was vastly improved from before. Even with a few wrinkles in the sail, the boat did quite well upwind and could go very deep downwind. The GPS had us going around 8-10 mph consistently both upwind and downwind. The only major problem remaining is that it is still very hard to tack the boat. Perhaps this is partially due to the boat’s light weight, since it seemed much easier to tack with two people than with one. There doesn’t seem to be enough momentum to make take the boat around a tack since the skeg prevents the boat from turning sharply and the headwind quickly stops the forward motion. Though the bungee tack lines helped with this problem, there was a little too much stretching, so maybe if I replace that with a more rigid control line, I can control the tack inboard-outboard position better and hopefully make it easier to tack. I was also glad to see that even in a 10 mph breeze, I was able to get one hull out of the water while sailing solo. Looks like I may need a trap line after all.
June 12 & 13, 2004: Out on the sound again and this time things started to break. I had added a tack in-out control line, which worked well and greatly improved sail control both upwind and downwind. The boat was still hard to tack but things were looking better. Then, while we were in some nice puffs, the sail boom snapped near the tack and we had to crawl back in. So I guess the 1” fiberglass booms are not strong enough either. This was not a big surprise and I was planning to replace these booms anyway, but it did cut the day short. I made a temporary repair later that day by reinforcing the boom with some copper tubing.
To make up for a short trip on Saturday, I went again on Sunday and this time things were going well again in a heavier wind (around 15 mph). I even was sailing along with a Hobie escape and keeping with it, when the slave bar (another 1” fiberglass tube) snapped in the middle and I have to make it back on one rudder. I fixed that quickly and tried to go out again but I couldn’t get the rudder down in the shallow water and when I pushed too hard on the tiller one of the rudder arms (another 1” fiberglass tube) broke too. So much for my fiberglass tubing, I guess that the actual material strength is a lot lower than what I hade estimated. I will replace both the slave bar and rudder arms with carbon fiber since I will only need about 3 yards to so it.
June 27, 2004: Out on the sound again with my new carbon slave bar (the rudder arms are still fiberglass for now) and the boat sailed very will in a heavy wind (~20 mph out of the west). I learned that even with the rudders, the boat is very sensitive to the fore-aft position of my weight. When I felt some weather helm on the downwind run I just moved back and the helm disappeared. Upwind, moving to the forward crossbeam made the boat practically sail itself. Moving very far forward also seemed to work for making tacks though I still had to back the boat up a bit to get it around. I will try raking the mast back more to mode the sail’s center of effort further back to make tacking easier. Even though tacking is still difficult, it is amazing how easy it is to jibe. Even in 20 mph of wind the boat jibed like there was no wind at all - I don’t know how to explain this since the sail travels so far from one side to the other.
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