CRUISING SAILBOAT RIGS: Sloops, Cutters, and Solent Rigs

Big sloop

In our previous episode in this series we discussed what I like to call split rigs--ketches, yawls, and schooners--where a sailplan is divided among two or more masts. Cruising sailors once upon a time preferred such rigs, at least on larger cruising boats, because each separate sail requiring handling was smaller and thus more manageable. These days, however, by far the most popular rig for both racing and cruising sailboats is the simple sloop rig. This has a single mast supporting a single Marconi mainsail with a single headsail supported by a single headstay flying forward of it.

Its advantages are manifest: there are only two sails for the crew to handle, each of which can be hoisted with a single halyard and trimmed with a single sheet. While sailing, there are normally only two lines--the jib sheet and mainsheet--that need to be controlled at any given moment. And because there is but one headsail flying forward of the main, tacking a sloop is easy, since the headsail, even if it is a large overlapping genoa, can pass easily through the open foretriangle.

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MIMI ON THE BLOCK: 15-foot 1977 Drascombe Dabber For Sale

Mimi 1

I should have mentioned this earlier. I'm looking to find a good home for Mimi, my 15-foot Drascombe Dabber, as the sad truth is she hasn't been used much in the past few years. This is a seaworthy open boat with positive flotation (Webb Chiles, you may recall, took a larger 18-foot sister vessel much of the way around the world) that has two rowing stations, a 5hp two-stroke outboard motor in a well, and a versatile gunter yawl rig. A great boat for Swallows-and-Amazons adventures, daysailing, camp-cruising, etc.

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PROVINCETOWN MA TO PORTLAND ME: Doublehanded With Underpants

Bear front

Lunacy at last, as of early Tuesday morning, is all the way home. I brought along crew for this last mini-leg of the voyage not because it felt necessary, but rather because an old friend, a fellow sailor, Frank "Bear" Gibney, has suddenly reappeared in my life and it seemed the perfect way to reconnect. As you can see in that photo up there, Bear quickly got the hang of Lunacy's helm and became adroit at steering with his (well-underpanted) groin.

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NEEL 65: A Whole Lotta Trimaran Going On

Neel 65 forward

We all knew this day was coming. With the recent launch and test-sailing of the new Neel 65 the concept of "cruising trimaran" has officially metastasized into the upper stratosphere. I was impressed with its smaller sibling, the Neel 45, when I got a chance to sail one in France a few years ago, and I'm wondering if this new beast has achieved what must be considered the Holy Grail in multihull design: over-the-top accommodation space combined with decent sailing performance.

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BERMUDA TO NEW ENGLAND: Solo Passage With Underpants (A Performance Comparison)

Masthead shot

Phase Two of this experiment began with a grand round of socializing in the harbor at St. George's, in which I was ably assisted by my bride. Clare also assisted refueling the boat and in spotting me as I ascended the mast to see if I could get the tricolor light interested in being a light again. (You can't see her in that photo there, peering up at me from on deck, because actually she was down below flipping the anchor and tricolor lights on and off countless times at my command.) I spent a good deal of time up there, and that foot you see in the maststep went numb from carrying all my weight for so long, but ultimately I wasn't able to figure out why the light was unhappy.

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ALBINO INTRUDERS: Beluga Whales in Narragansett Bay


Here's an intriguing little news morsel from the Misplaced Wildlife Department. Seems a group of three beluga whales, a decidedly Arctic species that normally wanders no further south than the mouth of the St. Lawrence River in Canada, has been lolling about the past two weeks in Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. Local marine biologists have been acutely interested and are monitoring them closely.

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SOUTH SEA VAGABONDS: The Ultimate Dumpster-Diving Boat Bum Tale

South Sea Vagabonds cover

I had always understood this book was a cult classic in New Zealand and several people over the years have urged me to read it. I never really understood how strong the cult was, however, until I finally set out several months ago to buy a copy. Scanning my favorite used-book websites, I was shocked to discover that old paperback copies were going for over $70 a pop. Clearly this was a book that people coveted. So when I eventually learned that a special new "75th Anniversary" hardcover edition from HarperCollins New Zealand had also just become available, for only $45, I snarfed one up with the quickness.

Damn, I thought as I pressed the "Buy" button on my computer screen, this better be worth it! And it was. It has been a long time since I was so engrossed in a sailing narrative, and I don't know if I have ever laughed out loud so much while reading one.

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ST. MARTIN TO BERMUDA: Solo Passage Without Underpants

Underpants on line

I think it was Fatty Goodlander who once wrote that he is always so nervous just before starting a passage that he constantly has to pee. I can certainly relate to that. No matter how many times you've done it, no matter how well prepared you are, at least if you're skipper of a vessel there's always a vague element of fear and uncertainty to wrestle with on setting out to sea. Most particularly when you're going alone. When sailing solo the potential consequences of stuff you forgot to attend to and of miscalculations you may have made always seem grossly magnified.

You can imagine my dismay then when I realized the morning of my solo departure from Oyster Pond aboard Lunacy that I had forgotten to pack any underwear. Not that this in itself must be fatal to the voyage's success. I did have the one pair of underpants I'd worn on the plane down to St. Martin, which I could repeatedly wash by hand en route (see photo up top). I also had two pairs of swimming trunks I could wear. And of course, being alone, I could always just prance around the boat naked if necessary. (Don't worry, I have no photos of this.)

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  • Boats & Gear

    Evaluations of both new and older sailboats (primarily cruising sailboats) and of boat gear.

  • The Lunacy Report

    Updates on what’s going on aboard my own sailboat Lunacy: breakdowns, maintenance jobs, upgrades, cruises and passages undertaken, etc.

  • News & Views

    Updates on what’s going on in the sport of sailing generally (most usually, but not always, relating to cruising under sail) and in the sailing industry, plus news nuggets and personal views on all manner of nautical subjects.

  • Lit Bits

    Longer articles by me that treat sailing and the sea in a more literary manner, short reviews of nautical books I think readers might enjoy reading, plus occasional excerpts from nautical books that I’d like to share with readers.

  • Techniques & Tactics

    Tips and diatribes regarding boathandling, sailhandling, seamanship, navigation, and other realms of nautical expertise.



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