Pilgrim Diaries #1 - 9 October, '08

First of all, the general guide to the project.  A super seaworthy one or two handed cruising open boat that can cope with an extended coastal voyage in mixed weather.
Bonuses, this also means a five or six person daysailer, shallow draft, a good “picnic” boat, pretty ( I enjoy chatting with the people who wander up to look when I am launching or pulled up on the beach).

Choosing a name is always difficult, the boats name, especially for hull number one where the name will become the name for the design, has to say something about the boats purpose and character.  In this case I am planning a voyage of a kind that I was wont to undertake each year back 25 years ago.  I intend to cover much old ground and revisit places that were favourites then, to try and recapture the essence and spirit of those days, to see what has changed both in the places and within myself.  A “Pilgrimage” of sorts, hence “Pilgrim”.

In designing Pilgrim there were a number of considerations.  Every one of those considerations had to be met in full or the intended end result , that is  “the crunch of pebbles as the stem of the boat arrives on the beach in Russell, Bay of Islands from the beginning point here at my computer writing about what I intend to do” , will not happen.

Ordinarily, I’d start by burbling on about the boat.  But there are lots of other issues, one is that I am not prepared to put much money in, we have other priorities so she has to be built mostly from materials to hand, the rig has to be cheap, and it should use fittings that I already have.

While I am fortunate in having collected a great selection of second hand “boatstuff” the mast and spars, and to a lesser extent the plywood, fastenings and ballast lead all impact the design envelope.

I am though prepared to buy new sails.

I have a fairly small car, an old 1800cc Toyota, and with fuel costs the way they are I’m not going to buy anything bigger so that I can tow a bigger boat for maybe 500 km a year.

I have to use an existing trailer, I’m prepared to take to it with an angle grinder and a welder to extend it, but again, practicality and other intended uses limits what I can do in that respect.

Labour is limited, there are other demands upon my time, and if I spend 16 hours a week on the project for 3 weeks a month I’ll be lucky.  One of the sayings that run my workshop goes  “ in order to be a really fast boatbuilder, build a boat that is really fast to build”, so simple is beautiful.

Given all that, I can go on and look at the requirements of the boat itself.

The planned passage means that with New Zealand’s summertime prevailing winds being Northeast and the course averaging true North, a lot of the time I expect to be sailing to windward in very exposed waters on a lee shore. Given the risks inherent in this the boat has to be very strong to windward in all conditions especially in heavy weather. 

That has a lot of influence on the rig and the hull shape, ballast ratio and lateral plane. Even small details like the width of the side decks, the angle of the seat tops, the position of the bilge pump and its pickup, storage and outboard motor position are all affected by the conditions in which she will be used.

I’ll have to be able to right her myself, in open water at that!  Not easy to design into a boat big enough to fulfil all of the other criteria.
She will have to float very high when swamped, be stable enough to climb aboard, to be easy to bail, and to keep all my gear both safe and dry if the worst happens and I capsize her.

I want to be able to relax at sea, nap a little, eat and drink, navigate and perhaps read a book for an hour or two when under way. Remember that the voyage is to be a singlehanded one!  Self steering, at least on some points of sail, will be essential and this affects hull proportions, rig, keel shape and centers, and the way the rudder and tiller is set up.  A good time to try some of the theories about directional stability that I have been working on for some years.

Sleeping, She should have two good bunk spaces. Seating, super comfortable. I had a spinal injury some years back, and like a lot of people suffer from a chronically sore back, so the seating has to be just right.

Storage, lots of it, secure, accessible and dry. None of those are negotiable.  I expect to be away for at least two weeks, and there are only limited opportunities to restock the galley so I need to carry a lot of stores.

This is to be an “exploration grade” open boat, in some peoples minds that’s a contradiction in terms, but remember the voyages of Bligh, Shackleton, and the Essex Crew.  Remember that the great explorers used open boats for much of their work. Vancouver’s Officers exploration of Puget Sound and northwards, Cooks detailed surveys of new Zealand’s and Australia’s coasts, the Vikings explorations of Greenland and Iceland, and not least Frank Dyes exploits in his Wayfarer dinghy Wanderer were all in open boats, all way beyond our current comfort zones, but then, while I don’t intend to unnecessarily risk my life, I’m not into comfort zones either.

I’ve completed a pencil concept drawing, it looks good to me, the sums work, and I’ll be refining that over the next little while.  Watch this space!

John Welsford.
Tinker (nope, well, “tinkerer” maybe) Taylor, (definitely not) Soldier, (been there done that, don’t want to go there again) Sailor? (Now you’re talking!) .