Of Mooncursers and other Spun yarns

Of Mooncursers and other Spun yarns
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Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wolftrap to the Center of the World and Beyond: Read oldest posts first.

Woftrap in a sling: Note the fins on the rudder,very efective. You will see that the rig was changed,now sporting a schooner rig. Note how deep the chine is under the water line. My mistake, she is carrying about a thousand lbs. too much ballast.
Though very fast she would have been faster with less ballast. I had fears that if rolled over she might not right.

A nearby boat builder suggested I talk to Phil Bolger to design the boat. I had never heard of him. He said talk to him, he will understand what you want and what you like and I will guarantee you will be satisfied. All this while we stood looking at, Black Skimmer, which I liked from some angles and hated from others. From the side she looked great from the bow and stern I thought she was God awful ugly. I had seen and sailed on some local sharpies as a kid in Baltimore but none had square sides. I just couldn't look on a square sided boat with any enthusiasm. In my mind you bent a plank around the length of a boat and because it was leaning outward it curved to form the sheer. How could you have sheer with perpendicular sides. Just seemed to me unnatural. The person I was with was Mike O'brian the now editor I believe of Wooden Boat magazine. Mike was building small open boats along about then. At the time I thought his messing with small open boats was a complete waste of time. Like so many things this too has done a complete turn around in my mind. It's a funny thing the whole world has always been way ahead of me.

In those days I had not read a lot of boat building or design books. My experience was pretty much limited to sailing and repairing rot, painting, scraping, and hand stitching old sails. Most lines on my boats were spliced and never thrown away until they looked like squirrels tails. I made baggy winkles out of the remains because I couldn't bring myself to throw them away.

I called Mr.Bolger and talked to him. I was really impressed by our conversation though he didn't agree with me on all my idea's where the kind of boat I needed to build was concerned in order to have what I want and still be able to sell it. He said he had an idea for a boat like I wanted but it would be hard to do in 26 ft. I agreed to 28ft. He convinced me to go with a cat yawl rig as a trial rig. I was given an overwhelming amount of reasons why it would be a better rig, not to mention that the schooner rig was out of fashion and would be hard to sell and he felt that windward ability for a manufactured boat was needed as a selling point. We decided on a cat yawl rig with sprites. She was to have a raised deck with a side profile somewhat in the manner of, Moccasin. Which was a boat I admired but a shape not easily built from aluminum plate.

Sprites were and idea that took a little getting used to. I was in favor of gaff rigged sails. My boat was getting farther and farther away from what I had envisioned and I was beginning to have serious doubts about what kind of design I was going to wind up with. At that point I was about to give up on Mr. Bolger feeling that we were not talking about the same boat at all.

He sent me a couple cartoons of Woftrap and I was really intrigued.

My partners liked what they were hearing from my conversations so I wrote a check and sent it to Mr. Bolger to make up a set of sketches so we could see what he was talking about. I think the sketches were to cost $300 and to be deducted from a total of $1000 if we decided to go with his design.

There was a lot of speculation as to what sort of boat she would look like.

Finally one morning a set of drawings arrived along with a letter. Mr. Bolger's letters are a work of art in themselves. We passed it around the shop and everybody in the place read it. The secretary had to run off a bunch of copies for the fellows in the shop. Reading his letter, my thoughts went to Joshia Slocum there was a kind of similarity to the cadence and rhythm with a bit of a feel of an earlier time and a definite reverence for the modern. Phil Bolger knows how to set the hook I thought.

I reached in the envelope and pulled out the drawings, my hands were actually shaking. I was shocked at her looks I didn't like her much. Her stern was too high, her rudder was funny looking, the off center mizzen almost floored me and to my eye the rig was funny looking.

I called my partners into my office to take a look and they were disappointed. We sat talking reading the letter and studying the drawings. That evening we wound up setting in my office until after midnight. The conversation was more and more in terms of well I like this or that or some other thing. The reason for the odd shape of the rudder became apparent when we realized the tiller came through the top of the transom and being a tiller that could rotate from side to side in order to have it on which ever side the helmsman was on thus eliminating any need for a hiking stick made sense. The mizzen was off center so that the forward mast could be folded back and the mizzen folded forward. The handrails in place of life lines along the forward deck at first looked odd but had began to grow on me as I realized the could be set on or leaned against to steady oneself. And they were big enough in diameter that they would not cut you in half if you fell from one side of the boat to the other. They were also strong. And they did have a traditional look about them. We had all grown more accustomed to the look of the rig but worried that she would not go to windward on one tack with a sprite pushed into the shape of the sail.

Over the weekend I made up a list of things that I liked and things I disliked. The dislikes were now few.

On Monday we all got together and decided we weren't crazy about the rig but that we would try it. There was no doubt by now as to whether we were going to build her or not. We were!

There was some thing still wrong with her looks but none of us could figure out what. Finally I said she is to high sided or slab sided or something like that. They all agreed and we stood looking at her drawing blown up and thumbtacked to the wall.

The old black smith leaned his head around the corner of the door and said. “She don't look right cause she ain't never gonna git built.”

“What the hell you mean Elliot? Where gonna build her,” the company president Bob said with a fare amount of force.

“ No Ya ain't, cause she aint got no chine and ya can't build a boat like her with out no chine.” was Elliott's acid reply.

Well he was right. I picked up a pencil and drew in an imperfect chine about where I thought it ought to go. There it was she was a really handsome hull her high sidedness was gone and she now looked three dimensional and be sides that the gental curve running along her side was quite beautiful.

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