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Spindrift 10, #1329 -- "Seabiscuit" . .

Pete McCrary

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PROBLEM with sail that can’t be lowered while under way !!


I’ve tried to sail Seabiscuit three times this spring — twice from ramps at marinas and once off a beach.  A small dinghy with a zippered luff — sailing from a marina ramp is often nearly impossible.  The first try was successful, but very difficult.  With the sail raised and a light wind I managed to paddle away from the ramp and out thru the boat slips to open water, then stow the paddle and sail, sail, sail, …. But returning to the ramp could only be done after the wind dropped.  A week later at another marina’s ramp it was judged impossible because of the wind and layout of the docks.

Of course rowing or paddling with sail not raised is not a problem.  And once clear of the docks I could raise the sail from the aft cockpit. That’s because I’ve rigged a 1/8” line (belayed to the mast partner) with other end belayed to the zipper-pull — so that as the halyard pulls the sail head up, the zipper-pull stays put and the zipper closes.  Works pretty good (but needs improvement).  However, I haven’t figured out how to lower the sail from the aft cockpit.  Note — moving to the fwd cockpit is very unstable when sailing solo in a small dinghy.
Except where there’s a breeze with a strong on-shore [component], launching off a beech isn’t much of a problem.  But few ramps are next to beeches.  Also, launching from a “mother” yacht shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
But for the ramps available to me — a sail with a sleeved luff that can’t be easily lowered while on the water is just unacceptable.  Even a safety issue.  BUT I THINK I HAVE A SOLUTION !!
Shouldn’t I be able to un-stich and remove the zipper and modify the luff to have properly sized and spaced cringels and then bend the sail to the mast with lacing?  And the edges of the two “stopper” bushings [on the mast] could be smooth out so they wouldn’t snag the lacing.  On my old Whitholtz 17 Catboat the original loops gave out — and instead of replacing them, I used lacing.  The mast was of tapered “spun” aluminum — and the sail always came down easily.  Even more reliably than with loops.  Apparently when the halyard tension is eased, slack [in the lacing] immediately progresses from the head downward.  And a sail bent to a mast with lacing has nearly the same aerodynamic qualities as a sleeved one.
Comments and suggestions are welcome.


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Hmmm… I haven’t thought about this issue (on behalf of the kid across the street — The Wheezer — who is finishing her S10 build.). My CS15 has the track and lug system and my sailing experience is very limited.  I’m glad you raise the points here. 

I think you have a clever approach to raising the sail… might have to share that idea. Coming into a dock sounds like a logistical challenge as you describe.  I would think the gooseneck would not like to have the sail going past 90 or so degrees, so it wouldn’t be enough to just let the sail fly freely with certain wind directions. 

I’m not inclined to suggest your zipper-replacement solution for the “kid” but it might work for you.  I’m wondering whether a topping lift could raise the boom and sleeved-sail to “not” catch wind… too much… allowing for rowing. The gooseneck should be able to manage a raised boom.  Maybe there is an easy/quick way to cinch up the sail material —bunched up from raising up the boom — to reduce wind effects… maybe something will come to mind when I help The Wheezer rig her boat after I’m back from my vacationing.  I’m not optimistic about a “topping-lift/sail-cinching” approach so I’ll kind of keep it to myself for now. 

Could one release the clew instead of lowering the sail when coming in?  Maybe attach a take-up line going from the  clew to the base of the mast and back to the cockpit keep the sail from flapping too crazily?

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I haven’t tried raising the sail while on-the-water, only by standing alongside the trailer in the driveway.  In either case, raising a zippered sleeved sail is a three-hand operation — two for hand-over-hand on the halyard and a third hand on the zipper-pull.  If it’s done solo it can’t be smooth and continuous.  Here’s my fix to make it a two-handed and continuous action — a “zipper pull” rig:


This is the head of the sail showing the sleeve snapped around the mast and the zipper engaged (the first inch or two) with the pull-line snapped onto the zipper-pull.  Notice another 1/8” line within the sleeve — that’s a failed attempt to rig something to pull the sail down (from the aft cockpit).



This is the other end of the pull line belayed to the mast partner.


Showing the pull line in action.  The sail is about a third raised.  When the sail is fully raised, the pull line remains clipped to the zipper-pull while sailing.  That keeps the zipper from opening even though the lower around-the-mast strap is left not-engaged.  Note that if it were snapped closed, the crew would have to move to the fwd cockpit to open it before lowering the sail.  The concept’s proof is tentative — needs improvement.


I have installed a second pulley at the masthead for a topping lift.  Also, as an alternate way to support the mast, I made a folding crutch that is easily stowed.  Both need the downward pull of the sheet for stability.  The high position is to have the boom above a rower’s head.  The folding crutch has another “pivot point,” providing a lower boom position.


For a solo crew on a small (narrow beamed) dinghy, a sleeved luff is just too problematic.  A lug rig would work with no problems raising or lowering the sail.  However, with the sail that I have, I’m going to investigate whether its luff can be modified for lacing it to the mast.  And if so, easily lowered.  I know a laced luff on a Catboat lowers nicely, but it has the gaff’s yard as weight pushing the sail down.


Will a triangular sail come down as well?  Maybe.  Or with some kind of help?  A light-weight bungee at the top 1/3 of the triangle?


We’ll see.  Maybe?

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To attach the topping lift lead (or anything) to the zipper-pull requires the solo skipper to move to the fwd cockpit — which is a very unstable position (risking a capsize).  I’m insisting that a solo sailor must be able to easily and quickly lower the sail.  When I was learning to sail a dory style small boat with a cat rig (at YMCA Camp Letts 73 yrs ago) we could do that in seconds just by releasing the halyard.  Its cleat was within reach from the helm.  


I suppose the crew could attach the topping lift to the zipper-pull before leaving the dock.  But there is an easier way to assist the un-zipping.  I’ll do a separate post for that, but here’s a hint: a kind’ah un-obtrusive splitter.


The Velcro hoops might be OK, but I’m concerned that hoops (wood or Velcro) might hang up on the two slight humps (1/16”) caused by the stopper bushings on the mast.  The lacing I’m thinking of will pass those humps at nice angle and maybe with less chance of hanging up.  Here’s a pix of lacing styles:



I’ll probably use one like this:


Seabiscuit and I have an appointment Tuesday with a sailmaker.


I too like furling a sail up on the mast — especially one with a sprit boom within its sail.  But for a Spindrift 10 it would require the sailor to be too far forward.


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Pete— I must add that it has been my experience that almost all small boats are tender in the bow.  On boats this size, I always raise and lower my sails from shore or at a dock.  I never go that far forward under way.  This is a little awkward in my Two Paw, when the sprit needs adjusting.  I either live with it, or go ashore.  Trying to adjust it in the middle of the lake would be suicide.  
I can furl the main on my Bay River Skiff 15, as long as I sit on the deck.  But if I stand up to fuss with the snotter attachment, the higher center of gravity makes the boat tippy.

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We’ll, the fat’s in the fire.  On Tuesday I took Seabiscuit’s sail and mast over to Quantum Sails in Annapolis for their opinion as to whether a lacing system would work (on this sectioned mast) and could the sleeved sail be modified for lacing.  In their expert opinion: yes.  However, not having done something similar, they couldn’t guarantee that I’d be satisfied with the result.  They did require that I eliminate the shoulder(s) presented by the stopper bushings.  Their charge: just $268 including a 1/8” high-tech lacing line.


Here’s a photo of the design sketch that they will work from:


They recommended the 8-grommet 7 spacing shown.


Here’s a photo of the shoulder created by the stopper bushing on the 1.5” mast section:


It actually measures 3.3/16”.


The three other shoulders are all < 1/16” and can be smoothed over without adding any “wedges.”  However, the big hump required a special “wedge-type” bushing.  Here’s the design sketch showing the dimensional calculations.


I decided on a ten-sided wedge.  Using lumber yard “shims” provided 1.5” x 8” wedges with approximately a 20:1 slope.  The 18 degree long-edges were made with a disk sander.  My 10 wedges (as cut) were slightly small in width and I’ll need to close the gap with an eleventh cut-to-fit.




I wrapped the mast with packaging tape and held the wedges close together and up against the shoulder — in two 5-wedge half-rounds, slightly separated — and all held together with a pair of Velcro 1/4’ ties.  Then I applied a little neat epoxy along each joint (not touching the Velcro).  Using a knife, the epoxy was seeped into the joints along with some slightly thickened epoxy.


The two half-round sloping bushings, along with the eleventh wedge, will be glued to the mast (roughened with 80 grit).  Slight glueing pressure will be applied with the Velcro ties lined with packaging tape.  Here’s a photo showing the bushing up near the shoulder that will be covered.



This photo shows the assembly dry-fitted before glueing.



The sailmakers will have Seabiscuit’s sail ready by July 9.  Then trials in the driveway and on the water.  Report will be posted.

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The 11th and 12th “wedges” were cut-to-fit and the whole assembly glued to the 1.5” OD top mast section —  right up against the stopper bushing.


Don, notice that to the left of the stopper bushing — there are two more bushings spaced about 5” apart.  Their outside diameter just fits the ID of the lower (2” OD) mast section.  When assembled, those bushings disappear into the lower section.  Here’s what the assembled mast sections look like.


So, the joined sections [will] now show only one small (low) shoulder — of approximately 1/32”.  And this will be smoothed out by trimming the 1/16th edge of the 2” tube.  The joint between the lower and mid-mast sections have two small shoulders (~ 1.5” apart), each about 1/32” — and also smoothed out by trimming the edges.

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Proof of concept: removing the zippered sleeve and modifying the sail’s luff for lacing — I believe has been a success!  There are six photoes followed by two videos (raising & lowering the sail) at the end of the posting. There were no problems of the lacing “hanging up” on the “shoulders” at the two joints of the three-section mast.



View from starboard.



Lacing ends at the reefing cringle.



View from port.



Sail fully deployed.  Looks little different from a sleeved luff.



Top of the mast with luff under tension.  Looks like I could have attached the gooseneck a little higher — getting a little more “headroom” at the helm.

Here I’ve held together the lacing with a small Velcro loop.  To avoid reeving the lace line thru the nine cringles at each setup, I’m planning to simply slip the lace loops (held together by the Velcro loop) over the top end of the first section of the mast before assembling the other two sections.  That may make stepping the mast a little more difficult — but not by much, I hope.



I think raising and lowering the sail can now be done on-the-water safely from the aft cockpit.  And furling the sail too.  The most forward sail tie could also be safely placed from a sitting position on the midship thwart.

The two videos follow.


I also have a video of reefing.  But it’s too big at this point to send by email.  If I can reduce its size, I’ll post it later.


Also, later this month I’ll report on actual sea trials.



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Pete, that looks like a great improvement. I find the rig on my 11N to be excellent in performance, but frustrating in my inability to switch from rowing back to sailing out on the water if I don't have a partner in the boat. As soon as I move my weight forward to reach for the zipper,  things get awkward. I've been thinking about keeping the standard rig, but creating a smaller lug rig for quicker deployment and more useful when screwing around fishing/sailing/rowing.

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Steve — I really think it will be a big improvement.  Especially for a solo sailor.  Aerodynamically it’s almost like the zipper sleeve as the luff rotates following the boom and sail angles.  A cars & track luff doesn’t rotate unless the mast does.  We’ll see how well she does after I sail her a few times.


Also, with the topping lift, I’m able easily to switch from sailing to oars and vice versa.  When launching from a Marina ramp you often need to row or paddle out thru a maze of docks, slips, breakwaters, etc. — and you just can’t do that with the sail up.  And another thing: without the zippered sleeve, the sail can be furled.  That was nearly impossible with the sleeved luff.


The sailmaker only charged me $264 for removing the sleeve and installing  seven new cringles, properly reinforced — keeping the existing tac and head cringles.  That provides eight equally-spaced lacing “spaces.”


More to be posted as I learn best how to sail Seabiscuit with her new rig.

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This has been very interesting, Pete.  Thanks for the experiment.  There may be at least one Spindrift in my building future, and this may come in handy.  It will be interesting to watch the sea trials, and hopefully see it in person this fall..

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