Thursday, October 19, 2006

The New Age of Sail

I recently found an interesting article online that is somewhat related to my post yesterday about the launching of Glenn Tieman's traditional polynesian style sailing canoe. All Wharram catamarans, and especially Glenn's Tama Moana double canoe are about as far as you can get from modern high-tech, expensive yachts that keep most average-income people from even thinking about the prospect of buying a boat and setting off on a long cruise. Wharram catamarans prove it doesn't have to be this way. Practically any determined individual can build and sail their own seaworthy boat made of simple materials and using appropriately simple, yet sound technology.

In the article entitled "The New Age of Sail" by Dmitry Orlov, the author makes a case for the sailboat as mankind's greatest invention and explores the possibilities of the simple sailing vessel's role in the future as a vehicle and lifestyle of choice. Here's a quote from his accessment of the modern yacht style of sailboat, in his section The Sorry State of Sail:

"None of the sailboats currently in commercial production will do at all. Since the end of the age of sail, sailing has been relegated to a number of niches, none of them of much practical value. Overall, they have become a luxury item. An important element of this luxury is the freedom from the buzz or throb of the engine, the stench of fuel, and the noxious fumes of the exhaust plume: freedom to enjoy nature without assaulting it. An early application of steam power was in powering sailboats out of doldrums, but steam sailboats were quickly supplanted by steamboats that did not carry sail. A similar fate awaits the many modern sailboats that are designed to rely on their diesel or gasoline auxiliaries, but for the exact opposite reason: they will be trapped in the permanent doldrums of fuel scarcity.

The particular applications still reserved for sail include recreation, sport, and historical preservation, with dollops of luxury thrown in for each one. Recreational vessels range from small sailing canoes and dinghies to daysailers and small coastal cruisers. Sport encompasses a wide variety of racing boats, which are designed for speed, especially speed to windward. Historical preservation includes various old sloops and schooners, as well as newer boats constructed entirely of wood by master craftsmen. The realm of pure luxury gives us an assortment of cabin cruisers, which often have plenty of teak and mahogany paneling and trim, fancy navigational electronics, on demand hot water, and a sound system. Although they are capable of crossing oceans, they are mainly used for ostentation, to motor around the harbor, and to throw dockside parties. "

He goes on to further examine the simple requirements for living and traveling on the sea as in this excerpt from A Reasonable Set of Requirements:

"Nothing focuses the mind of a design engineer like a list of requirements. Let us then list out the requirements for a boat that would work best for our stated purposes. It would certainly be splendid if a credentialed naval architect or two rose to the challenge of carrying out the design work. But even if all self-respecting naval architects turn up their noses at something so unmarketable and unfashionable, this should not spell disaster: sailboat design is a rewarding area for a creative amateur as well as a professional.

The boat must provide accommodation, storage, and transportation for a family. She must be seaworthy enough to cross oceans, with generous fresh water tanks and plentiful storage space. She should have shallow draft, to float over flooded lands and shoals, into estuaries, and up and down rivers and canals, and a flat bottom, to settle upright. The masts should be stepped in tabernacles and rigged for easy lowering to pass under bridges and other obstructions. She must be designed to be beached and dragged or rolled ashore without suffering hull damage. She must be cheap to build, to maintain, and to operate. She must not require the use of advanced metallurgy or synthetics.

She must be designed not just for fair weather sailing, but also to survive the typical set of worst case scenarios. The increased frequency of extreme weather events will not add to the list of worst case scenarios with which sailboats must be designed to cope. However, since they will become more frequent, it will be even more important that all boats be designed to handle them well. If the boat has an open cockpit, causing the crew to swallow salt spray, which causes dehydration, hallucinations, and kidney failure, or has a keel that trips on water and causes a capsize, or has a tall mast and heavy standing rigging that catches enough wind to cause pitchpoling when running under bare poles, or insufficient internal ballast, causing wild motion that breaks crew's ribs as they are tossed about the cabin, then the design must be considered unacceptable, regardless of its other advantages."

The author goes on to describe his idea of the perfect boat to fit these requirements, basically the sharpie type and in particular some of the works of naval architect Phil Bolger. I am also an admirer of the sharpie type, especially some of the Parker designs, and I have built two dinghies designed by Phil Bolger and have sailed quite a bit on one of his open sharpie daysailor designs built by my brother. But to me the one limitation of most sharpie designs is ultimate, ocean crossing seaworthieness, and most sharpie designers state that their boats are designed for coastal and protected waters rather than long bluewater passages.

Needless to say, Wharram catamarans, built of wood with simple tools and basic skills, and a design incorporating maximum seaworthieness based on proven design principles also fit the author's requirements, though he might not be aware of them. Anyone interested in building and sailing their own boat will enjoy reading the entire article here:

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Glenn Tieman's "Child of the Sea" Launched

(photos courtesy of Bill Barker, who attended the launching)

One of James Wharram's newer catamaran designs, the ethnic "double canoe" he calls Tama Moana, or "Child of the Sea" was launched recently near Santa Barbara, California. Here's Wharram's description of the design:

The Child of the Sea has the traditional hullshape of the islands of Tikopia and Anuta. She is built in strip planking over plywood backbone and bulkheads. She is steered with side rudders. Ethnic Designs as Canoe Craft have a basic design principle of maximum boat for minimum cost, and at the same time be a research participant in a major attempt to recover and preserve the practical, design, handling aspects of Man's first offshore sailing vessels.
Length Overall:
37' 9"
11.5 m
Beam Overall:
14' 11 "
4.55 m
3.525 ton

Glenn Tieman, the builder is a long-time Wharram catamaran enthusiast and experienced sailor. His first Wharram catamaran was the Pahi 26 design, which he built himself and sailed all over the south Pacific, living aboard it for 10 years. Glenn is definately a minimalist who appreciates the simplicity and function of Wharram's designs, so the Tama Moana design with its traditional crab claw rig and spartan accomodations is right in line with his needs as an adventurous sailor who will soon set off to return to the Pacific islands on his new boat. He has christened his vessel "Manurere," Maori for "Bird on the Wing."

Glenn is to be commended for building such a fine example of the Tama Moana, and for having the courage to sail in a simple, yet seaworthy craft that is so far outside the mainstream of modern yachting. I wish him fair winds, following seas, and beautiful anchorages among the lonely atolls of Oceania.

Here's some more background info about the Tama Moana project from James Wharram's site: