Sunday, August 3, 2014

An American Pointed-Nose Scow in France

Sometimes it pays off to be in the right place at the right time.  Last week I was visiting my friend who owns a boatyard on the Golfe de Morbihan in Brittany and noticed an amazing looking wooden boat being rigged up.

I inquired about it and ended up getting a ride in it the next day.

It belongs to a French collector who has, over the years, bought more than 120 American classic boats, bringing them all back to France, fixing them up, selling some and puttering around in others. Not only sailboats, but classic Lymans, Chris Crafts and other motorboats, including one similar to the one in Some Like It Hot.

The boat in question is from upstate New York and was built in the 1950's. It is a pointed-nose scow, but I dont know anything about it beyond that - perhaps an alert reader can help.



Notice the curious place of the forestay attachment - just behind the blue tape in the photo below.  And equally curious is the backstay which is attached to a pole angling out of the stern.  As if everything is shifted astern.


The next day I was lucky enough to go out for a ride with the owner, his wife and daughter and, at the helm, a Frenchman who was part of the original France I America's Cup crew and has since been a big part of the French and international sailing scene.   Can anyone identify him?



My job was to trim the jib sheet, with the helm telling me "Choquez, choquez" (sheet out) or "bordez, bordez" (sheet in) and occasionally switching to "Sheet in a beet, pleaze".  In addition, I helped raise and lower the bilge boards on each tack.  The wind was a bit under 10 knots which was fun but if it had been a bit more it would have been perfect.  This was a shakeout cruise and the owner made a number of adjustments.  We did not try out the kite.


The scow is beautifully restored (with the addition of a bit of modern electronics).  Everything is adjustable  and many of the lines are hidden below the deck.   The backstay goes to a pulley at the end of the hollow metal pole at the stern and then into the pole and below deck, coming up near a jam cleat.  Also, since there is no self-bailer, there are two electric bilge pumps which, when turned on, eject the bilge water onto the aft part of the deck to flow over the sides.

While we were out we saw the Indomptable, a dredge fishing boat from 1947 that is a tourist attraction today.  We easily caught up with it and passed it like it was standing still - although I am sure our boat could not have dragged the nets the Indomptable once did.

It was a lovely, incredible day with beautiful weather, some sympathique new friends and a ride I will not soon forget.


Monday, June 30, 2014

Just for Fun?


I wonder if it is really possible to go out for a sail just for fun?

Ramadan is here now and that means reduced office hours and lots of opportunities for taking a sail.  So, I went out this afternoon for a sail. I was the only one out and I told myself it would be just for fun. So, I did a couple of long broad reaches, just for the fun of it and then went down a channel between two islands with high rises on them - just for the fun of it.

But then, I noticed a couple of channel markers with some incoming tide swirling around them and thought, that might be fun to do a few roundings.  So, I did a couple of gybes around each, reaching between them, trying to correctly judge the tidal effect in rounding (and getting a streak of green on my gunwale from misjudging one),  and then a few more and soon strung together about 10. Then I thought - I need to try tacking around them and before I knew it I had done a similar number of tacks.  So, the fun turned into practice roundings - which was fun.

So, I guess this means that for me fun includes at least some practice.  I don't consider myself an obsessive competitor or an A type personality, but without the bit of work/practice and feeling of slight improvement, I would have probably been bored.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not my Day


When you capsize at the start line, you know it is not going to be a good race - and this proved true last weekend.

Nice wind - around 12 knots and a bit of incoming tide.  Nothing unusual.  During the thirty seconds before the start I was in a group of 3 or 4 boats approaching the start line on starboard. My leeward boat started to luff me a bit and I responded by turning up a bit and then, for some reason I still don't understand, I capsized to leeward onto my colleague.  I have tried at length to understand what could have caused it, but the best I can come up with is bad karma or goblins.

Muttering to myself that this can't be happening, I righted the boat after first grabbing my hat that was threatening to float away and set myself to trying to catch some boats.  I managed to pass a couple of newbies, but that was it.

I almost caught a couple of other boats but then I made a big tactical mistake (our top Kiwi sailor also made the same tactical mistake and lost his usual first place spot).  Basically, I thought I was being clever by using my local knowledge and following the notion that "Tide trumps all" by going to the right side away from the channel - which is the "accepted" smart move on most days.  But on this day, I too quickly used the accepted solution as a short cut and did not accurately assess the situation.  We normally have an afternoon seabreeze that is slightly west of North and that means that a beat will be directly into incoming tide.  Today however, the wind was 30+ degrees to the east of its normal direction and the leeward mark was further west than normal - which meant that after rounding the leeward mark one could fetch the upwind mark on a single starboard tack, with the incoming tide actually helping, by providing enough sideways push to bring the track directly to the mark. When I tacked away to port to get over to the shallower "safe" side, I was  sailing almost directly away from the windward mark if one considered the tidal effect.  Not a good way to win a race.

I spoke to the Kiwi afterward and we agreed we had each made a big (and not very glorious) mistake. So, lesson learned is to take nothing for granted and always think through tactics, especially if conditions are a bit different.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Always Think


Today's race did not cover me in glory.

A decent start and then I stayed not very far behind the lead pack. But eventually the top 2 or 3 drew away to a signifiant lead, as they tend to do. I was mid fleet and holding my own.

Then on the last leg I decided to go left and a fellow who had been shadowing me went right. As we started getting closer to the finish I realised with horror that he had opened a lead of at least a minute on me.  What to do?  Nothing other than accept the inevitable and try to figure out how to avoid it next time.

What did I did wrong and what did he do right?  I had out sailed him throughout the race, but in the last leg he went right and I went left - wrong. Was he lucky? Did he out smart me?  I don't know what he was thinking but on analysing things after the race I know for sure that I was not thinking.

In retrospect it was obvious to go to right and pick up the tide which had started to turn by then and get a boost from it.  And perhaps the pressure was better right, but whether it was or was not, the point is that I was not really thinking through the last leg - just reacting and going left because I saw the leaders do it on the prior time around that mark.  That is a poor excuse for tactics.  It may have worked for them before, but to blithely assume it was still good was stupid.  To follow without concluding it was a good idea was stupid.  I was concentrating on the boat handling and doing a decent time of it, but my head was clearly totally inside the boat.

So, lesson learned - never stop thinking. An error in judgement (or more precisely, no judgement)  such as mine will far outweigh any slight improvement in speed through boat handling.
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