Title photograph : Wells harbour, low water, Norfolk UK
This post is in 2 sections : first is the 6 weeks (post-op) progress report and secondly i am going to get into a bit more detail about boat layout and ergonomics but from my new perspective of reduced mobility and functionality.
Today, as i write, i have done a short section of level walking without using crutches all the time. That came about because i wasn’t walking from home and thus didn’t have to contend with a steep hill straight away. It felt a bit weird to say the least because my left leg is much weaker than the right …..i have obviously lost muscle that side and the physio says that what is there will also be infiltrated with fat cells. To me it just feels weak and ‘squashy’. I have also made some other progress this week in that i tackled the problem of getting up off the floor from a completely lying down position. The solution was to use my portable work stand/workstep as a support and intermediate position, with it next to me i can heave myself up onto it and get into a sitting position…..after that it’s an easy-up. That might seem not very significant but does mean that we can think about having a camping break. I did think about combining a camping holiday with boat visits in north Wales but that side of the country looks grey and damp while the eastern side looks sunny and warm and it means a trip back to Norfolk which we really enjoyed last time. Unless anything pops up on the east coast, where many shallow draft boats seem to be, we will have to do a separate road trip to visit the boats in Wales. Anyway that’s jumping ahead a bit : week 6 should be the breakthrough point where i can start to do proper exercise. My next functionality goals are to get up and down stairs without crutches and then up and down ladders. At that point i should be able to get aboard my boat firstly and cope with other boat viewings.
At the end of this time off i think i have got a much better idea of what i am looking for in terms of the next boat. I hope that comes across in the blog where i have done a lot of work to clarify things in my own mind and that i have done that through the slow process of writing it all out and setting out the case for each side. The ultimate solution will of course be a compromise and it seems like the main focus will be in which features come out better or worse. I think that ultimate sailing performance will suffer a bit as will totally minimised draft. What i want to work on here is a feature that i have touched on before which is ergonomics. In this post i want to look at what problems i am likely to have and the way certain boat features will make those problems more or less noticeable.
The starting point for this thread was really today when i was down at the yard having a coffee from the honesty cafe. It was good to be just sat outside in the sun for a while and looking across to my boat set me to thinking about getting aboard it from a dinghy, from being beached and then scrambling down a steep and greasy ladder. Then when i started choosing photographs for the post i then started thinking about the same problems with a different boat…..in this case say something with 3 feet draft and a higher/boxier hull. What really brought that home were the photographs from Wells harbour of the Boier and the big cruising boat on the sand. My own boat would be broadly similar to the little Macgregor in this picture and the potential new boat, for example the Keyhaven Yawl would be more like the green boat or the Dutch Boier.
The second reference point is the extremely poor ergonomics and sheer discomfort of the Deben 4 tonner. That had possibly the most uncomfortable cockpit of any boat that i have sailed allied with the worst foredeck and most difficult to access forepeak…..aside from that it was ok !
So, problem 1 stems directly from the kind of places and situations i want to have in my sailing and is as simple as getting up onto a boat from a sand or mud bottom. Wells and Norfolk generally is somewhere i really want to go with the next boat and being able to dry out in the harbour is an essential as is my ability to then get on and off the boat. The Liberty almost works well in this regard as it already has a folding boarding ladder at the stern although the step over the pushpit is more awkward than it needs to be.
Problem 2 is similar in that i am going to have to board my boat from a dinghy or a low pontoon. My inflatable dinghy is a bit awkward to stand up in but the greater problem is scrambling over a guardrail from the dinghy or from a pontoon. I took a look at some photographs of the Keyhaven to illustrate this group of problems and to see what obvious solutions might exist.
Hull section/shape and beaching leg.
The boat that is for sale does seem to have a pair of timber beaching legs and i have seen legs with steps so that might be one solution for getting up or down to/from the ground. Logically the leg would attach to the boat at B.Max which should be very close to a shroud plate as well so there should be something to get hold of. There does seem to be good deck space at that point too. The problem with a beaching leg as i see it is similar to that of getting onto a ladder that finishes at foot height in that it’s awkward to start or finish the climb. For the dinghy problem i think that a removeable boarding ladder would have to be on the menu…..i think a sugar scoop transom might just look a bit wrong somehow ! The final thought in this section is about getting out of the water : on 2 previous boats i have had bowsprits with a bobstay and my fallback technique has always been to scramble up over the bow using the stay as a foothold. I’m not sure how easy that would be now.
So, this post is the first in a new series where i look at really simple problems of boat access and ergonomics. Even at the beginning of this today i have started to think about each task from getting on the boat, through sail handling and anchoring that might be a problem….even getting in and out of bunks…and then trying to find out which boat features or layouts make those things better or worse. A recent example here was the secure quarter berths on the Javelin, these were excellent sea-berths but a bit of a wiggle to get into. The comparison i can make there is the quarter berths on my old Frances 26 which were easy to get into, in fact we could sit up in them and look into the cockpit from them. A simple answer of course is to go see each boat and pretend/try each activity and just see how it goes.