A dedicated follower of fashion.

I can feel a rant coming on !

I write around 150 posts a year on the blog and i make the effort, generally speaking, to make this and engaging and hopefully entertaining talk about boats first and anything else second.   I consciously allow myself one good thorough rant once a year and it’s nearly my 61st birthday so it seems as good time as any to let rip.   If you thought the ‘J’ post was in this category then no, i don’t admire the J class or even like them but i can see the care and effort that goes into them.  Ok, ok so i dislike Westerly Centaur’s and haven’t yet met the owner of one that i could respect as a sailor and yes i detest all Jet-ski driving scum but i’m not unique in that respect.

In fact, as i write, i really can feel a rant coming on and it’s not really anything to do with boats or even jet-ski’s…..it’s to do with fashion, advertising and a certain male grooming product.    However, lets leave that aside for now.*

Last year i had a run in with the local moron’s, aka the jet-ski tribe but worse happened to the all female crew of one of the rowing gigs out practicing one day.  The way i heard it is that the crew were out doing their training and they were repeatedly charge-swerved by a very vicious group of jet-ski driving arseholes such that they were completely soaked and intimidated.   The only positive thing i can say about them in this area is that there aren’t many of them and that they very rarely venture up the river.  There is, by the way, a way of getting back at them in the Plymouth area, which is what i am writing about, is that if they cause trouble then call Plymouth ‘Flag’ at Devonport and if there’s a Police launch on the water and available they will pull them in and give them an ear-bashing.

This post isn’t actually about morons driving jet-ski’s, annoying, irritating and even dangerous yes but they get bored easily and i have never had to put up with them at an anchorage overnight.  Mostly the same can be said for the uglier breed of modern motor boat cruisers.  Last year for example we pulled into Fishcombe cove after a slow sail across Torbay and as we approached the bay several of the mobo’s left one by one, by the time we got there a mooring buoy was free so we took that.  The remaining mobo’s that were there just seemed to be chilling out just as we were but to a boat they all left as the sun went down leaving us and one other sailboat in peace…..until the angry drunk teenagers started up on the beach !

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This post is actually about trends and ‘fashion’ in sailing, and no i am not talking about what brand of sailing wear is ‘in’ this year.  This year’s ‘look’ is definitely dusty overalls , pencil behind ear and long-john silver style crutch by the way !       Some readers may remember the ‘wrong trousers’ incident from a couple of years back when a long-tall Dutchman recognised me as British from my ripped trousers and kindly did a temporary repair, punk style, with a handful of safety pins……eat your heart out pseudo punks !

The marina i just happened to be in that day, Benodet i think, and wasn’t too bad for variety.  My boat then, Frances 26, was one of the 2 smallest visiting boats there and we were tucked in behind something much, much larger.  None of us could get off the visitor pontoon though due to the fierce ebb running under and onto the pontoon so once i had done my shopping, and thanks Mr Dutchman, i did the usual and had a walk around the marina.

As with most French marina’s most of the yachts were generic plastic tubs from mainly the big French yards and most of them were from the not quite current era of boxy and squared-off open 40 wannabee’s.  My interest that day wasn’t so much the generic French cruising boats, they have less than zero interest for me, on the day i think i was looking at anchors and anchor set-ups.  I’ve written about this before but most of the boats of around the 32-38 foot range, so the most common, had much weaker anchor set-ups than my own anchoring gear aboard the Frances 26 .

I think i concluded that most of these boats never anchored….certainly not in the strong tides of the Fleuve Odet and maybe only next to the beach on a nice day !.  Then, as now i suspect that most of those boats don’t actually go ‘cruising’ and like many British ‘cruising’ boats only do so from marina to marina.   I’m not complaining about that….in fact i’m quite glad they do that because it means that poor-ass small boat sailors like me get the best anchorages !

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However, to get to the main point i am trying to get at we need to go to a different marina , the ones i am thinking about just happen to be in France but i know of one on the Uk south coast that is exactly like this.  Stand in just the right place and what you will see is a pontoon full of identical or near identical generic white-plastic GRP cruiser’s/cruiser-racers. In one marina, the one on the south coast there used to be one pontoon where the boats were identical, same manufacturer, same model.  I honestly don’t know how, as an owner, you would recognise your boat from all the others except for the name, in identical lettering or the SSR number….maybe that’s the key here.

Maybe those identical boats aren’t worthy of a name !, maybe they should just have a class letter and number…..something like a barcode would do fine.  You wouldn’t even need to own a particular boat, just pay the money to own that kind of boat and pick the one at the end of the line that’s easiest to get at.     For the class letter i would suggest something along the lines of the ‘U boat number although here ‘U’ would stand for ugly rather than ‘Unterseebooten‘…..excuse my German if that’s wrong.

Now ok, my humour tends towards the absurd : maybe i absorbed too much Monty Python and Douglas Adams as a teenager but i make a point here.  If we look at this kind of boat what do we see ? is it something with style and elegance, a tribute to designer and builder, and ultimately owner and crew.  No, what we see is something that is nearly generically identical to everything else that’s in fashion in sailing right now.  I could take the joke further but it’s ok i’ll spare you the pain.

Twenty years ago the fashion was for boats that looked like IOR (International offshore Rule) race boats.  I sailed the real thing, in fact the second boat that i ever crewed aboard was a less than special half-tonner…..well maybe ‘special’ in the more modern use of the term.  To be honest it, and most of it’s class, were god-awful boats, underpowered in light airs and almost lethally uncontrollable in a breeze.  Ever tried sailing a fragile and cranky half tonner downwind in a gale in the Irish sea at night ?……i have and it wasn’t a pretty sight especially when most of the crew were so beaten up by the crashing and banging of the windward leg that we were falling asleep at the helm.

So i sailed and raced on the original boats, didn’t know anything different at the time. The manufacturers of cruising boats , especially the big French yards, absolutely loved them though.  The idea seemed to be to take whatever had won say the one ton cup that year, give it a shorter masthead rig and a shorter keel, and then market it with 8 or 10 berths. The original boat only sailed as well as it did with a fragile rig that needed 5 or 6 different jibs and 2 spinnakers and relied largely on the 7 or so crew sitting-out the boat as rail-meat.  The manufacturers liked them because the hulls had high volume and they sold well partially because they carried the ‘glamour’ of being race boat derived.  Today the same thing continues although today the cruising boat has to look like a poor copy of an open 40 or Volvo race boat crossed with something from say the ‘Wally’ design board.

Thus today we get something that looks like a square box with a wide open transom again just like a modern race boat.  Add to that all of the features which the ‘designer’ seems to cut and paste from the so called, ‘high end’ designers…..square windows and square-top rigs seem to be in fashion this year, oh and deep but narrow chord keels with a bulb on the bottom !.  I have noticed some that don’t even bother with anchoring gear, obviously intended to cruise from marina to marina. How soon, i wonder, until we see ‘fast’ cruising boats on foils ?

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If you think that fashion in sailing boats is a modern scourge then no, it isn’t and it’s often been driven by strange rating rules and competition.  One of the early rating rules gave the boat’s handicap by measuring it’s length and multiplying that by it’s beam plus half it’s beam again.  That positively encouraged some awful deep and narrow designs, most of which were horribly un-seamanlike.

Over several posts i have been reviewing the boats and books of L.Francis Herreshoff and he frequently railed against ocean racing ‘freaks’.  Having come from that end of sailing i can just see the IOR boats i sailed as exactly that : fragile, cranky and uncomfortable, perhaps even genuinely bad sea-boats.

If you don’t know which boat this was then do some research.

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Herreshoff had his rant about ocean racing ‘freaks’ way before i started sailing, in fact at least 10 years before i was born.  My era of sailing only started with mass produced white GRP boats.  Of course, to build boats at a price that the new sailors and ‘yachtsmen’ (the 2 are different) they had to come out of a mould and so of course they are going to look generically the same.  I always thought that the rows of Westerly’s and and Moody’s at our yard looked like so many ugly pugs, squatting between their bilge keels as though taking a dump…..ok ok i have a strange imagination….but you get the picture.

I always rather liked that one British manufacturer (Hunter boats) offered their boats in a variety of gelcoat colours.  Ok so today not all of those colours have weathered well but at least it was a slight relief from the endless white.  Today my little China-blue Hunter makes me smile even though it’s not exactly a pretty boat otherwise.

I want to finish on a positive note and as i’m reviewing L. Francis Herreshoff’s work at the moment i thought i would finish with some lines from one of his books and one of his own designs.

This is taken directly from ‘Sensible cruising Designs’

“…..There are many today who can visualize a different type of yachting than ocean racing and who would like to spend their vacation in pleasure with comfortable relaxation.  Some of these people have artistic tastes and know that the prettiest scenes are along shore, with the woods in the background contrasting with the marshland, beach and river banks.  They would like to anchor in sheltered places, or lie on the bottom of a sandy inlet, cook supper in comfort, and sleep without worry”

L. Francis Herreshoff.

Today’s video is both a departure and a mistake.  I had filmed and edited a much longer piece from the workshop with this material as the last few minutes.  Well, it failed to upload and then i lost the whole thing so i quickly made this a few hours before the post was due……it’s also the re-recorded and edited HD version.

Fowey river.  Cornwall UK.  Although my little Liberty is made from ‘frozen snot’ as L. Francis called it i think he would have given it’s concept and execution, not to say it’s use a bit of an approving nod.

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Today’s rant is nothing to do with sailing, not even anything to do with jet-ski’s : in fact this week i even had an intelligent discussion with a Centaur owner about anchors….crikey.

No, today’s rant, which i actually filmed is about a company that have now decided that they aren’t in the business to make disposable razors….rather their new self-appointed task is to be the arbiter of male behaviour.

Feel free to go and watch the appalling mini film if you can get through it without projectile vomiting.  Now here’s a thing, men represent some 80% of Gillette’s market and they have royally decided to take a big smelly dump on that entire customer base….that includes me of course.  Now, sadly, some women think the advert is fine and long overdue but i would like to ask all the women a question : how much do the same company charge you for razors, essentially the same product, as they do for men.  So, while being cringe-making preach-y to men they are also being massively hypocritical in their own behaviour towards women.

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