Rig down day.

WABI’” winter projects, first post.

In blog time it’s nearly the end of the year and WABI”’ is not only out of the water but she’s in her winter position out front of the yard and iv’e already got her rigs down and given her a clean out.  Right now she’s sitting in her own micro pond of suds after i washed her down and i’m sitting aboard having a coffee and working up my essential jobs list. Today i even managed to get the annoying ‘ears’ off the mast which have been bugging me all season ; but more of that later on.

I’m really glad that Chris the boss lifted her out when he did because it was due to blow anything up to 70 mph the next day and there’s been a lot of debris coming down the river and Chris has had to be out there rescuing boats that have had their moorings ripped out by floating trees.    I don’t know how you guys are getting on but we’re having a very wet and very windy autumn : this year i’m really glad that iv’e decided to have WABI”’ ashore and get on with some jobs.

The deal was that i had to get the rigs down straight away so that Chris could tow WABI”’ out of one end of the yard and take her the short distance down the road to the other end and park her, on the yard trolley, next to the honesty cafe…..handy that !.   It’s not much of a big deal, getting the rigs down on a Liberty ; iv’e even done the job solo once although that does take a bit of thinking about beforehand.  The most awkward job is getting the main-mast heel bolt out which is deep in the bow mast slot and it’s nut is inside the forward compartment inside the boat…..the bow slot isn’t quite wide enough to get a big molegrip on the nut and a spanner always falls off so it usually takes several go’s to get it out.  While that’s going on the mast has to be held forward and that’s where a handy assistant comes in.  Once the heel bolt is out all i have to do is start to lower the mast backwards in it’s pivot at the front edge of the cabin top.

Over the winter i’ll probably have the sticks up and down several times as i measure up for the new mainsail and fit the new sprit-booms which are one of the winter projects at home.   In the long term WABI”’ is likely going to get an entirely different rig but for now she’s going to stay as a cat-ketch with sprit-booms, the mizzen in it’s new position slightly further aft and will just get a much better mainsail to fill the larger available fore-triangle.  My plan is to make her sail just that little bit better with more sail area up front with the larger mainsail and potentially a new and larger mizzenaft,  also, with the mains’l,  for that sail to have a better shape via full length battens and a rounder roach.  Iv’e been trawling through the Liberty/Minstrel website and looking at rig modifications that members have already done and that they have good experience with : were i able to easily find replacement mast tubes i would go with ‘square-tops’ like the ones on the Presto 30 but that approach really needs carbon fibre masts and that would be a huge investment in the rig at a stage when i’m likely to be starting from scratch with a low-tec rig.

Presto 30 (Sail magazine) Almost like a big, grown up Liberty !


Many of my regular visitors will know that iv’e been musing about WABI’s rig for as long as iv’e been running the blog which suggests to me that the original rig isn’t what it could be although it was a good choice at the time when David Thomas designed the Liberty.   Iv’e said before and i’ll just quickly re-cap that the original Liberty 22’s didn’t have enough sail area or enough ballast.  The later Liberty 23’s got more of both but aren’t as pretty boats and the Minstrel is spoiled inside by the compression post being right in the middle of what could be a double berth.

I think that one aspect of the original cat ketch rig is right and that is the split rig which keeps the individual sails small, lightly loaded and allows the boat to heave-to easily.  Having the mainmast right at the bow does get rid of any need for a bulkhead or compression post underneath the deck and keeps the cabin clear of clutter….the cabin seems bigger than it is because of being largely a single space.

The mizzen is always in the way though although iv’e made a big improvement to WABI’s cockpit ergonomics and sail handling by moving the mizzen mast aft a bit, out of the companionway and by changing from conventional booms to sprit-booms.  I’d still like to get rid of the mizzen from the front of the cockpit because what i really want is to have a soft cuddy there formed by a semi-fixed sprayhood.  I could achieve that by having a smaller mizzen right aft ; she would still be a ketch but with proportions more like a yawl.  That change would really need a bigger mainsail and by all accounts the Liberty masts are just about at their limit already…i’d be pushing those limits with the fully battened sail that i’m proposing.

Canoe-Yawl option.

I wrote a post last year about my canoe-yawl plan and that is still one of 2 options for the long term rig.  Iv’e recently found a boat and a rig that has close to the same sail area and proportions that i would need : one of the late Phil Bolger’s designs, the Chebacco 19.         I forgot about that whole idea until i was down in south Brittany and found the exact same boat with a slightly modified rig that is very close to what i would want and a nice looking boat too !   It’s a modified rig from the original plan because the mast is slightly further back and in a tabernacle and has stays….the original being in a bow-well and being unstayed.     Clearly the power is in that big gaff/gunter mainsail and the little mizzen is only a balancing sail and/or heaving-to sail.

Bolger Chebacco, Audierne.



Option 2.

My one fixed point in the rig re-design is that i am going to use the existing slot in the bow well to take an unstayed mast so most of my decisions are based on that.  Going back to first principles, if you like, then my parameters are :

  1. More sail area.
  2. Better shaped sail
  3. Low centre of effort
  4. Simplicity and low cost.
  5. Easy handling
  6. Ability to heave-to
  7. Appearance

Option 2.  Lug rig.

There is a solution on this coast , in fact there’s 2 of them at the yard  ; and they’re called Luggers…hence lug rigged.



Spirit of Mystery

002 (3)

Not one of mine (below) but for reference if you don’t know your way around the rig. One of Iain Oughtread’s designs i think (not my photograph).  This is very close to the rig proportions that i am looking for in my first proposal for the rig….there is a second option which would be more typical of the Liberty and i’ll quickly discuss that below.


I’ll take it as guesswork that not many of my readers are familiar with luggers and lug rig unless maybe there’s a Drascombe or 2 in the family , but luggers are the quintessential west-country working boat and lug rig is still one of the most powerful, close winded and simple of all rigs.    The funny part of the name is that it might derive from the Dutch ‘log’ or ‘logger’ which refers to a slow boat….and slow a good lugger isn’t.  On this coast most luggers are of the traditional long keeled working/fishing boat type from little Veracity at the yard up to the 3 masted Grayhound and with Mystery in the middle as more typical of the size.

There is, on this coast, a National 18 dinghy with a carbon fibre lug rig that’s owned and driven by a former national champion ; by all accounts she will plane in a breeze and goes like s**t off a shovel.  The other 2 boats that are really inspiring my lug rig project are both Nigel Irens designs ; Romilly and Roxanne …..which coincidentally i remember being built and shown at a Southampton boat show ages ago.  I was so interested in the boat that i introduced myself to Nigel Irens and he showed me over the boat : i think she now sails as ‘Poetry’ out of St Peter Port in Guernsey and we saw her sailing there last year.   These 2 designs are very much in the mold of ‘modern’ luggers and benefit from not only Iren’s eye for a slippery hull but also gain from lightweight materials in the rig, where it really counts.   I probably can’t go to the expense of a custom designed and built carbon rig now that there isn’t a builder in the UK but what i can more likely achieve is a hollow and light-ish wooden mast in birdsmouth construction.

The main difficulty in building the lug rig, option 1 is that it puts all of the sail area in that front rig and what that needs is the difficult combination of a mast that is super light and super strong : if you know how to work out the sums even to the basic extent that i do then what you will find is that the force on the rig relates to the wind speed and the sail area squared….as sail area goes up the load on the rig goes up much more.  What it requires in design and tech terms is of course a carbon fibre mast….not impossible but not easy either.  Why that’s such an expensive and time consuming project is that to build carbon fibre masts i would have to build a plug first (essentially a mast), then the moulds and only then laminate the actual mast tube.   Because this post is turning into a much longer one than i initially planned i’m also writing a second post just about the mast project.

There is a second option and it’s the one i’m leaning towards and it popped out at me when i saw the 2 big luggers ‘Grayhound’ and La ‘Cancalaise‘.   Both of those boats have a steeply raked main mast , similar to my mizzen and keep plenty of  area in their foresail as they do in their mains’l.  That’s been done on a Liberty already with 2 equal masts and a pair of identical standing lug sails.  I did some measuring today and worked out that i could build a pair of masts in either box-section round, or birdsmouth-round and both at about 22 feet which would then stow within the length of the boat when they’re down….that instead of having to build a mainmast at around 26 feet and a small mizzen….still got to make a pair of sticks but option 2 means that i could make 2 identical ones in close-to the same time and using the same jigs.

In the photograph of Grayhound at the end you can clearly see that sweetly raked mast and powerful mains’l which has it’s tack ahead of the mast and 2 reefs.  By getting the tack of each sail forward i might go a long way to sorting out the balance issue as well : WABI”’ changes her sailing balance quite quickly with chronic lee helm in light winds and hardmouthed weather helm in hard reaching and running conditions.  Iv’e learnt to reef the mizzen first for balance and keep as much mains’l as i can. Having a bigger sail aft would need a reef earlier, i’m cool with that and putting a lot more sail area up will give me a much more powerful rig in light weather.

The great thing now is that iv’e got a much better idea of where i’m going with the WABI”’ rig project long term, leaving it pretty much as it is takes the pressure off this winter’s work, i can improve things quite a bit with the new mainsail and then build the new rig as and when i have the design sorted out and the space to do the work….it will most likely be in Chris’s shed if it doesn’t work out at home.

Grayhound, Whitsand bay.



Looe Luggers 2017 .https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGdcaFK0PZw

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