The microcruisers that got away.

Blog time : it’s early May 2021, in fact it’s bank holiday Monday as i write and i’m taking the day off from the heavy outdoor work to focus on the admin that i need to do and then get some posts edited and finished for the blog ; iv’e bee neglecting that a bit because iv’e been outside most of the time during a dry and sunny April.     Today, it’s forecast to rain heavy and blow hard later on so i should get a full pressure rain and wind check on the build shelter – yesterday i found that some of the roofing sheets rattle a bit in the wind so i added another pack of fasteners along the low edge and i might have to get up on the shed roof again and do the same with the high side : one of today’s admin jobs is to track down and order the scrim net material for the inside as a combination of sun shade and wind break.

Title photograph, Osprey class dinghy set up as cruising boat.  Photographer and owner : Gavin Print.

A note about this post series…..going back a couple of months i made my final decision to build a John Welsford designed ‘Pathfinder’ cruising dinghy and where my very close second was either Walkabout or John’s new design ‘Longsteps’ – both of them much more close to what i originally thought i wanted to build for my sail and awe project.   Just before i committed to the Pathfinder build i had a near panic where, for a couple of days, i was convinced that i wanted to change tack completely and build ‘SCAMP’ instead.  As i said at the time “sometimes my head does my head in” !.    In this post and it’s follow-up post i want to take a closer look at some of the boats that didn’t make the final cut but which i think are fine boats for a backyard build.

  1. The radical option : Angus boats rowcruiser (sail).

I first saw this design in relation to the Race to Alaska , which iv’e never posted about although it’s relevant to the kind of thing i write about ; i have a half-finished post covering the bare bones but there are far better posts and blogs out there already ……anyway, the original one of these, Angus’s own boat completed the race which i feel is impressive.

Now, iv’e been a sea kayaker and canoeist, better canoeist that sea kayaker i think because i can self rescue back into an open canoe in most conditions where iv’e never perfected a full ‘Eskimo’ roll in the kayak…that i feel always limited what i felt i could do and should do , at least solo, with a sea kayak. When i first saw this boat i was instantly reminded of a longer, taller and slightly boxier canoe/kayak hybrid that had been initially designed as a rowing cruiser but with the addition of floats became a very fast potential expedition boat.

As i said above, having been both an expedition canoeist and the fact that iv’e had to do most of my canoeing on big open water and/or open tidal water, this one really appealed especially as it has the ability to sleep aboard up front in a space that is just enough for one person, a sleep mat and a sleeping bag. That strikes me as being a neat kind of minimalist cruising potential in the same way that my rucksack, bivvi bag and quilt does the same thing for me out in the woods….what i need rather than want…..and nothing more.

For and against then….

For….this is obviously a fast and capable boat that so far has taken on both the EC and the R2AK and done well in both. It’s clearly a light boat that would easily be handled ashore and even stored much like a long but narrow canoe whereas almost any conventional sailing boat of the same size is a lot heavier and takes up a lot more space. The construction technique looks straightforward too ; ply-epoxy and just with a bit of extra work with the laminated beams (Aka’s) and floats (Ama’s). The rig i think is simply bought in and uses commercially available parts and the alternative power is a pair of oars/sweeps on a sliding seat arrangement…..i believe that to be the fastest way of driving a long and slim boat through the water with human power alone.

Against…..that’s where the problem comes in for me : with my height and build (long arms and short back) i should be a capable and powerful rower and i even used to do my cardio training on a sliding seat rowing machine but…..i injured my back so many times doing just that that i gave up trying to learn to row ‘fast and long’….something about the mechanics of the sliding seat rowing motion makes a low vertebral disc ‘pop’ out against a nerve root almost every time and iv’e never found a way round that : incidentally it was also the rolling/leaning and twisting action inherent in the kayakers roll that physically prevented me from attaining a reliable roll. I did wonder about not using the sliding seat as i can row well enough conventionally and equally i can paddle quite fast with an open canoe blade, this boat seems to owe a lot to native Polynesian sea-going canoes (Waka) and they are always paddled with a single bladed paddle…..also means that the paddler can face forward !

My conclusion : an excellent performance micro-cruiser, potentially offshore and ocean capable in the right hands……very high on the list if i ever felt like doing something completely off the wall.

Link. https://angusrowboats.com/

2. The Bedard ‘ROG’

This is a much more recent design and in a way it’s the natural development of the true, simple, ‘box-boat’ that designers such as the late Phil Bolger came up with ; ROG though seems a more modern looking and performing boat and like many of the boats on my list has proven itself in the Everglades challenge (EC).

ROG (River of Grass) on the beach at the Cedar Key meet, my apologies that i can’t credit the photographer because i don’t know who it belongs to.

ROG then is a quite small boat at only 15 feet long and 5.7 feet wide but the boat is basically ‘all cabin’ at the front and all cockpit at the back, i’m also going to take a punt on that this is probably the most boat that can be built out of 2 standard plywood sheets scarfed together to make the panels. I also note that this is a very modern concept of boat design , a bit like the box designs of the Mini-Transat race boats that waste very little length in overhangs ; it’s effective and i for one like the squared off bow and stern. Designer John Bedard also uses both a heavy centerboard (100 lbs) and water ballast (80 lbs per tank) for stability and to give some mass to help the boat punch over a sloppy sea.

Unlike the Angus boat this one is much more of a true sailing microcruiser that can be rowed and it also has a cabin that would take 2 people and be just about ‘sit-up able’ in….which means that the driver can get in there, out of the weather and make a meal or hot drink in comfort. That’s a big consideration for me as one thing i really want in my own boats is the ability to get in the boat, under hard (preferably) or soft cover, and for me that means a cabin or cuddy and enough space to store my kit dry.

The rig is basically the same as my old Hunter Liberty, thus a cat-ketch, which mostly worked for me but is where this design breaks down a bit for me . I always found the mizzen on the Liberty awkwardly in the way when i was working in the cockpit which is why my next boat will be a yawl with the mizzen smaller and right aft. I can’t help but feel that the rig on Bedard’s ROG obscures a big chunk of the small cockpit and would be better with a yawl configuration.

Link : https://www.bedardyachtdesign.com/designs/sail/15-rog-micro-cruiser/

Once again i thought ‘i could build that’ because it’s essentially the same method as building my Pathfinder and if anything a bit simpler. Also it’s a bit that i think i would enjoy and would fit the bill for the job i want it to do. I did seriously consider asking the designer if he would consider a lengthened version and/or changing the rig to clear more cockpit space….maybe even moving the cabin bulkhead aft to give more space below….that all becomes a different boat though and outside what the designer intended.

Some video links.

ROG getting along nicely.

Angus row-sail cruiser in the Race to Alaska (R2AK)

I hope you enjoyed this first look at a couple of boats that didn’t make the final edit but were still very high on the list. My own final choice was for a more conventional but fully capable all-round miniature cruising boat that would also be close to the maximum boat that i could build and keep at home. Both the Angus boat and ROG i feel are excellent boats for the right person in the right situation but both have things that i think my choice might do better for me and in what i want to do.

In the second post of this series i’m going to take a look at another direction that i so nearly took had the right boat become available at the time i felt i needed to make a final decision and have at it.

Until next time.

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