Building a Northumbrian Coble in Clinker Ply

The End and The Beginning

I had several last minute things to complete before launch day. My main concern was adding flotation so that I could self-rescue if I ever capsize. Initially I planned to build watertight boxes and lash one in the bow and one under each sidebench. I later opted to buy some inflatable buoyancy bags for under the side benches as they fit the space better and are mostly hidden. In the bow I made a very funny shaped box in a sort of skin-on-frame style, using painted canvas and a lot of goo to seal the edges. Two cleats wedge the box under the mast partners and a single block screwed into the stem keeps the whole thing from shifting. Beyond flotation I had to screw down the mast step, bolt on the bowsprit, and set up the rigging.

For the standing rigging I used 3mm amsteel line which is an extremely high strength single braid line. The line I used has a breaking load of 2100lbs and is very light and easily worked. I measured the necessary lengths for the shrouds and the forestay and quickly spliced eyes into the ends of each stay. The forestay loops onto a clip lashed to the end of the bowsprit and the shrouds are lashed to shackles which attach to the chainplates. This arrangement makes raising and lowering the rig very easy.

The running rigging is mostly 5/16th inch 3-strand polyester line. The head of the jib has a bronze clip to easily attach the halyard (which has a spliced eye in one end. The peak halyard is attached in a similar way but at the throat the halyard is tied to the gaff with a short lanyard since the limited space between the gaff and the mast doesn't allow enough clearance for a' clip.

Finally everything was ready for launch. The wind was extremely light but that was fine for a maiden voyage. I made a useful discovery that I could furl the main by releasing the outhaul and tying the sail around the mast. This lets me hoist the sail while ashored and have it out of the way until needed. We ghosted around until dusk and I was very impressed with the stability of the boat. I would have had to try very hard to put the gunwale under - probably standing on it and maybe even leaning back off the shroud. I was also impressed that I was able to sail where I wanted despite the lack of wind.

After a few sails out in the bay I decided that I knew my boat well enough to go across Baynes Channel to Chatham Is. Baynes can be very rough, depending on the tide and wind, and also requires close attention to the current as it often runs at 3 knots, which is about as fast as I can sail. There was a moderately strong wind coming from the north (which is unusual) - probably 10 -15 knots. I put a reef in the main since it was a bit gusty and had a superb sail across the channel. Putting ashore I was reminded why I chose to put such a hefty keel on my boat since most of the beaches are rocks of various pointyness. The purpleheart of the keel is more than up to the task of beating down rocks but I have to be careful since the low deadrise of the hull means the lower planks of the hull can get scraped if the ground is uneven. The sail back was much more challenging as first I had to sail my way out of a narrow rocky passage with a significant tidal current, then gybe around a point and head back home. Luckily the tide was with me, but the wind was still from the north and was kicking up quite a chop against the current. I was very impressed with how the boat handled the waves - while spray fairly often swept back over the boat I felt well in control and we just kept thrashing away to windward. The wind was gusting to about 15 knots but I'd shaken out the reef and was still managing fairly well. The hull couldn't quite support the full press of sail sheeted in hard right on the wind, but with the main slacked slightly I had no problem pushing my way through the waves. In these conditions the jib luff got quite slack - I was still happy enough with performance and was able to point quite high. I don't think I could get much more tension in the luff without a bobstay since now bowsprit is too flexible to keep it super tight. I'm not going to bother trying anything major to keep tension in it since as I said it works fine to windward and there is a certain amount of satisfaction in sailing a classic looking wooden boat with sails all billowy and still sailing along with the lasers and such.

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