1966 Pearson Ensign renovation

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by mcrawf, Mar 3, 2012.

  1. mcrawf
    Joined: Mar 2012
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    Location: Maine

    mcrawf Junior Member

    I'm in the process of having a Pearson Ensign renovated from the bottom up in order to turn it into a beautiful daysailer.

    The original design is either hit or miss, depending upon how one feels about Alberg designs. But I like it. The Ensign is a cute little boat. I just want to go a touch more traditional (prettier, with some more wood), with a bit more mast height and sail area (trees on both sides of our inlet spoil the air down low).

    The current plan is to keep the same lines, do a flag blue Alexseal paint job on the topsides, off-white cabin top, add teak or nuteak decks, a bowsprit for a self-furling gennaker, and upgrade from the 32' keel-stepped aluminum mast to a 32' deck-stepped (4' taller) carbon fiber mast with a faux bois spruce finish.

    The finished boat should be close to a cross between the $70k Rustler 17 (red hull below) and the $230k Alerion Express 33 (blue hull), for less than the price of a new Ensign Classic, which is roughly $35k.

    At 23', the Ensign is right about in the middle of the two. Compared to the Rustler, it has a much larger and deeper cockpit, along with a cuddy for storing everyone's boat bags, spare clothes, beverages, and a porta pottie. Or for ducking out of the weather. Compared to the AE33, it's much more easily managed, maintained, launched, and stored.

    This would be the smallest boat we'd want to go out in with four to six people, and the largest boat I'd want to daysail while short-tacking through our harbor.

    The boat is currently disassembled, with the deck off. The hull is in great shape, and there's no delamination or saturation in the deck. The only work that has been done to date is repair to dings in the hull, a rudder fix, and the painting of the topsides. All other work remains to be done, hopefully this spring.


    MAST GOALS

    We've got hills and trees on each side of a 10-mile inlet that's less than 1/4 mile wide at its narrow sections. That seriously spoils the wind down low any time the wind isn't parallel with the inlet. Back when we had a 19' Starwind sloop, there were many days when a friend in a Mariner 28 would happily sail past us as we bobbed like a cork.

    I ran into the same problem with my gaff-rigged Norseboat 17.5 -- there were marconi-rigged daysailers with taller masts that I could easily outsail in a north-south wind, but if the wind came across the trees, they would cleanly tack away from me as if I were standing still.

    So, an Ensign with an additional 4' to 6' of mast would get us into some of the air that allowed my friend's Mariner to move. The increase in SA/D wouldn't really matter, but the extra height would. Yes, we'll have to reef earlier, but I'd rather sail with a reef in decent wind than sit still in light wind.

    Carbon fiber would let us get that height without increasing heeling moment, and painting it to look like spruce would be in keeping with the classic look we want. I've held sections of faux bois carbon spars in my hand, and even at two feet away the appearance is uncanny.


    BOWSPRIT GOALS

    We want the bowsprit partially to enable us to keep a self-furling gennaker in front of the jib, partially to create a more traditional look, and partially to make sure the LOA is over 24', just in case those proposed regulations pass that require life jackets at all times for boats under 24'. A 2' bowsprit on a 22.5' boat would do it.

    As far as aesthetics go, my ideal boat would have more sheer than the Ensign. However, we're not going to spend the money to change its lines, so we need to resort to other tricks. One trick would be a slight curve to the boot and cove stripes. Another would be a slight upward angle on a bowsprit. Just a few degrees should take the edge off those near-flat Ensign lines.


    QUESTIONS:

    Other than general suggestions and criticisms (I've got a thick skin), I'm looking for thoughts in three areas:

    1. Mast. Carbon fiber versus spruce.

    We can get a 32' deck-stepped carbon fiber mast that weights 30 pounds with Harken AA sail track. That gives us the height we want without increasing our heeling moment over the existing 44 pound 32' keel-stepped aluminum mast. It would also be significantly stronger and stiffer than the original as well, and wouldn't have the same corrosion or fatigue issues.

    Some say that spruce would be a better choice than $10k spend on carbon spars with a faux bois finish. I could be convinced. I just don't know enough to agree or disagree.

    If we can get the height we want, with a total weight of mast + sail track under 34 pounds, spruce is an option, particularly if it costs a lot less. But since my spare time is spend either sailing or building a 26' dory, the mast cost would include someone else's labor, and I don't know how that affects the equation.

    2. Mast. Keel or deck stepped.

    I want to be able to easily launch and retrieve the boat myself, so stepping the mast is key. We probably won't trailer the boat more than twice a year, but those two times will matter. We have a great boat launch with pier 5 miles to the north, which would be perfect for early spring and late fall launches the retrievals. Otherwise it's a 20-mile trip to a boatyard, with several hours of taking weather directly on the beam. That's fine with 2' seas in July, but really uncool with 4' seas in November (we live in Maine).

    Deck stepping seems to be the obvious choice, but some folks claim that you can also rig a system to step and take down a keel-stepped mast. That could be. I just haven't seen it myself.

    3. Bowsprit. Material and size.

    The original plan was ash, to match the brightwork (coamings, benches, etc.) we were planning.

    Now we're debating going with teak because it's so much more rot-resistant, plus Ensign Spars sells complete pre-fabricated cockpit soles, benches, and coamings. All-teak would also be nice.

    Would teak work? I believe that Marshall Catboats have an optional teak bowsprit, so I imagine it would work if it's beefy enough.

    How big? The current plan is at least 3" square at the stem, tapering to around 2" near the gennaker's tack.

    4. Bowsprit. Attachment.

    How do we attach it? Since the deck is now off the boat, we could mount the bowsprit under the deck without much trouble. Or, we could mount it on top of the deck, perhaps with bent stainless straps that through-bolt to additional support under the deck. Is a bobstay optional or required?

    5. Bowsprit. Anchoring.

    If we have a bobstay, how do we attach an anchor rode? Mooring in our harbor will be easy because we'll have a mooring bride, but I don't know how we'd keep an anchor rode out of the bobstay if we weren't on the mooring.

    ---

    Any thoughts are welcome. I can't promise to agree, but I'll still appreciate the input.
     

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  2. Billy Higgins
    Joined: Jun 2011
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    Location: Seattle, Washington

    Billy Higgins Junior Member

    I have sailed a bunch of Ensigns and like them a lot for just the purpose you mention - taking out a crowd for an afternoon sail. But I would save a ton of money and go with a longer aluminum keel-stepped spar, a new mainsail with all the roach you can get, skip the bowsprit, and learn to use the spinaker. The Ensign is not a light air performer by any means - and I don't think you'll be happy with those extra enhancements up forward - I noticed none of them eliminated wetted surface. :)

    But good luck with your project!
     
  3. Billy Higgins
    Joined: Jun 2011
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    Location: Seattle, Washington

    Billy Higgins Junior Member

    . . . the mast could just as easily be in a low tabernacle. But the spar may have to be a size up in scantlings.
     
  4. mcrawf
    Joined: Mar 2012
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    Location: Maine

    mcrawf Junior Member

    Hey, by going with the lighter spar, I'll be reducing the weight of the boat by a good .035%, along with a reduction in wetted surface area...

    Point taken. This boat will never be a light-air rocket, no matter what I put on it.

    Thanks. I'll post photos of my foolishness when it's all finished.
     
  5. alan white
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    Location: maine

    alan white Senior Member

    It would make sense to see what a big roach battened main would cost. On the same height mast, even the same mast. It would be as effective in raising the CE. You could still deck step. The added bonus would be more sail area. More effective than raising a triangular sail a few feet.
     
  6. mcrawf
    Joined: Mar 2012
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    Location: Maine

    mcrawf Junior Member

    I agree with getting as much roach as I can. For the first iteration I'm going to just add a panel to the existing main, hoist it, and see what happens. Based on that sail, we'll figure out the maximum roach we can get without running into the backstay, and that's what the new sail will have.

    I know we could attempt to calculate the sail shape given the simple geometry of the mast and stays, but since it's a new mast height, I want to actually measure the sail in place before cutting any cloth.

    The backstay will be the limiter, and for better or worse, I'm going to keep it. I have swept shrouds without a backstay on my catamaran, and while it enables massive roach with a squarehead main, those shrouds also make it harder to run without chafing the main. This boat, at least, will go the traditional route.
     
  7. alan white
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    Location: maine

    alan white Senior Member

    I thought the Ensign had no backstay. I guess you can't get significant roach with that backstay there. You can lengthen the backstay crane at the masthead and that gives some room. Probably not enough to solve the problem.
    Raising the mast height is very expensive. More expensive than it's worth, I believe. It would be cheaper to sell your perfectly good boat and buy something more suited to your local conditions. You can buy Ensigns all day long for what a new (untried) rig would cost.
     
  8. mcrawf
    Joined: Mar 2012
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    Location: Maine

    mcrawf Junior Member

    Good point. If I want a dog, there's no sense getting a cat and training it to fetch and walk on a leash.

    I just haven't yet found something better than an Ensign for the mixed bag of requirements that we're going to throw at it. It points high, tracks well, self-rights, and floats (just) when full of water. Perhaps the perfect boat for my wife and daughter to learn to sail. It's the smallest boat I'd want to take four people out in, and the largest boat I'd want for tacking about our harbor. Anything smaller would be too small, anything bigger would be too big. Plus, I love that deep wood cockpit.

    So, depending upon your point of view, I'm either perfecting something that's almost there already, or I'm putting lipstick on a pig.

    Thanks for the backstay idea. I have a request in to get a quote on a long crane masthead like they use on the Seaward 25/26 boats.
     
  9. alan white
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    alan white Senior Member

    No matter which boat you choose, of course, the sail is going to be at a height similar to the Ensign. Your alternatives would have to be faster all around sailers like J24s or 22s. Smaller boats would also have a lot of get up and go like Flying Scots and Rhodes 19s.
     

  10. mcrawf
    Joined: Mar 2012
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    Location: Maine

    mcrawf Junior Member

    Thanks. The J24 is the closest, and is actually a pretty good looking boat. A lot like the modified Ensign with the curved cabin top that SeaSailor55 sketched. It might even look great with a teak or cork deck (or sad -- tough to tell without trying to render it). Unfortunately it doesn't have that long, deep cockpit that will be quite useful for keeping my three-year-old daughter on board.
     
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