Heron dinghy by Jack Holt

Discussion in 'All Things Boats & Boating' started by seasquirt, Dec 31, 2015.

  1. seasquirt
    Joined: Dec 2015
    Posts: 144
    Likes: 61, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: South Australia

    seasquirt Senior Member

    My search for Heron info yielded little on here, so I thought I'd tell of my experiences with them sailing South Australian coastal and inland waters. I am a fan, with little to say that is negative about them (the good ones), except the usual wooden boat gripes of sanding and varnishing / painting, and poor home build workmanship very occasionally. I personally sailed only ply ones, with the gunter rig, standard jib, no spinnaker or oversized jibs.
    Sometimes soft / rotten wood can be found at the keel / centre case area on old boats, from water damage - poor fixing / painting; cut out the rot and replace all soft wood there if repairable; sometimes they can be too bad.
    Bow and side stay attachments can loosen and damage screw / bolt holes and wood; and same for the rudder pivots on the transom.
    Poorly sealed or fixed centreboard cases can move, flex, leak, and self destruct in use if not solidly supported and attached and sealed.
    Some home builders use cheap materials. I have seem floor support frames and mast steps made of MDF - particle board, which are OK until the paint lets water in, then they get soft and fall apart. I have found sheets of automotive bog filling out hollows in the hull, concealing water damage and rot. Centreboards with the pivot hole worn out and hugely enlarged. Body filler bog in spars, mast base square, and around pulley sheaves, waiting to break apart at the worst time. Check that drain bung holes in the wood, the plugs, and housings are effective, not screwed into soggy wood.
    Assume the second hand sails are blown out and baggy, and the sheets will be worn. Check shrouds for kinks, corroded swages, bent eyes, broken wires, and corrosion (even happens in ss). Always but always tie a figure 8 knot in the end of the main sheet, or else.

    I had fun experimenting with alternative sail setups near a yacht club, and got asked if I needed any help: yep I do!
    Jib with wire removed, foot hauled up forestay and jib lying down horizontally with sheets to pulleys at stern, and another jib with the foot hauled up the mast (low) lying down horizontally with excess tops bundled and strapped up at end of boom. It sails and makes way, but the long slot makes the sweet spot for drive very narrow, and tacking at speed is needed or you won't get around. Super stable though.

    Jib in normal usage, but jib on mast inverted upside down - does little - makes the boat more tender, gets the most 'looks' and derogatory comments.

    Jib in normal usage, and another jib hauled up the mast and gaff like a storm sail. It sails beautifully, stays upright, very manageable in worst weather. I sailed in the Coorong in fickle blustery backflushing wind conditions with no real need to dive to the other side in an opposing gust; recommended to try it.

    Two jibs at the forestay, layered together when beating, but when on the run open them out gullwing style and hold out with a whisker pole, and an oar with a whisker pole peg on its end for the other side. In a storm with a following wind I flew with this rig, no mainsail or gaff at all, but used the gaff uphaul attached to the boom, and the main sheets like a backstay, to take some of the strain off the side stays. Beautiful and fully controllable in the worst, except for fighting with whisker poles coming out of their eyes, an equipment issue.

    A tomato stake bowsprit set about 1 1/2 foot out with a jib on it, plus the usual jib, to make the Heron into a ye olde boat; nice to play with but not worth the effort singlehanded - jib sheets everywhere, knotting together with everything else, tacking is a frenzied nightmare and panic, but it looks good!

    Tomato stake pivoting centrally from the bow, transversely - horizontally, with a jib on each end - like it was a catamaran with 2 jibs. It almost works but it is a juggling match. Which tack you are on determines which jib is forward, the stake end at the fore acting like a short bowsprit holding the two jibs apart and creating an effective slot, but again, sheets and tangles everywhere, and the front jib sheets need to be swapped sides each tack. Looks different, and delivers more power, but too much work on short tacks.

    I got a blown out standard Heron mainsail and had the top cut and reinforced, and the leech professionally trimmed to make it into a (no gaff) mast head storm sail, keeping its foot full length. Making a very stable low aspect setup, maybe a little tail heavy and self luffing, but no strain or dramas. Without using the jib it is a bit more tail heavy and self luffing, but still very controllable and fun in a stiff breeze.

    I've done other silly things in HERONS I'll remember later.
  2. seasquirt
    Joined: Dec 2015
    Posts: 144
    Likes: 61, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: South Australia

    seasquirt Senior Member

    I have been camping from a Heron, loading everything forward and low, plastic containers and esky cooler down low, tent and gear next, bedding and bags on top, tarp over the lot tied to foot boards, and kid on top - still crewing, trying not to fall overboard, ploughing through chop 2 feet high in the Coorong, Goolwa, Milang, Meningie, and up the Murray. Unpack and camp on shore. I could only ever sleep in the Heron if dog tired, too much wave slap and movement.

    Be sure to tie or secure everything in, - to solid attachments, not bendy breakable ones. I once lost some good gear after turning turtle at coffin Bay in changeable winds. My bags were bright and floated, and I watched them float away in the tide while I bailed out and regained control, but had no chance of chasing them down in the failing light. I was returning from a camp and was close to the boat ramp, too tired and too close to home to be bothered, so I left it all for some lucky boaties to find.

    On the relative differences, pro's and con's between a Heron and a Mirror, from my observations racing in all weather:
    In light airs and flat waters, the Mirror has it over the Heron all day. For kids learning and simplicity, fair weather sailing they are great; there are less controls to learn on a Mirror. But if there is more than 8 inches of chop, the pram front becomes a battering ram and you stop. If the wind blows up or becomes blustery and changeable, they fall over easily; more easily than a Heron anyway. Wind with swell and chop on top - forget it, drop everything, and get towed in.
    Racing at Lake Bonney and at Adelaide beaches, the Mirrors had spinnakers for light airs and did well - until conditions changed. If the wind dropped out and it became glassy, they would waft about more easily than a Heron, but if the wind and chop came up in the afternoon the tide and waves would take them, while the Herons ploughed on. As a small kid I crewed through several line squalls at sea, and on 5 metre swell with whitecap chop on top in about 20 knots, hanging on for grim death, watching the bigger boat's masts disappear between crests, and rode it all out in a little Heron in full sail; lucky dad really knew how to sail.

    The Wikipedia entry on the Heron's robustness is true. After a race, and when the afternoon sea breeze, the tide, and the swell got together to make 4 foot waves, (or bigger) along Adelaide's beaches, we still had to get onshore. The drill was to slacken things off but keep speed and control, loosen the rudder ready to swing up but don't lift it - you need full quick steering, and the crew uncleats the centreboard but holds it while holding the uncleated jib sheet, and leaning to stern to keep the bow up. Keep the power on and pick a wave to surf in on, match the speed and stay stern on square to the wave no matter what, if you get sideways now it's all over. The crew keeps the centreboard down and lets it come up under control, (not flapping and bouncing about) as the depth shallows quickly, let off all the sheets about 3 or 4 seconds before you hit the beach, raise the rudder, the wave crashes over the transom, sand and water everywhere, sails flailing, sheets whacking about, chock the centreboard up, remove the rudder, turn the boat into the wind and drag it out of the wash, then breathe.

    Learner's inexpensive simple fun car topper - Mirror.

    Capable versatile inexpensive proper small yacht - Heron
    That's why I reckon one could be re-made into a sturdy 10 foot round the world boat. ! ? See my other post.
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