Is this idea possible?

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by HillenbrandG, Apr 21, 2011.

  1. HillenbrandG
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    HillenbrandG Junior Member

    So, I've long though about getting myself a boat, but it's not exactly the "normal" sort, so to speak. What I have in mind is something inspired by history, focusing around the time frame between 1775 and 1814.

    The thing is, though, I'd like it to be entirely manageable by one person. I'm not looking for any complicated sail plan, but I would like to have either a cabin or even a covered space in the back I could spend the night in, and have some modern electronics for safety purposes. Also, I would like to have a small engine for the boat, again for emergency purposes.

    The last request may seem a bit bizarre, but, I've always been fascinated by historic firearms, and boats. One of the goals I would have is to have a single cannon in the bow, fully functional. Many may ask why, but, the simple response is, "Why not?"

    Is it possible to have a boat design that would fulfill all of my desires, or is this simply a pipe dream?

    Thanks for your time, patience, and not laughing too much!

    -Greg
     
  2. daiquiri
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    daiquiri Engineering and Design

    Interesting... The main question here is - is it legally possible for private civilian ships to mount a working gun on board?
     
  3. HillenbrandG
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    HillenbrandG Junior Member

    The ownership of cannon is perfectly legal, as it falls under federal firearms laws as an antique. (Any non-cartridge firing, pre-1898 counts as an antique, and therefore isn't regulated.) I don't think it's an issue to mount it on a boat.
     
  4. BATAAN
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    BATAAN Senior Member

    In 1999 at the Historic Ships affair in Seattle there was a 1812 ship's boat replica, dipping lugsails, that had a 4 pounder in the bow that was most impressive.
    Another historic ship of the era is one of Benedict Arnold's gunboats.
    How about the PHILADELPHIA? At 1/2 size with an outboard.
    http://www.lcmm.org/our_fleet/philadelphia.htm
    Note on cannons on vessels and the CG.
    They say it's ok to have powder OR projectiles but not both aboard. This from the historic charter fleet like LADY WASHINGTON and HAWAIIAN CHIEFTAIN that regularly stage furious cannon battles 3 times a day.
    When I was Captain of the NINA it was the same for our small saluting gun.
    Seems it becomes a dangerous weapon if you put a cannonball and powder in it at the same time. Having dealt with firing everything up to 12 pounders on historic ships, I can verify this.
    Don't wad with wet newspapers to make it louder! This has ruptured tubes.
    See http://www.southbendreplicas.com/for a mouth watering catalog of cool replica artillery from small to very very large.
    In the late 60s when I was in the CG we had a Lyle gun at our Life Boat Station that we'd practice with even though it was long obsolete. This 3 foot piece of brass would throw a heavy sash weight with a line attached a half mile (very interesting line box that empties in about a second) when asked to so was treated with respect, especially as the recoil would send the whole gun flying off its retaining slide and tumbling end over end down the sandy beach so both ends were dangerous.
    A cannon is not the same in the eyes of the law as a flintlock pistol.
     

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  5. BATAAN
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    BATAAN Senior Member

  6. Dirteater
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    Dirteater Senior Member

    Hi Hillen,

    "did someone say "Ramming Speed"? :D
    size?
    I would the wieght on the bow would be a concern as well.
     
  7. HillenbrandG
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    HillenbrandG Junior Member

    Well, at least the issue with the cannon is resolved. Of course, I wouldn't have any shot on board...

    Now, I am a huge fan of the Philly, but, I don't think one man could manage that sail plan. Is there such a sail plan that would be manageable by one person?

    I would be willing to sacrifice historic authenticity for the ability to manage it alone, but, if possible, I would go for something appropriate for the period.
     
  8. HillenbrandG
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    HillenbrandG Junior Member

    And for size, I think 20 - 30 feet would be plenty for my goals, but if I'm mistaken, please let me know.
     
  9. Dirteater
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    Dirteater Senior Member

    I'm not a designer so I can't really say.
    I do think your Philly boat idea would show promise
    as I would imagine you could find plans or perhaps
    purchase something already built.

    I find the your "heritage" style approach interesting.

    DE
     
  10. BATAAN
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    BATAAN Senior Member

    Square rig is easy to handle in a small size and a 26 foot flat bottomed PHILADELPHIA would be very cheap to build. You could save the topsail for those times when you have crew along. The lines of the original show marked fullness forward to carry the weight of the gun. One comparable vessel with a close resemblance but much larger is a "Humber Keel", a single masted square rigged 80 to 100 ton UK barge that was often crewed by a man and his wife, so handling the rig is not an issue.
    Any historic replica of a naval sort has to face the fact that the original was heavily manned, and their design reflects that.
     
  11. HillenbrandG
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    HillenbrandG Junior Member

    This provides for some interesting thoughts. I looked up the Gunboat Philly to try to find some models of it (simply because my own pictures don't give me a terribly complete idea), and this is what I found (which is quite helpful)

    http://www.johnsmilitaryhistory.com/gunboat.html

    It looks like the aft part could easily be planked over (and I think was designed to do so in the first place) to form a cabin.

    How would a single, square rigged, flat bottomed gunboat handle? I worry it might sag to leeward without a keel. Further, might it be possible to remove the center-placed bow cannon and put a bowsprit on it, so a spritsail might be employed? (I hope my terminology isn't off...)

    In essence, would it be worth it, and would it make sense, to put a keel on the bottom to prevent it from drifting, putting a bowsprit on the front both to make it more elegant, and give it better handling capabilities, and would I then be able to swap one center-focused bow cannon to two smaller sized bow cannons to either side of the bowsprit?

    And, I realize nobody could really give an official estimate, but, what do you think it might cost (sans cannon?)
     
  12. gonzo
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    gonzo Senior Member

    You are talking as if all boats were the same in that era. Then, like now, there were hundreds of different types. A flat bottom gunboat is essentially a sharpie. However, mounting a cannon will get you in trouble with the law. The maximum caliber that is not regulated is .75".
     
  13. BATAAN
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    BATAAN Senior Member

    Real full size replica PHILADELPHIA manages 4 or 5 knots running in a good breeze. Will reach a little but not go to windward at all. Putting a keel on it will help a little, but not much. Yes, a spritsail and jib on running bowsprit are authentic and work just fine, giving more area and better performance.
    Your approach from the historic "re-theatric" look and feel is novel and worthy of some thought. But what you have in mind seems to be more "ship" than "boat". Few historic armed vessels had a crew of one.
    More on the PHILADELPHIA idea.
    Remember, this was a Naval craft with quite limited stability as an open boat and had to have full ends and an absolutely dead flat bottom to work at all, making it a slow dog. The deck weight, especially forward, of cannons is bad and only there because your enemy is supposed to be in front of you.
    For your use you may consider that one swivel gun amidships can repel boarders from all sides. South Bend sells a dandy with about a 1 1/4" bore.
    You must build in positive flotation because a sharpie or barge of this short length can be upset in the wrong conditions. These types of vessel get better when they are longer.
    During the early Revolution and again in 1812 anything that floated qualified as a war vessel and many daring deeds were done from whaleboats and scow sloops by both sides preying on each others' shipping.
    One decision is open "small" boat or decked "big" boat?
    If building a cheap shallow draft fast flat bottomed anything, a deck makes the hull stronger and helps prevent total disaster when heeling.
    Here are a couple of later period largish historic North American cheapo fast sailers that are well developed, but don't like being made significantly smaller or shorter or being changed much if you want to keep good sailing qualities. I've included Howard Chapelle's comments on the type as there is little other info available. Sorry the pages are out of order.
    They usually had a crew of 2 because they did most loading and unloading themselves, but one good sailor could easily handle a 40 foot scow sloop most of the time. The real limiting factors were and remain the weight of ground tackle pulled by hand windlass and size/weight of mainsail. The 39' Bay of Fundy boat might work at 30 feet but no smaller. Being shallow and light she's quite fast and handy and will surprise the heck out of some people when they try to catch her. Keep the house in scale and she'd even be cute.
    As to cost, it's by the pound, like steak.
    A "chopped beef" budget planked boat like this maybe $2-$4 per lb if built like original, which means less than perfect pine and oak, caulked with oakum and cement and pitch, and almost all nails and spikes and low/no labor costs (you do it). This gives the usual fishboat 12-15 year design life.
    If modern or exotic materials (ply epoxy Awlgrip paint etc) double or triple the price and double the design life.
    So if a 7000 lb boat, from $15k to $30k++, (just wild guessing displacement of a 30' version of Bay of Fundy scow built light).
    To contrast, a "steak" boat like a curvy Friendship sloop is about $7 a pound for cheap original construction oak/pine/nails with little interior, and $20 a pound and up for pro yacht build with bronze screws or glued construction, perfect wood, with outside ballast, etc.
    For very cheap, a big, widened 25 foot historic Bateau, which much resembles a dory, could be made of ply and glass, fly a sprit and jib rig and carry a very small gun amidships. With a conventional pivoting centerboard it would sail reasonably well, could be run on the beach easily and would be quite practical as well as historic since they were widely used in both wars on the lakes and rivers and of course were armed.
    It's still an open boat though.
    Putting a cabin on it is another matter and would have to be very small and light, or removable canvas.
    You could probably build something like that for $5k for 10-12 year life.
    Remember, the actual, historic vessels used at the time were made quickly with hand tools and there was nothing "yacht" about them in build, rig or use. We who are used to looking at modern manufactured boats would be rather shocked seeing axe and adze marks, roughly planed surfaces instead of smoothly sanded, hand-sewn sails, hemp shrouds and stockholm tar and tallow smeared about. That's how they actually were and few modern replicas are that cheap and authentic, but seem to get very smooth and expensive by the time they are done.
    It's easy to get carried away.
     

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  14. HillenbrandG
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    HillenbrandG Junior Member

    This is all extremely helpful. In my minds-eye, I envision a relatively deeper-draft vessel. Something with a keel, and maybe half-decked. Or "sort-of" decked like the Gunboat Philly. I would think that if the mast were moved a bit more aft, with a bowsprit out front, you could avoid the boat from getting overpressed, particularly if you had a relatively short sail plan.

    I did up a real fast picture in paint (I don't have access to a scanner where I'm at, so nice hand-scrabbled sketches are out of the question), and I wonder if a sail plan like this, while unconventional, might actually answer fairly well.
     

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  15. BATAAN
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    BATAAN Senior Member

    See the thread "Aft mast rigs".
     
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