John Spencer's designs

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Milan, May 20, 2005.

  1. Dambo
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    Dambo New Member

    So, while I'm not sure of the etiquette involved in re-opening old threads...

    I'm interested in any history for my wee Serendipity "Schzando". She has a modified keel and rudder, built by a "Mc Duff" - my understanding from another Serendipity owner and sailing friends, is that she's very tender.

    I've done my best the last couple of years but a 40yo plywood boat that wasn't very well maintained by the last owner(s) means that I'm cutting and gluing ever year (last year dropped the keel and did some extensive welding) To be honest I would be concerned going any further than Kawau say... On the other hand, I've had her record 9.5 knots (land speed/GPS) and submerged my inflatable dingy I was trailing at the time, so have pressed her pretty hard (tight spinnaker in 20 knots breeze) Fun boat, very forgiving, goes at 4 knots everywhere until you find her groove (reaching hard on the chine) and then she's heaps of fun. Only really comes into her own at 20knots breeze.

    http://bayimg.com/hAPMkaaFH
    [​IMG]
     
  2. Alan Dowler
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    Alan Dowler Junior Member

    spencer serendipity

    hi folks -- with these rare threads of spencer serendipity surfacing, thought you might be interested in one we restored recently. 40 yrs old but still competes in twilight club races albeit quite handicapped and needs full allocated race time to get around the course.
    P1010122.jpg

    P1010127.jpg
     
  3. Martin B.
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    Martin B. Junior Member

    Alan, beautiful job ! Great to see older yachts of quality being kept alive and sailing. Can not do better than a John Spencer in a chine design.
    Great idea of the shelter workshop for the overhaul. Trust "Balancing Act" enjoys her next life.
     
  4. Dambo
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    Dambo New Member

    Wow. Alan that's an awesome job. As the last poster said, so good to see some of these old boats being given a new lease on life.
     
  5. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member

    Thanks for reviving the thread, Alan, and sorry for missing your old post Danbo. Balancing Act looks lovely; where is she racing?

    Since the performance of the Serendipity has been discussed, I thought I'd mention what I've found out from personal experience and research I did years ago. (EDIT - there's a fair bit of repetition of information on an earlier post, apologies). When I was a kid we had a Serendipity that was about as fast as the slightly newer masthead quarter tonners; we weren't sailing it very well. Years later I got my own and put on an old Etchells rig, but despite owning her for decades we haven't done too much racing; some twilights and some offshore racing between Lake Macquarie and Batemans Bay.

    I've got information from people like the former national measurer for the JOG (the now-extinct small offshore yacht class), the former handicapper for Yachting Victoria, race results and information from the IRC and other rules. In general, a standard or lightly modified Serendipity is about as quick as a Seaway 25, Holland 25, Sonata 8, Noelex 25, Castle 650, or Thunderbird. It's about 3-4% slower than an East Coast 31, Cavalier 32, Defiance 30 or other old classic half ton.

    Downwind in a breeze, the standard boat does a lot better, not surprisingly, and can beat or pace the East Coasts, Cavaliers and other old halves especially in a swell where the lighter Serendipity can surf beautifully. Boats like El Encierro, Finesse (?) and Anenome have done this in long races like the Gladstone, Melbourne-Devonport and Coffs Harbour races in the days when little boats still did big races.

    The thing with the Serendipity as a racer is that while it's a delightfully easy boat to sail, it's deceptively hard to sail fast; something that applies in most ways to all boats but particularly to this one. The rig is small so unless you have good light wind sails and know how to trim them, you struggle in light winds. The narrow stern means that while the boat is extremely stable at high angles of heel due to the low ballast placement, she heels beyond her fastest angle easily so you need crew on the rail (and that doesn't mean sitting in the cockpit or on the cabin roof, but on the rail with legs out) and you need good gust response which you don't get with the standard mast, older sails and casual mainsheet technique.

    Modifying the boat with a fractional rig (old Etchells mast and main in my case) makes a big difference because you can power the boat up in light winds with the bigger main, and your upwind speed is improved because you can tune the rig and play the main more effectively. We were rated by JOGNSW as 4-5% faster than the standard Serendipity and only 2% slower than the much bigger and newer Dubois, Farr, Maestro 31 and Whiting half tonners. That was actually pretty harsh but after fitting a secondhand spade rudder years later, we found that the boat was about that quick; we were second fastest (IIRC) out of 13 half tonners in the inaugural Sydney-Batemans Bay regatta, beaten only by a well-sailed and very well equipped Farr and ahead of a couple of Petersons and a gaggle of Cavaliers, Defiances, Currawongs etc.

    My boat now has an Etchells main and mast, with short overlap headsails (second hand carbon tape sails that were formerly small jibs on a Hick 30 sportsyacht), spade rudder and an outboard. We've only done a few twilight races in that mode and even then it was before I could tune the rig and clean the bottom, but apart from the fact that she's very scruffy (my fault) she's a lovely package; fast, easy to sail and with good accommodation for her size. The short overlap fractional rig is simply fantastic; fast, easy to handle and with an enormous wind range.
     
  6. vladan
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    vladan New Member

    Hi guys,

    Im just about to purchase Spencer 48 sailing yacht. Apparently from 1982.
    I would be more than grateful if somebody can give me any information or plans.
    regards
    Vladan
     
  7. Alan Dowler
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    Alan Dowler Junior Member

    Hi -- 2 main problems with Spencer designs of that vintage -- 1st one relates to the designs themselves in that the quest for reduced hull weight saw the fin keel attachment area with barely enough foundation to stop the keel flexing port/starboard -- To be more accurate, the keel itself wasn't flexing, but the immediate area of the bilges surrounding where the keel was bolted on would flex even on a well constructed new hull. As the years progressed, the flexing eventually lead to water ingress and a "softening" of that area of bilge. I witnessed this when a ply Spencer 29 turned turtle during a river race in 1989 after its bilges gave way and the keel broke its way free never to be found beneath years of silt on the river bed --- strangely the boat itself didn't go down after it, but drifted on it's side long enough to reach the shallows where it stuck it's mast in the mud and was eventually retrieved, thereafter being converted to a swing keel trailer sailer.
    2nd problem of that vintage is that it was the early days of epoxy and many of the boats were still built using Resorcinol glue. If that design required double diagonal ply construction, and did not use epoxy, it's by now a disaster waiting to happen -- buy the boat for it's rigging sails and motor value and be prepared to take a chainsaw to the entire bilge 30ft + and replace the soggy mess you'll find. Or find an honest surveyor with electronic probing equipment for every square inch beneath the waterline --- If it were me, I would go as far as wanting a core sample or two from strategic places on a vessel that big -- unless you can do this work yourself on your own property (no yard space rental ) the cost of labour/cranes/road/transport both ways, alone would be as much as you would pay for a steel Roberts or Boden that you can step onto, go sailing, insure, and sell --- Go hard on the diligence -- They cost more than women, best not to fall love with them --- good luck :)
     
  8. Alan Dowler
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    Alan Dowler Junior Member

    re re Spencer 48

    Just noticed you are from Sydney and I suspect I have also looked at the same boat on boatpoint --- Be particularly diligent in assessing hull moisture ingress and the vessel's insurability and resale-ability -- its been on the the market for a while now mooring costs are big for a 48ft boat -- cheers
     
  9. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member

    The bilge issue isn't one I've noticed in my own Serendipity, although she's cold moulded. The boat fell over on the hard stand two years back which was probably a pretty significant structural test, and the only result in the keel area was understandable slight cracking. Similarly, there's no visible movement when the boat is lifted on or off the keel.

    The Resorcinol glue lifespan issue is interesting - some stuff on the web gives good Resorcinol a very high rating in that area.
     
  10. vladan
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    vladan New Member

    Thank you
     
  11. vladan
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    vladan New Member

    Thank you,
     
  12. vladan
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    vladan New Member

    It is funny how no information on web in spite of the size, reputation of the builder/ designer etc
     
  13. Martin B.
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    Martin B. Junior Member

    Never noticed any bilge problem with my Scimitar 35' which was driven hard in the rough choppy Indian Ocean. The hog ( main longitudenal member) was about 250mm wide and the keelbolts at lest 8 of them came up thru the hog and the sawn timber frames/floors.
    The skin was a single 3/8" ply although the plans also showed 2 layers of 3/16" as an option.
    Original keelnbolts were epoxy covered steel which was JS's normal method at the time of the Scimitar design. During one haulout, drew one bolt and decided to replace all keelbolts with Swarbrick Bros supplied monel bolts with "dumped up" heads.
    Details of reshaped keel and new deeper rudder moved further aft are somewhere in post above in this(?) Thread.
    My Scimitar never showed any softness in the bilges.
     
  14. Alan Dowler
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    Alan Dowler Junior Member

    spencer bilges

    Ill attempt with my IT retardation, to upload a couple of pics I found of a Spencer serendipity that suffered a wobbly keel through soft bilges , and a quite impressive repair.

    Interesting to see the spacing and composition of the original frames compared to the repaired hull --- original frames seem particularly light and probably would have needed substantial floors for stiffening. The repair seems to have addressed that by halving rib spacing, and adding intermediate load spreading sub frames to the bilges surrounding the keel attachment area inside hull 1.jpg

    inside hull 3.jpg

    inside hull 4.jpg
     

  15. CT249
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    CT249 Senior Member

    Very interesting pics - many thanks for posting them.

    I'm 99.9% sure that the boat in those pics was NOT to plan, in either the original or modified version. The Serendipity
    28* study plans, the three timber boats I've been aboard and pics of other boats like one currently for sale in NZ quite clearly show that the main frames are so big that they protrude through the floorboards. At their highest point, the frames would be about 6-7" (from memory) above the inner surface of the hull planking. These frames are about 2.5-3" thick and made from three laminations. The designed frames are therefore MUCH bigger than those in the boat in the pics.

    My boat also has floors of laminated ply, about 1.25" thick (top to bottom) and 10-12" fore and aft measurement, spaced about 3' apart. The floorboards sit on these and are divided into three sections fore-and-aft, with each section separated by the main frames that stick well above the floorboards. I'm 90% sure that these frames and floors extend all the way out to the chine. I assume from Spencer's articles that the laminated floors are standard, although they can't be seen in pics of other boats.

    Spencer's articles always made the point that his hulls were the same weight as most others of their time; for example his 62' Infidel had a slightly heavier hull (IIRC) than the contemporary 60' S&S Ta Aroa. Similarly, the Serendipity has a hull of similar weight as other small halves such as the Gary Mull Santana 28, Farr's Tituscanby, etc etc.

    Where Spencer saved weight was by having a ballast ratio of 33 1/3% compared to the 50% of most contemporary boats. He did this and maintained high ultimate stability by having hollow keels with long bases which were effectively bulb keels. Therefore there was no need to try to strip weight out of the structure.


    * the "Serendipity 29" seems to be a rather odd SA label. The study plans, boat tests and ads from production builders in old mags all show that the design was 28' long, as do the IRC, IOR and JOG measurement certificates I've seen (from Anenome, El Encierro and Radiant). There was one Serendipity 29, which was Rush from Qld. She was a replacement for the owner's standard Serendipity, El Encierro, but Rush had the sections spaced out to make her longer.

    The boats that are often sold as S29s in SA appear to be clearly 28s from the production line that began with Koa Atea, now modified and in Vic. I assume there's been a case of yachtbroker's tape measure going on.

    The Modern Boating test of Koa Atea, by the way, says that the 'glass boats were something like 1" of solid 'glass around the centreline.

    I know about one semi-flush deck trailable that raced in SA; I think she was cut down to 27' and was had a fractional rig. I envy the CBH she had - she was rated slower than the quarter tonner types (Seaway 25s, Sonatas etc) whereas my modified S28 was rated about 4-5% quicker than S25s and S8s, right among the newer half tonners!
     
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