Lightning class weakpoints??

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by jimi aloa, Sep 23, 2009.

  1. jimi aloa
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    Location: Ecuador

    jimi aloa Junior Member

    I was given a mid 70's fiberglass Lightning and I have started to do general repairs on it with the idea of maybe coastal cruising off the coast of Ecuador where I'm located. Since I have to do some work on it such as repair some of the deck to hull joint, reinforce the deck and paint it, I started to think that maybe there was something else that I should do to it while I'm at it. I'm aware that the boat is a racer and not really designed for two-handed cruising but it's the only boat that I have.....
    Thanks
     
  2. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    If you are not planning on beaching the boat, a small shallow ballast keel with a slot for the board will make it easier to sail
     
  3. bistros

    bistros Previous Member

    The Lightning is a historic dinghy design, and does not need a ballast keel added. It has a huge (usually steel) metal centerboard. By today's standards, the Lightning is already very heavy.

    Adding a ballast keel to the Lightning would probably severely affect it's sailing abilities for the worse.

    Lightnings are still sailed in huge fleets in the United States. Things to note is that they don't easily self rescue from capsizes with serious attention paid to auxiliary flotation. The rig is very tunable and tweaky to get to high performance levels. Three crew are required to race.

    If your boat is solid, you invest in some well installed and maintained air bags for flotation, and you are reasonable about conditions, your abilities and plan for safety a Lightning is a great boat for day sailing. I would definitely test your abilities to self rescue, and practice it well doing capsize and recover drills, as you will not have safety boats around daysailing in your venue.

    Don't ruin a great boat by grafting on a keel!

    --
    Bill
     
  4. jimi aloa
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    Location: Ecuador

    jimi aloa Junior Member

    Bill,

    All very reasonable advise especially the practising the self rescuing part :)

    I agree with you also on the "ruining a great boat" part, it's a large dinghy and not a keel boat.

    The boat has sealed air chambers under the seats, would the airbags be in addition to these or placed inside them?

    I've heard that the rig is a bit fragile... and any ideas on sun protection??

    Thanks
     
  5. bistros

    bistros Previous Member


    As far as the air bags goes, I'd soap test the air chambers that are present now. Find a way to connect a fan to an inlet to the chambers creating postiive pressure inside the chamber. Then use a sponge soaked with soapy water and put a good amount of wet soapy water on all the seams & egress points of the chamber. Anywhere you see bubbles, you've got a problem. Check the gaskets out on all access hatches etc.

    If the chambers can hold air without letting in water too fast, only external air bags should be added. If the chambers leak (and I expect they will), adding internal air bladders is a good idea. Don't add foam or pool noodles - they'll just become water retention devices to bring the boat weight up.

    If the chambers are toast, removing excess bulkhead material to make way for airbags might be a good idea. Bags can be had fairly cheap, problems are immediately obvious, and dry bags you use to pack stuff for daysailing can be good flotation as well. If you are shorthanded (2 or less) I'd consider putting a airbag on top of the mast to prevent turtling as well.

    If you can work out a reliable recovery process that works, you are ready for action!

    The rig is generally very robust if aluminum tube is used, if it's wood, maintenance is the key. Make sure the standing rigging is good, and everything makes sense. As long as your rigging doesn't allow silly things like inversion to happen, it should be fine. Check the mast step and chainplates are well.

    Good luck and have fun!

    --
    Bill
     
  6. messabout
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    messabout Senior Member

    The Lightning has been used as a protected water cruising boat on many occasions. One cruiser that comes to mind is that of a young fellow who sailed his lightning, single handed, along the entire east coast of the US. He used the intercoastal waterways where he could. I know of a different lightning that has had a small cuddy cabin attached. It works well enough for beach cruising.

    The other guys have given wise advice about testing the self rescue aspect before you commit to serious cruising.
     
  7. jimi aloa
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    Location: Ecuador

    jimi aloa Junior Member

    hum....a small cuddy cabin..anybody have any pictures/ideas?
     
  8. Paul J. Nolan
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    Paul J. Nolan Junior Member

    A Lightning is a marvelous boat; I've owned four of them. You don't say who built your boat or what her number is, so it is difficult to comment beyond some generalities. The mid-seventies era was still early in the development of fiberglass Lightnings and the principle concern I'd have, especially for cruising where one is left to one's own devices in case of mishap, is your boat's self-rescuing capability; modern Lightnings built by Nickels or Allen after 1980 or so (boat numbers 13,300 and higher) are self rescuing but most boats from your era are not. The way to determine this is to capsize the boat on a nice calm summer day in front of your club while you have someone standing by in another boat to assist you. This won't tell you the whole story, because when you capsize while cruising it may well be an hour before dark, in cold water, with five foot swells, and blowing twenty. But it will at least give you a starting point. A wooden mast, while making racing impossible, is an asset to a cruiser because it makes turtling significantly less likely. An aluminum mast will go right on over 'til it's pointing at the bottom. Some aluminum masts have lengths of foam in them to reduce this tendency, but a lot do not. The suggestion of flotation aloft is a good one, especially if you will be singlehanding. A sailmaker can sew a foam pad into the head of the mainsail; some classes require this, especially some catamarans. Make sure you have a centerboard retainer--a short piece of cleated line that prevents the board from retracting fully into the trunk--this will keep the tip of the board exposed permitting you to grasp it and withdraw the board from the case when the boat is upside down. Once you know your boat's self-rescuing capabilities, you can plan on how to proceed. Checking the integrity of your air tanks is good advice. This can be done by blowing air into the tanks and applying a soap solution to the joints where the tanks meet the hull or deck and watching for air bubbles. I would think someone blowing through a hose (seal the opening with duct tape) would suffice. I recall reading somewhere not to use a vacuum cleaner operating in reverse; it's too powerful.

    In deciding whether to add flotation or not, remember you will be righting the boat under severe conditions and you will have to get her up right away--before you are exhausted by the effort and the elements--and the boat will need enough flotation to permit you and the crew to clamber aboard while she's swamped and sail the boat dry. In thinking about flotation, consider the amount necessary, where it should be located in order to be effective both when the boat is on her side and upright but swamped. Lastly, recall that if you dump with a good chop running, as is likely to be the case, the forces involved as the waves throw the boat around will want to rip that flotation right out of the boat (another reason to get her up fast.) If you use bags, make sure that they are extremely strongly attached to the boat. If you use foam, make sure it is well glassed in; not just held there by a couple of pieces of fiberglass tape.

    Having said all that, I hope I haven't scared you away from cruising your boat. If I were in your shoes, I wouldn't do anything to my boat beyond inspecting her and repairing any obvious defects, such as are to be found in an old boat (and a lot of defects may be safely ignored--such as a very minor delamination.) I would take the boat on a cruise in sheltered water in an area where there are other people to assist if trouble arises (though one can never count on outside assistance for one's safety afloat.) An inland lake in the summer, with enough cottages around it not to be remote would suffice. Keep an eye on the weather, be conservative in your decisions, and always have some plan of action should the weather turn bad.

    You should decide whether you will sleep ashore in a tent or on board. If aboard, which would be my choice, it shouldn't be too difficult to fabricate plywood inserts that turn the seating area into a sleeping platform. They could stow under the foredeck. A boom tent, a styrofoam cooler for some food, and a small camp stove to heat your coffee and you're good to go. What you will learn on one or two low-key cruises will show you what needs to be done to your boat and yourself for more ambitious outings!

    Good luck!

    Paul

    (And don't even think of adding a keel! That's the worst suggestion since someone said to Mackenzie Phillips, "Try this." A ballasted Lightning with that wonderfully large cockpit is certain to wind up on the bottom. How far can you swim?)
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2009
  9. Paul J. Nolan
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    Paul J. Nolan Junior Member

    A couple more thoughts. The Lightning spinnaker is a beautiful, large, and powerful chute. Most capsizes occur under this sail. So if you have doubts about your ability or your boat's self rescuing capability, restrict the use of that sail to winds under 10-12 mph. And remember, when a puff hits while you're under the spinnaker, you head down, not up!

    I would never put a cuddy on a Lightning. It will destroy the boat's appearance and her resale value. It will add a lot of weight and it's added up high where we least want it. A cuddy will screw up the weight distribution by forcing the crew aft, thus destroying the boat's sailing qualities, the very thing that will give you so much pleasure and enjoyment while underway. It will be difficult and aggravating to get in and out of the cuddy because the seat is in the way. The seat cannot be gotten rid of because it stabilizes and supports the centerboard trunk. There will be almost no room under the cuddy because the mast and centerboard trunk will take up most of the space. And you will quickly realize that sleeping in the bilge results in that most awful nightmare: wet bedding. Trust me, you want to keep that wonderful cockpit and do your sleeping on a platform under a boom tent.

    If I were to beach cruise a Lightning, I would buy two extra used jibs and have one cut down by my sailmaker to use as a heavy weather jib, especially if I was sailing alone. I'd have the sailmaker recut the other as a storm trysail (don't laugh; it could save the day in certain circumstances.) Pay attention to sheet leads for both and to hardware compatibility (e.g., if you have an oval aluminum spar, the sailmaker will have to install a boltrope on the luff of the "trysail.") I'd have two rows of reef points put in the main and appropriate hardware mounted on the boom, although it might be cheaper and easier just to buy a used mainsail and have it cut down into a heavy-weather sail.

    I'd also carry two anchors of perhaps 25 lbs. each and of different types, probably a CQR plow and a Bruce--or a Herreshoff if the area had rocky or weedy bottoms--with five fathoms of rather heavy chain and more nylon rode than I might think I'd need. You can always use it as a warp. When it comes to ground tackle, if other "sailors" scoff and tease you about it being oversized, you'll know it's about right.

    Remember that in a dinghy everything--Everything!--must be tied to the boat. If you should dump her, you'll want to be able to concentrate on righting the boat, not swimming all about trying to secure your gear as it floats away.

    I would also buy two oars and three rowlocks, two for rowing and one for sculling. But I wouldn't make this purchase without having given a lot of thought to the location of the hardware and the lengths of the oars. I'd specify ash oars with flat blades.

    One weak spot on these older boats is the rudder/tiller. If you have a wood rudder and tiller, I would suggest reinforcing the rudder from about 3-4" below the cheeks up to the top-where the tiller connects--with a layer or two of glass. Busted rudders are not unheard of. I'd also wrap fiber glass tape around the after half of the tiller; I've broken tillers bearing off in a heavy puff under the chute. As I said, the chute can build up some real force. While you're at it, if you have a wood spinnaker pole, I'd wrap some fiberglass tape around that, as well.

    Make sure your hiking straps are strong and well secured and your hiking stick is up to any task. It is very difficult to sail the boat in a breeze without them. And should your hiking strap let go, you will probably go overboard. Not a good thing, especially if you're singlehanding.

    You will also need some way to secure anchor rodes and dock lines to the boat. At a minimum I'd have a strong (and strongly mounted and fastened) bow eye and two eyes on the transom. You may also want chocks and cleats on deck.

    All of these hardware items can be filled in as you go. It is important to enjoy your boat. Get an anchor and a sleeping bag. Construct a crude sleeping platform (you can always make it better later) and go on a three day cruise in sheltered water in fair weather. Write down in a notebook everything you learn. Do this for several weekends before you attempt other equipment improvements. You'll have a better idea of what you need and you'll enjoy doing the work much more.

    Again, good luck and enjoy every minute aboard your boat!

    Paul
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2009
  10. Paul J. Nolan
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    Paul J. Nolan Junior Member

    Please forgive me for running on so long, but the idea of cruising in a small open boat has always appealed to me and doing it in a Lightning--well, it's hard to get it out of my mind tonight. You mentioned that you'd be cruising in the ocean off the coast of Ecuador. I am not familiar with that region. There are coasts and then there are coasts. In the United States we have the coast of Maine which is very irregular, filled with bays, harbors, islands...there is almost always shelter at hand and no passage needs to be very long. And as another member pointed out we have the Intracostal Waterway which runs along most of the east coast, fine for dinghy cruising. On the other hand we also have the west coast of Oregon and Washington which are mostly devoid of shelter. What refuge exists are harbors that can be entered only by crossing a bar, which, of course, one cannot do when one is most desperately in need of shelter. Still worse, this coast is completely open to the prevailing westerly winds and the huge waves that they can generate. I wouldn't want to cruise that coast in any boat, and I don't think anyone does.

    Assuming the coast of Ecuador is cruisable, and cruisable by dinghy, for real open water in a 70's era lightning, I'd consider installing a transverse bulkhead just forward of the mast and another at the after edge of the cockpit. These would be water tight with an opening sealed by a substantial piece of plywood bolted in place, perhaps with a captive bolt and wing nut system. The hull-deck joint is not airtight; it must be made so with layers of fiberglass tape. The idea being that the foredeck and afterdeck are sealed off before getting under way and not broken into until anchordown at the end of the day. Anything necessary for the passage--food, water, charts, etc.--would be gotten out before departure and stowed in the cockpit while underway. Even with airtight lockers fore and aft, I'd still want flotation along the sides as well. I'd probably have two airbags under each side deck to aid the seat tanks, assuming your boat has seat tanks. Remember Olin Stephens didn't design the Lightning to be an open water cruiser; Ian Proctor did design the Wayfarer to be just that. As much as I love the Lightning--which is a lot!--the Wayfarer would be my first choice for singlehanding in open water. I think that in a Lightning, I'd look towards cruises in more sheltered water.

    Paul
     
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  11. jimi aloa
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    Location: Ecuador

    jimi aloa Junior Member

    Thanks!! You are just what I was looking for! Someone who understands (and loves) Lightnings. And of course, you are not rambling on..it's a lot of good first hand information for me.

    First of all, my hull is number 11103. I believe it's a Lippincott and it has an oval, aluminum mast i.e. no self-rescuing capability.

    Checking the air tanks under the seats for leaks is now on the list of things to do. Extra flotation is going to be a must but I'm not sure location or quantity. I had thought about maybe glassing in both of the extra bulkheads fore and aft (especially since I think the foredeck has delaminated a bit from the foam core and needs to be strengthen anyway) as you mentioned and glueing in maybe 2 inch foam sheets to the undersides of the decks inside those air cavities...

    The hull-deck seam is not water-tight at all and is of course a major weak spot to keeping water out. The seam at the moment is bolted in some areas and screwed in others with a bit of silicone smeared around the outside. I was thinking about opening the seam up and using 3M 5200 as a seal, bolting it up and reinforcing it with fiberglass tape as you said. The fiber glass tape would have to be applied from the outside in that case right....?

    The rudder is wood and will be reinforced as you pointed out. Cuddy cabin is ruled out and I'll investigate airbags under the side decks inside the seats.

    As far as sails, gear, etc go for now they are not so much my concern since that is still a ways off. I've got to get the hull in shape and than move on to the rig which is another story.

    As far as cruising Ecuador is concerned there are a lot of coastal towns with wide, sandy beaches that are reachable durning daylight hours as long as you are going from south to north with the current and the prevailing winds. There are always the Galapagos Islands 700 miles off shore ;). Often times the lack of wind is more a problem than too much wind. I used to sail a Wharram Tiki 21 that I helped build till the boat changed ownership and the Lightning was/is the most popular sailboat around. So that's why I have a Lightning....


    Thanks once again
     
  12. Paul J. Nolan
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    Paul J. Nolan Junior Member

    Lippincotts were probably the best-made Lightnings and fast, too. My last boat was a glass Lippincott in the 9000's, one of the first glass boats. She had no tanks at all, the only flotation being the core in the hull and deck. I often wondered if she'd float at all if capsized. This model and the early glass Allens are referred to as "sinkers." She was a very fast boat, though.

    A couple comments: Remember my earlier advice: before you do any structural work, get some experience cruising sheltered water. I promise you, you'll be glad you did.

    As I recall, 11,000 series Lippincotts had significant flotation built in. Your boat might not need much, if anything, additional. No Lighting that I know of has a water-tight, much less air-tight, hull-deck joint. That joint is expected to never be immersed. The only time this causes a problem is if the seam is part of an air tank. Nickels Boat Co. solved this in their Lightnings by having all their flotation in the hull. I think Allens do now, too. As you can tell, it's been quite a while since I've been active in the class.

    Remember that any flotation under the deck, while it will prevent the boat from sinking, will be no help at all in self-rescuing. Visualize the boat upright, but swamped, with the deck at the water's surface. What you need in that situation is flotation low down in the hull that will push the boat up out of the water. In order to rescue herself, the swamped boat needs to float high enough so that the slot in the top of the centerboard trunk is out of the water with the crew standing in the boat. This is why modern Lightnings all have double bottoms. You also need a way to get the water in the boat out. This is why boats have transom flaps and a couple of large self bailers. You can't bail her out with a bucket; waves will keep slopping into the boat as fast as you can bail. She must be sailed dry. As the boat gains headway the bow will rise and the water inside runs aft to exit through the transom doors and the bailers. Modern boats have such good flotation (and frankly, capsizes are so infrequent) that many have only one large bailer and no flaps.

    As for the integrity of air tanks, keep in mind that a boat righted quickly can tolerate some leakage in the tanks. If you are up and underway three minutes after dumping (as you should be) a pint of water sloshing around in the bottom of a tank is of no consequence. It is only when the boat is in distress for a long period that the air tank's ultimate integrity becomes important. I recall a Thistle regatta on the west coast of the US many years ago in which a boat dumped and went unnoticed by the fleet and the race committee who returned to port after the race. The crew couldn't get the boat up and were out in the ocean overnight. When found the next day, only a couple feet of the bow were still above the surface. Only one crew member survived.

    Gougeon Brothers used to have a manual, Gougeon Brothers on Boatbuilding, I think it was, a soft-cover, 120 page book of various ways to use their products. There is a section on repairing delaminationed hulls and decks. I looked for it on their website and now it's hardcover and they want $40 for it. Yikes! Try to find a copy at the library or through a friend.

    Your boat, if she's still minimum weight (700 lbs. all up, including spars, centerboard, rudder and tiller, but not ground tackle) and has oval spars is still completely competetive. Please keep in mind that any structural additions to the boat will add enough weight to destroy her racing ability and therefore her resale value. If you must add flotation, airbags have the advantage of being light weight, easier to install than building in a tank and are removable for racing.

    And with any one design boat, the first thing I'd do is get in touch in touch with my local fleet, even if I was a non-racer. They are an excellent source for advice and support. There are two fleets in Ecuador, one in Guayaquil, which also appears to have some nice, sheltered water for beach cruising a Lightning. Their contact info is on the International Lightning Class Association website.

    Good luck!

    Paul
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2009
  13. Paul J. Nolan
    Joined: Sep 2009
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    Paul J. Nolan Junior Member

    Anyone thinking about open boat cruising should visit the Wayfarer dinghy websites. The class organizations in the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States each have a site. You might also read Frank Dye's book.

    Paul
     
  14. Dan Newton
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    Dan Newton Junior Member

    I was given Lightning #7922, which is a wooden boat in pretty good shape. My problem is the bailers. There are holes in the bottom 1 3/4 x 5 inches and the Andersens are not the right size. The previous owner had covered these holes from the outside. Is there a bailer to fit these holes, or must they be filled and the Andersens re-mounted?
     

  15. messabout
    Joined: Jan 2006
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    messabout Senior Member

    bailer

    Dan; there are Elvstrom bailers that measure 2.5 x 5.25 inches. They are from the past but there may be some of them still available.
     
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