New guy, introduction, and some basic square rig questions

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by metal, Jun 22, 2010.

  1. metal
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    metal Junior Member

    I'll apologize in advance for the novel. I don't seem to be good at expressing myself in just a few words, haha.

    Hi all. For a basic introduction, I'm 28, in the Army, currently stationed in Monterey, CA, and like many of you (I suspect), I am addicted to building things. Recently I stumbled across the "one sheet skiffs" and that started the fire. Well, I'm building a 3.5 sheet skiff with a few extra boards, I guess, haha. I'm building a 12 foot sailboat, a dinghy I guess. I'm not using any plans, I've just studied them online a lot and I'm designing it as I go along. It's going really well so far, but now that I'm getting near the stage where I need to install the mast/sail/bowsprit I have questions. I've searched this site and online and I'm having a lot of trouble finding any answers. I just have some basic questions:

    1. for a 12 foot boat (11 feet 9.5 inches, really) approximately how long would an ideal mast be? Is there a formula for this? I don't have a centerboard or weighted keel, although I'm going to build a shallow keel (maybe 5-6 inches deep at the most) and stuff it with lead or something, for a little extra ballast while retaining my run-on-shore ability. So far I have roughed out an 11 foot hollow laminated mast out of douglas fir. It's strong as can be, but I do want to make it as light as possible, to avoid moving my center of gravity too high.

    2. I'm planning on using a basic square rig, with one jib attached to the bowsprit. I know a square rig isn't the most efficient, but I'm fine with that. I'm not trying to break any speed records, I just want to putt around, and I absolutely love the way square rigs look. However, I know nothing about how to "rig" a sail, and I've searched for days but I can't seem to find a diagram of exactly what goes where on a square rig. For a single square sail, I know I need a mast, a spar towards the top that the sail will attach to, and I've read that the spar needs to be able to move/rotate horizontally. The sail, trapezoidal in shape, looks to have a line/rope attached to each bottom corner, and I'm guessing those are used to assist in turning the sail, and "tightening" it. Can anyone point me in the right direction? I just need a basic breakdown of a simple, one sail square rig, where to attach what lines, etc.

    Sorry I don't know much nautical vocabulary, I've never owned a boat before, much less a sailboat, so this is all new for me. But I'm reading tons every day and learning all I can. I'm having a blast building this little boat and learning all about it, and I'm planning on building a 20-24 foot sailboat in a few years (which will be bermuda rigged). This boat is for learning experience and fun, mostly.
     
  2. kdhorton
    Joined: Jun 2010
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    kdhorton HM Small Boat Designer

    Hey Metal,

    Can't be of much help to you, just want to wish you luck. I'm in the same "boat," in fact the same OSS is what got me started on this kick. I thought boat building would have to wait until a prosperous retirement!

    I, too, love square rigs. There's something about them that's just awesome.
     
  3. metal
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    metal Junior Member

    Heck yeah there is. You can put a square sail, bowsprit and jib on a canoe and I'll love it. From studying pictures that I've found I think I just about have it figured out. One way to find out, I guess!
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2010
  4. M&M Ovenden
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    M&M Ovenden Senior Member

    Hi Metal,
    When you say "square rig" , do you mean "gaff rig"? If so, by searching "gaff rig" online, you will find a lot of information. Read a bit over the web to get a better overall picture and you could maybe come back with some more precise questions.
    Here's maybe a good first link: http://www.frankhagan.com/weekender/gaffdeat.htm Those few pages are pretty much excerpts of "hand reef and steer" and "the gaff rig hand book" two books that would greatly help you.

    cheers,
    Murielle
     
  5. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    Look up John Leather. His books will tell you more than you'll ever need to know about square rigs, from their history to the little details of rigging and handling them:

    Gaff Rig

    The Gaff Rig Handbook: History, Design, Techniques, Developments

    Panorama of Gaff Rig

    Spritsails and Lugsails

    I'm not up-to-date on the subject any more, but his Gaff Rig book used to be considered the Bible on the subject.
     
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  6. metal
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    metal Junior Member

  7. metal
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    metal Junior Member

    And just for a little clarification, I'm not referring to a fore and aft rig. Thanks again.
     
  8. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    Oh. Guess my mind was locked in on 4-corner fore and aft rigs. I'm no help with actual square rig, but I'm not sure what sense it makes on a small craft.

    Aside from lugsails of course, which are actually somewhere in between. Look here:

    http://www.duckworksmagazine.com/06/howto/lugsails/index.htm
     
  9. Milan
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    Milan Senior Member

    Norway is the only place were square rig remained popular and widely used on the small(er) craft through all the centuries, up to the modern times. Many of their traditional rowing / sailing boat types didn’t change much from the Viking times. Same archetypical graceful lines in different sizes.

    Search the net for the Norwegian traditional sailing boats.
     

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  10. BATAAN
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    BATAAN Senior Member

    If you want to set a square sail on a skiff, forget the jib and make the main a little bigger. Make sure it's cut pretty flat and you can brace it around to it's nearly fore and aft. This is where the lugsail came from and I'm sure you'll follow the same path.
     
  11. metal
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    metal Junior Member

    Thanks for the tips, guys. My reason for using the jib is basically because I love the way they look. If the combination will only have me sailing at 4 knots, that's okay with me, as this is just a fun boat. The sail would be just to putt around the coast when I don't want to use my archaic 5hp outboard, and maybe to learn a bit about sailing in general. But mostly because I love the way they look :) If I do get the bug to sail faster, I'll just build a bermuda rig and use it instead, but for now I just want my square sail so I can yell "AAARRRRRR" at all the large, expensive boats that pass me by haha. Maybe I'll make them out of black material so they'll match my jolly roger.
     
  12. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    If you are "hung up"on square rigs get a nice model boat kit and build it. If you want to learn to sail, then try to shuck the I like the way it looks thing and go for a conventional rig. Why would you want to learn to sail a 100 year out of date layout? ........Then turn around and relearn how to sail when you build the bigger boat.

    And you will be doing well with a 12 foot boat if you can get it to go 4 knots with a decent modern sail rig. With a square rig you might get 4 knots downwind in a moderate to brisk wind. Upwind you will be much faster when rowing. Why do you think ancient mariners and their square rigs followed the trade winds. They were not so good at going to windward. Romance of the sea is one thing and practicality is quite another.

    Twelve foot boats do not need a bowsprit unless you are one of those crazy Aussies who sail little boats really really fast. The crazy Aussies are already very excellent sailors who know what they are doing even when it appears suicidal. (Aussie sailors are wired that way I suppose).

    Little dinghys do not need a very shallow keel with ballast. If you hang some ballast a few inches below the bottom you have not helped the righting moment very much. Forget the ballast. Dinghys are for hiking and they are seldom self righting, and if they are self righting they are twelve foot lead bellied pigs that weigh a quarter ton or more.

    I do not wish to rain on your parade even though my critique sounds like it. We need to encourage ambitious builders and develope good sailors. So if I am stepping on your toes it is not for curmudgeonly reasons but for the purpose of having you take a route that will be more sensible and ultimately more rewarding.
     
  13. metal
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    metal Junior Member

    No toe stepping at all. I know a square rig is outdated and inferior to pretty much anything modern, I just love the way they look. Thanks for all the info. I was hoping that I could add the small weighted keel and really make a difference; it seems that's not the case. Well, I guess you just saved me some time and money then, haha. Thanks man.
     
  14. M&M Ovenden
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    M&M Ovenden Senior Member

    ...a square rig is actually also inferior to pretty much any other traditional rig too...There are some other options of traditional rigs that look pretty cool and "arrrggghhh like", with which you could learn to sail, not only drift downwind.
    I love traditional rigs and totally understand the "looks factor" but I'm not sure if you realize how limited the rig you seem to be aiming for is. It would be more appropriate to say that you want an auxiliary sailing rig for a row boat than a sail boat to learn to sail if this http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rigging-square-sail.svg really is what you really want...and that's fine too.
     

  15. metal
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    metal Junior Member

    I know they're pretty much the crappiest form of sail out there. It would just be for a relaxing day, sitting back in the boat reading a book and letting the breeze move me around, I wouldn't expect much movement out of it. What are these other traditional rigs you're referring to? If I could have an awesome looking sail rig that actually functioned as intended, that would be pretty awesome haha.
     
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