On July 15th, 2006, a friend and I took my 1958 Flying Dutchman out for a sail in the Saginaw River. This was only the third time the boat had sailed in 30 years and the first hard sailing since my six-year-long restoration. We set both sails and made several runs in front of the Saginaw Bay Yacht Club before we hit something, maybe an old piling or maybe the freighter rudder that went missing the previous fall. Continue reading →
Above: The plywood sharpie is the latest in a long line of boats that Captain James R. Watson has built over his lifetime. Here he is at age 12 with a plywood dinghy he built himself.
Building the rudder
The sharpie’s main reason for existence for over a hundred years is its fine operation in shallow water. However, the conventional sharpie rudder is notorious for causing squirrelly steering, often becoming totally ineffective when the craft heels more than 20°. Most sharpie sailors simply accept the handling aggravations of the conventional rudder in trade for its wonderful steering ability in the shallows. I decided to resolve the traditional faults in steering by installing a special rudder and steering system that has evolved and is used on some contemporary boats. This system will yield maximum control over a wide range of wind and sea conditions while retaining the sharpie’s shallow water virtues. Continue reading →
When the centerboard of my Searunner trimaran broke in the middle of a windy race around the Black Hole, the question I kept asking was “Why now, after working fine all of this time, and when we were leading the race?” Continue reading →
Why do centerboards and rudders need durable edges? When centerboards and flip-up rudders drag across the bottom, the first fiberglass to abrade away is usually the leading edge at the bottom. This exposes the end grain of the wood, allowing water to be absorbed the length of the centerboard or rudder. The wood then expands, cracking the fiberglass along the leading edge and causing more problems. When it is time to repair the tip, it usually takes a long time to dry the wood for an effective repair. Continue reading →