Auxillary Power

An outboard motor is the most common, and of all the outboards available, if we stick to the principle of what is not there cannot go wrong, we shall use a British Seagull. I understand that they are no longer manufactured, more’s the pity. I once stripped down a Seagull model 102 dating from the 1940’s, and found the internals in superb condition. This is due to the high proportion of oil in the two-stroke mix, and also to the fact that the power is developed at very low revolutions, unlike many modern motors which seem to rev their heads off (sometimes literally). Many modern and more expensive engines seem to have fashionable mouldings and controls, but the need for streamlining escapes me.

Since I have got better at the craft of sailing, however, I have managed without the use of an outboard motor, and for auxiliary power I use a sweep. Mine is eleven feet long and is cut down from a ship’s lifeboat oar. These oars have a very long blade of about three feet, and the loom is about two and a half inches in diameter. The end to hand is reduced for a foot to about 1-1/4ins. The sweep is stowed when sailing in a pair of rowlocks both on one side of the boat. In use it is placed in a rowlock socketed on the transom, and may be used for sculling, or for rowing the stern round in certain circumstances, and has been used as a jury rudder. Only on one occasion have I lost my rudder, and I was right glad that I had my sweep along. Sculling has often been described so I will not trouble to do so now, but suffice it to say that it is a skill well worth acquiring.

Since my sweep is so long, I found it useful to paint it black and white in three foot bands. Then it was used for plumbing the depth of water when approaching the shore. There is a deep water channel in Morecambe Bay, used by large commercial craft, so I often found it politic to get into shallow water and out of the way of the big stuff. I have often crawled along the shore back to my mooring.

Oars for use at sea should have narrow blades, rather than spoon shaped, which are alright for lake use.

The after rowlock socket is also used when the boom and gaff, with sail wrapped around both, are lowered right down to the transom, when the boat cover is in the reefed position. This brings us neatly to the next chapter.

Tent Cover

Normally, when the boat is on the mooring, with the sails furled, the boom and gaff have the sails wrapped round them, and rest in the boom crutch. However, I can lower the boom/gaff/sails down to the transom if the windage is too much, by resting the boom in the sculling rowlock. The boom tent is so arranged that it can be “reefed” to the lower position, as well.

With the boom, gaff and sail resting in the boom crutch, and held securely by the cleated mainsheet, the tent cover is laid along the sail and held down to the gunwhales. The mast end of the cover is taken care of by a short sleeve wrapped around the mast and lashed tight by a bit of line. The cover is then hauled aft and tied to the boom or gaff end.

The problem of holding down the sides was difficult. If there are side decks and a bit of a coaming, then the task is easy. One could use lacing hooks and shockcord, but if there are no side decks, then other means must be devised. Eventually I hit on the notion of turning up the edges of the cover into 2” tubes, open at each end, and with gaps for the shrouds, plus a further gap halfway along the longer tubes. Then bamboo poles were inserted with 6ins sticking out at the ends. The stubs were then fixed down under short strips of metal, and the cover was securely held. The strips of metal were about 2 x 1 ins stainless 16 gauge, screwed to the gunwhales pointing downwards and the cane ends were tucked under them. The canes were held in by short bits of line fastened to the risers inside the boat, looped over the gunwhales and pulling the canes in tight.

For heavy weather, the cover had extra long canvas tubes stitched along the outside so that the cover could be held tight when the boom and gaff were down on the transom. This reduced the windage, but still enabled the cover to shed rain, etc.

For taking measurements in order to prepare a drawing for the cover, the boom was set up in the crutch, and a chalk mark made every foot along from the mast. The measurements were taken from the boom to the underside of the gunwhale, keeping the tape square to the boom. The operation was then repeated with the boom down on the transom. All the measurements were recorded on to the plan, and then 8 or 9 inches extra were added to each side to allow for the tube pockets. If the whole job is carefully explained to the maker, then a good fit is likely.

It is best to have a sailmaker make the cover, because he would not be disconcerted by a request for alteration after a trial fit, but I have had two such covers made by my local window blind shop.

The material I used was best green Willesden duck cloth, as I prefer strong stuff that can breathe, rather than impervious PVC.

Next Month: Maintenance and Miscellaneous Bits