We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
For true Yankees, being able to sail is a basic outdoor life skill, along with riding a horse, tennis, swimming, ice-skating, log-splitting, starting a fire, dog-training, and shooting. Every region of the country, and the world, has its basics, doesn't it?
One-design racing boats. Sailing season is winding down in the Northeast US, but for no good reason I thought it time to review a few cool boats. If you have never raced, you have no idea how complicated and tricky this game is - or how athletic it can be. Talent, knowledge, experience, and skill win consistently.
The Star (or International Star, or "Starboat"). This 22' 2-man keelboat was designed in 1910. No spinnaker: whisker pole for the jib downwind. It remains an Olympic Class and a favorite of serious racers. Plenty of professional big boat racers would be happier racing a Star, but there's not much money in it unless you are a sail salesman on the side. Not much fun for a day sail.
A new Star goes for around $50-60,000; used $16-35,000, depending on equipment, quality, and age.
Another popular racing class, and also an Olympic class. The Etchells, designed in 1965 by Connecticut's Skip Etchells. A 30' 3-4-man keelboat. You can buy a used Etchells for $15-30,000. There is almost no reason to ever buy a new fiberglass sailboat. A new suit of sails and fancy rigging can cost almost the price of the used boat, however.
The good old Lightning. I could race one of these, blindfolded. A light hand on the tiller telegraphs even subtle wind shifts. The class is nowhere near as large as it once was, but is still one of the largest one-design classes. A 19' three-man racer with a centerboard, the Lightning also doubles as an enjoyable day-sailer.
Over 300,000 Sunfish have been built since the 1950s. Ancient lateen rig. No sailboat is more fun for two people, preferably you at age 18 and a girl in a loose bikini. People do race them - one man - for fun and for serious. We used to think it was amusing to capsize a Sunfish and listen to the girl squeal when her boobs fell out of her top, but the best was when my buddy and I would go out right after a hurricane and surf the 10-15'-foot waves on a Sunfish. (How, and why, did we survive? Our parents never knew we were out there, no life jackets, etc. My Mom would have killed me. She was a serious sailor, though, in youth.)
We learned a lot about boat-handling in the process.
My final boat du Jour, the 33' J-105. Quite popular these days, as a racer and a day-sailer or cruising sailboat. Not much overhead in the cabin, however, and it's a handful for amateurs in a stiff breeze. Over 700 of them have been built. Fast boat. A pal of mine just bought a new one (around $250,000), and promised me we would sail her before he puts her away for the winter. He is getting new carbon fiber sails made. I'd like to take her for a spin in a 25 knot breeze. We'll see whether he calls me...
Whatever happened to the Town Class series? My father bought a used one in Bristol, RI and after some minor repairs we enjoyed this day-sailer all through my pre-teens and teens. My sister, not so much. Father was happy to have N 3 on the mainsail - 3rd in the series.
Ah, the old flip-the-sunfish-over-with-the-bikinigirl trick!! Been there, done it, Clark's Hill lake, early '80's. Funny how teenage boys can look at about anything and try to figure out how you can use it to get a girl out of her top.
Bird Dog ... My husband Downs just had some nostalgic fun with this post. Before we were married he had a great classic Pearson 28' ... lovely boat, but he sold it to bring me down from Washington D.C. to Houston. Later on, when I was working down here, we bought a Cal T-4. He named it Diva, after me. Nice little boat and a pretty good racer. A pair of our wealthier friends had a Cal 40, which the husband named Wandalust, since his wife's name was Wanda. Wandalust raced well, but was quite a handful and required a crew of at least four if he was going to race her. Oh, the jokes that generated. Wanda didn't mind. Very relaxed girl.
For the salt estuaries, it's hard to beat a Melonseed. They were first seen in the 1880's on the Jersey shore, where they were used for gunning. Chapelle took the lines off an old one for the Smithsonian collection of watercraft plans.
Following a long chain of events, they ended up being built in Humarock, MA, with glass hulls and decks, teak trim and floorboards, and spruce spars.
I've had one out in 25 kt gusting 30. 14ft, no standing rigging, spritsail with boom, rigs in three minutes. Rows pretty good. Room for two, or one and a dog. IMHO these boats, used inshore, give the most joy for the effort.
Very pretty. Often seen in Plymouth or Barnstable harbors with tanbark sails.