Re: Black Skimmer - leeboard raising, etc
- John: beware: I'm long winded.
haven't actively sailed her for a few years now (she also awaits a fresh
coat of paint on a rather severely checked hull -- be SURE you glass& epoxy
her, or build her of MDO, or really hi-quality marine ply, else you'll be
fighting checking forever after....) --- so the following is subject to
rather hazy recollections.
1) points really tight, but slides somewhat off to leeward, compared to a
deep fin-keel "frozen-snot" boat. As with any non-jibbed boat, she prefers
to not be pinched, runs a lot free-er with a few degrees off minimum
possible pointing angle... thought the distance is longer, the speed is so
much more that she probably makes a better VMG toward the "mark" when she's
running free, not pinched... Never got into trouble; always was able to
keep off lee shores in the Chesapeake, etc. Remember also, that with her
capability to sail in a few inches of water (even continue sailing -- and
pointing! - but sliding more - with all boards up!) you can skirt a LOT
closer to headlands, so your path may be much more direct than a deeper-keel
2) I have two reefs sewn into the sail, now each is outfitted with
jiffy-reef" tackle leading forward on the boom. Mind you, the following is
ONLY feasible if you have the mainsail on a sailtrack up the mast -- won't
work nearly as well with a laced-on sail, as then there's no way to drop the
sail downward without unhooking the snotter from the mast.
I used to simply unhook the clew from a reefing-hook on the stern end of my
boom (ok, ok, "sprit-boom"), then re-hook same hook in the next-up clew
cringle -- but I got slapped silly a few times by the flogging sail as she
was lowered by her halyard. I also found it was necessary to use a
topping-lift on the end of the boom, or things got a bit heavy... Yes, there
was no problem in simply letting the spritboom go WAAAY forward (just took
LOTS of snotter line length, especially as I'd rigged this snotter as a
three-part tackle!). It DID get a bit unwieldy and I lost the vanging
effect when I went to the second reef, as then the boom WAS too far forward.
Now I sail with separate lines anchored on the sprit-boom, already thru
both clew cringles, then down again to the boom thru a cheek-block and
cleated off to cleats further forward on that spritboom easily reachable
from standing-up in the cockpit. Therefore, when it's time for the first
reef, I ease the snotter a bunch, drop the halyard an already-marked amount,
pull on the jiffy-reef line (which pulls the first-reef clew right down to
the boom, well forward of the un-reefed clew) go forward to hook the
next-higher tack cringle back into my 6-part downhaul hook (a windsurfer
part!), pull the halyard up tight, tighten the snotter again, and really
pull some tension into the leech with that very powerful downhaul. Then at
my leisure I tie the half-dozen reef-lines that are always left threaded
thru the sail, just to gather the now useless and lightly flopping excess
bottom-of-main into a sausage. If you've never seen jiffy-reef gear and how
it's set-up to pull the bottom slab of mainsail down to the boom, go to the
Harken catalog (excellent diagrams in the back!) or snoop your local marina
most small to mid-size standard (marconi) rigged sloops use this system
I think when I rig her again, I'll also put jiffy-reef lines on the tack
cringles at the mast, so I then have the option of avoiding that crawl
across the cabin-top, I could get away without the super-powerful downhaul
(but sure is nice to REALLY flatten the sail!)
I also have scored a full wishbone-type boom (like the ones used on a
Nonsuch Catboat), if I ever choose to rig this up, I'd simply form a basket
of lines to catch the excess sail as I reef her....
Being a bit gung-ho about tweaking sail-shape, I've led not just the halyard
but all the mainsail shaping control lines (snotter, downhaul) aft to the
aftmost edge of the cabin-top, each with its own cam-cleat (scrounged from
many a consignment chandlery -- hate to think what all these rigging
bits&pieces would cost retail). Ok, ok, my boat ain't rigged to Bolger's
KISS philosophy, but boy can I shape that sail beautifully. No way do I
have as much shape-control on my marconi-rigged Irwin sloop! And shape DOES
make a mighty big difference in performance....
3) I'm SURE she's been out in 20kts plus... never had even the sense of a
knockdown", tho a few times I swear that the top edge of the cockpit coaming
(on this boat, that's also the hullside!) was splitting a furrow thru green
water as we roared along. There ain't much freeboard on the leeward side
when she's well-heeled... Keep her moving, that's the way for Bolger's
wonderful hull dynamics to keep everything safe. Never had water ('cept
spray) come on-board. Heavier-wind sailing is a definite "Wahoo!!!"
4) Y'know, I probably should admit right up front now, that the mainsail
and mast ain't per Black Skimmer plans; it's actually a beautifully tapered
box-mast and perfectly matched sail as originally installed on Bolger-Design
"Red Zinger" (see BWOAM chapter 63 pg 333, especially the comment in
paragraph 2 about the effects of a good sailmaker on performance!); was
bought directly from the builder Dr Richard Zapf as he converted THAT boat
to an aluminum-tube mast for greater stiffness so he could fly spinnakers in
his very active racing campaign of that boat. Turns out that the general
dimensions of this rig's main is nearly the same as "Black Skimmer" - clew a
bit higher, otherwise very close. In the process of adapting this mast to
my boat, utilizing sketched recommendations Bolger sent me on request, (I've
found he's VERY responsive to assist in SENSIBLE modifications, will
otherwise courteously tell you to blow off if your ideas are absurd....) I
made up a pivoting tabernackle at cabin-top height (out of pre-galvanized
trailer-roller brackets!) -- yes, the mast-heel JUST clears the stem -- and
a lock-in-place mast-heel bracket; raising the mast ain't easy, certainly
nothing so easy as a Micro.... heel below the pivot is way too short, and
not counter-balanced, so requires winching her up with the trailer-winch and
a sort of ginpole, but it's feasible. That's an entirely 'nother story and
desperately needs sketches to explain it.
Why Zapf's mast on my boat? Don't EVER store a laminated solid mast on the
ground thru the winter -- mine (the original one, already had survived some
20 years of USE) sprouted mushrooms out one plank-end, after just one winter
on the ground, which of course destroyed its structural strength. The mast
as designed is an awfully massive chunk of wood; kept the house warm for a
number of days as I burned her, 18" section by 18" section.... still hurt
anyway, reminding me of my stupidity.
I'd be worried that the Solent Lug rig wouldn't allow you a firm enough
leech to control sail-shape well -- I bet you'd be re-cutting the mainsail
more than a few times till everything was working together to distribute
loads across that "joint", unless you really lucked out to find a sailmaker
well-experienced in such a rig. Talk to other owners with experience using
this Bolger-designed, Bolger-approved modification.
5) mine came with plate-steel ballast. What a bother for my renovation. (do
it RIGHT first!) As I found my boat in derelict-condition, the steel plates
were badly rusted and flaking. quite a project to lift them out of the
cabin (they're HEAVY! and JUSSSSST fit out thru the framing/companionway)...
Would have cost a FORTUNE to galvanize, since galvanizers charge by the
weight of the object, so I had the three sections sandblasted to "white
metal" then I painted with Pettit's "TrailerCote" a miracle product if ever
there were one... has held up quite well for some ten years... salt water
and fresh... IF you DO put plate steel in, rustproof it WELL! also, I
suggest you space it off the bottom with a collection of thin strips of
plastic (say 1/8 x 1/4/ x 12") so that water trapped between plates and
bottom has a chance to drain out. OR embed the plates completely to the
plywood with an epoxy-slurry or SikaFlex so NO water can get under. Water
under with no way to drain out, means a constantly wet cabin interior (tho
my boat was fitted with complete floorboards over the steel plate....)
Sorry, can't advise wisdom of concrete.
6) no, I brought her up from poor condition. Sometimes I think it would
have been easier to build her from scratch... see especially my comment on
7) Leeboard on leeward side is pinned with TONS of force to the bracket on
side of the boat; never bangs. Leeboard on windward side will certainly go
goosewing", so I would bring her up and park her on the lenghtwise hull-side
bracket right in the middle of coming about EVERY tack, as soon as the
pressure let off --- Probably less work than changing jibsheet sides every
tack as on a typical sloop...(But those boards ARE quite heavy as weighted
with lead per design -- need to be, to drop down properly -- and
as-designed, the geometry requires you to lift the pennant STRAIGHT UP well
outboard of the cockpit coaming... a true back-breaker. thus the necessity
of the aforementioned "davits" - these would hold the windward board up high
till the tacking procedures were nearly over, then at my leisure I could
reach under the leading edge and pull it inward onto the aft end of that
shelf-bracket (which, by the way, should be reinforced with a diagonal down
to the hull, to hold this board-weight, else it might break off -- mine did
once -- my diagonal piece was bent out of an aluminum yardstick: with only
1/8" thickness exposed to the rushing water, there isn't much resistance).
As for single-handing, WITH the davits, no sweat. Without them, VERY iffy
every tack, too much to do away from the tiller! (unless I was willing to
let one board go "goosewing"). Virtually required crew, just like a
jibsheet-handler on a sloop.... In a very light breeze, calm seas, with
quick-tacking up-channel, I could ignore the windward board, since Bolger's
ingeneous dutch tie-down of the top of the board did allow for a safe
winging-out, (the board would often go several feet away from the hullside,
or even skate along the surface!) but I wouldn't want that board banging
around in any slop, for sure!
Addendum: Naaaah, don't go for a finkeel; part of the charm of the design
is learning to live with the positives and the negatives of these very well
designed and executed leeboards. In particular, refer back to my point #1;
shallow-water sailing has REAL tactical and navigational advantages. And
what a joy to be able to BEACH her! for a swim, for a quiet lunch, for
bird-watching, for any excuse to stop sailing and relax a bit.... couldn't
do that with some funny appendage hanging permanently down below that FLAT
bottom....The negatives NEVER outweighed the positives of leeboards in my
usage of the boat. After adding the "davits" for easier lifting, now I can
truly say the leeboards would be the last thing I'd change.
P.S. writing all this is getting the juices flowing to do what's gotta be
done to re-launch her....
From: John Mann
Date: Monday, February 02, 2004 19:06:39
To: Wayne Gilham
Subject: Re: Black Skimmer - leeboard raising
Thank you for your email. I received my Black Skimmer plans from HH Payson
a couple of weeks ago and have been studying them enthusiastically since.
I would appreciate any info on the mechanism for handling the leeboards. I
am not yet convinced of the ease of use or efficiency of leeboards and its
probably the one thing that worries me about the Black Skimmer design.
Also could you answer a few questions for me>
1. How does the Black Skimmer handle sailing to windward?
2. How easy is it to reef the sail? I currently sail a Micro with a
similar rig and am about to set up a second snotter on the main to allow
easier reefing without the need to go forward. Black Skimmer has 304 square
feet of sail which would start to get very interesting in 20 knots of wind.
3. Have you had your boat out in 20knots plus and how does she handle?
Have you ever been knocked down?
4. Do you have the original rig with the 34' mast or the Solent lug rig
5. Did you use iron and/or cement ballast?
6. Did you build the boat yourself and if so are there any tips you learned
7. Do the leeboards "rattle and flop" against and over the hull in rough
weather? I have heard this from someone whom I suspect is not knowledgeable
re their function.
Sorry about all the questions but I am reeally imprerssed with thhe lines of
the boat and want to confirm my decision to build her. I have been
thinking of the possibility of a fixed fin keel on her!! I would like to
get Mr Bolger's ideas on this,
Thanks for the email,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
>6) no, I brought her up from poor condition. Sometimes I think it wouldHaving done the same with a Birdwatcher I have to say I agree. Might not
>have been easier to build her from scratch... see especially my comment on
hae been easier but certainly would have taken less time!
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- --- Wayne Gilham wrote:
> Here goes. ..Thanks sooo much for the excellent,
> [long description of life with
> his Black Skimmer]
on topic, post. Three comments:
I am sobered by your observation
that building a new boat might
be easier than renovating an old
Interior steel ballast?. PB&F
must now recommend that to be
exterior steel plate?
And, wow, the technique for sailing
a Bolger boat is much different
than the 99% of the sail boats I see
here in San Francisco Bay, deep draft,
wire stayed plastic sloops.
San Francisco Bay, which is 2/3rds
shallow water where a shoal draft boat
like Black Skimmer appears to be more