‘News’ – a strange little word – here one day gone the next, the announcement of all things remarkable, even dramatic, often life-changing yet quick to be derided as ‘yesterdays’. Always completely subjective, what is life threatening for entire communities has no meaning in our cloistered, benign little world. Nevertheless the planet is rapidly going all green and mindful and frankly it’s about time.
Just this month (February) there’s news of yet another electric launch from Scandinavia, this one a sleek cruiser from Finland, the Skipperi 30, another from the Star Wars school of marine design, yours for around $300 thousand plus. There’s a centre console runabout built using organic resins from the US, spoilt by a big, fat fossilised outboard and the new America’s cup chase boats will shortly be foiling along with green hydrogen in their tanks. Not much help to everymen it’s true but another step in the right direction.
Scruffie World News then, is of no consequence to any but those in our small niche market sub-group of sea-going builders. Yet if you intend to build your own boat we have some news for you.
So, we are in the process of completely upgrading all our boats, the hulls, rigs, build systems, instructions and all with the aim of improving every single aspect of Scruffie ownership. I’d be a poor designer if I just sat on my laurels so over the years lots of upgrades have been incorporated to every model but these proposed advances go as far as I can without a complete re-design. The final evolution of the type will be the result. The planned program of works is spread across everything from the manufacturing procedures to the building instructions but the sum of all the percentage points gained will quickly add up significant improvements. So, feedback from many owners has been noted and acted on but more is welcome and all sensible ideas considered.
News of a recent Shimmy launching, a beautifully built little ship from an experienced boatbuilder (his seventh!) who until recently moonlighted as a Qantas pilot, is proof that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the current boats but shall we stand still? His Shimmy was his first kit build and he noted that “Building was a pleasure and she totally fulfils our expectations”. Much appreciated John.
What's all this about ship's biscuit?
All models will get significant upgrades and to begin with I’ll cover the changes common to all boats. The rigs first. Masts will largely be unchanged but they will mostly be increased in length and fully rounded rather than supplied with a series of flats for the builder to plane off and sand. Yards and gaffs will be laminated and routed to a more efficient shape. All sail areas will be increased slightly with the lugger yards peaked up a little more and the mainsails cut to a more efficient shape. Standing and running rigging remain the same but blocks are upgraded and the mainsheet horses are all wider.
Now the last thing anyone wants is to spoil the essence of the boats, their stability, sea kindliness, safety and aesthetics and none of these features are threatened, only enhanced. Windward performance will be improved, manoeuvrability better and they’ll all be a bit faster but they remain little ships for cruising and exploring, not fair weather skiffs. Ours is a niche market and our owners know exactly what they want from their boat.
All hulls will be modified but Secrets and Scintillas will be largely unchanged, both these models underwent evolutionary design processes and are best left pretty much as they are. Ballast will be more concentrated forward and lower down plus a few minor tweaks but that’s it.
Shimmys and Stornaways, however will be extensively reworked although even then they will not look that different from the originals. Waterlines will be stretched and keel profiles uprated. Stornaway ballast is to be increased and both boats widened around the sterns, again being careful not to disturb the balance. Pitch and roll should be quieter with improved form stability and less heeling moment. Other tweaks remain in the file marked ‘The Watercress File TOP SECRET’ but it is interesting to note that ex- Qantas John has already fitted and trialled one of the mods to his own design and pronounced it an improvement – great minds etc.
Outboards. Or should I say auxiliaries will be carefully considered and while few Shimmy owners fit them, most Stornaway sailors do. Over the years we have tried out a number of electric options and finally there are some readily available motors that fulfil our specific briefs. The wish list is for a reliable, push button, long-range, operation that retracts when not in use but is available when you need it. Think in terms of the future boat, and in not so many years from now, try to buy a new fossil-fuelled car. Remember when our Beloved Leader exclaimed “they won’t tow your boat!” swiftly followed by footage of a Tesla outdragging a V8 and later towing a jetliner. Same for boats, eventually. But we won’t let the Shimmy owners down, got something real cool planned for them.
There’s a new bow roller/bowsprit fitting for the 12 which solves the anchor issue and moves the jib attachment outboard, both desirable outcomes. In the cockpit, it’s all cleaned up and much simpler but essentially unchanged apart from a larger bow compartment. On the sole, the traditional floorboards will still be available but we will be offering pre-cut floorboard panels made from recycled plastic – we just have to do this.
Stornaway Ups The Game
This boat, almost our best seller, comes with a little more room in the cabin, courtesy or raised sides and seats, space for a porta-potti and as mentioned more fixed ballast, concentrated lower down and squeezed up forward to improve stability and help with the slight increase in sail area. Options will include water ballast tanks, floatation tubes, batteries, lights, solar panels and a new retractable electric auxiliary, all of which will be a big plus for raiders and explorers facing stiff headwinds and a narrow channel as highlighted by one of the recent Sailing Kate Louise videos.
Fully rigged and ready to launch.
Sailing Kate Louise
Paul Da Roza’s professional productions are based on his adventures with his Stornaway 18, one that I built some thirteen years back. They’re rapid gaining a significant global following, particularly in the US and UK. The music accompanying the later videos is by one of Scotland’s finest fiddle players, composers and producers, Mike Vass. Link: https://scruffie.com/news-sailing-kate-louise-5-feb-22.html
Paul’s feedback confirms many of my decisions on the upgrades and the need to fine-tune the boats. He is currently fending off increasing numbers who want one and all I can say is that post-covid production will begin again very soon and I’m sorry for the delay, but look on the bright side – your new boat will be even better!
Paul related a harrowing tale of a small trailer sailor (Not one of ours) capsizing and the hapless crew unable to right her in the rough conditions. After a series of life-threatening stages, the boat was eventually righted and towed ashore by the Coastguard but it was close call. The moral is that you never know what the sea has in store for you. Best be in a ship that take it all in her stride, a ballasted, self-righting one.
Go Sail Cargo News
I recently emailed the Clean Energy Finance Corporation with a rather terse (brought on by Where Is Mine? Syndrome or WHIMS) request for some of their millions. To my surprise they were sympathetic and helpful, referring me to the Energy Lab Solutions Accelerator or ELSA and they too were both appreciative of my work and generally very supportive. In return, I was compelled to be pleasant and co-operative!
We were urged to fill in the ONLINE APPLICATION FORM but that entailed days of online anguish with frequent referrals to an online business dictionary which attempted to translate the Questions into the common tongue. I ended up with a nasty case of FOMATS (Flummoxed Over Multiple Acronyms, Terms and Systems) exacerbated no doubt by my rapidly advancing years and not being a teenage entrepreneur with a pony tail. I was compelled to sit down and design a new boat to recover, I’ve called her the Fomat Fifteen.
Yet despite my obvious inability to speak corporate they were relentlessly helpful and positive and it was a pleasure to deal with people who appreciated our shortcomings and were able to work with our strengths. The next stage will happen in mid-March so fingers crossed then.
Meanwhile this is our new video, produced and narrated by Paul. No kittens, bikinis or conspiracy theories though. Link: https://gosailcargo.com/
... And this is an overview for any green financiers looking for redemption:
I first began to think seriously about sailing cargo ships in the 1960s as the last of the wonderfully efficient Thames Sailing Barges plied their lonely trade along the English coast and rivers and by the beginning of the 70s, the final cargo under sail was carried by the recently restored Cambria. That a cargo of 100-150 tonnes could be safely transported by a 19th Century sailing ship manned by a crew of two was, and is, a triumph of practicality.
Fast forward 60 years and with the real threat of human extinction, sail is a hot topic and the focus of a thousand marine architects with hundreds of specialised programs. The world needs them and their remarkable innovations but equally, society must reference the heritage of working sail and heed the priceless experience derived from the past. My own path recognises the lessons of history, incorporates the wonders of technology and combining the two, offers smaller zero-emission sailing cargo vessels that are not only risk-averse but can be mass-produced and slipway ready in the shortest possible time. Given the accepted need for immediate action and the need to integrate the ships into existing freight handling logistics, the building of such vessels is a logical step. Sailing advances are such that our rigs are half the weight of an equivalent Thames Barge and electric auxiliaries, build systems, batteries and solar voltaics will never stop improving. A good example is the French ‘Dualsun’ panel
A lifelong respect for the often unpredictable power of the sea has led me to design ships that are strong, stable, reduce weight aloft and ensure that all sails can be manually controlled in the event of any emergency. This is simply good old-fashioned seamanship.
Paul driving his Stornaway hard on a close reach.
While huge cost-efficient container ships cannot possibly be rigged like a clipper or schooner, their smaller cousins can and should be, provided they take advantage of 21st Century innovations. It will take a massive effort and playing around at the edges with ‘green diesel’ is simply not enough, try buying a French or German diesel car in a couple of years’ time.
It is my firm belief that a well-found sailing ship with optimised hull and rig plus electric auxiliary is neither risky nor ambitious – we have the skills and technology for true zero carbon trading right now, all we need is the will and the investment.
The electric motor has one moving part, directly connected to the variable pitch propeller. What could be simpler? The battery storage should be sufficient to power the vessel as needed and will reflect the requirements of the proposed use. As an example, a spice trader on the Marseille/Madagascar route will need not only a good wardrobe of light weather canvas for the Tropics but battery banks sufficient to transit the Suez Canal at 6-7kts for 14 hours plus a bit for eventualities. Bigger back-up generators might be sensible too. However, given good solar input, propeller regeneration and a set of compact vertical axis wind generators there should be no cause for range anxiety. Our calculations indicate that even with flat batteries, no wind and no generators, the solar array on our C-100 will power the ship at 4kts. With the generators on the speed rises to 7kts. Further, the relentless progress of technology means that the likelihood of having to start the generators at all will recede with time.
While some may question the use of traditional rigs, ours are traditional in appearance but not in essence and certainly not in performance. Sailing and sail technology has made huge advances in the last century and we will use every opportunity to take advantage of the performance gains without losing the passenger attracting aesthetics of billowing sails in a brisk breeze. Paying passengers help man the ship and balance the books too. The economics of reduced crew levels are addressed with powered handling systems and stronger, lighter gear but manual back-up is available because common sense and due respect for the ocean remains a priority. The storm will not ease while you fix an electronic glitch in the automated reefing system or try to restart your generator.
Once in port, cargo is king and getting it on and off efficiently is essential. The hatch covers with their solar panels are folded back. The aft dockside mast stays are quickly and easily unshackled and the furled sails swung aside to ensure the containers or bulk break cargo is accessible. For smaller ports the ships’ own derricks can load up to 5 tonnes or the 8-pallet electric pontoon stored on deck for use in remote locations.
Of course that is only part of the story, behind the scenes is a hive of shipbuilding activity from the fitting of hyper-efficient pumps, using coolants to heat the bathwater and building with sustainable materials to name but a few. Then there’s multiple disciplines of engineering, registry, compliance and insurance to consider. A long list but we’re on to it!
Finally, while we wait for solutions to the problems associated with the world’s giant container ships, let’s get going with smaller, simpler risk-averse sailing cargo boats now, or nature will make the decision for us.
That’s your bloomin’ lot then – as the late, great
Peter Cundall used to say. Check out the news that missed the magazine deadline at