Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On modern construction methods for traditional boats, and what makes a faering a faering...

No photos this time. Patience, Grasshopper...

There is a very passionate group of people out there who have been discussing, off and on, the virtues and vices of Valgerda and her skeg. These discussions invariably lead into a debate over whether or not she can be considered a "true" faering. I am going to weigh in on both of these issues here.

First off, I completely understand why Mr. Atkin drew the skeg as he did on Valgerda; protection for the rudder when beaching, lateral plane for sailing, and as deep a position as is reasonable for the small chunk of lead to do its job. I'm sure there were other considerations, too. That being said, it is clear that one can either build Valgerda as drawn, or one can build a Hardangersjekte, but you can't do both (at least not in the same boat). It is my opinion that Valgerda was designed as a sailing boat that will row when needed, as opposed to the traditional faerings that were built to be rowed, but were sailed when the opportunity presented itself.

I can hear your hackles rising from here. Settle down...

It is my desire to build a faering. A long, drawn-out search for designs with any degree of authenticity turned up some traditional boat plans, complete with the hewn garboards and grown-crook frames, or modern interpretations of faerings, most of which are too small for my liking. I kept coming back to Valgerda as she is the best documented design in her size, she is GORGEOUS, she is specifically designed for modern construction methods, and of the modern boats she is the truest to the traditional hull form. Except for that skeg. For me it was a no-brainer: build that beautiful hull and put a "proper" batten keel on her and you'll really have something.

But what will I be giving up without that skeg?

Stability? - Not really. A 110 lb chunk of lead hung (as designed) approximately 15" below the metacentric height on a hull whose heeling abilities are limited by very low freeboard and lack of decks can only generate so much righting force. I, as crew and moveable ballast, will provide most of the required righting force by sliding my 200 lb. ass a bit further to windward.

Lateral Plane? - Yes, but so what. It's not like I'll be banging around the bouys with the hot rod boats. That's why I have the Thistle. Mr. Atkin was very clear in his article for MotorBoating, and the commentary that accompanies the designer's study plans reiterates, that this is primarily a rowing boat that will "sail upwind after a fashion." He also states that "expert sail handling" was required in travelling any distance in boats of this type. It is a conscious choice that I made to give up some windward ability in favor of a well-mannered rowing boat. Read through what Howard Chapelle has to say in American Small Sailing Craft about the peapods that were sailed by the island lighthouse keepers in Maine. Many of these boats were sailed long distances with no centerboards, leeboards, or other appendages. A 4" batten keel provided all of the lateral plane.

Rudder protection? - Yes. This is probably my biggest concern. Rocky Maine beaches can, and will, do a number on the bottom edge of a rudder. Properly designed rudder hardware will allow me to quickly ship and un-ship the rudder, but a kick-up or sliding arrangement will not be appropriate for this application. This is another carefully weighed compromise that I have made.

There is also a group out there who insist that without the grown-crook frames and hewn garboards, it isn't a faering. P'shaw!!! While I am envious of anyone who has built a faering with traditional methods, I am also realistic about how this boat will be transported, used, and stored over her lifetime. Epoxied lapstrake planking and laminated structure is the method that makes the most sense in this situation.

I will grant that there is a level of twist and hollow to the garboards of traditionally built faerings that is unattainable in a plywood-planked boat. Mr. Atkin came very close with Valgerda. A hollow garboard contributes immensely to sail-carrying ability. Was Valgerda's lack of this feature the main reason for the skeg as designed? Quite possibly. Next posting will feature photos to show the contrast between the stern of a traditionally-built faering (believed to have been built by The Apprenticeshop) and that of Valgerda. You'll see what I mean.

At any rate, hull form is what defines a boat like this as a type, not construction method. Aside from hull form, here are a couple of other characteristics that are specific to faerings:

1.)These boats are very limber, due partly to the lack of breasthook and the inwale ending at the rangs.

2.)Maximum beam is well forward of 'midship (cod head, mackerel tail - be aware that you are looking at the chines, not waterlines in plan view. Make a copy of the lines plan and draw in the waterlines. It's more pronounced than you think it is).

That's all I have come up with at the moment. Let me know what you think.

Limiting the definition of "faering" (which is a pretty loose term; Norway has as many types of faerings as France has wines) to traditionally built boats is ludicrous. A Whitehall is a Whitehall, whether it's cedar, oak, and bronze or carbon, kevlar, and nomex.

So, that's where I stand on these matters. Big whup, right?

Thanks for getting all the way through this. I'll be getting more current photos up shortly, and I'll be back to posting more regularly soon.