Postpartum


No, this isn't a treatise on depression. It's a review of the construction process and a critical look at what I kind of boat I got in the end. This is intended to be really useful to anyone who is thinking seriously of building a Norwalk Islands Sharpie or a boat of similar design.

Construction

It would be better to call this section Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda. Some of the things I would have done differently have already been mentioned in the previous pages, like how to apply fiberglass. But there are still a few things that appear when I put on my 20-20 hindsight glasses.

    Design

Overall I am really happy with the minor changes I made to the original plans. The space under the port "head" is really useful. The longitudinal bulkhead under the bunks is also really a bonus since it strengthens the bunks themselves and prevents anything stored underneath from sliding around too much. There are 3 things that I would have done differently about the construction if I were to start over. First, I would have designed the centerboard to be thicker. Several builders did this in Australia, but when I found out I had already made the trunk. The purpose of a thicker centerboard is better efficiency since it could be shaped as a NACA foil. This would definitely improve windward performance. Second, I would have had the mast tube built after the mast was made. Whether carbon fiber, fiberglass, or aluminum is used, availability of mandrils is the critical component of what you can get for a reasonable price. The mast tube can then be made to fit later. Lastly, I would have designed the cockpit hatches differently. I'm not sure at this point what they should have been. Making them like the ones seen on production boats would have taken a month of Sundays to build. As it is, I'll have to experiment this winter on making the ones I have more waterproof.

There's more about the boat's balance under sail under the Sailing section, but there's something about the design that should be mentioned here. Because the boat is so well balanced under full sail with the bigger rig, I would seriously consider some very subtle design changes if I picked the smaller rig. Namely, either moving the mast aft a few inches or moving the centerboard forward a few inches to compensate for the difference in Center Of Effort. Another choice would be to make the centerboard so that it could be lowered farther to a more vertical orientation, thereby moving the Center of Lateral Resistance forward just a bit. The benefit of this change would be better handling when reefed, especially double reefed when the COE is so far forward.

    Building

Having a bigger shop would have really been nice. Sure, I get that feeling of pride that I was able to do it all in a 10 ft. by 20 ft. space, but what it cost me was time. Time to move things around so I could work; time to move it all back when I was done for the day. Time when I couldn't work because it was too hot or too cold. Having a radial arm saw to do the more precision cutting would have been nice, too, but I didn't have the room for it.

I didn't follow the designer's exact order of construction, but then I don't think any builder would. This is especially true when several things things can be worked on simultaneously to save time. This becomes harder to do once the boat nears the end of construction so it seems like things progress at a slower speed.

I was pretty happy with the materials I selected. Some of the fir plywood would leave a ragged edge around my saber cuts, but most edges were buried behind epoxy goop so you can't tell. Phillippine mahogany ply cuts a better edge, but for my area it is too expensive.

Speaking of expensive, it would have been better if I spread out the more expensive components over the whole construction period. Sailing hardware, mast, boom, sail, and trailer were all bought at the end, making the cash outlay pretty painful. Keeping a close eye on discounted sales and researching sources for those things you don't want to build should start as soon as the first board is cut.

Many internet forums, like Wooden Boat and rec.boats.building newsgroup, provide no end of different solutions to many different puzzles. I've chimed in on occasion with my own opinion and experiences. But like many other topics, building a boat is part science, part art, and mostly grunt work. How things are done are really up to what the builder feels comfortable doing based on his/her strengths and weaknesses. I was often confused by the wealth of information and advice available. In the end I just processed what I needed and left the rest.

As a non-professional builder, what is the value of your time? Well, $0.00, to be precise. I found this to be the case when Egia was surveyed for insurance. I figured I had spent $12,000 in materials and 600 hours of labor. 600 hours of professional labor at $10 an hour would be $6000. So the boats total value (low end) would be $18,000, minus a couple thousand because the finish is not quite professional. Surveyor's value? $12,000. And that's only because I had receipts to show it. It probably would have been lower. The surveyor's comment was, "Homebuilt boat? Nobody wants to buy a homebuilt boat." Despite the blow to my ego, I know he's right. I would be very hesitant about buying a homebuilt boat because I don't know how it went together. But fortunately I didn't build Egia to sell it. Besides, the side benefit of a lower value is that the insurance rates are lower.

Sailing

As a reminder, I built Egia with the original tall mast and a 205 sq. ft. mainsail. Kirby now recommends the mast to be 5 ft. shorter and the mainsail size around 180 sq. ft. The ballast is 700 lbs. of internal lead ingots. I haven't moved them around from my original plan, but like Klaus S. found with his boat, the stern squats a little too much. Putting a couple of people in the cockpit causes the transom sink a couple of inches when it should just touch the water. I think the amount of ballast is just right, but I need to move some of it forward to make the trim more balanced.

Up to this point I have had Egia out in Beaufort scale winds of Force 0 to 7. In really light air (Force 0 to 1), the boat is very spritely. The narrow waterline, low wetted surface, and big sail allow the boat to scoot even if the water looks like a mirror. And she'll climb to weather like a witch on a broom with a tacking angle of around 75 to 80 degrees. As the breeze increases to Force 4, it's time for the first reef. Tacking angle at this point increases to around 90 to 95 degrees. You can still pull the main to the centerline, but the combination of wind force on the freeboard and the inefficient plate centerboard contrive to slow the boat to a crawl. It's better to let the boom out some and she'll pick up speed. Once the wind increases to Force 6, it's time for the second reef, which on my sail leaves about 75 sq. ft. At this point going to windward is a bit more strenuous. Tacking angle is 95 to 110 degrees, but that depends a great deal on the sea state. With 2 reefs, the sail area moves forward, creating lee helm upwind. I found that I was carrying 10 - 20 degrees of lee helm on a close hauled course in Force 6 - 7 conditions. This can be reduced somewhat by letting the sail twist more, although I found the lazy jacks began to interfere with this intention. Once I bore off to a beam reach or broad reach, the lee helm went away. Generally Egia will gain ground to windward into Force 7 (with no opposing current) but that's the limit. Given the right conditions downwind (steep seas and loads of breeze), Egia will surf down the waves and punch into the back of the wave ahead. I've done it a few times, though, without ill effect. In these same conditions, quite a bit of pressure is required on the rudder to prevent the boat from rounding into the wind. This is due to the sail area being out to one side, the pull on the mainsheet trying to yank the stern around. The advantage of this scenario, as I found out, is little chance of an accidental gybe. One last comment about my Force 7 experience: I never gybed, I always tacked around. Force 8 is too much even downwind for a double reef; at that point it would be better furling the sail and riding it out under a bare pole if you have the sea room.

In general, performance is probably affected by the how the sail is designed and how it interacts with whatever mast is made. A bendier mast and a flatter sail would likely behave a bit differently than mine.

The freeboard of the NIS designs do make them pretty dry during sailing. I've gone through tidal washing machines with nothing more than an occasional splash over the rail. The cockpit coaming really helps keep things dry, too. And despite the flat bottom she never pounds.

If you are looking for a boat that is as stiff as a church, then the NIS is not for you. 25 degrees of heal is easy to reach. But it does stiffen up the more it heals. Once I screwed up a tack in the Force 6 stuff (with 1 reef, not 2) and got pressed over to the point where the cabin porthole was just at the water's edge. I was a bit preoccupied at the time to look at the clinometer, but it was probably around 50 degrees. That was the worst case so far, and the boat popped back up and kept going without a whimper. I still plan to do some stability testing to get a better picture of the boat's hydrodynamic attributes.

I am very pleased that I loaded up the deck with so much sailing hardware, like traveler, cunningham, 4:1 outhaul, boom vang, etc. It turns out that the sail is so large that the boat responds to the slightest trim change. Having all those strings to pull really helps keep the boat running efficiently. Even if cruising. Egia will average over 5.5 knots downwind in Force 7, which is pretty good considering a displacement boat on a 16 ft. waterline.

One small note about the centerboard not actually being on the centerline. I do notice a slight difference in speed between port tack and starboard tack when going upwind.

Cruising

At this writing I have done a number of cruises. Most of them were singlehanded, the remainder with my bride. For one person Egia is quite comfortable. Everything is close at hand without being clausterphobic. Egia's ability to steer herself even for short periods allows time to navigate, make a sandwich, check the depth with the leadline, even clean a dirty anchor in the cockpit. For two people it's still quite comfortable, but a careful dance is required when both are moving around below. The sleeping bunk is very commodious for two adults. Three adults is about the maximum I'd want to have aboard, especially since the sleeping arrangements would be difficult.

There is certainly plenty of storage; I've yet to use it all even though I've always packed too much food. When singlehanding I make do without a cooler since I don't have a convenient place to put it. Cooking is done with a gimbled propane bottle stove. The stove is so easy to operate I can't imagine it any other way, plus I don't have to worry about spilling my dinner when the boat rolls from a passing wake.

As of March 2002 I finished making the cushions. It was quite easy, with a little inspiration from Dave and Mindy B. I bought 5" foam from a wholesaler, the coated packcloth from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics, and with a quick lesson from my bride on how to use the sewing machine I proceeded. The result was not professional, but better than I had expected.


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