Sea Minor – Cay of Sea’s Dinghy

Since Cay of Sea is not sailable until I address the rigging issues, I’ve sailed our pram Sea Minor several times recently. I am prone to forget how much fun it is to sail a small boat, but these big sailing adventures in a small boat remind me that sailing is fun regardless of the size of your boat. Actually, small size provides a connection with the forces involved that you don’t get with a larger boat.

A little about Sea Minor:  She’s 8 feet long, with a 44 inch beam at the widest point of the gunnels. Pram shaped, the bottom is made from one sheet of 6 mm marine plywood. A slice is cut out of the plywood both at the bow and stern to provide the vee shape: deeper at the bow, shallower (and smaller angle) at the stern. With the sides of these slices pulled together, the bottom takes on a deep vee at the bow, and a gentle lift at the stern. The chines are firm angles port and starboard, and provide a bit of grip in the water as she heels to the wind.

You can see the shape of the stern in this photo.  Also notable is the "super tide" we've had the last day or two.  High tide is usually 12-18" lower than this.

You can see the shape of the stern in this photo. Also notable is the “super tide” we’ve had the last day or two. High tide is usually 12-18″ lower than this.

Here the depth of bow rise is visible.

Here the depth of bow rise is visible.

She rows well, skimming easily with one person on the middle thwart and pulling at the oars. Two people on board is a different story. The additional weight has a big impact on speed, and the oarsman has to sit on the stern thwart, thus pushing the oars rather than pulling. This is something I will eventually change, because rowing this way is hard work.  The middle seat needs to be refit so that it is oriented fore and aft. This will allow the oarsman to slide forward when a passenger is aboard and fit the oars into an additional set of oarlocks, optimally positioned. The oarsman will then be able to face astern and pull. The pram will balance with the passenger sitting on the stern thwart.

My sons and I built this dinghy from a set of plans I bought at the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Show in 1996 or 7.  We put it together that winter, and have been using it as a tender ever since.  We also built the sailing rig. I bought clear square stock (it was spruce or pine) at the building supply store and planed it down to shape.  We ordered a sail kit from Sailrite and my wife (mostly) sewed it together. We received no plans for the spars, centerboard, centerboard trunk, or rudder so those were little puzzles we had to figure out by the seat of our pants. The plans did provide information about locating a centerboard, and that was helpful.

Centerboard, rudder assembly, and tiller.  These were sized by guess, but seem to work just right.  The effective depth of the dagger board is 12" less than you see here, allowing for the length of the centerboard trunk.

Centerboard, rudder assembly, and tiller. These were sized by guess, but seem to work just right. The effective depth of the dagger board is 12″ less than you see here, allowing for the length of the centerboard trunk.

Attachements for sprit and boom.  We had to figure all of this out on the fly too, as no instructions were provided with the plans.

Attachments for sprit and boom. We had to figure all of this out on the fly too, as no instructions were provided with the plans.

While the instructions alluded to a mast step, and the spar passing through the forward thwart, how to do it was not actually detailed.

While the instructions alluded to a mast step, and the spar passing through the forward thwart, how to do it was not actually detailed.

Centerboard trunk epoxied in place. Sorry about the dirt and grass inside - I just stepped out of it from sailing and took this photo. She's about due for another coat of paint too.

Centerboard trunk epoxied in place. Sorry about the dirt and grass inside – I just stepped out of it from sailing and took this photo. She’s about due for another coat of paint too.

Various bits of the trim are mahogany (gunnels, seat rails), which when finished bright sets off the white hull and varnished thwarts nicely.  However, I soon realized that the unprotected varnished gunnels were easily marred, and scarred the topsides of the yacht as well.  I finally painted them white and covered them with firehose, after experimenting with other materials like foam swimming noodles and foam pipe insulation. Fluorescent green or bright blue foam noodles provided Sea Minor with a measure of distinctiveness. I was more interested in a traditional look though, so reluctantly jettisoned the noodles and the distinctive air they lent. The firehose lashings have changed several times.  As it turns out, if the topsides are pierced to allow lashing to pass through, moisture and rot are also possibilities.  I’ve repaired and filled the original piercings, then epoxied in place fixed lashings. I don’t like this either, and will go back to the original system of lashing. This time, however, I will pot the piercings with epoxy, then re-drill the holes through the epoxy, and in that way protect the topsides from rot and moisture.

Here's an old photo that shows the original firehose lashing system.  This held the hose tightly against the gunnels, and it looks neat and shippy.

Here’s an old photo that shows the original firehose lashing system. This held the hose tightly against the gunnels, and it looks neat and shippy.

And how does she sail?  Well . . . like a short boat, actually.  Not too surprising, I guess. It is easy to stop her forward motion because of her short water line.  She goes to weather fairly well – amazingly well, as I’ve discovered recently, but she has to be handled correctly to do so.  She kind of needs a running start for going to weather.  If sheeted hard too soon, she doesn’t build any forward momentum – she just slides sideways. Once she’s moving cracked off the wind a bit, she can be hardened up, and she goes fine up wind. She could do with a spacer at the bottom of the centerboard trunk, because the board vibrates when she goes fast, especially off the wind. Taking up some of the extra space at the bottom of the slot will fix that. The rig is simple, and remarkably effective. I’m still amazed that it works at all, but so satisfied that it works so effectively.  Here are a few photos of today’s sail:

Above is the rigging and launching process.

At the end of the sail, all the parts are stowed aboard Cay of Sea: rudder, daggerboard, and tiller slot into the quarter berth, and the rig is rolled, lashed, and stowed along the starboard side of the v-berth.

Like any boat, a dinghy can’t be ignored forever – Sea Minor is due for a refit – probably next spring: New paint, new varnish, revamp with middle thwart and firehose lashing.  I also need to add a mainsheet traveler of some sort – something simple, of course.  And she also needs her name painted across the transom – I’ve been putting that off until the transom is faired and repainted.

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