Continued from Part One ...
The other change from the original design is the seat. Phil Bolger designed a fore and aft thwart that you straddle while rowing. It is elegant and simple, and as previously mentioned, allows the skipper to lie down full length and look at the stars. But a sailboat is sailed primarily by moving your weight around, then by trimming the sails, and finally by making small adjustments to the tiller. The fore-and-aft thwart constrains your weight near the centerline of the boat. Some lore regarding the Nymph sailing qualities is that she is "tender," and not in the good way. Harold Payson and Phil Bolger fattened up her bottom up by a full 12" for later editions of the Instant Boat book and rechristened her broad-beamed sister Rubens Nymph. I have never felt that the original was particularly tender, but I need to make a disclaimer: I'm a dinghy sailor and I've spent hundreds of hours in canoes and kayaks. When I was a wee child my mother told me to never stand up in a boat, so as soon as I rowed out of sight that's the first thing I did. I've been standing up in boats ever since, and for the past 20 years I've windsurfed with the big boys on Lake Superior and in the Columbia Gorge. My two brothers and I invented Stand Up Paddling as kids on Burt Lake in the 1960s--as has every generation of water kids before and since. So I'm the wrong guy to ask whether a boat is "tender." I'll try to sail anything, and if I get wet, it's my fault, not the boat's.
Small boats like Herreshoff 12s have historically been "boy's boats" - they are supposed to be easy to sail. That is fine, but what about those of us who want something small and technical, a craft that rewards our growing skills and punishes our mistakes? A technical sailboat needs a way to make quick, small adjustments to crew weight relative to the centerline - side to side and fore and aft. A good way to do that is a footwell ringed by a seat. There's not much room for a footwell in a Nymph, but there is enough.
Photo above shows the present arrangement. My artist daughter thinks it looks good, and my sailboat-racing son says it looks functional.
I enjoyed sailing Wee Rose all last summer, and she drew a crowd along the shore everywhere I sailed. Some folks thought I was a big boat far away - and by the time they got back from the car with the binoculars I was tied up at the dock.
I was happy with the modifications and sailing qualities, but my son suggested that I add some reserve bouyancy. I wasn't all that concerned about getting in big trouble out on the river with my pfd and all the spectators on shore every time I sailed, but I didn't want to constrain my sailing to public places, and it goes against the grain to design and build a boat that I can't self-rescue. So this past winter I modified the transoms and added sealed compartments fore and aft. I haven't yet sailed her fully swamped, but when the weather gets a little warmer that's an experiment I'll try.
Photos above were taken out in the back yard this week, as I made final adjustments to the rig before the next sailing adventure. The closed fore and aft compartments would hold a sleeping bag, tent, stove, supplies - more than enough for a guy to spend a week exploring the far shore. The curve profiles for the transoms and decks were taken from The Sharpie Book. They look good to my eye.
She is fun to sail by the seat of the pants and responds gracefully to little adjustments. I've sailed her for long stretches with the tiller lashed amidships, steering with the main and jib sheets and little weight shifts. She tacks and jibes like a dinghy, seemingly in her own length. She points well and is stable downwind. She is not fast. With only 7' of waterline, it doesn't take all that much wind to get her up to hull speed, and with that lovely bottom rocker, she really doesn't want to plane. There's probably an equation for that. It probably says that she would generate a wave 7 feet long and 7 feet deep before she'd pop onto a plane. So I avoid racing other sailboats. I like to race rented sea kayaks. They energetically paddle their 18' waterlines past me at 1.6 times my velocity, and then after a while I catch up and sail off into the distance, my mainsail a tiny red square in the sunset. The rig is considerably more fussy than other boats her size, but the view looking up from the cockpit is nicer.
I have sketches for a big ghoster fore sail and a little topsail, but it's been so windy this summer that I haven't had much need for more sail area. Those may be projects for this coming winter - particularly if I run into that guy out on the river again who beat me on a downwind leg in his 9' lapstrake yacht tender with an old windsurfing sail. I smoked him on the up wind legs.
As I have sketched and then made modifications over the past two years, I've tried to remain true to her old soul as a working boat. She's a work of art from 10' away, but from 3' away you can see the marks of whatever woodworking skills I've acquired. From 3 feet away you can also tell that she has been out sailing since the last time she was all polished up. As I worked on her, first Phil Bolger and then Harold Payson passed on. I hope they'd approve.