The "Scooner" is designed by
Philip C Bolger, one of the world's leading
boat and yacht designers, arguably the man who knows most about sharpie
boat designs, and almost certainly the most iconoclastic designer around.
"Scooner" is his plan name, not a mispelling - perhaps for a schooner with
something missing, like any provision for a cabin...
The Light Schooner is a sleek ply/epoxy miniature. She has a long (23' 6") low and lean (5') sharpie hull. Drop-in timber masts carry gaff sails, a self tending jib and a large and powerful staysail. Under a cloud of sail (266 sq ft), she looks as if she's leapt straight out of the 19th Century.
Two large cockpits take up to six adults (full size) for day sailing. A family foursome has lots of lolling room, even with camping gear. Accommodation via boom tent will sleep two on the water with a third in the forward cockpit, or she can carry camping gear for a larger party. Simple to build, easy to tow with a compact car, and minimal maintenance. She appeals to mad teenagers.
The light schooner comes from a north-east American workboat heritage. The sharpie hull bears little relation to an Australian lightweight sharpie, but is very close to traditional Chesapeake Bay fishing boats. It is also very close to self-righting, something which came as a bit of surprise to us, especially since we'd packed every nook and cranny of Flying Tadpole II with foam on the assumption that she wasn't.
The unstayed masts are unstayed because they often were (besides, when did you last see a tree with stainless steel shrouds??), and after helping various trailersailers get their stayed masts up, I'm more than ever convinced that unstayed masts lead to a quiet and contemplative life, especially when trying to get to windward. Besides, in the last extremity, you can throw the lot overboard as a sea-anchor!
The schooner rig is used because
it looks great, it provides maximum sail area without going high and without
becoming impossible to hold up, and despite appearances it's a very simple
rig to handle with a very small crew. Once the rig is set up, it's set
up -- self-tending and self-tacking. I will admit to a certain lack of
dignity in Flying Tadpole
to get underway and to stop. This comes from 100m or so of rope in 16 running
rigging lines, a 16-foot main boom, and a Seagull engine of pronounced
character and no reverse set in a sadistic motor well.
gaff rig of any sort will ever out-perform bermuda rig, wire and bendy
masts to windward, and the schooner is no exception. But it tends to be
forgotten that gaff rigs are more powerful once the boat is more than 60
degrees off the wind. That's why our Milang-Goolwa
race performances tend to be abysmal and our Goolwa-Milang
races so spectacular. A few points off the wind and we can leave just
about anything behind.
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