Bolger's armchair comfort in a 12' ballasted keel boat!
Square Boats logo
Australia: Heinrich Rose's Oldshoe prior to maiden launch, at Kissing Point on the Parramatta River, Sydney (turns into Sydney Harbour, folks...).  Photo (c) Mike Storer.  Other photos on this page are of John Harris's (USA) Oldshoe, taken and (c) by that master of the camera, Craig O'Donnell 
"The boat 

"... The first impression is of size. I have spent the best part of my life around boats, and this 12 footer gave the impression of size and interior space of an 18 footer - surely this was not the little Oldshoe - but it had to be, as it was the only plywood keelboat with an unstayed yawl rig and offset mizzen mast in the carpark... 

"The little Oldshoe is exactly like the cockpit of a 30 foot yacht - with the cabin and complication and general fuss all removed.  The crew sits well within the boat, with the high sides providing a comfortable backrest.  The sails have sprit booms so there is little chance of a hapless crewmember getting a bonce on the scone.  There is a built-in stowage bin forward that provides much of the function of a cabin for daysails - plenty of space to stow picnics, esky (cooler), changes of clothes, and probably enough room for the family golden retriever as well... 

"Unlike many small boats that rely on outboard for auxiliary power, the outboard installation is designed in, rather than added as an afterthought, resulting in good long distance ability under power - particularly if fitted with one of the new small 4-strokes coming onto the market - a 2hp Honda would be just right for near-silent relaxed running.  There is a self-draining well at the aft end of the boat for fuel tank, muddy boot and the like to keep the gunge and inflammables out of the cockpit. 

"I also suspect that with builtin buoyancy she would be quite capable of some coasting with complete safety in any enjoyable sailing weather -she is self righting due to 200 lb of lead in the 1ft 3inch deep fixed keel 

"Manoeuvring the boat onto the trailer at the end of the day was much easier than I had anticipated, as she shrinks back to 12 ft, allowing her to be easily manhandled (personhandled) back onto the trailer. 


"First time rigging of a new boat is usually a trail of unforeseen problems, taking half a day in itself, but Oldshoe had been rigged in under an hour - I am sure that once the bugs have ironed out, rigging will take little more than 15 minutes from first park to hitting the water. 

"In the end there were four adults on the boat: the Roses, myself and a ring-in that had attached himself to us in the carpark (he asked so many questions we though it would be best if he came sailing so he could answer them himself). 

"Disaster strikes 

"Unfortunately this unusually perfect launching day revealed one glitch within a minute of setting sail - unusual sounds from Heinrich indicated that the tiller had broken off the rudder stock.  Usually this would mean the end of the day's sailing, but after quite a few years' experience of cat rigged yawls, I knew Oldshoe could be steered very successfully with sails alone. 

"However, we did have the comfort of an outboard to help us through tacks and to get us out of any difficult spots. So we headed up the harbour into the eye of the wind, adjusting sails to maintain our course. 

"Unfussed sailing 

"The first notable thing was the lack of drama - Oldshoe sails very upright (about five to seven degrees heel).  We could all just sit in the boat - none of this moving from side to side as we tacked, though our rung-in crewmember could not resist moving up the weather side out of long habit in other small boats. He made very little difference to the angle of heel. 

"The other notable lack of drama was as we tacked - anyone who has sailed these unstayed headsail-less yawls knows - you just put the tiller over to tack, no headsail sheets to release and pull back in on the other side.  This means the boat is easily singlehanded, particularly when there is a party of anxious non-sailors aboard. 

"The wind gradually increased from around eight knots up to 15, a good strong sailing breeze,  The Oldshoe handled it brilliantly, very gradually pulling away from a moderately well sailed 20ft trailer sailer that had come over to pick a fight.  He started tweaking lines in a vain attempt to keep up - if only he had known we were rudderless! We broke out lunch, all relaxedly eating our sandwiches while the little boat sailed herself. 

"A few sharp puffs 

"Under the Gladesville Bridge (the "other" bridge on the harbour) we got some sharp gusts close to 20 knots. Oldshoe heeled another two degrees, pinched slightly, then bore away to her former course as they passed. 

"Turning onto the run back home, we had a bit of a shock as the sails took charge of our rudderless boat and sent it skidding all over the place.  The remedy was simple - head buck up into the breeze and furl the mizzen by rolling it up around its own leach. (This allows a single tie to hold the whole sail, as well as being a lot easier than trying to roll it around the mast). With the mainsail still set, we kept the outboard at around half revs for steering and had no further difficulties. I am sure she would have behaved herself perfectly without running the engine or furling the mizzen if the rudder had been operational!" 

Text (c) Mike Storer  in Australian Amateur Boat Builder  No 14, Autumn, 1996, reproduced with permission 
Photos: top (c) Mike Storer of  Heinrich's boat. All other photos (c) Craig O'Donnell of John C Harris's boat
| Bolger Boats in the Web | Square Boats home page |
Sick of Square Boats? Visit the Light Schooner!