Gannet, part 1
a 30' Canoe Yawl
I fell in love with L. Francis Herresshoff’s Rozinante design back in 1974. Early on I marveled at the way the Great Depression was a crucible for the designers who came of age during those times and brought us so many of what came to be considered timeless, classic boat designs.
There seems to be something about difficult times....
In these times of ours I am increasingly looking to see if there may be a way to redeem the idea of pleasure craft. When people have called me a Naval Architect or a yacht designer I first let them know I do not have degree in N.A., a condition I share with every designer of America’s Cup winners during that long run between 1851 and 1983. I design boats. I have no patience for the trappings of yachting. What I’ve pursued in boats has been an attempt to salvage traditional methods of design and construction while looking to see how those with the means to build boats might also be persuaded to find ways to use their craft for more than just their idle pleasure.
Spending time on small boats can be transformative. One is thrown into a microcosm as soon as we leave the shore. This feeling is compelling and, with the right approach, can teach us so much while we inhabit an atmosphere conducive to being naturally open, to imagining ourselves, and what we do, differently. This is also true of every part of our interaction with boats, from imagining the boat we would like, to fleshing out the design, to building or getting it built.
IF, we are willing to accept the limitations on offer and willing to meet the challenges and disciplines our boats offer us they may become Vessels of Transformation.
This begins with limits. The first of these is to limit ourselves to sail and human power as much as possible. This means setting aside the notion of busy-ness. This means allowing that we may choose when we depart, but accepting that weather and circumstance will dictate the time of our return. Also, we gain much if we limit ourselves to simple tools and materials and, most importantly, if we work to expand the circle of who gets to enjoy our boats. Basically the goal is to invert yachting’s model of opulence and exclusivity.
We’ve also fallen into a learned helplessness. We’ve become so dependent on engines and external power that we’ve lost touch with our own strength. Strength that increases the more demands we put on it. Almost anyone who considers sailing a fun pursuit is, or can soon become, capable of using their own strength to augment the power of the wind. Sailing is by nature strenuous, adding oars and paddles – and anchoring when the current is foul – does not materially change that fact. What it can do is add immensely to the satisfactions we gain upon the water.
We can extend that “little while” by pairing a band of smaller craft with a larger boat available to sleep the day-crews of the smaller boats. A place to gather the fleet’s people aboard for meals or sleep, shelter or entertainment. A boat that would be a Mother-Hen for the small fry.
Something we rarely consider is what happens when boats sail in company. The Small Reach Regatta showed some of these benefits, but I do feel we’ve barely scratched the surface.
I’ve considered a larger schooner as a great Mother Hen, a twist on the way the Banks Schooners would carry a brace of dories.... But this concept could also apply to Gannet. Although this would be a much more modest “fleet,” perhaps a few kayaks or a couple of sailing canoes. Gannet would be sailed single handed while the rest of the fleet are kept in sight; in the evenings the smaller boats’ crews would come aboard for dinner and to sleep. A cockpit tent, easily rigged between the masts, would sleep three above deck and three below, depending on their size....
Unless you’ve experienced it, the emotional power of “sailing in company” is hard to believe. It creates strong bonds among the people involved, creates a “we” responsible for everyone’s safety and well-being. We abandon the deus-ex-machina that a rescue helicopter will pull us out of our own irresponsibility and, in its place we see and feel what it means to be responsible for ourselves and, most importantly, each other.
Of all my designs, Gannet is perhaps the most integrated. By that I mean that it has not been forced to fit unreasonable expectations. Everything is as it should be for the type and what it is asked to accomplish.
Part 2 will flesh out a modest proposal…
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