My Backyard Boats:

The Weekend Skiff -- Choosing a Sail Plan

Graph paper is fun to play with when trying out sail plans.

  Spring 2001: This page from the notebook I kept while making the Weekend Skiff gives you an idea of the way I worked out my sail plan options.

    I took the dimensions from various sail plans in various places and scaled them to match the profile drawing in plans for the skiff.

    By matching the scale, I could draw a plan and hold it up to the drawing in the boat plans to see if I would encounter weather helm, lee helm, or balanced helm.

    I would match the sail's center of effort on my scale drawing with the center of effort for the skiff.

    Sail plan sources that I used included Canoe Rig and 103 Sail Plans.

 My mast.


  The scale that I used is on graph paper with 4 squares per inch. I'm not that good at math, so I had to use a number of different rulers until I found one that I could get accurate results with. My old Pica pole from newspaper work worked best for me. Dynamite Payson's book on Instant Boats gives good guidance for those of you who know your way around scale rulers.
    In fact, if you want to make a balanced lug sail like the one drawn here, you could print the scan from my notebook and enlarge it in a copier to 8 1/2- by 11-inch size and see for yourself how well it might work. Then get a PolyTarp kit and make it. Takes about two hours. Then consult Canoe Rig or  The Sailmaker's Apprentice to set up the rigging. That's what I did.

    I made a gaff/jib rig that was a total disaster (we were sitting on all the strings) and a balance lug that I liked, and a sprit sail that didn't work that well, because it made things hot for the crew by coming down too low. One constant was the mast. I used two pieces of 1x4 yellow pine and one piece of 1x4 fir to make a square blank 11 feet long. I tapered it with a block plane. Each sail plan I tried was bound by this mast dimension, though I used fir closet poles to make booms and sprits and lug stuff such as yards as needed. I tapered the mast to accommodate the gaff rig, since that was the first one I tried, so the mast is a bit stiff.

    Another limiting factor was the beam of the boat, which restricted the length of any boom I tried, since I wanted to avoid pivoting on a dipping  boom that was too long. Bolger is good on explaining this gotcha. I didn't use any sail plans with booms more than 9 or 10 feet long. One of the benefits of the sprit over a traditional boom is that a sprit can be longer and still not cause the problem that a long boom can.

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