Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dreaming of Gypsy

In our last installment (a year ago? has it been that long?) I ran through an abbreviated list of things I didn't like about the Lido 14 that was my first sailboat. After that I discovered a few more. But all in all it served its purpose.

A single-handed selfie. Who's got the tiller???
The Lido 14 is designed for a crew of two or three. It turned out that many times only a crew of one was available: me. So in August last year I started taking her out single-handed. For a fellow who didn't grow up with a main sheet in his hand, there seemed to be a confounding number of things to do all at once: lower the centerboard, lower the rudder, release the dock lines, back the sail, etc. We had a low water year last year, so often the marina water was so low that I couldn't get the centerboard down until I was out on the lake. So I got a canoe paddle, and worked it out that way. but with a six-foot beam, the boat was too wide to paddle effectively, AND steer the rudder at the same time.

Even so, I managed to get out alone a few times last summer and fall, and once or twice this spring. A couple of times I even went out with winds blowing 20 mph, and whitecaps on the water. The Lido was up to the task, and I came home each time without having capsized the boat. After twenty outings and no disasters I started to feel like I might call myself sailor.

But after each successful outing I also grew more and more dissatisfied with the Lido. There had to be a boat design that better served my purposes. For more than a year I had been looking at various boat plans to find the Ideal Boat. I wanted something that would not be too terribly difficult to build out of plywood with limited tools. A boat that could row, with oars in oarlocks, would simplify the process of leaving the marina. I wanted a sail rig that offered simplicity, and easy reefing when the wind piped up. And of course I wanted it to be cheap.

After more than a year of dreaming and worrying about the Ideal Boat (an oxymoron to be sure) I settled on the Gypsy, a design from the prolific naval architect Phillip Bolger. It seemed to tick all the boxes, and the plans were dirt cheap. Don't get me started on plans. Some boat designers charge $200-$300 for plans to build a boat that will fit in the average garage. But the Gypsy plans were only $40! Too good to be true? Only time would tell...

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