April 12, 2011

All’s well that ends well

IF I’VE HEARD IT ONCE, I must have heard it a hundred times: the best kind of stern for a sailboat is the double-ender, because it splits the overtaking seas. But as far as I know, there is no evidence that this is true. Boats with transom sterns seem to be just as seaworthy as Colin Archers, and in fact may have some advantages.

There was the famous case of the Colin Archer Sandefjord, which was turned head-over-heels in the Atlantic on her way to South Africa. A huge following sea lifted her stern while the bow dug in, and she simply flipped lengthwise. This could have happened to a boat with any kind of stern, of course, but it just showed that double-enders are not immune to pitchpoling.

So many sailboats with transom sterns have survived bad gales at sea that it would be futile to try to count them; futile also to rate the seaworthiness of different types of stern, except that one can say fairly surely that extra-long overhangs such as those on pure racing craft like the 30-Square-Meter Class have no business going to sea.

Moderation is the name of the game, as usual. A traditional counter stern, a reverse counter stern, or a canoe stern is perfectly acceptable, as long as it is not stretched to excess.

This being the case, sailboat sterns are usually designed for reasons other than seaworthiness. Double-enders, for example, may be prone to pooping, according to naval architect Ted Brewer, because they lack the reserve buoyancy of a wider transom stern or a counter stern. The main advantage of a pilot-boat stern like the Colin Archer’s was specific to their function as workboats, apparently. Brewer says there was no transom corner to be smashed when the pilot boat pulled away from the freighter in a rough sea.

Transom sterns and moderate counters provide more deck space and locker space than do double-enders, as well as more reserve buoyancy. If they’re properly designed, and don't drag in the water, they’re not only efficient but also aesthetically pleasing.

L. Francis Herreshoff drew some fine sterns, as did Carl Alberg. In fact, Alberg’s Triton looks better from aft than from any other angle, especially to those who appreciate a nicely curved rear end.

Today’s Thought
Nothing in human life ... is ever right until it is beautiful.
— Harry Emerson Fosdick

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #185
The consensus of doctors having experience with castaways is that you should not drink sea water unless you can augment it with an ample supply of fresh water, in which case as much as one pint of sea water a day might be acceptable for short periods.
Incidentally, if fresh water is scarce, the old rule is to cut down on food as well. Large amounts of water are needed to digest proteins, in particular.

“Is your wife that gorgeous blonde on the left of that horsefaced old bag, or is she the ravishing brunette on her right?”
“She’s the one in the middle.”
“Omigawd ... I’m so sorry.”
“Yeah, me too.”

(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for a new Mainly about Boats column.)


Aaron Headly said...

Another advantage to the canoe stern (when made of wood, anyway) was strength. Joints are always a weak spot, and the canoe stern pretty much eliminates them.

Robin Knox-Johnston was probably glad that Suhaili was built (of wood) to the Archer-inspired Eric design (from the pen of William Atkin) while he was getting beat up in the Southern Ocean.

The (fiberglass) Westsail 32, built to the same lines, probably gains some strength from not having many corners aft, but GRP doesn't have 'joints' per se. So: overkill? You won't convince a WS32 owner that his boat is overbuilt. There are people, though, that call them 'Wetsnails'. Whatever; I don't have a dog in that hunt.

(I do own a Ted Brewer ketch, so I, of course, consider anything Ted says to be Gospel!)

mgtdOcean said...

I sailed a Catalac 10M catamaran with transom sterns for awhile. When following waves would hit one hull first it would start to slew about. It made for a lot of wheel work. Then I owned a Heavenly Twins 26 catamaran with canoe sterns. Much,much easier time with it.
So I bought into the idea of canoe sterns being less affected and it's one reason I'm building a Wharram Tiki 30 now, canoe sterns. I don't have enough monohull experience to know but a thought provoking post. Thanks
PS Great Blog John!

Ben said...

I have sailed plenty of transom stern boats and only ever had the odd splash and thump as a wave hits the transom, so thought transom sterns were great.

But then I delivered a Atkins Eric design (sistership to Suhaili), and was so impressed with everything about it, it's seakindliness, and handling in a following sea was better than anything else I have sailed... She steered herself like you wouldn't believe, running downwind with two reefs in the main and the helm lashed in a lumpy confused sea. An absolutely incredible boat and faster than she looks (as long as you didn't have to go hard to windward)- so maybe there is something in that stern, or is it some other Colin Archer magic?

Anonymous said...

The secret of education lies in respecting the pupil.