Friday, 31 August 2012

La Fete de Doris

From an Internet Café

Well, this frugal lifestyle can have its downsides. I’m currently trying to move from French Telecoms to ‘Free’ to get cheaper international calls, broadband and some kind of advantageous mobile phone system. All will be well when the transaction goes through but it can take up to two weeks to sort. In the meantime, blogging has to be done through laptops and internet cafés, which is a pity because there is a lot to blog about.

Firstly, there was the Fete de Doris, the biggest yet with over 100 dories plying the estuary all through the past weekend. Also, I had my first sail as crew of the good ship La Passagere, a nineteenth century lugger recently bought by my good friend Allain, for use as an opportunity for tourists to get a taste of the sea, AND I have finally tracked down an interesting boat which I hope to see in the near future. 

Anyway, the weekend of the Fete de Doris was truly beautiful, lots of sunshine (rare this year) and gentle breezes which were a godsend to the countless people rowing each stage. The welcomes at each of the twelve slipways were very warm and the refreshments provided to the participants were generous and quite alcoholic. There was live music in each village and several boats also managed to keep the music going between stages thanks to crew members who brought accordions along with them. 

SO, sorry for the slight hiccup in transmissions but hopefully, things will improve shortly and normal transmissions will resume at the rate of two per week. AND the moment, I have my new internet set-up I’ll be posting one of Susan’s new monthly recipes, and a new quiz page for September, so if you haven’t attempted the quiz yet, you only have a few days left.



Sunday, 19 August 2012


The Fete des Doris

So, I have finally tracked down this Westerly Nomad for sale in Normandy. She's several miles from the water and several hundred feet above it - in the Normandy Hills on an obscure farm in an obscure part of the region. About two or threee hours drive from here - so I'll probably make the trip in a week or so, after having read up all I can about this particular design.

Before that however, there is great excitement hereabouts because next weekend (25th 26th August), we have the Fete des Doris, the high spot of the summer sailing season. As well as being Susan’s middle name, Doris is the name given by the French to a flat bottomed boat known by our American cousins as a Dory.  So what is the Fete des Doris? Well, essentially it is two days of festivity all around the estuary with hundreds of Dories taking centre stage.   

This particular part of France was heavily involved in the Newfoundland Cod fishery in the 18th and 19th Centuries and St Malo was the capital of the industry. Men were recruited to the fishing fleet from all around the estuary and shipped aboard the tall ships bound for the cod banks. When they arrived they were put into smaller vessels and the fishing was done by long lining from these boats. The Dory was well suited to the activity because it was a very seaworthy small boat which gained stability as the weight of fish increased. Equally importantly, it was a simple design using the straight planed timbers that were cheap and plentiful thanks to the mechanisation resulting from the industrial revolution – and these boats could be stacked on deck, one above the other, for the Atlantic crossing.

Despite their seaworthiness cod fishing was a dangerous game. Newfoundland is well known for fogs and the guys in the Dory’s could easily lose sight of the mother ship for days on end. So it was a high risk business but the rewards could also be generous and many ship owners in these parts became very wealthy men. So wealthy in fact that many built sumptuous mansions on the estuary shore from where they could see their ships arriving and departing. The inhabitants of St Malo often declare that they are neither French nor Breton – rather they are Malouin – owing allegiance only to their town of St Malo, the city of Corsairs – their mansions were, and are still, known as Malounieres.

Further down the pecking order, the average cod fisherman would set off for the voyage leaving his wife to scratch out an existence on small parcel of land on the estuary coast. A good trip might be enough to secure a small cottage on the land. Usually they were built in granite with wooden floors, shutters and staircases built by shipwrights.  They were often brightly painted, using whatever paint was left after the annual boat repaint. They are still known as cod houses. I’m busy renovating one at the moment.

AND – here by the way,  is a tip for all sailing folk seeking to keep cruising costs down – put as much of the expense as you can down to ‘household’ rather than boat. It works like this. If, for example you need to paint the boat:
1.       choose a colour that would suit your front door;
2.       insist that the front door needs painting;
3.       insist that marine paint is much better for front doors than bog-standard exterior paint;
4.       paint the front door;
5.       paint the boat with the left-over paint;
6.       put the cost to ‘home improvements’.

But on to more important matter - the Fete des Doris - On this one weekend a year, Dorys appear from every shore side nook and cranny to be launched near St Malo and then they are sailed or rowed from one slipway to the next during the course of a two day festival. There are twelve villages with slipways on the estuary and each one is visited in turn. The Dories arrival provides each village with an excuse for a feasting, drinking and dancing.  This year, my village Plouer Sur Rance will have the honour of hosting the vessels and their crew for Sunday lunch. It’ll be a fine time!

If you'd like to know more about dory's (pretty much all there is to know in fact) then dig out this book, the Dory Book by John Gardner - its the definite work on the subject


Monday, 13 August 2012


Trimaran Terror.

So, my weekend involved visiting a trimaran for sale locally. A few people had suggested that a tri may be the answer to my search for the ideal boat. I must stress here that I don’t actually believe there is such a thing as an ideal boat – only an ideal boat for a particular person. We all have different ideas about ‘ideal’, different priorities and different interests – thank goodness for diversity – without it the world would be a pretty boring place.

Anyway, my understanding of a trimaran is that it consists of a main hull known as the Vaka, two smaller outriggers hulls, the Amas, and lateral struts, connecting the Vaka to the Amas, known as the Akas.
The term trimaran, along with the other terms mentioned above, derive from the language of the Pacific Islanders for whom tris and cat’s are traditional design. There are two types of trimaran: the regular trimaran with decking between the hulls and the open trimaran, which often features a trampoline between the hulls instead of plating.

Now my ideal boat has to be seaworthy, comfortable, shallow draft for travelling through canals, and cheap to maintain – all DIY, no costly yard bills. 

Trimarans have some real advantages when compared to monohulls. Compared with a mono of the same length the  trimaran will have a shallower draft. This should mean less wetted area and that in turn should translate to greater speed or a lower energy requirement in terms of engine power. A wider beam should also make for a more stable platform which is able to fly more sail area. A trimaran stays upright because of the upthrust from the Outrigger in the water and the complementary weight of the other Outrigger which is flying out of the water. This means trimarans do not need a weighted keel although some have a retractable dagger board to ensure the Hull has a good ‘bite’ to resist lateral movement. In theory therefore a trimaran can be designed to be unsinkable, and you can ‘park’ her on a beach whenever you fancy lunch. The broad beam also makes most trimarans difficult to capsize.

So what about the downsides? Well, the  speeds they can reach (we’re talking 10,15 or even 20 knots for medium sized examples) can encourage them to plow into the backs of waves and flip end-over-end  - pitchpole – but I have to be honest here – I’m not a marine architect, non even an expert on monohull design so I have to speak as I see it and what I see is coloured by my own particular sailing needs and prejudices – and I have only ever visited one trimaran!

The trimaran I visited ticked all the above boxes. In fact, the speeds we achieved across the bay terrified me. I have never achieved speeds like that in any sailing vessel, and even my old twin engined Channel Islands 22 would have struggled to keep up with this beast. She would take a lot of getting used to for a traditional shellback like me.

There was a price to be paid for this speed though and in this case the cost was taken out of the accommodation. To get such speeds out of these boats, the hulls are very narrow so this 26- foot trimaran had, at best, the interior volume of a 22 or 23ft monohull. She would sleep two adults, but the cabin couldn’t be described as comfortable for anything other than sleeping. I wouldn’t want to spend a rainy afternoon in there and cooking would be primitive.

On a long passage, the speed would be useful and actually she’d be easy to manage single handed. On coastal trips, short sails or when entering unfamiliar harbours however, I can imagine she would be a real pain. The outriggers ensure that the cockpit is several feet from the pontoon even when she is moored to it. You certainly couldn’t moor up to the pontoon without leaving the cockpit and tiller and standing on one of the outriggers. So you’d struggle to singlehand her in and out of harbour.

Another concern, which may actually be an irrational fear on my part, is the tremendous forces which must be acting on the outrigger hulls and the struts. In any kind of seaway, every force of nature must be conspiring to bend, twist, distort and fracture the whole rig. So just didn’t feel solid like a monohull – I didn’t trust the engineering.

As for the canal! Well, I just couldn’t see how I could enjoy the trip, the beam is too great and the isolation of the helmsman in his cockpit would be no fun when travelling through locks. 
So, finally, an enjoyable and partly terrifying afternoon aboard a type of boat unsuitable for my needs – but what if she had been ideal in all these respects would I have bought her? Sadly no, the owner could tell me little about her history, not even the design. She was of plywood construction and there was quite a bit of evidence to suggest, delaminations and soft spots had been filled with GRP paste and there was a very ‘homemade’ faded look about her. I had the impression that the current owner used her to blast about the bay and get an adrenalin fix now and again but he wasn’t interested in cleaning, maintaining or fussing over her.

I have to admit however, that this type of boat could have a magnitic, almost addictive appeal to many sailors so if you want to carry out further research here are the essential books on the subject
The Case for the Cruising Trimaran (USA Readers)

The Case for the Cruising Trimaran (UK Readers)

Small Trimarans (USA Readers)

Small Trimarans  (UK Readers)

Small Trimarans: An Introduction (USA Readers)

Small Trimarans: An Introduction (UK Readers)

So time to move on, but not without hope, I have heard of an old Westerly for sale on a farm in Normandy – something keep bringing me back to Westerly’s.


Friday, 3 August 2012

Taking Stock

So, my short piece on the Beneteau First 21 prompted six comments earlier this week – a record! And speaking of records, you might be interested to know that this little piece of blogspace averages over 50 readers per day with 1,586 visitors in July and 4,609 since the first post in May. Largest daily visitor record was 98.

 Another interesting and somewhat more worrying record however, is that the most popular entries are those concerned with particular vessels. My piece about the Hardy Motorsailer for example has attracted 50 readers so far and the piece about the Cape Cutter has attracted 73 to date, whereas, my piece about piecing my nose with a fish-hook was of little interest to anyone but me. In effect, people here like to read about types of boats rather than other aspects of boating life.

My good friend Michael predicted this some months ago and suggested that readership would dwindle once I had chosen and bought my low cost cruiser. Hope he’s wrong because I’ll be relying more and more on your advice to bring the old tub back to a safe and comfortable state – time will tell.

Anyway, this is all a very longwinded way of saying thank you to all the Simple Sailing Low Cost Cruising friends, supporters and contributors. Is the site achieving its aims? I think so, in that it seems to help bring like minded people together, it promotes discussion and helps disseminate information and opinion. In truth, if I hadn’t been so technologically inept I would have developed a site which isn’t a blog (too much of me – not enough of us and you). The ultimate goal was a kind of information and support vehicle with a facility where like minded souls could share thoughts and ideas about cruising. The kind of perfect clubhouse where you kick off your seaboots, pour a liberal quantity of a suitable seaman’s tipple and enjoy the company. 

So, how are we doing?– so far so good I guess, but there is always room for improvement, technically, and with regard to content and editorial. Should we add more pages? Is a blog piece twice a week about right? Would you prefer more or less frequent blogs? Are there topics which deserve greater depth? Are there functions that could be added – a forum for example? Any ideas or thoughts would be really appreciated.

Meanwhile Michael, some time ago suggested a trimaran as a possible low cost cruiser, fast, stable, roomy, light with little draft, easily driven.  There is one for sale here so guess what I’ll be doing this weekend? Get back to you in a couple of days