Friday, February 6, 2009

The Old Sailing Peapod "Lizzie"

The Maine Peapod is a lobstering boat, built to work the fishery off the Northeast coast. Built stout and double ended to shoulder the hard scrabble workday of the lobster fisherman, the peapod resembles the native seagoing canoes of the day.
Many of the fishermen were also accomplished boat builders and made their own boats. The clinker or lapstrake planked double enders were a vessel that adapted well to the many various interpretations in design. It is a design flexible enough to accommodate what ever materials were at hand.
The peapod is easy to row and stable under sail; kind in a seaway.
Such were the considerations Bryan Beachy had in mind when he chose to build Howard Chapelle’s “Old Sailing Peapod”.
H. I. Chapelle was America’s preeminate small boat designer in the early 20th century. He had this to say about the peapod he used as a tender for his own Glad Tidings: “It was a typical lobsterman’s rowing pod and though very heavy she was wonderfully stiff and rowed very well into a wind and sea. For open water work where the boat does not have to be lifted out, I would prefer a pod to any other small skiff I have ever seen.”

Great kudos! And as Bryan can attest, the peapod Lizzie makes a great trailerable rowing and sailing boat, too.

The Old Sailing Peapod uses traditional construction and working boat scantlings: white oak frames, Douglas fir planks, thwarts, floors, and spars. Bryan diverged from tradition in plank fastenings, using stainless steel screws and bolts with bedding compound in the laps, improvements unavailable to the lobstermen of old. The knees are cut from the crooks of a neighbor's fallen oak in the old fashioned way. While the standing knees cured up fine, the tight angled breasthook knees checked, so the hooks are laminated. Nothing wrong with that, the breasthooks are beautiful and strong but Bryan isn’t pleased with the mismatch. He’s a purist and the quality of his construction tells the story.

The moderate bilge makes this an appropriate boat for lapstrake planking. The planks can be laid as they run and the narrow planks used in Bryan’s boat allow a gently rounded waterline. We see him carefully beveling the top of a plank to accept the next plank. This is a largely intuitive process requiring the builder to understand the music of his craft.

It should be noted that this pod has a full length planked keel and no centerboard, which Bryan says allows for a spacious cockpit, but under sail is prone to excessive leeway. This didn’t concern the lobstermen who required a boat that rowed well and tracked efficiently with a load. Little work was done under sail, the sails were used primarily for leaving and returning to harbor.
Here's the intrepid builder/ sailor running Lizzie before a fair breeze on the open Pacific, off Depoe Bay, Oregon.

Bryan carved his oars “Pete Culler style”, designed and sewed his own sail (two new skills for him, with advice from Lynne Fabricant of Sailmakers Art). So he can say with a purists heart that he built his boat much the same as the lobstermen of old Maine and created a work of art in the process. That classy finish is Deks Olje, about as old fashioned an oiled finish as can be had using modern materials.

Bryan says, “Lizzie has mostly exceeded my expectations.” We can see why! He likes to sail and row with his family and friends and participates in the local wooden boat shows. If you see him and his fine peapod, say you admired it here.

For a detailed description of building a peapod at the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis:
So this is boat building

John Kohnen and Scott Malvitch graciously contributed the pictures of Lizzie under sail.

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