Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Staysail Schooner, Prudence

Here's a bit of a departure for Doryman. I received an inquiry about my Peter Culler Good Little Skiff (which hasn't sold yet; hint, hint!) the other day from a fellow named Roy. Turns out, Roy is a helicopter pilot on the Columbia River bar. His job is to shuttle pilots out and back, in all weather, to waiting ships on one of the most treacherous bodies of water on Earth.
But his true love is his schooner Prudence. We talked for a long time on the phone and Roy agreed to send me the story of his boat, which I'd like to share with you...

" Prudence was built at the Morse Yard in Thomaston, Maine in 1965. She was built on commission for the Forbes Family of Boston.  Construction is mahogany on stem bent oak with bronze fastenings and a cast bronze shoe runs the length of her keel. She was originally rigged as a gaffer with a self-tending fore-staysail and two old-style jib furlers.  Having been constructed in 1965, she is relatively new in the world of Alden schooners.  In fact, she is design #993 and not listed in Alden's book."

"She sailed through The Panama Canal in December 1970 (we still have the transit papers) and made her way to the Pacific Northwest and eventually ended up in the stewardship of Len Skoog.  Len made the following modifications - some good, some not, depending on one's desires.  The rig was changed to a staysail schooner with aluminum masts (booms are solid fir), the main sail was set to a large Hood furler, his trademark pilothouse, an Isuzu C240 60 HP diesel with dry-stack and keel-cooler, some interior modifications to allow a nice shower, and many other interior creature comforts.  The only modification that drove me crazy was that Len cut off six feet of her bowsprit!  Thus, her jib was eliminated and the fore-staysail now became the jib, utilizing one of those old-style furlers from the '60s."

"During the first three years of our ownership, we tolerated the predictably massive weather helm.  Had she not been equipped with her over-sized, bronze, worm-gear steering, it would have been intolerable to even steer her. With the 4-blade, drogue of a prop that Len had installed (great for motoring/maneuvering, not so great for sailing), combined with the now inherent weather helm, she was not sailing to her potential.  So much so, that even on a broad reach in 25 knots of true wind (ideal conditions for a schooner) with her three working sails only (main, main-staysail and jib), she required having her wheel turned 180 degrees to maintain a proper course and angle to the apparent wind.  I experimented with minimizing the weather helm by incrementally reefing/furling the main allowing the Nav-Com to steer.  Once I was able to see the wheel was slightly off center, in an ideal position, I had furled in approximately one-third of the mainsail and the speed had dropped from 8 knots to just over 6!  This just wouldn't do!"

"So, I commissioned Chip Cherry of Cherry Boatworks in Gig Harbor to construct a new bowsprit utilizing her original plans.  After much discussion on what wood to use and if this would be the proper size, now that she was staysail-rigged instead of gaff, etc., we settled on using the original length 'sprit and using Sapele mahogony."

"We managed to get all this finished and rigged just in time for the schooner race in Pt. Townsend's Wooden Boat Festival last September where, despite the inadequacies of skipper and crew, we placed a respectable fourth in some pretty good wind behind Martha, Alcyon, and Lucky Star.  Prior to this, Prudence had been barely an "also-ran."

"We may be prejudiced as a parent is to her child, but we think Prudence is absolutely one of the most beautiful boats on the Puget Sound, or anywhere, either sitting at anchor or under sail."

I agree with Roy. He does have a beautiful boat. (Now all he needs is a Culler rowing skiff to go along).

He didn't send me a good shot of Prudence with her new bowsprit, but hopefully, when I return from the Port Townsend Boat Festival this fall, I'll have some to share. She's sporting her new rig in the blurry pre-race photo above, if you look closely.

All photos of Prudence, courtesy of Roy Wilkowski.
Thank you, Roy!


J Ballou said...

I sold a nice pair of homemade wood oars to a helicopter pilot moving to Astoria, could it be? Jim

doryman said...

Roy says he lives on his boat on Hood Canal, but could be the same guy. He was looking for oars, but didn't want to pay the price for my custom made set.

It's a small world when it comes to wood boat people.

Unknown said...

What a beautiful boat, can't wait to see the pictures that you take

Moth said...

Roy D! Damn nice to see this blog and learn a bit more 'bout your beloved Schooner. I look forward to sailing on her one day.