Saturday, January 16, 2016

St Ayles Skiff, Doineann

Shortly after this blog began, almost a decade ago, I became enamored of Iain Oughtred's Ness Yawl . The Ness Yawl has taken Doryman readers through many voyages. (If you took the time to follow that link, welcome back!)
In the intervening years, Iain, who was then an internet no-show, has become possibly the most popular small boat designer in the world. And once again I find myself drooling over a new design from the Master, his beautiful sharpie, Haiku.
She's exquisite, but that's a subject for another day.
While I was writing extensively about the Ness Yawl, Iain designed the St Ayles SkiffThe Scottish Coastal Rowing Association was formed on 29 May 2010, to encourage boat building and rowing and racing of coastal rowing boats along the Scottish Coastline. Communities were encouraged to become involved in the building of new boats to be rowed, principally the St Ayles skiff.

Doryman was quick to promote this extraordinary design and though hundreds of these boats have been built globally, only two St Ayles Skiffs exist on the west coast of the US, Doryman's cruising grounds. Both were built in Portland, Oregon at the Wind and Oar Boat School .

The first boat off the molds at WOBS (Rosie) lives in Portland, rowed regularly by the team of women who built her. The second St Ayles Skiff to come out of that shop was Doineann (Irish for tempest or storm), built for her proud owner, Julius Dalzell. The following update from Julius is the answer to my suggestion that the St Ayles Skiff might make a great sail-and-oar boat, if only she had a sail rig.

"Hi Michael,
It has been sometime since our last communication. As you may recall, Doineann was the second St. Ayles skiff built by the Wind and Oar and Oar School. My wife and I decided upon retirement, in July 2014, to move to a favorable locale, in Cathlamet, Washington for a variety of reasons, not the least being the beauty and boating opportunities of the Lower Columbia River. A significant aspect of our new abode was the availability of a large shop. Today it is a home and restoration facility for small craft.
Of course Doineann is one of the permanent residents. And yes, we did proceed to design and make a sail-rig for Doineann.
Before proceeding with the story, you might be impressed to know that we have a regular crew rowing Doineann, most having little prior rowing experience. We find that performance is outstanding regardless of wind or chop. She slices through anything with little fuss. Totally enjoyable.

We started with an e-mail exchange with Iain Oughtred himself. Iain warned that the craft was designed for rowing, not sailing, and would be tender, so recommended a small lug sail, maybe something around 90 sq. ft.. Iain stated that the existing keel might be sufficient to support lateral stability with minor leeway. He wasn’t sure how she would tack because of her wide turning radius.

We decided to go low budget. After considering many sail designs, our choice was an 85 sq. ft. balanced lug.
The mast was a used item acquired from a builder. Quite the specimen, ugly but it works. A sail was ordered from Lee Sails. I insisted that the sail be mounted without use of fittings or attachments. No screws, nails, brackets or drilled holes. In other words, no intrusions that would impact the original design.

The mast partner we devised uses the kabe support at the forward rowing station, using the kabes and pins incorporated into each rowing station at the gunnel. The mast step slips into the floor boards below. So, on a fine August day, we took to the river for the first sail. In a fresh, accommodating wind, her response was beyond expectations. She went like mad with five adults aboard. The existing steering rudder, though designed for rowing, performed well.The boat was not tender, in fact quite stable regardless of wind on any quarter. We had a ball!

Tacking was a challenge. Because of the long keel, she took her time. Speed would drop off and we would be in irons, propelled in reverse. Throwing the rudder over steered her in reverse through the tack. The sail would again fill and we were off. Too much rudder did nothing but enhance the stall, acting as a brake. The answer to a successful tack was two fold - lots of speed going into the tack, and finessing the rudder. A slow tack became doable.

The materials I used for gaff and boom are too light. Currently another gaff and boom are under construction. Three strips of tight grain fir to be epoxied and shaped.
So, Michael, that is the Doineann story to date. My expectations for the craft are progressing!"

Thank you Julius for that update. It's obvious you love your boat and it's easy to see why.
Of course the St Ayles Skiff is a one-design racing machine, so Julius was careful to keep the design legal for racing. He looks forward to the day when more St Ayles are built and racing here in the US. (me too!)

Meanwhile, the Haiku is calling me. Isn't she a beauty?

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The Kiwi Raid is about to start with a fleet of St Ayles. I suspect a lot more will be known about sailing St Ayles after that.