We named our Coble Rosamund, after "Rosamund the fair", the narrowboat we held our wedding reception on, situated on the Thames, just outside Oxford. She was named after the mistress of Henry II who was eventually poisoned by his wife, Queen Eleanor, while the king was fighting a war in France. Gruesome story, but the narrowboat holds fond memories for us... Given the amount of time that was spent building the boat, and the amount of money that can be poured into maintenance, I suspect that there are probably some other conclusions that might be drawn regarding the choice of name as well ;-)
We sold this boat in 2010, only because we had outgrown it as a family - two adults and two teenagers is really too much for this boat in anything but sheltered waters.
22 November was the date chosen to launch our Coble. The day started out overcast, with the occasional bit of drizzle, but we were optimistic about it improving, so we headed down to Parsons Marina, Williamstown.
The sprit rig is really great - easy and fast to rig, and so simple! A 20' boat that arrived at the marina at the same time as us was just coming out as we returned from our first sail. We were planning on doing some rowing first, so we left the sail furled around the mast, without attaching the sprit to the snotter.
Amelia and William were super excited, and could barely contain themselves during the launch. The boat is easy to tow, and easy to back, and came off the trailer into the water very easily. She rowed well for a dozen strokes and then one of the nylon rowlocks snapped. It turned out that the nylon rowlock had a flaw - a void in the centre of it - which weakened it considerably. This afternoon I replaced the rowlocks with steel ones.
Dad and I unfurled the sail, ran the snotter through the sprit, tightened everything up, and headed off for a quick trial, before coming back in to take Kirsty, Amelia and William on their first sail in our new boat. The rig appears well balanced, with a slight amount of weather helm. Getting enough tension on the snotter was a little difficult, but this may have been too little tension on the luff of the sail. Tomorrow's sail on Albert Park Lake will give me a better idea of what else needs to be adjusted.
So far, we are very happy with how the boat is performing, and we are looking forward to our week on the Gippsland Lakes.
Winds were stronger today, but still within the range of what I would like to be able to sail in. The Bureau of Meteorology automatic weather station records from Sunday showed winds around 20 knots, with gusts slightly higher than this, for the Fawkner Beacon. As Albert Park Lake is slightly inland it is likely that the winds were somewhat lighter than this, but not by much. I certainly think that the winds were between 15 and 20 knots out on the unprotected areas of the lake.
Launching at Albert Park Lake is a matter of unhitching the trailer and pushing it around to the front of the sailing club, rigging the boat, and then finding some volunteers to help roll the trailer down the ramp into the water. The lake edge in front if the sailing clubs is concreted, and there is plenty of space to tie up. Dad was a Sea Scout here during the 1940s, so it was great to be able to get him back out on the lake again.
We started out by taking Amelia and William for a row to the island in the middle of the lake and back. Amelia was very keen to take control of one of the oars, while William was only interested in taking over the tiller. The rowlocks didn't blow up this time, but the oars were rubbing against the gunwale, and rubbed away some of the paint. I'll need to either increase the height of the pin above the gunwale, or I'll need to add a wooden sacrificial spacer to the top of the gunwale. I'm still thinking about which way to go.
Because of the strength of the wind we tried reefing the sail. I left the throat of the sail at the head of the mast, and reefed the sail up from the foot. This did give us excellent forward vision, but judging by the amount of flex that the mast was showing in stronger winds I think that I will have to work on a way of dropping the sail down the mast so that the foot of the sail is always at the same height whether or not it is reefed. I think that this will probably mean changing over from a line wrapping around the mast and through the eyelets in the sail, to a series of "robands" - independant loops that run through each eyelet and around the sail. The braille line used to pull the sail against the mast kept catching against the luff of the sail where the braille line passed through the mast, so I will probably change this to a block, so that the sail fully extends when the braille line is let loose. I've still to make a decision on where to fit the quick release cams to be used for tensioning the main sheet. The Selway Fisher plan for the Inishmore that the sprit rig came from calls for a rope horse attached to the gunwales each side of the transom, but I don't think this will provide enough downwards tension on the sheet. More experimentation is needed.. I guess I'l just have to get the boat out on the water again :-)
A number of Wooden Boat Association members were at Albert Park, working on one of the association boats. Geoff and Frank helped us get the boat into the water, and Frank came out for a sail, offering all sorts of very useful advice. I look forward to catching up with Frank at future club days. Alan Chinn made the trip down to Albert Park specifically to see us, so of course he came for a sail as well! I neglected to ask Geoff if he wanted to try her out until after we had taken the boat out of the water - sorry Geoff, I'll try and make it up to at a future meeting...
She performed well in the blustery conditions, moving along nicely, and staying pretty much dry. I didn't get wet at all while in the boat, and Alan only managed to get one wave in the face while sitting in the bows :-) Tacking was easy, and even in the relatively strong winds gybing wasn't much of a problem. With the reduced sail we were pointing to (at a guess) within 40 degrees of the wind. At a later stage I'll try to make some more useful measurements of performance.
After a few shakedown trips in Melbourne, we were ready to take Rosamund away for a week of sailing on the Gippsland Lakes. Heading out of Melbourne, we encountered drizzle and strong winds all the way to Sale, and but the skies had cleared by the time we arrived in Paynesville. Unfortunately, the winds hadn't abated, and once we had booked in at the Allawah Caravan Park we struggled to pitch our tent in what seemed like a gale. We had chosen Allawah because they had their own launching ramp, and moorings adjacent to the camping area. Being able to leave Rosamund in the water for the week was a great bonus.
The following day we launched Rosamund and rowed/sailed out of the canals. We had foolishly left our most recent Shavings at home, and couldn't remember the exact details of the East Gippsland Branch boating day, apart from the fact that it was taking place at Eagle Point. Slowly tacking out into Lake King, we noticed a couple of other boats with tanbark sails heading in roughly the right direction, so we decided to follow them and see what happened. This turned out to be the right decision, and we arrived at John and Jacqui Nicholson's home without incident. It was easy to find – there was quite a collection of boats pulled up in the shallows, and a BBQ was in full swing. We had eaten our supplies during the trip across the lake, but John, Jacqui, and the rest of the East Gippsland Branch took us under their wing and generously found food and drink for us. We were lucky enough to arrive in time to help wish Geoff Bullen a very happy birthday. We also caught up with Colin Hunt, who has moved down to the lakes, and had brought along his gorgeous sailing canoe.
The wind had freshened by the time we headed back to Paynesville, and we made much better time, although one of the few disadvantages of a small sprit rig became apparent when trying to make headway against the wind that was blowing along McMillan Strait, between Paynesville and Raymond Island. We couldn't point upwind anywhere near as well as boats with a jib, but a few tacks extra was no great loss, and besides, getting there is more than half the fun!
The low-set sail also made it more difficult to catch the wind while sailing through the canals back to the caravan park, as the houses each side of the canal effectively shielded us from most of the wind. We took advantage of the time to admire the boats and waterfront houses, and look forward to doing so again when we return to Paynesville in March for the weekend of sailing being organised by the East Gippsland Branch.
The rest of the week was spent reacquainting ourselves with the waterways around Paynesville – finding remote beaches for our children, Amelia and William, to explore on Raymond Island and along the Newland Arm, sailing across to Spermwhale Head, and just enjoying the opportunity to look at the diverse range of boats on the water.
I'd have to say that I'm extremely pleased with the way Rosamund performed. One of my goals for the week was to identify the appropriate points along the gunwales to fix the quick release cleats for the main sheet, and I took advantage of the one wet day when I didn't go sailing to fit these. It certainly is more comfortable to not have to hold the main sheet all the time, though I still tend to keep it in my hand anyway, but at least now the pressure of the sail is being borne by a cleat. Seeing the unstayed mast bend is still a disconcerting sight, but I'm becoming used to the amount of flex it exhibits in stronger winds. I still think that I will probably need to go for a larger section eventually, but the hoop pine mast, split down the centre, rotated and epoxied back together, has so far proven more than strong enough in winds to 20 kts. The sail we're using is around 25% smaller than could be carried, so this probably also takes some pressure off the mast. When running with the wind, or on a beam reach, Rosamund performs very well. Her performance drops off when pointing closer to the wind, but her windward performance is still quite respectable. Tacking in light winds without a jib requires good coordination, but is not a problem.
We found that the North Road boat ramp in Brighton is generally good to launch from, except in strong Northerlies. When Kirsty's parents, Tom and Barbara, came over from England in March 2004 we had intended to spend some more time down on the Gippsland Lakes, but one thing and another meant that we only managed to get out on the water for one weekend while they were here. North Road is only half an hour from home, and with the Sprit rig it takes only minutes to be ready for launching, so we were able to make the most of the good conditions.
Go to the Building Notes for our 12'6" Northumbrian Coble.