Chebacco News 11

Chebacco News

Number 11, September 1996

[This issue of Chebacco News can be seen (in glorious colour) on the World Wide Web at:]

Another launching!

Fraser Howell, of Nova Scotia, sent me the following message on 22nd July 1996:

Hello Bill,
I launched a week ago and have been out every day but one. It is the biggest dinghy around. She sails well, dry in all conditions so far, and easy to handle. We’ve had winds up to 25 kt and I’ve had up to 3 guests on board. In anything greater than 15 kt a crew adds welcome weight. I went out today, by myself to try it out with just the mizzen and the jib. It was surprisingly fast, approaching hull speed in 15 kt with no strain anywhere. Under full canvas there is some weather helm in higher winds, but I think the jib may be reducing this a bit. So long as the heel is kept to 15 degrees or so it tracks straight. I haven’t had any success getting her to self steer, so I may add a mechanism to hold the tiller.

I have no problem keeping up with or overtaking cruiser types up to 28 or 30 feet and can tack through slightly less than 90 degrees. The racier types are faster at this stage but I’m just beginning to learn how to handle her. She really moves with the 9.9 hp Johnson. I haven’t measured the speed but it sure is trying to plane under full throttle.

The beginning of a long partnership.

Fraser Howell

[Regular readers will recall that Fraser’s hull is strip planked – the first Chebacco to have been built in this way.]

He updated this on 31st July:

Hi Bill,

Your newsletter has been an important source of information and encouragement. I may not have selected this design without it. I’ve been sailing now for three weeks, and am in every way satisfied with the design. On Friday I leave for the first real ‘voyage’, 45 nm to a place called Mahone Bay where there is a wooden boat festival. Chebacco is easy to handle, fast, stable and handsome.

I think the jib and bowsprit are worthwhile, mostly because they allow neutral helm through sail trim (- I can induce lee helm by easing the mizzen). I find a significant speed improvement at neutral helm. I sheet the mizzen at a point further forward than the plan, and am often adjusting the mizzen sheets.

I like the fact that everything is manageable, Yesterday I was talking to the owner of a 22′ Brewer-designed cat. His mast weighs 300 lb! My solid sprice mast is exactly 40 lb.

Next time I get film developed I’ll send more pictures including the trailer. The boat is very easy to launch and retrieve from this rig.


Fraser Howell.

Fraser sailed the 45 nautical miles to the Wooden Boat Show at Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. When he got home he send me the following report:

Got back today. Great boat !! Stable. Easy to handle, and quite fast. I slept on board (3 nights). It was a little cramped. We would beach on an Island, explore, cook etc. and then retire to the boat. The bowsprit extends 14″ past the cutwater, following the sheer. It does nothing for the appearance of the boat, but I would not be without it. I don’t hang an anchor off it, I just use it for the jib.

We were cruising at 3 – 4 kt in winds of 10 kt or so, endlessly. On any point of sail, except wing-on-wing-on-wing the boat was tuned to self-steer fairly well (I was able to read). My procedure was to set the main and jib for the wind, and this included the out-haul , then set the mizzen for neutral helm. We wandered 10 or so degrees either side of the compass course. I kept the cb at approx 50 deg to the keel, except for downwind, when I raised it. It all worked. The boat is very sensitive to all of the adjustments, and when “in the groove” suprised some big boats. Mostly it is just satisfying to sail.

I think I could use a bigger jib, 50 sq ft.

Fraser Howell

Bill visits Bill (and ‘Sylvester’)

Bill and Mary Parkes, of Mechanicsburg, PA, were visiting relatives in Scotland during July and spent a couple of days in Dundee, with Bill and Sheila Samson. I (Bill Samson) had been in hospital for abdominal surgery a few days before they arrived, but with the assistance of my sailing buddy Donald McWhannell we were able to put ‘Sylvester’ (my sheet ply Chebacco-20) through her paces. Bill Parkes is planning to build a Chebacco and was keen to find out how it performed. We sailed the 8 miles or so up the Tay Estuary to Balmerino – the site of a mediaeval abbey on the South side of the river.

I fear I took advantage of my fragile state to do a creditable impersonation of Captain Bligh (another Bill) – “Peak up that gaff!”, “Scrub off that weed before we set off!”, “You’re pinching her!” . . . Nevertheless a good day was had by all and Bill Parkes was even more convinced that the Chebacco was the ideal boat for him.

A User-Friendly Arrangement

I had an e-mail from Jamie Orr about possible ways of arranging stowage, how to make the cuddy watertight and other matters of general interest. Jamie’s questions are preceded by ‘>’ signs, as per e-mail convention. The same message went to Fraser Howell.

>Now that you are both sailing, I have some questions about how to make
>Chebacco is as “user friendly” as I can.

>It sounds as if the mast slot is a useful item

I can’t imagine getting the mast up single-handed without it.

> Have either of you had any
>problem with leaks around the slot from rain or spray?

Nothing drastic. My main source of leaks is water running down the mast itself
since I haven’t fitted a boot yet. As I keep the boat on a mooring, the slot
cover is held in for the season by 10 screws. I put a little silicone sealant
around it to stop leaks. Clearly, this’d be less convenient if the mast was
taken down after every sail.

> How does the slot
>affect the boot or other seal around the mast/deck join?

It’d make life difficult IF you have a boot. The design of Chebacco means,
however, that water running down the mast collects for’ard of bulkhead #1 and
doesn’t get on your sleeping bag. I sponge that area out every few weeks.
Note that the plan doesn’t show limber holes for bulkhead #1. I’m not sure
whether this is intentional, but it helps to keep water out of the sleeping

> While we’re at
>it, do either of you have a good idea of how to get a quick and easy seal on
>a mast that is put in and taken out every sail? I may be a little paranoid
>about this, but a deck leak caused a major problem in our first sailing
>holiday — being cold and wet is acceptable on deck, but not in your bunk!

See above. I noticed that the Dave Montgomery Chebacco at 29 Ferry St.
Gloucester has duct-tape around everything. It’s not very elegant, but is easy
to put on and rip off every time.

>How do you find the storage? I know it’s a daysailer, but I plan to load up
>the family and camping supplies for weekend voyages — and even for
>daysailing, its nice to keep wet and dry gear apart. Did either of you put
>in the hatches in the after deck? (Your pictures may have shown that, but I
>often can’t get pictures on screen.) I am toying with the idea of putting
>lockers in the cockpit seats — these would probably leak in heavy rain, so
>would drain into the cockpit. I would keep them shallow ( 3 – 4 inches) so
>that they do not interfere with the ventilation shown in the plans. There
>would also be dry storage in the bows if I can get a good mast/deck seal.

I didn’t put hatches in the after deck. I did buy some plastic screw-in
hatches but decided to hold off putting them in until I feel the need for
space. Sister Krista’s Chebacco DOES have hinged rectangular hatches on the
after deck. She keeps things like fenders and life jackets in them. I notice
she doesn’t batten them down when sailing! On the other hand, the volume under
the seats of her boat is completely sealed, so there’s no lack of buoyancy.

The under-seat volume on my Chebacco is accessible from inside the cuddy – I
built EXACTLY according to Phil’s drawings. There’s LOADS of space there – I
keep an anchor and a couple of fenders at one side and a pair of 8-foot oars
and sleeping mat at the other. I’ve also put net ‘hammocks’ under the side decks
in the cuddy and these hold lots of odds and ends. I keep a toolbox and water container
in the cuddy, which can be moved to the cockpit at night. The far end
of the under seat space can be got at with a boathook! I keep my main anchor alongside the
foot of the mast ahead of bulkhead #1. It’s used so seldom that it isn’t a
hassle for me.

>How is the cockpit for lounging around? Do the cockpit coamings make good
>backrests? I thought about sloping them back a few degrees, but that cuts
>down the seat and/or side deck width, as well as complicating building. (I
>won’t comment on the wisdom of departing from the plans — the Bolgerlist is
>covering that quite well at present!)

I find that the cockpit built according to plans is fine, apart from the need
for a cushion on long cruises! I went sailing with Bill Parkes when he visited last
week and I stretched out on one side for a snooze while Bill helmed!
The drawings of the lapstrake version DO show sloping coamings, so it’s
up to you. Sister Krista’s boat has vertical backrests that stop at deck level and
sloping (3/4″) mahogany coamings above that. So you really lean on the coamings,
which stand proud of the seat back.

>Finally (for now) what is your experience with the weight of the motor and
>fuel in the motor well? I asked Phil Bolger about this, and he recommended
>a light motor, and suggested an electric would be powerful enough.
> Presently I am planning on a Honda 5 hp four stroke at about 60 pounds dry,
>plus whatever fuel I can carry in the well, and still sail well. The well
>is also a possibility for the anchor, but the weight is getting up there
>then. Fraser, you have a 10 hp — does the weight affect your performance?

The weight of my 4HP Mariner is negligible in terms of trim. In fact she trims
an inch or two down by the head even when the motor is there. Trim is perfect
once I am aboard and sitting at the tiller. Thinking about it, your engine, fuel and
anchor together weigh less than a crew member.

>I’d like to see discussion of this sort of thing in the Chebacco News.
> While I reserve the right to make my own mistakes, I always like to hear
>how others have dealt with the minor problems that crop up. For example, I
>will eventually want to build a tender, so your experience with these would
>be good to hear — I plan to ask about tenders on the Bolgerlist as well as
>there appears to be a wealth of experience, not to mention opinion, among
>the list members.

I’ve almost finished my June Bug and will report on its performance in a future
Chebacco News. Mind you, the perfect tender is a function of where you are
sailing. I need to row a couple of hundred yards out into an estuary which is
frequently rough and has strong tidal flow so I need something stable which
moves fast under oar. Clearly a Shoebox would not work for me.

>Thanks for “listening” — looking forward to your comments in the News.

>Jamie Orr

Jamie sent the same message to Fraser Howell. Here’s what Fraser had to say:

Hello Jamie; That slot is not worth sealing, at least not for me as I’ll be raising and lowering regularily. I put in a sliding cover that matches the mast diameter. Rain, no spray, yet, comes in, and is held in the forward area by the bulkhead. I sponge it out as required. For storage under the cockpit seats I installed the 8″ Beckwith (sp) circular hatches, at about $20 ea. That is big enough for tent, sleeping bags, extra life jackets etc.

The difference between a 10 and 5 hp engine is not great, 20 lb or so. a full gas tank for the 10 hp is another 50 lb – but to store gas, where else but far aft. I don’t know for sure what affect the bigger engine + gas tank has, but the boat does not seem sensitive to those kinds of weights. It also is not sensitive to the jib, but I’m not sure yet. Outboard power-wise 5 hp will do well. When I go more than half-throttle I dig in – at full throttle I almost plane. (maybe I do plane, a bit,I haven’t measured the speed)

I considered angling the backrest as well. I almost did. I haven’t spent enough time in the boat to be sure one way or another.

The boat is very easy to launch, recover, and trailer. It is lighter than it looks. Despite that, I lost it off the trailer into it’s cradle. It came off the trailer as fast as the winch handle could spin, collapsed the cradle, and hit the ground. It hit rudder first, digging in several inches. I dug it out, propped it up, and found – no damage at all ! Aluminum !

The reason I hauled it out was that after a week in the water the centerboard was sticking. I found that the plywood cheeks had completely delamiated from the core. Aluminum !

I’ve glued it all back with sikaflex and through-bolted it. Ready to relaunch by Saturday. For a tender, while at the moor I use a Bolger cartopper.

Fraser Howell

News of another Sheet Ply Chebacco

Jim Stewart of Cambridge, Massachusetts, sent me an update on the sheet ply Chebacco he is building:

Hi Bill,

This is a test of getting info to you, through email. It is more for education of me, than testing new and exciting technologies.

Progress on my sheet-ply Chebacco has progressed a small amount more than shown in the pictures. I have finished construction of my support structure. Vacation time is taking me away from home, and Boat-Construction. My wife, Cathy, and our 2 children, Jimmy and Megan all went together on a sailing lesson, while we were vacationing on Martha’s Vineyard. A truly excellent place, for all things boat-related, and one-heck-of-a nice place in general. Well we all enjoyed the sailing, Cathy had the instruction, I watched the kids, the kids enjoyed the whole thing. I’m getting materials ready to start on the stem, and I’m thinking ahead to scarfing together my first large piece, the topsides.

I’ve really enjoyed all your work on the Chebacco News. I love all the pictures, they convey a great deal of information, and hopefully My boat looks half as good as Sylvester.

I hope you can decipher the images! I’m going to look at those cabin roof curves again…!!!

Jim Stewart

Bulkheads and Moulds for Jim Stewart’s Chebacco.

Lapstrake Chebacco – Spiling in the bulkheads

Gil Fitzhugh has started spiling in his bulkeads. Here’s what he says:

Spiling is a lot easier, though no less time-consuming, than I thought it would be. My joggling stick is about as low-tech as you can get. I cut it from a paint stirrer, and it looks like this:

The hook on the end helps it get into the angles between the lapped strakes. I did the forward bulkhead first. I had some scrap ply I clamped into place, used the joggling stick, transferred the points onto the good plywood (or onto mylar film first, then onto the plywood) with an ice pick (another favourite low-tech tool).

Gil tells me that the notches in the joggling stick help to locate it accurately against the marks when transferring the shape onto the good plywood. If, like Gil, you use the building molds as the ‘scrap plywood’ at this stage, they may well be full of holes and other obstructions, so you may only be able to get a partial mark with the joggling stick or may have to use the stick upside down and the notches are particularly useful for identifying the correct orientation for the stick. Gil goes on:

Put a pencil dot on the good plywood at the point of the joggling stick every time you’ve aligned the stick with marks on the board. Then connect the dots . . . you should end up with a pretty reasonable representation of the inside of the boat. Even so, the fit isn’t perefect. I find I have to trim off pieces of the bulkhead with a sharp chisel. Sometimes I end up with too much clearance, but not by a huge amount. I’ll probably just trowel in a wad of thickened epoxy, and declare victory!

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