The Life of Boats

By John C. harris
October 2011

Had the boat under way for just over five hours on Friday.  John Pollard and I kedged the beast out of its mud berth (the tide once again wind-suppressed) and motored down the Wye River for a short sail in Eastern Bay.  Video from this sail may be found here.

Pacific Proa Madness Under Sail

Things that were great:

1.  Handling was sublime.  Like my last proa, Mbuli, Madness has no weather helm or lee helm in a variety of conditions and sail configurations.  The helm was light and responsive.

Pacific Proa Madness Sailing

2.  Also like Mbuli, and Russell's Jzerro, tacking is without incident, a calm and orderly procedure during which the boat is as docile as an old mare.

3.  The seating arrangements work perfectly.  Lots of comfortable places to spend an entire day.  (At least until the stitching let go on one of the "stadium seats.")

Pacific Proa Madness Sailing

4.  The boat is dry.  While our time in open water was brief, there was about 15 knots of post-frontal northwesterly wind piling waves up against the nearby lee shore, enough lumpiness combined with our speed to get a feel for the boat's behavior in waves.  Couple of little dollops of spray, but nothing reaching any of the crew positions.  I left my camera bag on the tramp the whole time.

Pacific Proa Madness Sailing 

5.  It's eerie to leave no wake at all 10+ knots.  I kept thinking about my last boat, a Folkboat, a pretty slippery vessel in its own right, nevertheless making the water boil at 6 knots.

Pacific Proa Madness Speed Under Reefed Mainsail

6.  Speed.  Yes, Madness is fast.  The boat was anything but "dialed in" on our short sail.  Rigging still requires a lots of fiddling, jib halyards were tensioned only about 90%, and there was considerable caution on the part of the crew.  But under single-reefed main alone, we crept up over 10 knots in the puffs.  With the jib set and in gusts of 15-16 knots, the GPS climbed to 15.1 knots.  The ama, which had no water ballast in it, was just starting to lift out.

7.  No humming at all from the foils at any speed! 

Pacific Proa Madness Ama

8.  Most of the rigging layout (ergonomically speaking) was perfect. The neatest discovery was that everything, including steering with the push-pull tillers, may be conducted from the seat over the trampoline. So the helmsman could sit out there if desired.  The layout made for an extremely easy and fluid division of labor in operating the boat.

Pacific Proa Madness Sailing

The days are getting short and we had to turn back, motorsailing back up the river in the last of the light.  My 4hp Yamaha was on the fritz, but with a 2hp 4-stroke Honda we could manage about 6 knots under power alone, more when the wind cooperated.

Things that weren't great:

1.  2hp is okay for minor movements in calm conditions but I doubt it's up for serious work in wind and/or confined quarters.  Plus, that air-cooled Honda had me half-deaf after an hour of its lawnmower clatter.  4hp will be more than enough.

2.  In the haste of completion, a brand-new Harken halyard winch got left on the bench.  The idea was to have proper rope clutches served by a halyard winch.  You can barely sway up the big mainsail hand-over-hand.  Even with a winch I'll certainly need to add a soft jacket to the thin no-stretch unobtainium halyards just to preserve flesh.

Pacific Proa Madness Rigging Details

3.  Without the proper halyard layout, my temporary solution had been to lead the halyards to a sort of 21st-century pinrail of Harken cam cleats, which were intended for cunningham and slab reefing.  Pushing the boat in waves, the "pinrail" carried away with a loud bang.  We were already on our way back, and just lashed the main halyard elsewhere and stowed the jib.  This will get sorted out over the winter. 

4.  I think I'm going to want a sort of #3 working jib, with the current jibs used more as genoas.  I think we could have driven the boat harder in those conditions with a smaller jib.

We got some video under sail, which I'll try to upload soon.  Alas, no separate photo boat.  The fall lighting was wonderful and it would have been perfect!  We'll get the money shots eventually.

I've completed 25 pages of architectural drawings and I'm working on the full-sized patterns.  Kits:  well, if anyone wants one, I know all the parts go together...

Go to video of the launch and first sail.

Proa Madness Study Plans

Proa Madness Study Plans

Proa Madness Study Plans

Proa Madness Study Plans