Boat Sailing (1908) Plywood Boats or to The Cheap Page or to The Odd Sails


















(8th Edition)



"Man made him a boat of a hollow tree,
And thus became lord of the bounding sea."







Copyright, 1905, by


All Rights Reserved





CHAPTER I ......3

Preliminary Hints to an Amateur with Ambitions

Toward Owning a Boat -- Why He Ought to Join a Yacht Club -- Handiness of the Cat-Rig


CHAPTER II ......10

The Choice of a Boat -- Advantages of Stationary Ballast and a Centerboard -- How to Avoid Being "Done" in a Boat Trade -- Bargains at the Navy Yard -- The Way to Cure a "Nail-Sick" Craft


CHAPTER III ......16

Trial Spin in a Cat Boat -- How to Get Under Way, Beat to Windward and Run Back with Instructions

How to Act if Caught in a Squall or Stranded on a Shoal, and How to Avoid Collisions and Come to Anchor


CHAPTER IV ......25

Advantages of the Yawl-Rig for General Cruising Purposes, Especially When "Single Handed," with a Description of a Representative Craft -- Disadvantages of the Ballast Fin for All Purposes Except Racing -- The Fin in Model Yachting Years Ago


CHAPTER V ......43

The Popularity of the Knockabout as an Excellent Cruising Craft, with Some Observations on the One-design Classes from Schooners to Dories


CHAPTER VI ......53

Fitting Out for a Cruise -- Hints on Equipment and Provisioning -- How a Sailor Solved the Problem and Got Ready Hot "Grub" in a Gale


CHAPTER VII ......66

Keep Your Weather Eye Open Always When Afloat -- How to Handle a Craft in Gale or Squall -- Use of a Sea Anchor -- Oil on Raging Waters



Overhauling the Yacht -- How to Clean and Paint Her Inside and Out -- Proper Care of Hull, Spars, Canvas and Running Gear


CHAPTER IX ......116

Beating to Windward -- The Theory and Practice of Sailing a Vessel Against the Breeze


CHAPTER X ......128

Combination Rowing and Sailing Boats -- The Jib and Mainsail -- Sprit, Leg of Mutton, Cat, Balance Lug and Sliding Gunter-Rigs -- The Folding Centerboard


CHAPTER XI ......143

Rigging and Sails, with Some Impartial Remarks on the Lanyard and the Deadeye, as Opposed to the Turnbuckle -- Standing and Running Gear, and the Bending and Setting of Canvas


CHAPTER XII ......156

Laying Up for the Winter -- Practical Suggestions for Protecting a Boat and Her Gear from the Stress of Our Inclement Climate -- A Plea for Trustworthy Skippers and Engineers


CHAPTER XIII ......263

Useful Hints and Recipes, with Some Remarks on the Buying of a Binocular Marine Glass, from the "Brain-Pan" of a Practical Sailor


CHAPTER XIV ......173

The Rule of the Road at Sea: Being a Digest of the Present International Regulations for Preventing Collisions on Oceans and in Harbors


CHAPTER XV .......180

The Mariner's Compass, with Remarks on Deviation, Variation, Leeway, etc


CHAPTER XVI ......18

Charts, with Some Hints as to Navigation by Dead-reckoning -- Lead, Log, and Lookout


CHAPTER XVII ......195

How a Ship's Longboat Was Converted Into a Snug and Seaworthy Cruiser



Marlinespike Seamanship: Being Practical Instructions in the Art of Making the Splices, Knots and Bends in Ordinary Use


CHAPTER XIX ......215

Weather Wrinkles from the Scientific Point of View of Professional Meteorologists and also Jack Tar


CHAPTER XX ......221

Sea Cookery for Yachtsmen


CHAPTER XXI ......234

Nautical Terms in Common Use


ADDENDA ......246

Recent Changes of Sail Plan and Rigging in Modern Craft







Captain A.J. Kenealy

Turning the Stake

Yawl in a Squall

Latest Type of Fin-Keel

Sail Plan of Modern Fin-Keel

The Boston Knockabout, Gosling

Seawanhaka 21-foot Knockabout

Seawanhaka Knockabout

Sail Plan Seawanhaka Knockabout

Pleasant Cat-Boat Sailing

Drogue, or Sea Anchor

Diagram of Floating Anchor

Floating Anchor in Use

Plan of Oil Distributor

In Dry Dock

Hauled Out for Painting

Making Ready for a New Dress


Running Before the Wind


Close Hauled on Port Tack

Close Hauled on Starboard Tack

Dead Beat to Windward

A Long Leg and a Short Leg

The Maneuver of Tacking

Whip Purchase and Traveler

Jib and Mainsail Rig

Sprit Rig

Leg-of-Mutton Rig

Cat Rig

Balance Lug Rig

Sliding Gunter Rig

Detail of Sliding Gunter Rig

Folding Centerboard

Shroud, Deadeye, Lanyard


Topmast Rigging

Rig of Running Bowsprit

Horse for Main Sheet

Gear for Hauling Out Loose-footed Mainsail

Luncheon in the Cock-pit

Scowing an Anchor

"Half Raters"


Plan of 30-foot Lifeboat,
Converted Into a Ketch-Rigged
Sailing Yacht

The Cruiser Complete


 ... Frontispiece

 ... Preface

 ... Chapter 4



 ... Chapter 5




... Chapter 6

... Chapter 7




 ... Chapter 8



 ... Chapter 9








 ... Chapter 10









 ... Chapter 11






 ... Chapter 13


 ... Chapter 14

 ... Chapter 15


 ... Chapter 17


Knots and Splices

Cautionary Signals

Storm Signals

A Yachtsman's Stove

The Ideal Fry-pan

A Nest of Stew-Pans

Ice Tub

A Traveling Companion

Sloop Yacht

Cutter Yacht

Sail Plan and Rig of a Modern Schooner

Sail Plan and Rig of a Modern Yawl

Chapter 18


 ... Chapter 19


 ... Chapter 20




 ... Chapter 21



THE demand for an eighth edition of this book is as gratifying to the author as the numerous letters in its praise have been unexpected. That it has had so large a sale is no doubt due to the great and growing popularity of the sport of boat sailing, which for health and recreation is in my judgment unsurpassed by any other outdoor pastime. I have carefully revised all the chapters and have made some additions which I hope may be of service to the amateur.






LL of us remember the old sailor's retort to the man who reproached him for soaking his clay in bad rum. "There ain't such a thing under heaven as bad rum," he sagely remarked. "Of course some rum is better than another, but I have been knocking about the world for more than fifty years and never did I drink a glass of rum that deserved to be called bad, and I got outside of some pretty fiery tipple in my time." The same is true in a general way of boats. There are many types of boat and each has some peculiar attribute to recommend it. No two craft, for instance, could be more widely different in every way than a Gloucester fishing dory and a Cape Cod catboat, yet each when properly handled has safely ridden out an Atlantic gale. Of course if their movements had been directed by farm hands both would have foundered.

In point of fact, there is no royal road to the acquisition of seamanship. Experience is what is needed first, last and all the time. It is true, however, that the rough sea over which the learner has necessarily to sail may be smoothed for him, even as the breakers on a harbor bar are rendered passable for a homeward-bound craft by the judicious application of a little oil.

The choice of a boat depends upon a vast variety of circumstances, the chief of which is the location of the prospective boat owner. If he lives on the Great South Bay, for example, he should provide himself with a craft of light draught, almost capable of sailing on a clover field after a heavy fall of dew.

Equipped with a centerboard and a sail a boat of this kind, if of the right shape and construction, will be found comfortable, safe and of moderate speed. A man may also enjoy an infinite amount of pleasure aboard her, after he has mastered the secret of her management.

There are so many sandbars in the Great South Bay that a boat of light draught is indispensable to successful sailing. The same remark applies also to Barnegat Bay and adjacent New Jersey waters. There are some persons who believe that it is impossible to combine light draught and safety. They make a great mistake. A twelve-foot sneakbox in Barnegat Bay, with the right man steering, will live for a long time in rough water that would sorely try the capacity of a much larger craft in the hands of a lubber. The same is true of a sharpie.

The man who makes up his mind that he wants a sailing boat should study well the geography of his vicinity. If he lives in New York or on the Sound his course is easy. He is sure to be within reach of a yacht or boat club from whose members he can get all the information he needs. They will tell him the boat best adapted to his requirements and his finances, and if they persuade him to join their organization they will be conferring upon him a favor. I have traveled a good deal among the yacht clubs of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and I never came across a more generous, more obliging and more sportsmanlike body of men than those enrolled on the rosters of these enterprising associations. They are convinced that there is more real pleasure to the square inch in the possession of a stout boat capable of being managed by a couple of men, than there is in the proprietorship of a big yacht that carries a crew of twenty and whose owner probably knows nothing about the art of sailing her, but depends all the time on his skipper. It is a pleasure to meet these men and listen to their yarns. The earnestness, the zeal and the ability with which they pursue their favorite pastime are indeed commendable.

And the best of it is they are always ready to welcome recruits, and to pass them through the rudimentary mill of seamanship and navigation, their motto being "Every man his own skipper." The only requisite necessary to membership in one or more of these clubs is that you should be a "clubbable" man with manly instincts. Young fellows, too, are eagerly sought, so you need have no compunction about seeking their doors, the latchstrings of which are always down.

By all means join a club, I say. You get all the advantages of the house and the anchorage, and all the benefits that accrue to association with men who are ardent and enthusiastic in the enjoyment of their pet diversion. Besides let me whisper a word in your ear, my brother, you of the slender purse or may be economic instincts -- it will be cheaper for you in the end; it will put money in your purse. Your boat will be looked after all the year round by watchful guardians, who will see that it isn't stripped or rifled by river pirates, and that the elements do not mar its beauty. I confess I was surprised when I learned how little it costs to become entitled to all the privileges of these clubs, and it is owing to their moderate charges that the "mosquito fleet" in the vicinity of New York is growing so big and interest in the sport is increasing so rapidly. What I have written of New York is true, perhaps, in a greater measure of Boston. There is no finer sheet of water for boat sailing than Boston Bay, and no people in the world are more devoted to the sport than those who dwell in the city of culture and its sea-washed environs. There are plenty of yacht clubs between Point Allerton, on the south, and Marblehead, on the north. It has been ascertained that more than five thousand members have joined these organizations and that nineteen hundred yachts are enrolled on their lists, most of the craft being less than twenty feet on the water line. It will thus be seen that Boston fully appreciates the value of small sailing craft as a means of amusement and healthful recreation. The port from which Volunteer, Mayflower and Puritan originally hailed, though justly proud of those three magnificent racing yachts, has always been distinguished for turning out stout, able and seaworthy vessels of the smaller type, and also for breeding a sturdy race of men who know every trick of seamanship.

The majority of the boats are so constructed and rigged as to ensure that they will render a good account of themselves in a blow and a seaway. Thus the "sandbagger" type of vessel is rarely found "down east," and this, in my opinion, need not be regretted.

The cat rigged boat, with stationary ballast and a centerboard, may be said to be the type generally preferred in those waters. The Newport catboat is famous the world over for her handiness, speed and ability. I know that it is fashionable for scientific men and swell naval architects to decry the seaworthiness of these boats. It has been urged that the weight of the mast in the eyes of the craft is a serious objection, a strain on the hull, and not unlikely to be carried away for want of proper staying. The long boom also has been objected to, because of its liability to trip. The craft has been declared difficult to steer and a regular "yawer." But while saying unkind things of the catboat's behavior in a blow, no critic, however biased, has ventured to deny her general handiness.

I might remind these gentlemen that the owner of a pleasure boat does not as a rule sail her in a blow or in a seaway. But this would not be a fair or legitimate argument. The elements are treacherous. A summer storm often plays havoc among the shipping, and a man who ventures seaward in the morning in a balmy breeze and with the water smooth as a horse-pond may be caught in a savage blow, followed by a heavy sea, both of which may sorely try the capabilities of his craft and his own resources as a seaman. I am such a devout believer, however, in a catboat of proper form and rig, that I will defend her as a good and handy craft in both fair weather and foul. It blows hard in Narragansett Bay sometimes, and I have often known a devil of a sea to be kicked up off Brenton's Reef lightship. But the Newport catboat, with a couple of reefs down, comes out of the harbor and dances over the steep waves like a duck or a cork. I never saw one of them come to grief, and in fact they have always impressed me as being the handiest all-round boat afloat. I have sailed in them in all sorts of weather, and I am not likely to alter my opinion. Many of the objections raised against them are idle. For instance, the mast can be so stayed as to be perfectly secure. There is also no reason why the boom should project so far over the stern as to trip, and in this connection I should like to ask of what use is a topping lift unless one avails himself of it in just such an emergency? A man should always keep the boom well topped up when running before the wind in a seaway, and by this means he may avoid much trouble and possibly peril.

The above remarks are applicable to both salt water and fresh water, to the yachts of the North, the South, as well as of the Great and Little Lakes, and indeed wherever the glorious sport flourishes. In point of fact, all the hints and directions given in these chapters may be followed with profit on the Pacific Coast as well as on the Atlantic Seaboard, on Lake Michigan or on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.




IF any ambitious would-be mariner, old or young, hailing from anywhere were to ask me what sort of a boat I would recommend him to build or buy, I would answer him frankly that an able catboat, with a centerboard and stationary ballast would, in my judgment, be best. I would advise him to shun the "sandbaggers" not that one cannot enjoy an immense amount of exciting sport in one of them, but because they seem to me to be only fit for racing, and I will tell you why. A man when he goes on a quiet cruise doesn't want to be bothered by having to shift heavy bags of sand every time the boat goes about. It is too much like hard work, and by the time your day's fun is finished you feel stiff in the joints. I have other arguments against the use of shifting ballast, but do not think any other save the one mentioned is necessary.

This point disposed of let us confer. Of what shall the stationary ballast for our able catboat consist? Outside lead is of course the best, but its first cost is a serious matter. A cast-iron false keel or shoe answers admirably, and is moderate in price. Some persons object to it, claiming that it rusts and corrodes, that its fastenings decay the wooden keel to which it is bolted, and that its weight strains a boat and soon causes her to become leaky. There is of course some truth in these charges; but if the boat is built by a mechanic and not an impostor, none of these disadvantages will exist, and the cast-iron keel will prove to be both efficient and economical.

But if, by straining a point, lead can be afforded, procure it by all means and have it bolted on outside. It neither tarnishes nor corrodes, and as it does not deteriorate, its marketable value is always the same. Racing yachts have, however, been known to sell for less than their lead ballast cost, but such instances are rare. It should be borne in mind that the lower down the lead is placed the less the quantity required, and the greater its efficiency.

There are always a number of secondhand catboats in the market for sale at a reasonable rate, and an advertisement will bring plenty of replies. But for a tyro to purchase a boat haphazard is a mistake on general principles. It is like a sailor buying a horse. Get some honest shipwright or boat builder to examine, say, some half-dozen boats whose dimensions suit you, and whose prices are about what you think you can afford. There are certain portions of a catboat that are subject to violent strains when the craft is under way. The step of the mast and the centerboard trunk are parts that require the vigilant eye of an expert.

Human nature is prone to temptation, and paint and putty are used quite often to conceal many important defects in a craft advertised for sale. The keen eye of a mechanic who has served his time to a boatbuilder will soon detect all deficiencies of this kind, will ferret out rotten timbers, and under his advice and counsel you may succeed in picking up at a bargain some sound, seaworthy and serviceable craft in which you can enjoy yourself to your heart's content.

But if some rotten hull is foisted on you by an unscrupulous person you will be apt to "kick yourself round the block," for she will be always in need of repairs, and in the end, when she is finally condemned, you will find on figuring up the cost that it would have been money in your pocket if you had built a new boat.

The principal boatbuilders of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts are men of high character, who take a pride in their work (which is thoroughly first-class), and whose prices are strictly moderate. Any one of these will construct a capital boat of good model and fair speed. I am an old crank and a bigot in many things appertaining to boats and the sea, but I hope that any reader of this who is going to build a pleasure craft will follow my advice at least in this instance: Let her be copper-fastened above and below the waterline. Don't use a single galvanized nail or bolt in her construction. See that the fastenings are clenched on a roove -- not simply turned down. Don't spoil the ship for a paltry ha'porth of tar. Many builders, for the sake of economy, use galvanized iron throughout, and will take a solemn affidavit that it is quite as good as copper. But in the innermost cockles of their hearts they know they are wrong. Others more conscientious use copper fastenings below the waterline and galvanized iron above; but copper throughout is my cry, and so will I ever maintain while I am on this side of the Styx.

Sometimes one may pick up a good serviceable boat at a Navy Yard sale. Uncle Sam's boats are of fair design and well built. They are often condemned because they are what is called "nail sick," a defect which can be easily remedied. Occasionally a steamship's lifeboat can be bought for a trifle, and if it be fitted with a false keel with an iron shoe on it, will prove thoroughly seaworthy and a moderately good sailer.

Mr. E.F. Knight, the English barrister and author of the "Cruise of the Falcon," tells how he bought a lifeboat condemned by the Peninsular and Oriental Company. She was thirty feet long with a beam of eight feet, very strong, being built of double skins of teak, and, like all the lifeboats used by that company, an excellent sea boat. This craft he timbered and decked, rigged her as a ketch, and crossed the North Sea in her, going as far as Copenhagen and back, and encountering plenty of bad weather during the adventurous voyage. Mr. Knight is a believer in the pointed or lifeboat stern for a small vessel. He was caught in a northwest gale, in the Gulf of Heligoland, in the above-mentioned craft, and had to sail sixty miles before a high and dangerous sea. His boat showed no tendency to broach to, "but rushed straight ahead across the steep sea in a fashion that gave us confidence and astonished us. Had she had the ordinary yacht's stern to present to those following masses of water, instead of a graceful wedge offering little resistance, we should have had a very uncomfortable time of it. Many men dislike a pointed stern and consider it ugly. However that may be it behaves handsomely, and we should certainly recommend any amateur building a sailing boat for coasting purposes to give her the lifeboat stern."

Mr. Knight fitted his boat with leeboards, which no doubt served their purpose admirably. I should, however, favor a false keel and an iron shoe as being more efficient and less unsightly. I should not advise the purchaser of a condemned lifeboat to have her fitted with a centerboard. The cost would be high, and unless the job was done in a first-class manner by a man experienced at this sort of work it would be very unsatisfactory.

A "nail-sick," clencher-built boat should be hauled up on the beach and filled with water. Every leak should be marked on the outside with chalk or white paint. After all the leaks have been discovered, run the water out of her and dry her thoroughly. Next examine every nail and try the lands or joinings of the planks with the blade of a very thin knife. Any rivets which have worked loose must be taken out and replaced with nails and rooves of a larger size. Through the chief parts of the bottom it may be necessary to put an additional nail between every two originally driven. Many of the old nails which are only a little slack should be hardened at their clench by a few taps from inside, one hand holding a "dollie" against the head of the nail on the outside. Melt a pound of pitch in a gallon of boiling North Carolina tar and give her bottom a good coat inside, filling the lands or ledges well. The garboard strake fastenings and also those of the hooded ends should be carefully caulked. So should the seams. The seams of the planking should also be caulked.

There are various methods of making a boat unsinkable. Cork is sometimes used, but it takes up too much room and is not so buoyant as air. Copper or zinc cases, made to fit under the thwarts and in various odd corners, have been fitted in boats, but their cost is high. Amateurs have used powder flasks and cracker cans, with their covers soldered on, cigar boxes, covered with duck and painted, bladders inflated with air, etc., etc. A boat displacing one ton will take about forty cubic feet of air to make her unsinkable.

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1.0 07/30/00

Edited by Craig O'Donnell.
Etext & images ©2000 Craig O'Donnell, all the usual whining applies.