Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The OK Dinghy Project (Part 1)

The Ok Dinghy - a hugely successful International class yacht.
"Those were the days my friend, I thought they'd never end...." - With my new Ok Dinghy - Pleasant Point Yacht Club. Christchurch. - circa 1968.
Sailing out into the Christchurch Estuary from my old Yacht Club - hazy, lazy days.
When I grew out of my P Class yacht ( although one never really grows out of a P Class as the Cygnet Project shows) I bought this Ok Dinghy called 'Okere' - a Maori name the meaning of which I never knew at the time and now having just looked it up in my Maori Dictionary cannot find the word at all! - The closest is 'Okereha' which means orchestra.
I purchased Okere for NZ$140 in 1967 when I was 16 and too old by class rules to race my P Class 'Elusive'. It was quite a step up from the little 7 foot P Class to the Ok Dinghy at nearly 14 feet. Everything was bigger in every way possible and a lot more effort was needed to keep the Ok sailing on an even keel and sailing well - But the reward was there - if the P Class is a smart little sailer, then the Ok Dinghy is a rocket ship - off the wind with the sheets eased in any sort of breeze the Ok planes with a vengeance - it is fast and furious stuff in a big wind but incredibly exciting - pure joy, yippeeeee sailing!
The Ok Dinghy started life in 1956 when the Ok Dinghy design was created in the hands of two Danes - Knud Olsen who was asked to design a yacht by a group of Danish 'Pirat' class sailors who wanted an inexpensive one man planing, racing dinghy that was cheap, could be amateur built and was able to be transported on top of a car - and Paul Elvstrom the four times Olympic Finn Class salior who was asked to design the Ok Dinghies rig. Paul suggested a flexible unstayed mast similar to that used on the Finn. The rest is history as they say and class numbers boomed around the world. Fleets of OK Dinghies sail and race all over the globe to this day.
After the successful completion of the Cygnet project I would really like to find an Ok Dinghy that I could do a similar restoration on.
But finding a suitable boat to purchase may be difficult. Today's competitive racing Ok dinghy is built of exotic fiberglass, with a carbon fibre mast and a lot of other expensive go fast gizmo's. What I am looking for is a boat similar to the one I had when I was younger - i.e. a classic plywood Ok Dinghy with a wooden mast and a nice wooden deck that I could varnish up like a Steinway piano. To date I have not seen anything of this classic nature for sale - But I am sure there is a lovely classic OK lady out there all ready for a bit of TLC from yours truly - so I will keep my ear to the ground and my eyes on the online boat section of 'Trade Me'
If you know of one For Sale / For Sail - please let me know!


Delwyn said...

Hi Alden,
another project on the way... I wonder how you ever got into those stove pipe jeans...
Do you look on ebay?

Alden said...

Is this typical of you Delwyn, staring at the area below my waistline in the photograph? - you are surposed to be looking at the god damned OK dinghy! Mind you, I must say the jeans do look unusual. I look more like a member of the local ballet company than a sailor, but then sailing is a sort of slow dance with the sea.

Dan Gurney said...

Thanks for this post on the OK dinghy. I agree with you about preferring a vintage wood boat.

The whole idea of the OK Dinghy was to design a high performance boat that could be made quite readily in plywood by a handy amateur.

I am not attracted to the plastic version of the boat, but would, like you, be tempted to buy a wood one. May you be lucky enough to find one.

I can keep my eyes out here in California, but I wonder if you'd be willing to have it shipped to NZ?

Alden said...

Dan, that is a very generous offer to look out for a wooden OK Dinghy in California and I may take you up on that if I can't obtain one here. Of course the whole idea is not just Low Tech (sailing) Classic Tech (classic wooden) but Fiscally Prudent (low cost as my bank manager would say) - which means the cost of shipping may be prohibitive.

Dan, if you are interested in the OK Dinghy then a good book (published 2008) is "Completely OK - The history,techniques and sailors of the Ok Dinghy" written by Robert Deaves - a great easy read and full of interesting photographs.

Janice said...

Alden - from painters to poets to putzing around in boats, I can hardly catch my breath. Your blog is such an education for me; I have always loved Monet, didn't know Naruda, and I haven't seen a pair of stovepipe pants since "A Hard Day's Night". It's all terribly romantic, and if you didn't swear once in a while I'd take you for a complete marshmallow! Oh yes, the god damned OK dinghy was lovely! So keep it up, you are rapidly becoming my favorite author!

Kathryn said...

Alden, that photo of you is exactly how I remember you! But I too wondered about those skinny jeans :-) and how on earth you managed to get into them.

Oh, yes, the dinghy is cute too, :-)

Alden said...

Janice, thankyou for your nice comments and thankyou for introducing me to a word I really like and haven't heard before "putzing!!!" - That is a very cute word. It has just the right timbre of sound and thought that describes what one does in a small boat on the weekend with a nice breeze blowing.

"Hey Alden, what the hell are you doing out here? " -- "Oh, nothing much Mr Neptune, just putzing around." :-) :-)

Alden said...

Kathryn, you are the third person to make a comment on my stove pipe jeans, and I thank you for that - Because it has given me an idea for a blog post!!

Janice said...

Alden, I just Googled the word 'putz' to see what it's origins are, and I thought I should tell you what I found, before you start flinging the word about too freely:

1. Slang A fool; an idiot.
2. Vulgar Slang A penis.
intr.v. putzed, putz·ing, putz·es Slang
To behave in an idle manner; putter.
[Yiddish pots, penis, fool.]

Please bear in mind that I had no idea - I just thought it was a good, fun, word. You are not a putz, not in my mind!

Alden said...

Thankyou for that information Janice - if I was a putz that would make me a 'dickhead' which is in fact true from time to time -but never mind,despite all that, I still like the sound of the word - but I shall be careful how and when I use it!

Rob said...

Hello Alden,

I've come across your post here as I searched for information on building an OK dinghy, a project I had helped with in the 60's. Like you, I'm disappointed that the OK has become a sophisticated construction but this probably mirrors the aging and greater wealth of the initial group of enthusiasts. I was hoping to build one with my grandson to teach him some design, woodworking and sailing skills. We'll likely go ahead with it keeping to the original philosophy and remembering not to mess with the original ideal of a simple amateur build.

Anonymous said...

Not that I would ever consider selling it but I am just completing the restoration of my Dad's OK. IT has been a very enjoyable project and the results have been very rewarding.

Dan Gurney said...

Hi, Pal,

I came across this quotation, and thought immediately of you/us....

"If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble." E.B. White

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Rob Dinkelaar said...

hi all, I have just joined the ok sailing group by buying my very own wooden boat but unfortunately it did not come with a drop keel would any here know the home build dimensions so I can build one thanking you in advance
cheers rob

Alden Smith said...

Hi Rob, if you Google the International OK Dinghy Association you will find out how to obtain a set of OK Dinghy plans which will have the correct dimensions for the OKs centerboard.