Saturday, August 16, 2014

Voor Ben Mijn Nederlanse Vriend (6) - Postscript

The romance of oranges! - For those who have read the book, oranges are a fitting symbol and tribute to Johnny Wray and his Ngataki.

What is interesting about restorations, especially one as extensive as this is that in the process a certain amount of the patina of normal use and looks is removed. I think this is inevitable in some ways but it can if one is not careful  restore a boat to a level of perfection that was never there in the first place. In the case of the Ngataki it is difficult to decide where to draw the line because she has had a number of lives in the hands of a number of skippers - And the magnificent circumnavigation of her third owner Debbie Lewis deserves recognition and acknowledgement - But I do understand that this restoration is celebrating the re issue of Johnny Wrays book and Ngatakis first original life. That being the case I think it would be reasonable to restore her to her complete original authenticity and replace her current Bermudian rig with Ngatakis original Gaff Cutter rig.

These are photographs I have found on the internet and appear to show the Ngataki just before her restoration by the Tino Rewa Trust (Click the link on this Posts Title).
One of the first things that caught my eye in this photograph is that  Ngataki does not have her original bulwarks. These may have been removed for a number of reasons - If the timbers that the bulwarks are attached to are frames that come up through the deck, these areas can be the source of deck leaks and the start of rot - Or they have been removed because bulwarks can hold for too long (until drained away through the scuppers)  large amounts of the constant blue water that may come aboard during storms, this weight of water compromising stability - And, these bulwarks themselves are vulnerable to damage during very heavy weather. I note that these original bulwarks have since been fully restored during the restoration and in my opinion the good looks of the Ngataki restored in the process.
..... And so shipmates, this postscript does finally complete this series of postings and fitting indeed to finish with a basket of 'Sunday Island' oranges in a basket on the main cabin hatch.

Oranges, islands, warm trade winds, camaraderie, storms, stars, dusky maidens, carefree days - "Follow your bliss young man, follow your bliss"


Ben said...

With restorations you will always have a debate. Personally I prefer the Gaff cutter rig because it looks more classic. The Bermuda rig (In Dutch top or toren getuigd) looks more modern and is probably easier to handle. When I look at the old Ngataki pictures it strikes me that the angle the gaff makes with the mast is very small, making it more a Houari rigged (or is it called Gunter rigged?) although the gaff is not that long.
Nice postscript you made. The pictures look familiar. After we returned from our first trip to NZ in 2010, I searched the internet early 2010 and came across the CYA forum.

Alden Smith said...

The advantage of the modern Bermudian Sloop rig is I think two fold. First, the Bermudian rig is far more efficient in windward work (tacking). The Bermudian rig points up into the wind much higher than a gaff rigged yacht can.
Second, gaff rig, because of the shape of the mainsail, do not have permanently rigged backstays,the lack of which can be dangerous on certain points of sailing. Instead of a backstay(s) the gaff rig has what are called 'runners' which run from the top of the mast to points close to the stern on either side of the hull. When going to windward or running downwind, the windward runner is set up tight, usually from the mechanical aid of a 'highfield lever' (or traditionally a block and tackle) while the leeward runners highfield lever is released and loose (the leeward runner moving towards the bow. The main problem and danger of 'runners' is if the mainsail gybes when running downwind. When this happens the boom comes across onto the other tack with huge force, which can break and carry away the runner and also possibly the whole mast. The runner is the only rigging holding the mast up from the stern position of the boat.

A gunter (Houari) rig has the gunter pointing skyward and completely parallel to the main mast. The peak of Ngatakis gaff is high but personally I wouldn't have thought she was gunter rigged.

You are absolutely correct that restorations always cause a debate and I agree that the gaff rig looks more classic, especially if the hull is in keeping with the rig. Many modern hulls would look odd with a gaff rig and certainly old hulls converted to a Bermudian rig can look similarly out of place - although Ngataki looks good with either rig.

August 18, 2014 at 9:05 AM

Alden Smith said...


Thank you for the email with the photograph; so nice to see the type of boat you learned to sail in.

The question of whether or not to fit running back stays to gaff rigged yachts seems to be debatable. Some traditional old gaff rigged yachts have running back stays, some do not. A close inspection of the Ngataki suggests to me that she does not have running backstays - what I thought were running back stays is in fact the main boom topping lift - a rope that holds the boom up and parallel to the deck when the mainsail has been lowered.

If you look a variety of gaff rigged yachts both old and new, (do a Google search) you will see for yourself that some have these back stays, some do not.

From what I can make out it seems that gaff rig without back stays works quite well up to a certain length of yacht (say 30 feet / 9 metres) - but the mast must be very strong. Over 9 metres it seems that back stays are highly recommended.

One advantage of back stays (either permanent or running) is that the stays help the forward jibstay(s) stay tight - this helps in windward performance and something that would have helped the windward performance of the Ngataki - BUT I can see that the Ngataki with her big strong solid timber mast did do the job very well - AND not having the running back stays would have meant not having to worry about accidental gybes which could damage the stay or bring the mast down.

On MASTHEAD Bermudian rigged yachts with permanent back stays no running back stays are required BUT on Bermudian rigged yachts where the Jib Stay does not go to the top of the mast permanent back stays AND running backstays are required - this is because the jib stay is trying to pull the mast forward at a point below the top of the mast - and because the mast is 'In Compression' such a pull forward can pull the mast out of 'column' and the downward compression will break the mast.

I had a look on "The Wooden Boat Forum" and found and interesting exchange about running back stays that you might be interested in and I will post in a second comment as I am being told that "Your HTML cannot be accepted:Must be at most 4,096 characters

Alden Smith said...

Ben, This is the next part of my last comment which because of the 4,096 character limit comes in 2 parts (See my next comment for the last part LOL LOL :


You are thinking of what are called running backstays. If you have a particular boat in mind, talk to a professional rigger. All boats are a little different in how much load they can take.
Though if you're looking at around 30 ft gaff rig then I would say you definitely need them.
Runners are not difficult, but it's best if you have a person dedicated to working them when you go about, as they MUST be done properly.
Millionnaire racing boats use them, and they are generally fitted at the stern. Gaff rigged ones are generally fitted around 3-4 fifths of the boat's length back from the stem.
Tacking and gybing on a marconi is definitely easier and can be done single-handedly with a little practice, easy-peasy for two. As the boom doesn't extend beyond the stern of the boat none of the stays need be mucked about with, and running backstays are unnecessary. If you want you can have an adjustable one for on and off the wind but it's not really a big deal if you don't.
You can sail short or single handed on a gaff rigger too, but if you are worried about losing your mast when gybing, you should have someone else on board. This is because the runner on the weather side must be released as you got through the tack or gybe, and the other one tightened in before the process is complete. Timing is everything. You can always cheat though and take her through a longer tack, which is kind of easier, but not by a lot.
If the boom hits a runner before it has been released and the sail is filling, you will lose your mast and likely someone will go over with it. If you have gone through youre tack or gybe and the new weather runner isn't tightend up, the the same thing will happen. I'm talking here of heavier boats here, in strong weather.
This isn't very clear, and sounds more intimidating than it is. Go and have a sail on one and the processes/problems/issues become evident. There are lots of different methods so try one or two out and again, talk to a rigger.
Also, if you want classic looks, there are other rigs you might try - eg a gunter rig is a simpler affair.

I'm going to disagree with Gavin, because he is writing under the assumption that you need the backstays to keep the mast up.
That may be true on some boats, but it certainly is not true on mine, and I don't think it is true on Sea Harmony (Thad's) either.
I do set the runners because it helps sail shape. But I'm never in a rush. If I thought gybing was going to take the mast down I would refrain from gybing, not try and set the runners at high speed. My boat is 30 or 31' on deck, 548 square foot main, I sail her myself at times, and I just tighten mine up after the tack or gybe.

Alden Smith said...

Ben: Final comment from the Wooden Boat Forum : >)

What Tom says is true. Most boats with work-boat, or cruising heritage are built with self supporting mast with enough strength make setting the runners optional to unnecessary in light to moderate conditions as the weight of the sails and the leach tension of the main usually are perfectly adequate to keep the rig properly tensioned. When sailing off the wind, especially for prolonged periods of time, they should be set, but one most working and cruising boats this is seldom something that has to be done instantaneously as you jibe.
On race boats, where there's not so much reserve in the spars, it's another matter entirely, and the runners may be required to keep the mast in the boat. Any boat with a long overhanging boom, regardless of whether it's marconi or gaff rigged is likely to require running backstays unless they have a boomkin that allows a fixed backstay to be set. This, of course, offers other trade-offs. Some modern racing boats use runners in conjunction with fixed backstays to counter the tension on fractional jibs (jibs which hoist well below the top of the mast), as the luff tension can induce an S bend in heavy conditions so the runners are designed to counter that tendency.
So in general, most modern jib headed marconi rigs are easier to tack single handed than a long boomed gaffer. But both are well manageable under normal conditions assuming the person sailing them is competent.