Thursday, June 9, 2016

___________________________ SCAMP (1) _____________________________

This little ship is, I am sure, well known to small boat aficionados. She is 'Scamp' designed by New Zealander John Wellsford. 

Scamp has been described variously as "Truncated", "A little pig like in looks" and "Somewhat amputated". The people I have heard describing 'Scamp' in this manner have all made these remarks whilst totally transfixed with 'that' glazed look in their eyes. None of them were damning 'Scamp' with faint praise, they were all too busy falling in love with 'Scamps' abundant possibilities; and 'Scamp' has this in spades.

To my eyes she is the logical outcome of putting a sail and a small cuddy cabin on an oversized pram dinghy. I think her looks are attractively quirky and immensely enticing. She contains the paradox of something the size of a shoe box providing commodious day sailing and camping type over-nighting accommodation. Her possibilities are endless. As I type this there is someone sailing one around Cape Horn. She is an Everest of adventure in a small boat just one inch under 12 feet in length (3.63m).

Tumblehome designed into the stern avoids a 'boxy' look.

The unstayed lugsail rig is simplicity itself.

The small recessed cuddy provides shelter. With a tent over the boom the cockpit becomes somewhere to sleep.

Commodious cockpit.
It's 'Swallows and Amazons' revisited - (Albeit to date mainly with us older guys).
This is a very popular design with many being amateur built. She is also now commercially built in GRP.

My only misgiving about this design is the lug sail rig - despite the fact that I am aware how this rig contributes to the boats simplicity and ease of handling:

The mains'l forms a nice aerofoil shape on one tack but when going over onto the other tack the sail shape becomes compromised  by the imposition of the mast cutting across the sail. I always like to sail my boats as efficiently as possible whether cruising or racing and I think on one tack I would find things a bit annoying.  I think I would prefer a mains'l attached to the rear of the mast. I am aware that the front of the lug mains'l acts as a proxy jib of sorts and that altering the rig alters the center of effort and perhaps the position of the mast; but to obtain an efficient mains'l on both tacks I would be prepared to trade off absolute lug sail simplicity with a 'normal' mains'l and a small jib on a short bowsprit. I have seen a photograph of a 'Scamp' rigged as a yawl with mizzen, main and jib with bowsprit looking in proportion and well balanced (but of course with simplicity compromised). Other than this point I think she is a great little boat!

Here is a link to a great Blog about building the Scamp:

Go to the Blog Archive on this page and click the Blogs first page in December 2013 where the log of  building a 'Scamp' design begins.

Here are another couple of good links:


Mike said...

Hi, good to see a favourable review of a craft with a traditional rig. Despite your misgivings about the so-called 'bad' tack, lug sails in particular have a great deal to offer, but have been overlooked by small boat and offshore cruising sailors due to the predominance of the racing fraternity in sailing, whose mindset demands that everything be compromised just so long as you can sail close to the wind, and that everything that doesn't look like a racing dinghy, large or small, is by definition bad. But not a bit of it. Lug sails are brilliant for cruising and would serve 90% of cruising sailors in 90% of circumstances, whether they cruise a lake in a small boat, or offshore in a larger vessel. They are simple, therefore reliable and easy to maintain and therefore, in many ways, cheaper.

The greatest achievement of Scamp will be in opening the eyes of those who have been blinded by the racing mania to the possibilities of a square sail, instead of a Bermudan rig with all its attendant complexities, expenses and annoyances.

Alden Smith said...

Mike, I hear echoes of L. Francis Herreschoff in all that you say! LOL, and I think that you are right in that a Lug sail rig pretty much suits Scamp, although I know my aesthetic sensibilities might be offended on one tack!

Since posting about the Scamp design I have viewed a large number of Utube videos of her and I now think if I built her I wouldn't change a thing, including the rig. You are correct, she is a complete package of simplicity in design and great maneuverability under sail - with her lug sail rig she moves well and tacks on a dime.

The lug sail rig, with the sail continually on one side of the mast looks and works in a similar way to a Chinese Junk sail, except that with the Junk rig there would be a lot more ropes and controls for reefing the sail. The Junk Rig is probably a better choice for offshore work in a much bigger boat.

In terms of comparing the Bermudan rig with a Gaff / Lug / Junk rig on a given hull length I think it's pretty much a case of 'horses for courses' with variety being the spice of life - I personally like them all.

Steve-the-Wargamer said...

Alden - when do you start building??? :o)

Alden Smith said...

Steve, my brother borrowed my Wooden Boat Magazines 'Small Boats' issue which features 'Scamp' and went away making a lot of boat building noises... so who knows, building a couple of Scamps would be fun. But if I was going to build a small plywood boat I would probably still choose 'Autumn Leaves' which I featured on this blog earlier this year. The problem is there are just too many great little ships to choose from; and that's not even considering the fact that I already own too many boats*

*(That's the opinion of objective observers, not my own opinion of course LOL).

John Welsford said...

Alden, thanks for the positive review of SCAMP, its been a life changer for quite a few people. Not only Small Craft Advisor Magazine for whom I designed the boat, but also the 60 plus who've been through SCAMP Camp, the building classes which Howard RIce and I run in Port Townsend USA or over in Michigan, the many who've built them, Howard himself who is the man about to head for Chile to venture south from the Straights of Magellan and perhaps around Cape Horn, and even myself as its meant travel to the USA for five years in a row, plus Chile, and I'm heading there again in December as expedition support and video crew for Howard. You can check it out on
On the sail, the difference from one tack to the other on that big lugsail is less than you'd think, in fact with the offset centerboard being very slightly more efficient on one tack than the other, and the rig being the same, we've set them up so the differences cancel out and I'd defy anyone to tell the difference from one tack to the other.
SCAMPs sail pretty well, in fact one very competent sailor came in after a test sail in the prototype with a big grin and said " She sails like a freight train full of witches". I really liked that!
Several SCAMPs have done exceptional voyages, last northern summer three of them spent two weeks in Desolation Sound on Canadas west coast toward the top of Vancouver Island, seriously rough country by the way, no road access and a 25 mile crossing of the Straights of Georgia to get there! We're up to sail number 400 and gaining fast. Its been an extremely successful design, I never ever thought that it would go as well as it has.
Thanks again for the positive posts, keep up the good work on the blog, Great stuff.

Alden Smith said...

John, thanks for taking the time to comment on my posting. It's been a real pleasure watching the rise and rise and rise of the diminutive little Scamp. The design really hits the sweet spot and at 400 sail numbers she is certainly capturing a lot of hearts. Of course with most timeless designs and classics (as Scamp is becoming) the proof is in the pudding - she certainly lives up to expectations in terms of sailing performance and capability, as the examples in your comment attest. I am following the Cape Horn expedition with interest.

You make a good point about having the offset centerboard and the lugsail's slightly less efficiency on one tack offsetting each other and cancelling out any differences. This is a good idea and not one I had thought of. Not noticing any difference on either tack would maintain a good sense of balance.

When it comes to deciding any rig for a particular boat my position is pretty much as I replied to Mikes comment (above):

"In terms of comparing the Bermudan rig with a Gaff / Lug / Junk rig on a given hull length I think it's pretty much a case of 'horses for courses' with variety being the spice of life - I personally like them all."

Good luck and best wishes for your involvement with Howard and his brave little Scamp design in perhaps the most testing waters in the world.