Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Sunfish Owner's Manual

Spring sailing is just around the corner, time to tune up your Sunfish? We wrote The Sunfish Owner's Manual and published it in December of 2013, the manual is a one stop resource for the world's most popular sailboat. Inside there are chapters on the History of the Sunfish, and illustrated chapters on how to Buy, Rig, Sail, Maintain, Restore, Store, Transport and Sell the Sunfish. The Restore Chapter includes Do It Yourself pictures and step by step details on how to conduct common repairs, including foam replacements and rudder conversions. The Manual has an extensive Illustrated Glossary of Sunfish and sailing terms, with 230 photos by the author, taken in the course of numerous Sunfish restorations, for both wooden and fiberglass Sunfish as well as Sailfish. Included are weblinks to top Sunfish information sites, part suppliers and social network sites. There are also links to extended web content located on the author's youtube channel and over 1300 Picasa Web images. The Manual is not only a one stop reference for any Sunfish owner, it would be of interest to owners of other small sailboats as well. Over 500 manuals sold to date!

Have a great day!
Kent and the Skipper

Buy The Sunfish Owner's Manual on Amazon

Saturday, January 21, 2017

USS Onkahye 1843-1848

We are the proud new owners of the USS Onkahye (1843-1848) oil painting by Charles Lundgren, 1979. The painting depicts the dispatch schooner Onkahye patrolling the West Indies in the late 1840s, and it was featured on a set of US 37 cent Marshall Island stamps printed in 2002 of US Navy Ships. The Skipper's ancestor Lt. Benjamin F. B. Hunter was Onkahye's first Sailing Master when she was commissioned in 1843. The converted yacht was a radical centerboard design by Robert L. Stevens, her design was influential and is considered to be the model for modern American sailing yachts.

FMI: USS Onkahye
Colonel Robert L. Stephens
Lieutenant Benjamin F. B. Hunter, USN
Charles Lundgren, ASMA
Stamps available through Unicover

Reposted from Times of the Island. Winter 2013/14 website (

"Cold Case

The loss of the US Navy Schooner Onkahye, 1848.

By Dr. Donald H. Keith, Chairman, TCI National Museum, and Dr. James W. Hunter

“Near Nine O Clock on Wednesday night the Vessel Struck and from the grating of her Keel . . . I concluded . . . that She Had run up and Lodged on Rocks her entire Length . . . [I] Believed the vessel would go to pieces before morning and never Expected myself to See the Light of another day.”

These are the words of Elija Hise, written while waiting in the survivor’s camp on Providenciales, June 24, 1848. The wreck he survived—in spite of his expectations to the contrary—was the US Navy schooner Onkahye. Its loss ended the career of what was then widely recognized as the most cutting-edge yacht built in America, but is now largely forgotten. There are many shipwrecks in the waters of the Turks & Caicos Islands. Not all of them are so interesting that they warrant a search, let alone excavation and recovery. But Onkahye is on the Museum’s “A List” of important shipwrecks. No, it was not carrying precious metals, bronze cannons, or works of art. Its “treasure” is the place it holds in the history of fast American-built sailing yachts.

Genesis of the American sailing yacht

The backstory begins in 1839 in Williamsburg, NY, where engineer Robert L. Stevens was designing and testing a series of small boat models to verify his theories about the sailing performance of a radical new hull design combining the best attributes of both centerboard and keel type yachts. Satisfied with his findings, he commissioned the construction of a single-decked yacht with an overall length of 96 feet, waterline length of 92 feet, beam of 24 feet, 2 inches, and a depth of hold of 10 feet, 9 inches when the centerboard was up and the vessel was in sailing trim. Christened OnKaHyE (an Oneida Indian term meaning “dancing feather”), it displaced 211 tons. The vessel’s uniquely innovative hull attributes included a deep forefoot, slightly rockered keel, perpendicular ends on the rabbet line, and a large centerboard. The hull’s maximum beam and draft dimensions were placed slightly aft of the midpoint of the waterline length.

Onkahye’s most unusual design feature was the shape of its midsection, which had a shallow, wide-mouthed wine glass cross-section rather than the bowl shape commonly seen in traditional ship design. This allowed Stevens to experiment with a large centerboard and, according to early reports, both iron and lead outside ballast on the keel (another innovation). Stevens also introduced the sliding-gear sail hoist and sail slides familiar to yachtsmen today.

The design was unorthodox by the standards of the day and according to America’s most famous naval historian Charles Chapelle, Onkahye was the genesis of the American sailing yacht. By all accounts the ship was fast and in a Boston newspaper article about a cruise to the West Indies in 1842, Stevens stated: “Enquire her character of anyone that ever crossed her path in water of any color, rough or smooth, in any wind or weather. Under no circumstances, on the Atlantic or elsewhere . . . was she ever beaten, [running] either before or by the wind. In a voyage to Santa Cruz she fell in with vessels of all sorts, and none had the slightest chance with her.” (Boston Globe 1844).

Onkahye was built in 1839–1840 before the United States had a single yacht club and yachting as an organized sport existed in America. Perhaps this cruise and the success of Onkahye’s radical design is what led Robert’s brother, John Cox Stevens, to become a founding member of the New York Yacht Club in 1844, ushering in the first such club in the United States. In any case, ten years later John formed a syndicate to build a yacht and race it in England with the intention of showing off US shipbuilding skill — and making money! Christened America upon its launch, the schooner rigged vessel was taken to England for the great industrial exhibition of 1851 where its victory in a race around the Isle of Wight led to the creation of the America’s Cup.

Onkahye Joins the Navy

After three years of sea trials, various modifications, and the 1842 cruise to the West Indies, Stevens sold Onkahye to the US Navy in 1843. Why would the Navy want a yacht? The answer may be in how the yacht was used. Between 1843 and 1845 it was modified, armed with cannon, and deployed for anti-slavery and anti-piracy patrols in the Caribbean and off the coast of South America. It was also used as a mail packet and dispatch ship between Virginia, Texas and, on its last voyage, to Panama to take US diplomats on urgent State business. These missions required a speedy and nimble ship to chase down pirates or slavers and quickly deliver people and secret documents. By all contemporary accounts, Onkahye was a fast ship and, therefore, well-suited for these duties.

On June 21, 1848, while sailing from New York to Chagres, Panama, Onkahye was shipwrecked on one of the fringe reefs that border the Turks & Caicos Islands. In addition to its regular complement of officers and men, the schooner accommodated John Appleton, the United States ChargĂ© d’ Affaires to the Republic of Bolivia, his clerk James S. Dodge, and three other civilian passengers. Foremost among Appleton’s varied diplomatic duties was the delivery of news of the impending termination of hostilities between the United States and Mexico to the U.S. Consulate in Callao, Peru. Onkahye’s mission being very time-sensitive, Lt. Otway H. Berryman, Master and Commander, decided to make a daring night approach to the Caicos Pass.

Onkahye’s loss: bravado, negligence or unfortunate accident?

If Onkahye wrecked today, a team of forensic investigators would be dispatched to examine the site and interview witnesses. Lacking that ability in 1848, the US Navy convened a Court of Inquiry to determine if negligence or inattention to duty was involved. In August 1848 a detailed statement of the wreck event was taken from Henry S. Newcomb, Acting Master of Onkahye on its last voyage. By carefully examining Newcomb’s statement we can deconstruct the wreck event and decide for ourselves the answer to this important question.

Maybe you are asking yourself, why go to all this trouble? After all, the ship wrecked 165 years ago. Broadly speaking, archaeologists love a mystery. If it involves a shipwreck so much the better—particularly if that shipwreck has historical significance. Because Onkahye was never decommissioned, it is still property of the US Navy. It is also important to a little-known period in the history of the Turks & Caicos Islands. For these and other reasons, Onkahye is important to the Turks & Caicos National Museum and Ships of Discovery, its maritime archaeological partner. Working together, we are trying to solve this mystery, determine the cause and perhaps in so doing, find this important site."

Friday, January 20, 2017

Sail Ties

We have some nice old sail ties that Capn Jack made from some braided line a few years back and wanted to make a few more. They are soft and work well to tie up sails without chafing them. They also fit nicely in our pockets. I found a source of some braided line at R&W Ropes, and they sent me a 50 foot remnant of a 12 braid line, suggested that I unlay it the use the individual lines to make the 3 braid tie. We made some 4 1/2 foot sections and 3 foot sections, the larger pieces to be used to tie the main around the gaff and mast, and the smaller sections to secure the mizzen, jib and other bits of sail.

Taped the ends of the individual braids with gaff tape and unlaid about 5 feet of line. Cut off the fuzzy ends.

Made a 3 braid tie and taped the ends in preparation for whipping.

Whipped the ends of the 3 lines together and cut off the taped ends. Seared the ends of the ties.

The new sail tie is close to old one, it may shrink and darken over time but it will work well for the intended purpose. We will make a few more for the other boats.

St. Jacques Log 20 Jan 17 Bow Seat Pattern

20 Jan 17:

We took our version of "tick stick" measurements off of the inner planking of the Penobscot 14 to make a bow seat. We put the edge of the ruler against the plank, marked with pencil along the edge of the ruler and around the end, so that we know where to place the ruler when making marks on the pattern wood or paper.

Took the tick stick panel inside and laid out painter paper to transfer the end point marks. We could also transfer the marks directly onto a larger piece of pattern plywood or onto the new seat slat blank as well.

Transferred end point marks to pattern paper for the Penobscot 14 bow seat and connected the dots.

End points for Penobscot 14 bow seat pattern.

Paper pattern for the Penobscot 14 bow seat.

Pattern making video.

FMI: St. Jacques Log

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

St. Jacques Log 16 Jan 17 Forward Seat

16 Jan 17:

Set the front edge of the seat approximately 9 inches back from the foot of the stem, then dropped a vertical line down to the risers that will support the the front edge of the seat.

Marked the forward edge of the seat and then another mark 10 1/2 inches back (seat width) so I could get some athwartships measurements for the fore and aft edges of the seat.

Took the seat edge bevel.

Found the seat edge bevel angle.

Set seat edge bevel on the circular saw.

Ripped the seat to 10 1/2 inches on the table saw. Cut the seat edge angle and bevel.

Checked out forward seat rowing position.

First fit.

Used the compass to measure the gap.

Scribed a trim line with the compass.

Trimmed the forward seat. Seat 1.0 that is, then I discovered that I forgot to level the forward seat fore and aft, which also levels it with the middle seat. So when I raised the aft edge of the seat to get the seat level, a big gap opened up on the aft end sides. So seat 2.0 was born, with the correct horizontal orientation and taper.

Sealed wood with Jamestown Distributors TotalBoat Wood Sealer Varnish Primer, then 2 coats of TotalBoat Gleam Satin Varnish. 3 #10 silicone bronze screws per side through hull.

Ruler tick stick for bow seat pattern.

FMI: Log of St. Jacques

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Leathers 21 Barbashela Details 17 Nov 16

Here are a few pictures of Barbashela's details after we applied the finish coat of alkyd enamel paint. We love the touches that the original craftsmen put into her, full length seat risers with accent lines, bead and cove along the seat edge bottoms, bevels everywhere, curved stern seat, floor boards, lots of rocker, a reverse curve and flare. We tried our best to recreate their vision with the new materials that were added.

Barbashela Log

Friday, January 13, 2017

St. Jacques Log 13 Jan 17 Aft Seat

13 Jan 17:

Nice morning on the dock.

Cut a few more cleat to hold up the aft seat center section.

Used some meranti ply to make a pattern. Laid out a curve with Barbashela's breasthook template.

Cut the curve with a jigsaw and cit the gentle outer curve with a circular saw.

Put the pattern centerline along the straight edge of a piece of cypress.

Scribed the line from half of the pattern.

Cut half of the seat then flipped it to cut the mirror half.

Trimmed the half seat to fit the curve of the side seat, then used that half to mark and sand the other half to match.

Scribed the 2 1/4(-) inch line on the seat.

Cut and fit each slat.

Slats are precisely spaced one Lego Number 2 pencil apart.

Aft seat trimmed, routed, sanded and screwed down to 3 cleats. It will be removable with some type of toggle to keep it from flipping forward and keep it in the boat in the event of capsize.

Side trip to check out a 1989 Supercharged Toyota MR2. Test drove great, but the price was a bit high.

Brushed on Jamestown Distributors TotalBoat Wood Sealer Varnish Primer. Painted the inner transom to match the rest of the planks and bulkheads, it was too dark for the color scheme we wanted inside the boat. Very happy with how the seat turned out, thanks go to Fred Fisher for the ideas for the curve and the slats!

FMI: St. Jacques Log