Sailing my Skerry Boat
I have now sailed my home made stitch and glue boat, a CLC Skerry Cricket for several years.
I sail Lake Ontario in the Toronto West end, Humber Bay. It is known to be choppy because waves get reflected from the break wall and shores and come from all directions, and I usually try to get out beyond the chop if I can. Since I am often quite far out I have gotten caught a number of times in conditions that were considerably (!!) more extreme than the Skerry is designed for. In fact it is often me and much bigger boats battling the wind. Well, me battling, them sailing gracefully along.
High wind is not usually the problem since I have found that I can spill the wind out of the sails or set it so that the sail is not working very efficiently.
Up till recently I sailed with a larger than specified sprit sail made from polytarp. I don't love polytarp material but it allows for easy experimentation. My latest sail is actually dacron and red. I like to have bright colours because it gives a certain level of safety. People watch the water from my club and from other boats and are more likely to notice if I'm in trouble.
My first sail was made from nylon and worked quite well for a while then got stretched out and not so good.
Heading out! Just off the dock.
With my first beloved nylon sail Cricket went really well with the wind behind her. The sail just bulged out like a spinnaker. It really did not perform terribly well after a while because it had stretched out.
Another Perfect Day on the Water. Just me and my little boat.
When I first started sailing my Skerry Boat, I asked how much wind was safe for my boat. I realize now that this is not the question to ask. A better question is "how experienced is the sailor at the tiller of the Skerry?"
I have now been out in quite extreme conditions of high wind and big waves. The boat itself has always behaved well. It does not take in water except occasionally when a small amount of spray comes in. This is rare and I've only needed to sponge out small amounts of spray. I've never taken on water.
The boat is not tippy and there is not a lot of heeling even in high wind. Because the boom is quite high even in my rig where I've lowered the boom from where John Harris placed it, it is not likely to catch a wave as it heels.
I've never tipped or really come close.
There are many Wayfarers at my club and I can go out anytime they go out. My little boat is as safe for me, but probably for different reasons.
Toronto Island Beach
Sailing out of harbour, lots of wind.
Although she is safe and dry, and is not subject to heeling and is not likely to capsize she has some drawbacks.
Because the Skerry is very light it does not have a great deal of momentum while under way. This means she is very responsive to the tiller and accelerates quickly in the slightest breeze. It also means that in high winds she can be difficult to tack. There is not enough momentum to push her across. This is particularly true if the waves are pushing against the boat. Sometimes the only alternative, if the wind is very strong, is to jibe carefully. It's lucky she does this with no fuss and quite safely, once you know how to control her sail. I guess the smaller sail area helps.
The Wayfarers with their 350 + pounds has no trouble at all carrying on and tacking.
Because the Skerry is a very light boat she tends to float quite high and if the waves are confused and choppy it can be a rough ride. The wind spills out of the sails and she just wallows. If there is enough wind then she picks up speed and is better behaved. I've heard of others keeping sandbags in the boat to add some weight. She's a very different boat with a passenger.
Because she floats high, waves can pick her up and there is nothing quite as much fun as riding the waves. We had a crazy windy day with gusts of 28 knots and nice rolling waves. My little Skerry boat went on a plane and JUST STAYED on top of the wave for 2 minutes!
Even though she has planed a few times its highly unusual and not what the Skerry does best.
Another fault my little Skerry has, is that she tends to slap into the waves. Because part of her bottom is flat and because she is a light boat if I approach oncoming waves at a certain angle she slaps down with lots of noise. Not pleasant but not a problem. I can eliminate this by changing the angle of attack. No one can say the Skerry slices through waves. She insists on staying on top of them.
Several people have experimented with different rigs and report success. I find the sprit to be very well behaved and easy to handle. As all square sails, she is not that happy pointing into the wind but she is as fast as many much larger boats when the wind in coming from behind her.
I have added a jib to the Skerry's rig. It makes a significant improvement but adds complications.
The main argument against the sprit sail is the difficulty in reefing while under way. It's never been an issue for me. I once had a snotter break and release the sprit into the lake. This essentially halved the sail area immediately. This is called scandalizing the sail! There was a great deal of flapping and fussing but no harm done and she sailed acceptably once I had tied the peak down.
I run a line from the end of the boom to the top of the mast and I can pull the boom up against the mast. This folds the sail up. I've done this when I was not comfortable sailing her. I then rowed easily home. I'm more at ease in windy days now so I would sail her home. It's useful for rowing to be able to get the sail out of the way so I keep the line.
The bottom line with the sprit sail is that it is a simple reliable and efficient rig. I can raise a lot of sail on a low un stayed mast that fits in the boat. It is well behaved and easy to handle.
Sailing my Skerry on Lake Ontario
It looks quite calm but there was tremendous wind that day coming off the land so the waves were small.
I now have a Keel boat, a Tanzer 22
I bought the new boat with the expectation that I would sail her when there was too much wind for the Skerry. I was also hoping to get Sweety out on the water but I think that was just wishful thinking. So far I am much more confident taking my Skerry out when there is a lot of wind and taking the Tanzer out when the wind is tamer. I'm sure I will learn to sail the Tanzer in time.
This web site reflects my personal ideas and doesn't represent anyone else's point of view.