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February 25, 2009

Exciting sailing

Another little "blast from the past" to contemplate. The boat in the picture below is a "Sharpie" sail ID letter "C" and they were big, solid boats - 24 feet long, around 6 feet in the beam and carried a lot of sail for their size. The three man crew worked hard to race them and the one in the picture, named "Panga" was one of the crack boats I learned to sail in - though almost always as a pre-teen and early 'teen - in milder weather than that in the photograph. Starting off as Centre Hand your job was to manage the "sheets" that controlled the spinaker and the centreboard tackle which raised and lowered it. The Forehand was the trapeze artist who's quick movemnt of his weight while attached to the masthead by a long wire and bos'un's chair style harness kept you upright as the boat beat to windward or - as here - planed on a broad reach.

Pnaga on a reach.jpg
Panga and her crew lift to the plane on a broad reach in the entrance to East London Harbour with a strong South Easterly blowing straight up the harbour!

The Sharpie Class were built of 5/8ths Oak planking on oak frames forming a "hard chine" hull. The deck covered the fore and after ends completely with a long narrow cockpit along the centre line. A heavy steel centre board could be raised and lowered using a double set of pulleys to give the necessary mechanical advantage and, unlike modern hulls, the "board" had to be raised to about one quarter its full draft when on a reach. A sister of Pang, the national champion boat for five years running, named Excalibur (Sail Number C 52) once overtook a motor cruiser towing a skier. And she wasn't reaching at the time, she was lying close to the wind on a "beat" to windward!

Note to the 'elf 'n safey mobsters - no one wore life jackets and there were features on these boats that could take your head off, slice through a finger or trap you in a capsize and yet, no one ever lost a finger, a hand, drowned or was injured in them.

Posted by The Gray Monk at February 25, 2009 10:08 AM

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