THE following observations apply chiefly to small boats, which can be rowed as well as sailed, and be easily handled by one man — that is, boats from the smallest size up to about eighteen feet in length.
OPEN AND HALF-DECKED BOATS. — A small boat is often half-decked, that is, she is provided with a small deck in the bows and a narrow deck on either side, low coamings being carried round the inside edge. Such a boat must to a certain extent be safer than an entirely open boat; that is, if she be struck by a squall and heel far over, or again, if she run her nose into a sea, the water will flow off her decks instead of pouring into her and possibly swamping her. But a small boat is not a yacht, and she ought not to be sailed in so reckless a manner as to drive hcr bows or gunwale under and ship large bodies of water in this way. A quite open boat, if she be properly constructed, not over-ballasted, not over-canvassed, and of course properly sailed, will go through an extraordinary amount of sea without taking a bucketful of water on board; and not only this, but she will sail as fast if not faster than the half-decked craft of the same size staggering along under excessive canvas, with the water under her lee coamings. The slight additional safety, or rather inducement to recklessness afforded by the half-deck and waterways, is more than counterbalanced by several disadvantages. In the first place, this deck — too narrow to walk along — will occupy much of the already limited space available on board a small boat, and it will be in the way of and impede one working the sails or rowing to an extent that it is difficult to appreciate until one has tried the experiment. In the next place, this deck must be of considerable weight — a serious disadvantage if the boat has often to be beached. And not only is the deck heavy in itself, but, situated as it is high above the water-line, it tends to make the boat top-heavy, and this must be counteracted by putting more ballast into her than would be required in an entirely open boat of the same dimensions. Now, if a small boat is intended ever to venture into rough water, the less ballast she carries and the more buoyant she is, the better.
We therefore do not recommend half-decks for the class of boat of which we are now speaking. When a boat is big enough to be a small yacht, and the half-deck forward covers a cuddy large enough to afford sleeping accommodation to the crew, the case is different, and the half-deck becomes a decided advantage.
BALLAST. — A small boat's ballast, whatever form it may take, should be readily movable. Thus, if lead is used, it should be cast in small blocks of not more than half a hundredweight each, and in order that it may be lifted with ease, each block should be provided with a handle. Lead being very heavy, and therefore occupying little space in a boat, is the most convenient form of ballast, but it is also by far the most expensive. The iron half-hundredweights. with handles at the top, which can be purchased at any marine store dealer's, are nearly as convenient as lead weights, and are very cheap.
Battens should be nailed to the bottom of the boat to keep the ballast in its place, otherwise it might slide ta leeward in a squall and cause a capsize.
Stones and bags of sand are often employed as ballast but water contained in small barrels, or, better still, in metal tanks, shaped so as to fit closely into the bottom of the boat, is far the safest ballast that can be used. For if a boat provided with water ballast capsize and fill she will be no heavier than if she contained no ballast, and, consequently, she will not sink.
Another advantage of water ballast is that it can be pumped out to lighten the boat when a calm necessitates the use of oars, and be quickly admitted again when a breeze springs up and the sail is hoisted. Again, when the water-tanks are empty the boat is practically converted into a lifeboat, and if a sea fill her she will still float.
The advantages of water over other forms of ballast are so numerous that nothing else would be used in small boats were it not for the great amount of space it occupies, and so serious is this objection that one but rarely comes across a boat thus ballasted.
THE CENTRE-BOARD. — In England the centre-board of a small boat is generally of galvanized iron; thus acting also, to some extent, as ballast In America wooden centreboards are more often used. If a boat has often to be beached or carried, lightness is an important object, and therefore the wooden centre-board is to be preferred. One objection to the centre-board is that its trunk or case occupies so much space in the interior of the boat. A telescopic or fan centre-board has recently been invented which folds up into itself when hauled up, and therefore requires no trunk. We believe, however, that this is only adapted for canoes and other very small boats.
FALSE KEELS. — If the tyro lives by the sea it is very likely that he will commence his nautical career by becoming the proud possessor of some old yacht's dinghy or ship's boat, which, when he puts sail on her, runs before the wind to his complete satisfaction, but is too shallow to turn to windward. Now, to put a centre-board into a boat that has not been expressly built for one is an expensive and generally unsatisfactory job, but any carpenter can nail a false keel on to the old one, and so give the boat the necessary draught at a small expense. A false keel should be rounded up towards the bow and stern, and have its greatest depth some way abaft the middle of the boat.
LEE-BOARDS. — The tyro will find lee-boards even less expensive and possibly more effective than a false keel, and when they are raised the boat will row more easily than if she were provided with the latter. There is some prejudice against lee-boards in England, and to eyes unaccustomed to see them on pleasure craft they appear ugly, but in Holland no boat or yacht is without them.
Large lee-boards are made in several sections, and are strengthened with iron bands, while they require a good deal of gear to support and raise them; but the author has found that with a small boat the following simple method of fitting lee-boards proved very satisfactory.
COUNTERS, SQUARE AND POINTED STERNS. — Whatever it may be on a yacht, a counter or overhanging stern is not an ornament on a small boat, being, as it is, the very reverse of useful; and to the educated eye the useful and beautiful go together in boats, as they do in many other things. In rough water, if a sea strike a boat under the counter a variety of disagreeable results may ensue; for instance, the boat's bows may be driven under, or she may broach to, that is, be driven broadside on to the sea, and be swamped by the next wave.
A square stern, as is usual in small boats, is far better than a counter; but far better still, for a boat intended to be out in rough water, is the pointed stern. Such a boat is undoubtedly safer, especially when running before a sea, and we maintain that she will be faster as well. All lifeboats are thus constructed. The author was caught in a north-west gale in the Gulf of Heligoland last summer, and had to sail sixty miles before a high and dangerous sea. He was in a little yacht of three tons, which had a pointed stern. She showed no tendency to broach to, but rushed straight ahead across the steep sea in a fashion that gave us confidence and astonished us. Had she had the ordinary yacht's stern to present to those following masses of water instead of a graceful wedge offering little resistance, we should have had a very uncomfortable time of it. Many men dislike a pointed stern, and consider it ugly. However that may be, it behaves handsomely, and we should certainly recommend any amateur building a sailing-boat for coasting purposes to give her the lifeboat stern.
BATTENED SAILS. — Battens of pine tapering at the ends, are sometimes fastened to the reef bands of balance lugs and other sails in use on small boats.
The object of battens is to make a sail stand very flat. Another advantage gained by the use of these is that if one is sailing a boat alone, a reef can be taken down in a moment with one hand while the halyard is being slacked off a sufficient length with the other. This is done by means of a line which, when hauled taut, draws the boom and batten close together. It is not necessary to tie down reef points in a sail reefed as above, but to do so makes a much neater reef.
Battens are of great service on the sails of canoes and very small craft, but they make a larger sail somewhat heavy and clumsy to handle.