2015 - A year for Rowing and Sailing Adventures
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A starting point for the setup we will be using for the race to Alaska. The finished layout will be significantly different than illustrated. Watch the boat come together on our Facebook page.[/caption]
Here at Angus Rowboats we’re celebrating as we finish another busy year. 2015 will undoubtedly be another exciting year as we launch our Bumblebee
sailboat, and gear up for the big Race to Alaska.
Plans, kits and completed boats for the Bumblebee will be available in mid-February. This is the only sailing boat designed for kids aged 2-5. If you think toddlers are too young to sail on their own, wait until you see our upcoming video! Small Craft Advisor
will be the exclusive retailer of Bumblebee kits.
Over the coming months, we’ll be posting regular updates on the development of the boat we’re designing for the Race to Alaska – a voyage from Port Townsend Washington to Ketchikan, AK. If you spend some time researching the race online, you will see there is a huge amount of discussion as to what will be the ideal boat for the race. Will it be a human-powered craft, a sailboat, or some kind of combination? The rules are simple – no motor allowed, anything else goes. The first to reach Ketchikan gets $10,000. Check out the official site here.
The route of the race which parallels the Inside Passage is gorgeous, but boating conditions can be very treacherous. Winds are fickle along this stretch, with frequent headwinds and calms. Despite this, consensus seems to be that a high performance multi-hull sailing craft will be the likely winner. Undoubtedly, if any of the super-high performance giant cats enters they would handily win. A big variable, apart from the weather is the types of boats that are entered. Most likely, the highest performance sailing vessels are unlikely to enter such a grassroots type of race that has emphasis on smaller and alternative craft. It would be a bit like NASA entering their Mars lander at the school science fair. Additionally, the VanIsle 360 sailing race takes place at the same time, which will keep many of the carbon-fiber rockets occupied.
My own thoughts, initially, were to use an exclusively human powered boat, rowing 24 hours/day with Steve Price from Oklahoma. While it was unlikely we would win the overall race, we’d have a good shot of placing well for a solely human-powered vessel. My experience circumnavigating the 1200 km circumference of Vancouver Island in a rowboat in 15.5 days four years ago gives me excellent insight into the types of conditions we will be encountering and potential speeds that can be achieved by oar. I believe a two-person rowing vessel could cover the 1250 km distance to Alaska in 10-12 days.
Over the last few months, however, as Marty Loken and I have been developing a sailing rig for the RowCruiser vessel, I have become more intrigued with the idea of combining rowing and sailing. Generally, boats do not row and sail well simultaneously. The heeling effect from the wind interferes with the rowing action – in particular with a sliding seat system and 9.5' oars. Amas can be used to provide greater stability, but there is also the challenge of placing them so they don’t interfere with the oars.
We’ve come up with a design that should work. According to our estimates, in calm conditions the boat will row sustainably (24 hours/day with two people) at 3-4 knots. With light breezes of 3-7 knots the boat will move at 5-6 knots combined with rowing. In heavier winds, the boat will be propelled by wind alone moving at 5-7 knots.
In windy conditions, our performance will pale compared to performance multi-hulls, so reasonable placement will rely on abundant calms and light winds. Heavy headwinds are still a question mark, and sea trials will be the only way to get a precise idea of the performance we will achieve into steep waves and wind.
The beauty of using a sculling rowing system is that it is relatively high-geared and will actually be able to contribute significant thrust to a sailing vessel already in motion from the wind. The key is to have everything in balance. While paddling with a single or double blade is much simpler, it is fairly ineffective at providing additional boost – akin to hanging your legs out the side of a rapidly moving car trying to get it to go faster.
We’re not yet divulging full details of our racing boat, but it will be based on our RowCruiser
, which provides comfortable sleeping accommodation and good rowing performance. Over the next three months we will posting updates of the build on our Facebook page
as it progresses. Ideally, sea trials will be commencing by the end of March.
A few people have asked me about conditions and strategies for voyaging up the Inside Passage. In particular, the biggest question is optimizing tidal flows. Interestingly, strategy with tides, while still important, is much less of a factor than it was on my solo row going around Vancouver Island. The fastest vessels will undoubtedly be voyaging 24 hours/day for the most part. This means that they will be experiencing all tidal flows – favourable and not. And trying to time arrival at the so-called “tidal gates” at specific times will be next to impossible, since the best strategy is to continually maintain top speed. Since you can’t further increase top speed, arrival times at the “gates” will largely be dictated by luck. There are only a couple of places where the tidal flow is strong enough to stop a vessel. If you don’t get there in time, you’ll need to wait a few hours.
You can maximize tidal assistance depending on where you place your vessel in the stream. The current is rarely consistent through passages, so the key is to be in the strongest flow when it is with you, and in the weaker flow when it is against you. It can be challenging figuring out where the ideal currents are, so following the knowledgeable tugs is a good tactic.
On my journey around Vancouver Island, I was surprised at how modest the turbulence accompanying tidal flows was, considering fearsome reputations. For the most part, good seaworthy vessels shouldn’t have much of a problem. I went through Seymour Narrows in my kayak-like Expedition Rowboat when it was flowing at 11 knots (at the peak of ebb flow), and conditions were reasonable – large boils muscled me around a bit, and I easily steered away from the larger whirlpools.
One of the biggest challenges is strong headwinds over current, creating steep waves. Such conditions, while generally not dangerous, are very demoralizing making progress next to impossible. For those rowing or paddling injuries and blisters intensify with the greater loads conveyed through tendons and muscles. Sailing rigs and gear are heavily tested.
For those voyaging solo, and only planning to be on the water 10-12 hours/day timing the currents in your favour will be a huge part of the strategy. Additionally, headwinds tend to peak in the mid-afternoon, and are at their weakest around four or five in the morning, so be sure to take advantage of these lulls.
There is an advantage to only voyaging for half the day – in particular for the human powered boaters. By avoiding the worst of the winds and riding the best currents much more favourable conditions will be encountered. By going 24 hours, you will endure more countering forces, so, with all else being equal, distance travelled will not be doubled.
In the Johnstone Strait, there is more outflow current than in, interestingly, which is a nice added boost. Unfortunately, this is an area where very strong headwinds regularly blow, and the wind over current makes steep poweful waves. Conditions improve as you get north of Vancouver Island, and the historical wind data around Bella Bella indicates that winds are likely to be kinder here. The key is to get through Johnstone Strait as fast as possible, and make sure you have a boat that can achieve reasonable upwind performance in steep waves and strong winds.
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