Sunday, November 1, 2015

The power of a straight line

I have been thinking about acquiring another fiberglass sailboat, the Venture 17, to be more specific.  I have found a nice 40 year old example in good condition, for a reasonable price.  The dilemma I face is wether or not to acquire another "plastic" boat, another adequate boat, another compromise, but something that would get me quickly out on the water.
This morning, it being a grey, damp, chilly, Autumnal sunday, and not having any other commitments than the coffee pot, the wood stove, and thinking about boats, I was looking at the picture I have of the Venture 17 and wondering what it was that I found so unappealing about it.  I then looked at pictures of my other boats and the thing became obvious right away.
The Ventures have a plum stern, straight up and down, and look as if somebody just came along and cut off the section to be used as it came sliding out of a sausage grinder or the playdough machine/toys we had as children.  This alone is not such a bad thing and has plenty of practical things to recommend it.  The rudder and outboard are much easier to hang on this kind of stern.  The volume, and thus the useful space inboard carries all the way to the end of the boat.  The water line length is potentially greater.  It could add reserve bouncy astern.  It's easy to construct.  This last bit shouldn't really be a concern for a fiberglass boat that can be molded to any shape pretty easily.
The Ventures also have a straight sheerline, with no rise at the bow or stern.  This gives the aft quarter the visual similarity to a shoe box.  Because the bow is higher than the stern, this gives the over look a rather crude, blunt and unappealing quality when viewed from the side.
I do think that the boat looks just fine in plan or while standing at the dock looking down onto the deck.  The beam and shape from this perspective is very good, I think.
In the boats I designed and built for myself I have always had a bit of shape to the sheer, a bit of arc in the sheer line.  That has as much to do with the nature of a plank of wood bending in 3 dimensions to accommodate the  beam, flare and the ends coming together, as it does with my own aesthetic preference.
The curved line in the sheer seems to reflect something a bit more natural and less humanly forced.  On the transom a bit of angle there gives the idea of continuation and motion and seems more able to interact with the sea than a flat surface would.
So, the end result was that I am putting off the acquisition of the Venture 17, for at least another day.  I won't buy it today because I don't have to, or really want to.  It would be too much of an aesthetic compromise and how I feel about a boat is very important.
While looking at the photos of my other boats, their construction and their launchings, I was reminded of the feelings I had then.  I was excited about them, inspired by their looks, proud of the thing that I had coaxed out of some unrelated bits of wood and glue and fasteners and paint and daydreams.  That is a very different feeling than what I was anticipating having in purchasing another assembly line fiberglass vessel with little in the way of looks or spirit.  I will say that this particular vessel is well kept and probably given it's stewards a good bit of fun, adventure, and pride, or at least it's condition would reflect this.
I have the good fortune to ask a little bit more of a boat than just economy, or just convenience, or just immediacy of ownership.  I have had to wait before, and had to do the work, and had to come up with the craft and suffered the discovery of my own limitations in the application of that craft, and it has all been a positive experience.  So, if I can, I will NOT buy this boat and rather build my own answer to my sailing challenges.  After all it is such good fun just daydreaming of a boat that might be and what it might do with me in it.

On the practical side it would also be in my econmic favor to build the boat, if my past builds can be used as a measure.  I also really need to finish getting the shop in order so that I can add the centerboard to the skiff and see what difference that makes in it's sailing ability, and thusly, my enthusiasm for taking her out on the water.


  1. I like this post. If you want a springy sheer, you ought to have it. Life's too short for ugly boats, or ugly cars for that matter, or ugly anything at all.

  2. Nac,
    All so true. Ya know beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or so some might say, and I am sure that to somebody, a boat that I find less appealing, they might find just splendid. So, I leave it to them.