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Old 25-01-2015, 17:08   #1
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Windward ability of Colvin designs

Hi all,

I am looking at some of the designs of the regrettably recently deceased Thomas Colvin with a view to eventual purchase. Specifically, the Saugeen Witch is the one at the right size which really takes my fancy. Trouble is, there aren't too many Colvin boats round here so my initial plan of crewing in return for beer won't work... I know that there are a few Colvin owners on here, and even a couple of Saugeen Witch sailors, so I thought I might find out if someone here would be kind enough to spread a little of their knowledge!

Specifically, I am worried about the extraordinarily shallow long keels, and what effect these have on windward ability and stability, especially when combined with a gaff ketch or schooner rig. Now, I'm not doubting the talents of Mr Colvin, but I'm just concerned whether they might be designed with people other than me in mind. I'm certainly not a round-the-cans racing type, and I don't obsess about pointing angles. I don't expect performance like the fin keelers I'm used to sailing. However, like most cruisers, I do need a boat which, when called upon, can make a windward passage in an amount of time which isn't silly. Also, I need a boat which can keep moving to windward when things get windy... and which isn't going to sow a seed of doubt about ultimate stability in my mind.

So really, my question is fairly simple - what sort of pointing angles and boatspeed would you expect in various wind conditions? At what windspeed does making progress to windward become impossible? And does anyone know what sort of stability angles these things have (silly numbers, I know, but...)?

Thanks!

(picture of a Saugeen Witch below for clarification)

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Old 25-01-2015, 19:19   #2
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Re: Windward ability of Colvin designs

Can't help with your query unfortunately.

I hadn't heard that Mr Colvin had died. Was there a thread? I was looking at buying a Colvin Gazelle just last year and he was kind enough to send a detailed email response to my queries regarding some design changes that had been made to the boat. Very helpful and sad to hear of his passing. Love his designs.

Winf
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Old 26-01-2015, 02:20   #3
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Re: Windward ability of Colvin designs

I don't think there was a thread. Glad to hear he was still sharp and able to talk boats last year... he must have tailed off quickly. He was pushing 90 I think.

I think perhaps it might be a better idea for me to message Colvin owners here directly, it is a bit of an esoteric subject.
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Old 26-01-2015, 04:46   #4
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Re: Windward ability of Colvin designs

Sorry to hear about Thomas Colvin, what a beautiful legacy of wonderful boats he has left behind.

I don't know directly about the Covins sailing ability, but i've sailed a 45 foot gaff ketch (mobjack hull) for years with a long and very shallow keel (5 foot draft, no centreboard). She gets to windward. It's slower than alot of modern designs, but mostly because she doesn't point as high. With the long shallow keel you really need speed to stop the leeway, pinch and she just goes sideways. Our target upwind speed in flat water was about 7+ knots. Tacking through about 105 degrees with about 5 degrees leeway. This gives a VMG of about 4 knots. A chop hurts, more by killing speed and increasing leeway dramatically, as does light shifty conditions. Tacking also results in lots of leeway until speed is regained.

We raced her round the buoys for a season once against the 30-40 foot racing fleet. Got soundly beat to windward, they outpointed us, and could tack on every shift. But the difference wasn't much on a long steady leg. Downwind with their kites up they also had the legs on us, but on a tight reach without kites we did well. Against run of the mill cruising boats we normally did surprisingly well. Especially in the light where we could pile on the topsails. Heavy upwind was our weakness. Once the topsails and topmast yankee came down we lost a lot of leading edge. But when it got really nasty she kept going quite well, having a lot of momentum to help punch through the waves.

I suspect a steel sangeen witch design might be a little tender, especially if care was not taken to keep the deckhouse roof and rigging light, but thats just a guess on my part. They sure are pretty boats, and would be fun to sail.

A colvin schooner called Orbit II capsized mid atlantic and came back pretty quick.
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Old 26-01-2015, 07:37   #5
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Re: Windward ability of Colvin designs

I've been mucking around with Panope on and off for the past 40 years. Currently, the boat is sloop rigged with a custom pilot house (see avatar pic) but for the first 20 years she was gaff schooner with standard cabin trunk. I was just a kid for much of the schooner time and we did not have any speed measuring ability so my performance data is limited. As a schooner I remember tacking (pinched) through 100 degrees (on compass) in winds below 20 knots. Higher winds would rapidly destroy windward progress.

Panope's greatest windward challenge to date was my father's Bash from Cabo San Lucas to San Diego in 1989. He and a good handful of other boats were waiting day after day in Cabo for the "permagale" to ease and allow rounding of the Cape. Every day a boat would give it a try, spending all day "motor beating" into the weather. The bigger, higher performance boats would succeed but the boats near Panope"s length just could not make progress regardless of rig unless equipped with a larger engine. Eventually, the wind eased just enough and they made some northerly progress. They endded up stopping most nights in sheltered bays as my father and his wife never fully acclimated to life at sea and could not properly rest while underway in those conditions. They carried the most sail possible and ran the engine at maximum cruise power for the entire 900 mile slog.

By time they reached San Diego, my father had had enough of it and put the boat on a truck for remainder of the beat back home to Washington state. VMG for that leg was 50 knots +.

The inability to make comfortable forward progress into winds greater than 30 knots was the greattest motivator behind my massive modification/refit of the boat. I did not expect a windward performance increase from the rig change. I did get a HUGE increase in motoring performance by increasing H.P. from 15 to 40, increasing the propeller diameter from 14 to 18 inches and remounting the engine with driveline closer to horizontal.

Currently, with the new sloop rig, the boat sails better than with the schooner rig in winds less than 10 or 12 knots. In higher winds, the old configuration was better primarily because she did not have the weight and aerodynamic drag of a large pilot house. In ideal conditions (15 knots) Panope will sail at just under 6 knots while tacking through 110 degrees. At a 100 degree tacking angle, speed drops to under 5 knots. Off the wind I have seen just under 8 knots (flat water) but that was an overpowered and unsustainable condition.

I'll mention that I have no plans to take Panope offshore. I optimized the boat for gunkholing the waters of the inside passage between Washington and Alaska. If I had wanted to sail off into the sunset for sandy beaches and palm trees, I would have left the boat exactly how my father originally built it. The schooner rig was very easy to handle as the sails were small with lots of possible combinations. Also, the boat self steered perfectly with a staysail sheet-to-tiller arrangement thus eliminating the need for windvane and autopilot. I would most certainly plan such a cruise to be sailed on a beam reach or below.

These boats are very seaworthy and safe. They take care of their crews.

Steve
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Old 26-01-2015, 10:00   #6
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Re: Windward ability of Colvin designs

Here is a an account of a recent sail against a similar sized, Marconi rigged sloop (not sure what kind of boat this is. Pearson?).



Wind started out behind us and Panope was able to stay well ahead of this boat.

Eventually, the wind died and the other boat motored on by so I followed suit and was easily able to overtake him under power.

The wind returned from the other direction resulting in a tacking duel up Puget Sound (a 4 mile wide channel). During the first hours of this beat to windward, the winds were less than 10 knots and Panope did surprisingly well - only loosing perhaps 100 yards per tack to the other boat.

By the afternoon, the wind picked up to the upper teens, heeling Panope over on her ear. This required a reef in the main, slowing the boat considerably (notice that my reef points are very generously sized). The other boat however, was still standing upright with full sail. A few hours later and the Marconi boat was just a speck in the distance.

My consolation prize was being warm and dry (in a T-shirt).

Steve

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Old 26-01-2015, 13:36   #7
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Re: Windward ability of Colvin designs

Wow! What a cool boat. I love the pilot house & the gaff rig. With the mast so far forward it almost has a catboat look. Classic
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Old 26-01-2015, 14:20   #8
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Re: Windward ability of Colvin designs

If you read Colvin's writings you'll find that he sailed engineless for many years. He designed many commercial sail vessels that were specifically intended to be engineless, to take advantage of restricting regulations. He was extremely familiar with the need for windward performance. Tom's boats will go to windward.
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Old 26-01-2015, 15:12   #9
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Re: Windward ability of Colvin designs

Thanks everyone.

Snow Petrel, it's very interesting to know about your experience sailing a gaffer against a racing fleet. That piece on the sinking of Orbit II was a hell of a read. I'm not really sure what to take away form it... other than avoiding a shoaling area in gale conditions (duh)? And perhaps a renewed feeling that heaving to isn't the cure-all that some seem to think it is.

Steve, thank you for sharing your experience of sailing Panope - I read it carefully, and will probably read it again. The performance doesn't sound nearly as bad as I had feared. She is a unique and beautiful boat to be sure! And very practical for coastal cruising as well no doubt.

I think I'm a bit reassured about Colvin designs. I was perhaps forgetting that these are much 'leaner' boats than a lot of metal boats of this size... Take for example a Tahitiana at 20,000 lb with a similar shoal draft and I can seen how a 14,000 lb Saugeen Witch doesn't sound too bad. They certainly look pretty sleek below the waterline, if not deep. And if it takes a bit longer to reach a windward destination, so what? More time to enjoy looking at that beautiful boat...
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Old 26-01-2015, 15:35   #10
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Re: Windward ability of Colvin designs

The guy that introduced me to sailing 40 years ago built his 34' Colvin gaff rigged schooner to sail Lake Huron and to the carribean which he eventually did. He made a few alterations, added a 18" fin to the keel and placed more lead ballast in fin to be able to tack without taking the whole lake and make her a little less tender. He also shortened the main boom and went to a Marconi mainsail. The foremast remained a gaff rig with a fisherman sail that when you we're on a reach it felt like she was flying. The boat tracked really well, he built a self steer for it but didn't use it much as she would stay on course for hours without a touch on the wheel. As Panope mentioned with the schooner rig the sail combinations to keep her balanced and smaller sails making sail handling easier short handed as Scorpian did not have a whinch for trimming or raising sails.
He did sail her to Florida down the Mississippi river and over to the Bahamas with his girl friend for a year before sailing her single handed back to the Great Lakes from Miami on the outside. She was a great boat, strong and seaworthy and a joy to sail as long as you did not want to get anywhere too fast. Good luck in your quest they are great sailing boats.
Allan
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Old 26-01-2015, 22:13   #11
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Re: Windward ability of Colvin designs

One last bit of info.

A picture of my propeller. 18 inch diameter, three blades and non feathering. This is a lot of spinning metal to be dragging through the water. I have to believe that switching to a good feathering propeller would noticeably improve sailing performance.

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Old 11-05-2016, 08:49   #12
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Re: Windward ability of Colvin designs

We certainly enjoy our Saugeen Witch. When it gets windy and everyone else (nearly) has headed in...we start bringing the sails inward, reef mizzen, dump mizzen, dump yankee, reef main...the boat stands up and sails on. One cannot be in a hurry in light air, she is an open water boat. We have a gaff rigged main and Bermuda rigged mizzen.
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