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Email This Page to a FriendPreview: A Boat for Sail & Oar Camp Cruising — Francois Vivier’s Ilur, WAXWING
July 31, 2015
Waxwings are the loveliest of birds, and this little Vivier Ilur named after them is lovely as well; versatile, build-able and a delight to sail.
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– I sailed from the time I was a little boy, and in my house as a child, “Swallows and Amazons,” the Arthur Ransome stories were staple reading for the family. I pretty much stopped sailing when I reached 18, moved off to college, life took me in many other directions. In the evening time, while my wife Gabrielle is preparing supper, one of our little family rituals is that I’ll read out loud. And four or five years ago, I decided to read her the “Swallows and Amazons” stories from my childhood, and it was like discovering my childhood again, and so, this is a second childhood for me in a way. And, it’s been delightful because it was a powerful enough set of stories that my wife, who is not a sailor, decided that she wanted to learn how to sail as well. And I started looking at WoodenBoat Magazine and all of this eye candy, and thinking, “Could I do that?” Just in general terms, I knew that I was looking for a boat that I could use for sailing or camp cruising, a boat like this, small enough to row when there’s no wind. It’s big enough that I can live in the boat for a couple of days, camping. And I can take this into very cool little estuary, backwater places to have adventures where you wouldn’t dream of going with a bigger, deeper boat. My impression of this boat as I’ve gotten to know her, is that she is a stout, strong, weatherly, tough little boat and she’s a pleasure to sail. It also has phenomenal stowage and built-in flotation. This is a sail and oar boat. The design is called an Ilur. This is a CNC glued lapstrake kit. She’s a modern interpretation of an inshore fishing boat from the coast of France, from the turn of the last century, and its intended purpose 100 years ago was to stand up to the Bay of Biscayne, which is a big, gnarly body of water to be sailing a little boat. And Vivier marries these traditional designs with state of the art manufacturing processes that takes into consideration a home builder who may not be a boat builder. I wasn’t a boat builder when I started this. I considered myself a moderately competent wood-worker. When this boat is assembled, the skeleton of the boat is built into the strongback system so the egg crate setup that you use as the form for planking actually includes much of the finished boat. All of the bulkheads, all of the sawn frames are integral to the build of the boat, so that when you flip the boat, after the planking is done, most of the interior furniture is already built in place. It’s a tremendous time-saver and lets a non boat-builder like me build complicated hull, true to form, and the way Vivier designs these kits, much of that is worked out by Vivier and the CNC machining process. I can walk you through the boat, starting at the stern. This actually is the, as far as I know, the only Lug Yawl Ilur in existence. The boat was designed with either the boomless standing lug, which in France is called the nevonier, or as a balanced lug, or a balanced lug sloop, and about halfway through the build, I contacted Monsieur Vivier, and asked him if he’d be willing to design a lug yawl, and I expected him to be exasperated with the silly American that wanted something different, but he was immediate in his response, and gracious, and he designed this astounding lug yawl for me, and it’s a little jib headed nijun. It’s probably 16 or 17 square feet. I set both the nijun and the main with sprit booms, so the snotter for the sprit boom, basically has a loop that rests on a tiny thumb cleat at the aft edge of the mast, and the loop comes through a fork, and the leading edge of the sprit boom, through a low friction eye, and then, down to a small clamp cleat, so that’s easily adjustable. When I need to flatten the sail, I just tighten the snotter slightly. All of the spars are birds-mouth, hollow construction, so from the clue of the sail, the sheet basically runs to a ferrule, that was turned out of ironwood, which was growing on my property, through the hollow blank end, through the bumpkincha into a cleat here on the stern sheets in front of it, so to sheet that in or out, I basically have it right at my fingertips, and there’s nothing going over the transom to foul the rudder or tiller, and it works well. The lazarette extends all the way to the transom, so there’s room for all sorts of extra gear. I’ve got a stern anchor. I’ve got my boom tent, bilge pump, first aid kit, a spare life jacket, and a number of insulite pads for seating, lounging, sleeping, or whatever else is needed, and just a little hardware. Most of the time, I just have these little clevis pins, but it’s lockable if I needed to keep something out of easy reach, just got a couple of loops of lightweight shock cord here, as a place to keep a chart. Got a compass similarly rigged that I can remove. If I need to be elsewhere in the boat, I can flop it on the thwart in front of me while I’m rowing. The entire bench from the stern rowing thwart back into the edge of the lazarette on each side is foam filled, and there’s a similar, smaller amount of foam in front of the bulkhead. When I finish sailing for the day, and I’m camp cruising, and I want to pull out my cooking gear, or spread out my sleeping bag, I can just lift the stern thwart out of place, stow it between the bench and forward thwart on one side, and I’ve got the entire cockpit space that’s dead flat, above any bilge water that’s made its way in over the rail during the course of the day, and I’ve got it setup with a boom tent. I’ve got a boom crutch that lives under the floorboard when not in use, that sits on the stern sheets, and I just bundle the sail, hoist it overhead, and use that as the ridge pole of the boom tent, and I have a snug, dry, and large space. The floorboards keep water in the bilge below you. They also form storage space. On either side of the center board is room for a nine and a half foot pair of spoons, so when I’m sailing, or camping, or doing anything but rowing, they are completely out of sight. They are completely not underfoot. They’re in a secure place. And then, a couple of turn buttons on either side hold it in place. So, the center board pivots around a bronze bushing in this slot, and this board is set up so that it’s either up, which you’re seeing right now, or down, and to flip it down, I just have to pop the shock cord off the front of those, and pull it back, and the shock cord is stout enough to hold it down. If I hit a shoal, it would let the board move somewhat, but under normal sailing conditions, it’s plenty stout to hold the board in place. The boat is designed with an anchor locker below the fore deck, and in typical Vivier fashion, there’s a remarkable amount of storage space, so we’ve got room for the oars, a mesh bag sewn out of some shade cloth that I snatched from my wife’s garden supplies. Got 150 feet of 3/8 inch rope, 12 to 15 feet of chain, and a nine pound rope, that all fit in here with the cover in place, and not rattling around in the boat or underfoot, when you’re trying to sail. The matched hinge pieces were cast by a fellow who lives very near me. I made patterns out of plexiglass, and bits of gallow and so forth. The hinge piece is completely separate, and held in place by these pins. This is just half inch dowel turned to a 3/8 inch pin, swings, and then is held in place with a tiny, little cotter pin. When I’m out, and I want to switch from sailing to rowing if the wind dies, I can single-handedly drop that, walk it back into the boat. The lapsdrake planking is 3/8 inch marine plywood. The frames are also marine plywood. There’s a hardwood vernier on the inside where you would be in contact with it in the cockpit, and the angled portion of the floor here is also marine plywood. That was 3/8 inch plywood as well. All of the rest of the wood in the boat, the wood that was built up for the gunnels, the seat stringer, the floors, the thwarts was wood that I sourced locally, and that a builder would have to source wherever they were going to be doing the build themselves. The boat has turned out to be everything that I could have asked for it to be. It’s a pleasure to sail. I can sail it single handed. I can put three or four adults, in addition to myself, in the boat, and we fit comfortably. The boat will coast along in next to no wind, so it’s just a comfortable, and remarkably capable little boat. When Gabrielle and I sail, most of the time, I’m parked on the floor and she’s at the helm because she is just so happy to be sailing this thing, in no small part to the fact that this is such a great, little boat. It’s weatherly competent, comfortable, and very confidence inspiring for somebody who may not have a lot of experience in small boat handling.