How To Build the Caledonia Yawl, Part 1 – A Good Boat, Up-Close from on Vimeo.


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Preview: How To Build the Caledonia Yawl, Part 1 – A Good Boat, Up-Close

June 13, 2013

 For “Part 1” of this series, we revisit our up-close look at the Caledonia Yawl and why we love her…

We were so inspired by the Caledonia Yawl that we decided build one to add to the OCH fleet. The videos in this series will take you from start to finish building a Caledonia Yawl. In Part 1, Geoff Kerr takes us for a spin aboard his 19’ Caledonia Yawl NED LUDD. These boats are easy to build, unusually light and strong, and free from leaks. We are attracted to her lines that are reminiscent of traditional Norwegian work boats. This is a small boat with endless possibilities – and that’s what we are about at

Next Parts in Our How to Build a Caledonia Yawl Series:

How to Build a Caledonia Yawl, Part 2 How to Build a Caledonia Yawl, Part 2 – Setting Up Shop: Geoff Kerr sets up our new shop the way he wants it for the new series about building a Caledonia Yawl.
How to Build a Caledonia Yawl, Part 3 How to Build a Caledonia Yawl, Part 3 – Tools: In terms of tools for the Caledonia Yawl project, what are the minimum essentials?
How to Build a Caledonia Yawl, Part 4 How to Build a Caledonia Yawl, Part 4 – Building Frame & Molds: Constructing the buildering frame and setting up molds.  How to get things straight and level at the outset gets the jo…

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– [Interviewer] Today, we’re taking a close look at the Caledonia Yawl. She was designed by Iain Oughtred, a pioneer of modern plywood construction. What is it we love about the Caledonia Yawl? She sails like a witch. She can carry lots of people or gear and can be rowed when the wind dies. You can build a Caledonia Yawl yourself or you can have one built by any number of builders around. Today, we’re fortunate enough to bump in to Geoff Kerr. Geoff’s built more than a dozen of these Caledonia Yawls and he’s gonna give us a look around, take us out for a sail.

– The Caledonia, I was very fortunate as a first time boat builder to be pointed toward this design as one of the ones I was considering, and it met many of the criteria I was looking for. The great thing about it, the overriding thing, is that it’s a large, versatile boat, functionally, that does not weigh very much. So, it’s really easy to trailer, it’s really easy to sail. I row it rather than have an outboard. So it being lightweight sort of maximizes its logistical capabilities. It is an exceptionally fine sailing boat. The designer, Iain Oughtred, chose to build a traditional looking hull but through plywood epoxy construction, make it very, very light. He then did not ballast the boat, relying, a, on hull shape, and b, on sailing ability and taking a couple of friends if you need some ballast. But he put a really big rig on this boat. Sail area to displacement on this boat is pretty significant. This is 165 feet, 130 feet in this big, balanced log.

– Wow.

– So, as you can feel this evening, I mean, what would you estimate our wind? Maybe eight?

– Maybe eight.

– Six, something. It’s not blowing very hard, but with–

– We’ve got good pressure.

– with three grown up men in the boat, we’re sailing along very nicely.

– Right.

– And one of the joys of that is that with this rig, you sail great in light air, you’re still sailing when other people are rowing or wishing they had the outboard motor. Yet, because of the sea keep and capabilities of the boat and the fact that the rig is easily and deeply reefed, I can sail at six knots and be happy and I’ve single handed in 35 – 40 knots and once I had her reefed, was perfectly happy. So she’s a broad-spectrum, versatile boat.

– Right.

– Yet, light, easy to own, easy to handle, easy to beach, easy to trailer. It’s really a joy.

– No motor required?

– No motor required.

– Other than a nice pair of 8 – 9 foot sweep oars?

– [Geoff] I have a nice big pair of oars.

– And the lightweight construction of the plywood lapstrake enables a small vehicle to tow it virtually anywhere you wanna get to. What has been the cruising range of Ned Ludd?

– If it’s in Penobscot Bay, we’ve sailed by it. And just three weeks ago, I took off from here and sailed around the outside of MDI to get to Lamoine State Park for the Small Reach Regatta. About 55 miles and two days of fabulous sailing.

– Wow.

– It was excellent!

– That’s fabulous.

– Too cool. Just too cool.

– So, a little boat you can pull with anything that you can really explore different waterways all over the United States.

– You can, you can.

– Alright.

– And, you know, she just works. Whether single handed, loaded with camping gear, or, I can remember a great 4th of July on Lake Champlain with, like, ten teenagers, a charcoal grill, and cooler headed for a beach, and believe me, it must be some boat if your daughters can get 8 of their teenage friends to agree to spend the whole day in a boat.

– Mizzen?

– The mizzen.

– Love it.

– The mizzen is the selling point of this rig. In a boat that you’re actually going to go places, you’re actually gonna do things that might involve needing to heave to, to reef, or get a sandwich out of the cooler, or go for a swim, or just catch your breath if it’s rough and you need a rest, heaving this boat to is the simplest matter of sheeting the mizzen hard, dropping the tiller, let go of the main sheet, and she’ll heave to. She’s gonna round right up and point in the wind.

– Well, I’m anxious to give it a try.

– You should take her for a drive then.

– Can I?

– The ratio between the sails is 130 feet and 35 feet on the mizzen, so she’s relatively small. But the mizzen is so far aft that it really affects the steering of the boat. You’ll find yourself, if it was windy at all, you’d be trimming the mizzen to balance the helm. And one of the nice things about this lo-tech system is that it’s, that pivot point is a universal. So even at your height, you could stand up on that floor and the stick will be in the right place. You can be over here on the rail, you can be over here on the rail.

– [Interviewer] Alright.

– It is also the hiking stick essentially. So you can just.

– It’s pretty simple. I mean that’s just hangin’.

– It’s a piece of rope.

– A piece of rope?

– Yeah. Iain was one of the early people to realize that epoxy allowed you to do glued plywood lapstrake construction and that gives you several wonderful advantages. It’s a lightweight hull. Because of the quality of the plywood used, it’s a very stiff and strong hull and because of that stiffness and strength there’s very little interior structure that actually is part of the hull.

– [Interviewer] No frames?

– No frames at all.

– Completely frameless.

– This furniture is here to sit on. It’s not holding the boat together and that makes it relatively quick and easy to build, therefore relatively inexpensive to build if you’re paying someone to build it. And it keeps the interior functionally a lot easier to deal with. And this boat, at initial construction and in the subsequent maintenance, if I had ever bothered to repaint it, you hose it off and start sanding and then you can paint, pretty much. And the way the furniture’s built, it all comes out with a few screws. So you could have a clean empty hull to do a refinishing job very quickly. The way this mizzen is rigged, it’s noteworthy for a couple of features that folks may not have seen before. Since it is so far aft, you have to sheet it to something. So there’s an extra spar here called a boomkin, kinda like a bowsprit at the other end of the boat. And it’s a dead simple nine foot solid spar that fits in a socket here with a retaining pin. The socket’s under the seat and goes through a hole that, if you’re a clever boat builder, you put in the right place and then you line up the socket so that the boomkin’s in a convenient place to sheet the mizzen. So we talked about the mizzen. I think this lug main is worth a little explanation because a lot of people haven’t seen or sailed them. It’s a very simple rig. There is a single halyard, a single part-halyard. There’s not even a block at the top, there’s just a B-hole at the top of the mast. So comes, the halyard cleats on the mast. And the boom is held both down to tension the luff of the sail and also held fore and aft by a simple three-part line with half inches on a ring bolt. One thing that people might note and be surprised is that this is a 130 square foot mainsail. There is not a shroud or a stay or nothin’ holding the mast up other than the mast step and the mast partner. And in the world of sailboats, that means two things. One is you saved a heck of a lot of money building the boat if you didn’t have to invest in standing rigging. And number two is it is really quick and easy to rig this boat and go sailing if you happen to be someone who moors your boat in your garage and have to drive to the launch ramp every time you want to go sailing. It takes me about ten minutes to get the cover off, pull the strap off, hop in, put the bilge plugs in.

– Go sailing.

– Step the mast and hoist the sails. There’s just not a heck of a lot to it.

– [Interviewer] I wanna thank Geoff Kerr from Two Daughters Boatworks for showing us how easy it is to get out on the water and give us a tour of such an amazing boat. That was fabulous. I love your boat. This is right up our alley. Spectacular boat. I mean, that’s kinda. That’s the versatile boat that we’re talking about. It doesn’t cost a fortune to build or buy or own or maintain. I mean he built that boat 17 years ago and he hasn’t painted it since. And it looks great. You know, I’m sure those sails are 17 years old. You know? I mean, Geoff uses that boat. He tows it to boat shows. He tows it to the wooden boat school to teach courses and that’s a testament to good design. And, you know, getting out on the water, using these things. I think it’s fabulous. Caledonia Yawl, y’all.


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