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Preview: Creating the Pisces – A Daysailer Inspired by the Herreshoff Fish Class

January 29, 2016

These days classic daysailers are increasingly popular with experienced sailors with an eye for simple elegance and comfortable performance. The Herreshoff Fish Class derivative, Pisces, is surely one of these. So popular is the Pisces daysailer, in fact, that the Classic Boat Shop has built 50 of them in recent years in their shop next to Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine.

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– The Pisces comes from the Herreshoff Fish. My wife and I enjoyed sailing the 12 1/2 for years and also with our young son really enjoying the boat, racing the boat. But we realized that as he grew bigger the boat grew smaller. We thought perhaps that they’d be something bigger, something drier, and even faster. We started looking at the Fish and we talked to Chuck Paine about this. And Chuck was able to slightly modify the Fish. We tried to keep the same dimensions and the looks of the boat. Especially the looks ’cause we really like the aesthetics. But to see where we could make a little bit more modern. Just change the engineering. And build it in cold-molded wood. With that we started building the Pisces. We’ve noticed that the Fish had considerable weather helm. And actually the 12 1/2 has weather helm as well but it’s manageable on a 12 1/2, it’s a smaller boat and it’s sporty. But as you tame to drive a larger main on the Fish it was tiring so what Chuck did is he slightly modified the lines. He straightened out the rudder posts by half a degree. We modernized the rig. And these minor tweaks actually just made the boat a pleasure to sail. Now she stands up better, she has less helm. And we’ve also noticed that she’s a faster boat. We’ve raced the boat against other original Fish and we’re very happy with the performances of the boat. Today we have built 10 wooden and 40 fiberglass Pisces. Actually, this coming spring we are celebrating the launching of our 50th Pisces. And we’re all very proud of that. Whenever you operate pulling the jib out or in, you should have the sheet sander, sheet it hard basically as if you were close haul. And to pull the sail out it’s pretty simple, you uncleat these two lines. And you let go this one and you start pulling on this one. Now your sail us out. Once your sail is out then it’s time to go sailing and that’s when you operate the sheet. I like to make sure my drum on the furling line is nice and tight. It’s nice when you’re croaching the mooring. Typical situation, I like to furl the sail before I go up on deck, to grab the mooring. Then you don’t have the clutter of the jib flapping or throwing you off the boat. I’m really happy with this system. On the roller furling jib the halyard in actually down below in the cuddy. And usually the sail goes up for the season and then you shouldn’t have to mess with it. So that’s why we hid it down below. Unless you’re racing, you may want to go down below and play with it a little bit but typically, it’s nice not having to deal with it. You don’t have to leave the comfort of the cockpit. You can reef the boat all the reefing line is right here near the main halyard. So it’s really easy and safe to work in the cockpit. What we did here for this setup, for the jib club is we used a Herreshoff original casting of a gooseneck, as you see, as a hook. And a small bail that’s on this carbon fiber tube. Which is very light. The outhaul line leads inside the boom. Follows forward where it exit. And then it goes aft into the cockpit. Your sheet is right here. To a small block and also to the cockpit. And the furling line, obviously. At the aft end of the jib club we have a small traveler which allows the sail to be self-tending. Just like your mainsail. When you’re alone on this boat all you do is turn the tiller and the sail will tack itself from one side of the boat to the other side. And then we also have a topping lift that keeps the jib club from falling on the deck when you douse the sail. A lot of the things we use on this boat are patterned directly from the drawing of the Fish class. Our rig is much more modern than the old Fish class and that was one thing that we wanted to do. We wanted to improve the performance of the boat, the safety of the boat, the stability of the boat. And we realized with the original Fish rig which weighed about 160 pounds with running backstays that you know, there was a better way or something lighter to use so we went with carbon. And the amazing thing about this carbon spar is that this mast only weighs 32 pounds. It’s 32 1/2 feet tall, it’s tapered from the spreader up to about two inch at the top. And it really makes a big difference in the stability of this boat. That’s probably the first thing that any Fish owner will say when they step on this boat is just like, wow, this boat stands up. And it takes a lot of wind to push her over. What happens when you’re being pushed by a hard press of wind on the very large sail that we have is it actually pushes the middle of the mast forward and it starts to depower the rig a little bit. So, it just does it without the help of a backstay. Which by the way, we do not have a backstay. And so we put the wires quite a bit aft of the partners to give the mast plenty of support for sailing downwind. And with the swept back spreaders it works really well. We’ve fine-tuned our sails over the 10 years so that they’re very efficient. High aspect, 7/8 rig versus the Fish class used to be more like a 5/8 type rig for the jib. That has moved the center of effort forward a little bit which really helped to balance the boat. Our coaming is a two piece laminated mahogany veneer that we do over a form that we have in the shop. And the two pieces will actually get it started pretty good with a good generous bend and then the rest of the bend we’ll usually get it as we set it in place and glue the coaming. We do not use fasteners, most of this boat has very little fasteners. So the coaming is held by the side of the deck as well as the top of the house here. This is a very nice detail that we enjoy doing is the coaming are glued to the inside of the laminated transom and then it’s attached by a bronze bracket. Which again this is a original Herreshoff pattern. Keeps things nice and tight and it has a nice aesthetic touch of the old days. Also, the coaming is very comfortable. I mean, you can sit here and really feel like you’re in the boat, inside the boat. Especially for kids but I really like to sit to lure when I’m sailing and just lean like this. It’s just so comfortable and I feel so secure. The mainsheet is a 4 to one setup. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the whole traveler is actually setup slightly off-center to make up for this stationary leg. And this was a Herreshoff idea to do that with the Fish and the 12 1/2 as well. The 4 to one for this size of mainsail is actually a very comfortable mainsheet to pull. We made our own boom crutch design here and we’re trying to figure out well what, you know, you always want to tie the tiller in the center line but you also want to support the boom especially when you use a cockpit cover it’s nice to have good support for your boom when the boat rolls at a mooring, to keep the boom stationary. But the way this works you release the sheet and lift the sail. And then this can be pulled out like this. And we have a place to stow it. Which is right over here and then it’s very handy to go get it after you get done sailing. Even if you single-hand, you can easily reach the jib sheet which is further forward in the cockpit but if you lean over you can pull it and control both sheet from this station. You don’t even have to move to windward if you don’t want to between tacks you can just sit in one place and just enjoy the ride. The cockpit is very large in this boat. The seats are 6 1/2 feet long. And then you also have space here in the stern deck to sit or to be up a little higher than your guests and have good visibility. Under the cockpit sole we have quite a bit of storage. Over here, the owner of this boat likes to keep his anchor right here. And also you can see the wooden boat detail of the keelson and the planking. And further forward here, we have more space. A bucket, battery. Which this boat is equipped with a battery and a solar panel. And then also a manual bilge pump. We’ve also done a eclectic bilge pump. But we find that with the full cockpit cover the boat takes very little water. I’m sitting in the cuddy which is a nice little place to take shelter. Here we have two shelves, port and starboard. As you can see, anchor, dock lines, and so forth. And then we also have electric panel here that gives you the state of your battery, which is good. And a few breakers which on this boat will run a small GPS, on a swing-out bracket, as you can see. Here on my left is the stowage for a Torqeedo electric outboard. It’s nice and secure in here and if the wind dies and you need to get home fast, he’ll do the job, he’ll push the boat at about three 1/2 knots. And give you about an hour and a half maybe two hours at best, but about a five, six mile range. It should work fine. We have a fire extinguisher here. And there’s also a privacy curtain that you can close all this up if you wish. Down here, underneath there’s more stowage. So we have the keel bolts, our bronze keel bolts. Transducer here and then there’s also stowage for a small bracket. This is the outboard bracket and I’ll show you how it goes on the boat. You basically put it over the gunnel and then it’ll just click into place and now it’s locked. To remove it, there’s a small pin that is just gravity so you just hold it up, move it back, and voila. Here we have another watertight compartment. I talked about the one up forward of the mast. So here you can easily stow fenders, dock lines, or anything as you wish, it’s quite roomy back here. And it’s nice to know that the boat will not sink if you were to swamp the cockpit. It’s a fairly large cockpit and it would take a large amount of water. We’ve a had a few experiences, not personally, thank God, but from a couple of our customers where they’ve actually accidentally swamped the cockpit. And one unfortunate owner, 85 years old, basically filled the cockpit to above the seats. But the boat did not sink on him which was the good news and I was glad to hear that. And then the boat was later towed back to the marina and bailed out with buckets and he was sailing the next day. So, that makes me feel very good that we did not lose a boat or there was no injuries. Let’s see what we got here. It’s a little sporty today. It’s blowing about 18, we gonna put a reef in, I think that would be smart. I think we’re about ready to go. And I’ll go up and trim the mooring. Off the pleats. Okay. Let’s see where the wind takes us.


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