I suspect that The Flying Crutchman has at last entered its comfort zone. Since I have been its mentor since the gecko I am more aware than any one else how far the little craft has come since it first came off the back of a truck from Western Australia in 2010.
Chosen for its small size and stable hull base as well as its capacity to bear burdens it began life as a fishing platform but since then its sea going purpose has been consciously bent and modified.
While the basic hull design proved a great source of frustation and angst in trying to impose new career paths on the vessel, the quest has been immensely rewarding for me, the good ship's captain.
But today, finally, The Flying Crutchman merged with the elements and proved that it could indeed be more than a cheap sit-on-top kayak.
After so long experimenting with various rigging compositions the fit out is beginning to come together and today the vessel that was launched upon the still waters of Deception Bay was a qualitative improvement over previous combinations.
The mast works, the ghost skegs work, the storage barrel stores and acts as a back rest, the seating has promise ...and we discover that on our very shallow bay with its many shoals -- The Flying Crutchman 'flies' better punted than paddled.
Today I punted with my trusty barge pole northward, and, with a light north westerly to harness, I raised my mast and sailed back.
I scooted through the water by driving forward with my pole from a seated position. Not the punting norm but the weight balance was right. I may one day be able to stand but punting while seated -- albeit raised up on a few learn-to-swim kick boards -- is ergonomic and comfortable. Punting drove us through the water faster than energetic paddling. But the higher you ride in the saddle when punting the better.
On the homeward journey, my newly trimmed sail -- shortened and reshaped into a true crab claw -- caught what little wind was on offer and we sailed back home with me simply trailing the paddle to the lee side to hold my course. I could have gone to sleep and still got where I was going.
Veer left or right, turn sharply or stop -- The Flying Crutchman with paddle or pole was very responsive. My Ghost Skegs ( that's my new name for the contraption I hang off the stern to to improve tracking through the water) kept me on course effortlessly.
In fact I can't find any thing to criticize as the vessel's performance today surprised me.
I am in joyous mood.
Some minor tweaking will no doubt be required. I've learnt that an inch shift here or there of 'a part' can make a big difference to performance. I've been fiddling with these elements on and off for months and as you adjust one thing you have to redo others. It's like pitching a tent. But I think ...
- my skegs are right
- my sail is right
- punting is right
- a single blade paddle is preferred to double blade
- using a barrel for dry storage is the way to go
- a seat makes one helluva difference to ergonomics and my bottom
Consider also that my main building materials are:
- two pairs of second hand crutches ( $5/pair)
- a tarpaulin cut to shape
- three bamboo poles (harvested from feral patch)
- a couple of collapsible paddles (expensive at $12 each)
- a swim noodle ($3)
- a plastic storage barrel (around $10)
- kick boards ($6 the lot)
- wooden single blade paddle ($10 at the markets)
- rope and a few ratchets, screws, stretch cords, eyelets and sundries
I held the build together with cable/zip ties and duct tape. So far I've found no reason not to continue to use these materials. The mast is held in place and the ghost skegs attached to the stern with stretch cord.
Easy on. Easy off.