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About Face

Page history last edited by Kevin 15 years, 5 months ago



All text and images property of Ted Lamont


Purchasing a large sailing vessel is not a task to be taken lightly and in March 1994, I was neither intending nor ready with my sights set on a trailer-tri, a 4WD and the Kimberley. However in a typically close call of timing my severance payout from Westrail came along one week before the Trade-a-Boat with the advert for a unique vessel which I knew very well. Apart from the owner-builder no-one had done more miles and sea-time aboard than myself since it was launched in 1980. I then realised how important that is in a purchase, it made up for all the quirks and limitations of such a different design and a (virtually) sight unseen offer was made and accepted. I knew that I would regret it all my life if I let the chance go. Leaving Flinders Island in Bass Straight in April/May 1994 promised to set me up for a warm and sunny trip north to Qld and possibly Perth, Western Australia.



Heading north (chasing the swallows) from Flinders Island, Bass Straight with Blaz - Easter 1994


The 'Boat' or the 'Proa' (a long time nameless) was built by Blaz (pronounced like raj ) Kokor in Hobart from a half a page of info, four year's full-time work and his copious skills and ingenouity - maybe two of those years were spent talking and thinking out the problems/solutions. He had all the materials for a 42' ketch, but couldn't get this concept out of his head so the ketch is still on paper. This one was the third timber boat he built.

I first saw the vessel in 1981 (some months after meeting Blaz) in Prince of Wales Bay at a boat yard belonging to Bob Brinkman - the maker of the Patanella - another man of great skills, flair and ideas. Blaz was living aboard and finishing/modifying. It was more classic in design than I expected for a radical concept (it looked like a wet,cold boat in Tasmania to me) and every inch a work of art - in need of a bit of glass and paint at present. I had several 3-4 day passages, mainly in Bass Straight to Flinders Island, over the next five years before we sailed north. I went as far as Port Douglas (1986), but the boat has been to P.N.G and the Solomons. I was in awe from the first night on board (spent at anchor) - my introduction to multihulls - and after heaving, pitching, rolling and heaving up in Bass Straight fishing boats (circumnavigating Tasmania) it was an inspiring introduction to flat sailing. For the first time i could even sleep while at anchor - until the wind shifted 90 degrees and the swells just kept coming - time to shift anchor on any boat, but especially multis.



At anchor Airlie Beach 1986 - note "starboard" type rudders


Blaz came for a shopping trip to Sydney (and to re-familiarise me with the boat by acting as skipper on that leg) - we had sailed the boat there before in 1986 so hugging the coast after Gabo Island to avoid the southerly current it was a few days non-stop past familiar sights of the Bass Straight oil platforms, Gabo Island, Gatehouse and others to our landfall at Pittwater. Later when Blaz returned to Flinders, i went to Rose Bay on my maiden voyage as a solo sailor and master of the boat. I was not in complete control, but felt very much at home.

Naturally I stayed in Sydney too long with friends and distractions, an insurance run-around to keep me busy on the phone and foot trying forever to juggle the numbers games played by not only each company, but each office. Sydney would do multis, but not timber, Perth would do the opposite, one company would do both, but not more than 50 km off-shore. Finally Clubmarine (Sydney office) would insure a timber, old (in their eyes - over 5 years), multi-hull, to go 200 nautical miles from the coast (covers Lord Howe Island as well) and coverage all around Australia cruising. It was the only office which would do it all. I needed a $550 survey ($11/ft) - an easy 2 hour chat and tyre kick with a few weld and stringer taps thrown in. To be fair, a chance to put your observation skills, your experience and your reputation on the line with one or two tricks of the trade for $250 an hour on site.

So with insurance, provisions and equipment - Lucas was of course a necessary item - on board and, Coff's Harbour - the only real one once past the Newcastle area, planned as the first call. Dan from Pittwater came for the ride to Coffs, for which i was grateful as my jump from crewing with a competent skipper to a solo-sailing skipper, crew and cook is a big one on a 50' shunting ideosyncratic custom craft. Meanwhile Dan didn't know what he'd let himself in for and is probably still wondering about the craft! That worked to my advantage as i became supremely confident realising i knew so much more about sailing this boat and immediately went into skipper mode.

Freeboard had been kept as low as practical as windage is already high with the strong rigging requirements plus two big furlers always there. A deep 'V' hull, without keel or dagger boards, gives shallow draught of 2'4" lowered to 4' when a rudder is fully down. Although shallower rudders would be nice the long vee waterline has high demands to change direction and I was grateful of their bite into still water when involuntarily surfing a wave past rocks at Tweed Heads at an uncomfortably steep forward incline, a maniacally laughing crew(!) and open-mouthed anglers within a few metres. Not a pleasant event for me except as a memory and next time i'll be dragging a bucket. Friends had a similar experience when delivering a mono, but the wave left them pointing out to sea so they took the hint and moved back that way.



Nearing Perth (Jan '95) - rudders now in stem(s)


The vessel was built for the tropics with beam wind performance to criss-cross the trades, hence the equator (rather than run) as an easy way of moving from cyclone/monsoon seasons. The trade winds start below Brisbane really and twice I have turned around Nth Stradbroke island with a SE'ly and pulled 16 knots in the still water with 18-22 knots on the beam and lots of sail. An open outdoor design was intended with limited space below, but well ventillated and accessed with 4 hatches, a big cockpit and single-handed control.

Brisbane is a haven for those who need to be port-side for a while with the Botanical Gardens as your back yard and the city 200m down the road from your tender. Too easy to stay once again and the job I needed to stay afloat (pun intended) hard to come-by so I went. Each weekend I needed to find my way down to Moreton Bay for a sail and I think the live-aboards had forgotten where it was so I always took one or two. On a trip to Wellington Point with Conrad, a Hood owner as crew, i had not fueled up so we had to sail back into a breeze up a river which is under 200m wide for quite a few miles. Conrad was responsive and fit as crew. He had to recover his jaw the first time we headed straight for a wharf at 10 knots then backed the boom to stop in 2-3 boat-lengths, then he and i gelled in the awkward shunting process which we had to do many times fast and with no failures or lock-ups to get back to the mooring. Once as crew in Launceston i had experienced a main sheet jam during motorless docking causing 5 knots under power towards a steel pontoon, but i managed to lasso a thin pylon and stop. The sheet area must be snag free.

We multi-owners suffer the myths of instability and falling over etc and proas are especially prone (to the myth) thru' a history of weird designs not quite up to the rigours of real life and a scarcity of living proofs - at least there's lots of safe, vertical (and upright) cats and tris to point at. However, proa builders have always tended to build an exotic rig idea into an already exotic design and some have let the extravagant rule over the practical and, hence, fallen over. Others like John Pizzey's in Brisbane are solid, stable and still radical in design. They need to be seen to be appreciated fully so I won't attempt do describe them here. We have probably all heard of the successful "Cheers" (Newick) and "Side-winder" (Kelsall).

About Face is a conservatively rigged bermuda type (times two) and solid construction ensures stability.

Two locals, Matt and Jai, came to Hervey Bay when I left on a short mesmerising trip up to Wide Bay in total disregard to the complex rules of 249 degrees only when you reach the 10 metre sounding only before midday , then this, then that. We just sailed on the mainsail carefully along the coast over the bumps at the shallow corner with the motor on idle just in case. When we reached the clear water of the entrance the genoa was unfurled, sails filled and motor cut to admire the setting and look for dugongs. While looking we found ouselves in the waves again as a huge current pushed as backwards under full sail! It is a tricky dangerous place and the conditions as well as shallow draught let us take that less cautious route. On with the motor again and into the path of 10 dugongs slow and lazy till we surprised them.

Inside the bay along Fraser Island was one of my best sails ever - in good company, a gentle breeze, a setting sun and much wild life to entertain. I met up with a friend from the Brisbane River in a Duncanson and stood off his boat several minutes with both rudders down just playing back and forth to keep up the conversation and his mouth open. In light conditions it is possible to just stay within an area of one boatlength square, almost forever, beam to the wind. I passed up the social docking for a moonlight sail.

What can you say about the Whales and Hervey Bay. Hearing them breathing at night, watching all day as they broach, seeing that they prefer sail to noisy tourists and stink-boats and getting wet with spray from a surprise broach in the middle of nowhere - a minor panic.

Timber is renowned for the noise of water, crabs etc and when the breeze gave out one day I just lay in the cockpit. Soon I was over powered by the moaning, trumpeting and impassioned "singing" of the humpies. I sat up when the breathing was loud, to find the nearest whale still over a mile away. The empty barrel of the float was the best place to hear their resonating vocals through an opened cover. Can hardly wait to get among them here in Perth in September.

Nth Queensland cruising is many, many stories for each boat and beyond this article. Shallow draught leads to adventurousness of spirit and I experienced a few embarassing bottom scrapings as crew on this vessel continuing the tradition myself as I try to squeeze into tight places or to sail though channels cutting the corner markers. Usually no problems and 1/4" stainless along the bottom offers a certain margin for error, and more recently, self-tripping rudders. The advantages we all know are crossing the entrance and sitting in the creek or on the sand and tied to a tree to the envy of others who drunkenly ferry tenders to boats riding on swells above suspect bottoms and worry about that late night arrival which moors a little too close.

The sand is a nice place to sit and meet people usually talkative about a strange looking boat. "Are you coming or going?" and "Do you jibe or tack?" Well neither really. Tacking is of necessity a non-event with no rigging or float to one side so the railway process and term shunting is used. This originates not in the marshalling yards, but on valley or water course climbs.

Trains cannot negotiate hairpin bends so.....    "atlantic" proas cannot tack
Lines (and trains) level off onto the contour    steer off wind
The train slows, passes the points - then stops    furl headsail, backwind the main past beam for braking
Points are reversed when guard van passes    up old rudder, down new rudder
The loco put in reverse gear for the next leg    boom sheeted towards other end, new headsail set
Zig-zag up the hill    beat (shunt) to windward
One side of the train always faces the hill-side    float always to leeward

Procedure may of course be different on a proa without central mast and headsails (two equal masts like Cheers) or a pacific proa or another configuration. Jibing is not a real choice unless necessary and early. As it is a running action there may be a big sea following so it is not nice to stop beam on to the wind and sea just to get the sails to the other side (end). I have sometimes chosen to slip wind or just avoid it by prior planning. If it is still necessary, one goes about it only with an eye on the sets and steer off past 90 degrees so while you are trying to get underway the wind and swells will be working more favourably. The centrally mounted mainsail acts like a big air rudder and sheeted both ways locks you on a setting. Terms like starboard, port, fore and aft do become redundant to some extent and the relative reigns over the absolute. The galley is at one end and the head at the other so those who cannot distinguish between the two are not invited again!

While the threat of backwinding is ever present, good design with quick sheet and haulyard control are the backups for a quick hand at the helm. This last factor is doubly important as a long vee waterline changes course under protest.

I admit that I have started the motor to get out when backwinded because sail methods can be slow and difficult and lose hard-earned ground to windward, basically you are just forced to shunt, but usually the wrong way. It typically occurs when close hauled in light and variable winds and especially at night when you can't see sails luff as you point too high. Here a well developed feel for the boat is required with the need to always know the exact wind direction and read boatspeed as an indicator of bearing off wind - reading that speed with your ears! Night sailing alone in starlight with occaisional bearing checks only and handing over to others after sunrise, is one of my favoured times at sea.

The multi myths affect us all and, probably affect more the people who miss out due to bias and listening to ill-informed hearsay. The myth I react to is one transmitted by some (who should know better) and perpetuate what they have only read. In this case that proas of the Atlantic type will always have a debilitating yaw into the wind at speed. This yaw is supposedly caused by the float depression/drag and absent if displacement force is on the same hull as the sails and rig i.e. like a pacific proa. In theory, the sails and rudders should be on the same hull, but even that is not in concrete - catamarans with mast in neither hull have their sail Centre of Effort always in a prime place - lean causes it to go closer to the hull causing most drag. So too with an Atlantic, the more heeling force the more drag on the leeward hull.

If an Atlantic proa has sails in the main hull and dagger boards or foils in the ama the off-set may cause yawing. As described in AYRS in '60s and '70s, "Side-winder" could have suffered in this way. In theory, mast and sails should be close above or balanced either side of lateral resistance and also close to the line of drag.

I have not heard the same complaint of a trimaran (which is just a proa flying or burying one unnecessary float to slow it down) still, I have experienced yaw on a couple of tris. There is some weather helm aboard mine, but not when the sails are right, and the same for most tris. All I can say is that when the bullets hit down the valleys near Airlie Beach and Cairns that the boat jumps forward and sails may need sheeting, leach cords checked and all the usual, but 17 knots happens in a straight line and not up into the wind.

The boat may go a little faster, but being timber and stainless it is not light, therefore, no speedster. This boat is the usual compromise, happily most faults are by design preferences which give little head room, broaching tendencies, slow reaction at low speed, long-footed sails and of course, two of everything needs to be bought, made, considered (nav lights each way) etc.

One design aspect was fully tested when I was reefed down twice and moving to a better anchorage away from cyclone Annette when one of her waves hit me 150m further out than all the others catching me sideways during a complete lull without way or steerage so I couldn't turn into it. The vee hull is designed to bite and the round float to skip. It does, the breaker went part over me, mainly under and up through the working platform breaking its back. It is in part sacrificial as the builder did not want it to damage the hull in a big sea. The float's lack of dagger board or keelage let it move laterally and not dig in - potential to roll over is thus reduced.

There are the obvious negatives of living in a 50 foot canoe with an open cockpit in the widest part of the vessel and where the saloon should be, never quite standing up below and moving to let someone get up or out etc and still paying exorbitant rates at marinas. These do not outweigh the space topside and if the weather is not that nice then go to where it is and pitch the tent on deck.

Everywhere in Queensland, Torres Straight, N.T. and W.A. above Dampier were such places and they still beckon.

All the "How?" questions are welcome as it's interesting to see people's base attitudes and acceptance or understanding of a different concept. However, when there are so many interesting hulls, rigs, materials, designs, purposes and possibilities for sailing vessels, i get a little perplexed with the need to ask "Why?"

Specifications - scroll down



ABOUT FACE Australian Registered
Owner Ted Lamont, Perth Western Australia
Launched Hobart, Tasmania 1980
Designer/Builder Blaz Kokor
Design/Concept Atlantic Proa (float to leeward) - custom built
LOA 50' (45' at waterline)
LOA (float) 40'
Beam 19'6"
Total Displacement 4.5 tonnes - dry
Draught 2'6" - dry (float - 1'6", rudders 4'0")
Hull (vaka) Double diagonal King William Pine, glued, screwed and glass sheathed deep vee
Float (ama) King Billy, 3 water tight chambers, round section, glass sheathed, 150% , buoyancy only
Bulkheads 4 - reinforced with galv angle and though bolted to ...
Framework (aka) 2 canterlevered stainless steel supports converging on a ball joint on a post at each end of float
Cockpit central
Decking Marine ply
Working platform 1" x 1" slats - King Billy
Bitterns 2 - Celery Top Pine
Berths 3 x three-quarters
Mast Tapered Aluminium - 42'
Rigging S/S wire 1x19 (1x3/8-masthead, 2x5/16-furlers, 12x1/4, 3x 3/16-lower)
Auxiliary Motor Yamaha 9.9 H.P. 4stroke ULS
Sails 220 sq ft main, 470 sq ft furled genoas
Stability Tipping moment reached in 45 knots main and genoa backwinded holding air!



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