Sunday, June 4, 2017

Autarkia as a Gundalow

Well, truth be told, we are nearing the limit of our budget to build Autarkia.  However the good news is that she is mostly built, mostly fitted out, and once I install the off center board within the next short while she will be completely functional as a motor cruiser.

But the dream has been to sail her.

And over the past year and a half I have kicked around, researched and have agonized over a sailing rig for her.

The criteria have been specific in one case, and loose and flexible in others.  For example, we have always wanted to get under the bridges on the Fraser and Harrison Rivers.  The spars and rig must be dippable and easily done so by two people in their sixties and ,alas, not getting younger.  But in all other areas, we are quite willing to compromise.

Autarkia is based in Mission Harbour here on the Fraser.  We don't see that changing any time soon.  The Fraser is a tidal river and depending on the time of year can even flow a little backwards on the incoming tide.  During freshet though (the time of this writing) she flows along at up to 5 knots or so.  The tug towing operators here (log booms and gravel barges mostly) take full advantage of what the river is doing at any particular time.

And that is exactly what all of the traditional sailing barges around the world have done.

Take for example the Gundalows that used to operate in the Piscataqua Region of Maine.  These flat bottomed cargo carriers would follow the tide up and down the river, augmenting the tidal flow and providing control with a lateen sail - an ancient and proven rig.

What makes this rig desirable functionally for us, is that we can use a very short mast (say 16' from the waterline) that I can easily build up from fir lumber that is readily and economically available.  I can hoist a long yard (say 35 to 40 feet in length) at the beginning of the season and leave it there, hauling down the high tip as required to get under the bridges.  I can also build that yard from fir lumber, and counter-weight it with lead so that it is easy to do so.

The other interesting and economical thing we can do is hank on a genoa for a sail.  It should be relatively easy to find a used one for a reasonable cost, and maybe have a nicer one made later on.  In any case it will not be something strange and difficult for sail-makers to quote on.

Here is a sketch of Autarkia with a lateen rig, using a genoa with a luff of 34', leech 30',7" and a foot of 21'.  The sail winds up being about 315 sq.ft.

No, she won't be a rocket at all.  But we have tidal flow here and an engine.  Facing the truth once more we know that we are now at a stage of life where the time to learn  to cross oceans or venturing dangerous waters is behind us.  Being realistic about how and where we will enjoy Autarkia - our local waters - and taking into account our present skill set with regard to sailing, I think we may be on the right track.


  1. Very Cool! I learned about the rig several years ago and there is a lot to love about it. Especially the easy-to-find sail. I have often thought it could be fun to fit one of these on a pontoon boat for laughs.

    1. Thanks David. I like the pontoon boat idea!

  2. Seems folks who fall in love with a archipelago do just fine. Numerous folks, like Reuel Parker and Chris Morejohn, are still in love with the bahamas after decades sailing there. Dave and Anke and Allan-Sherrie Ferrell seem equally enamaored with the pac NW island waters. Re the rig we went with simple polytarp for out first junk sail then later replaced it with a better sail. I'll give a hearty thumbs up to the junk sail once again..... lots of bits to start out with but then incredibly cheap to run and easy to use. So many rigs and so little time. Oh well. Best wishes for some upcoming living aboard!

    1. Oh Robert, the voice of my conscience! I haven't abandoned junk rig quite just yet. The stickler is getting under the bridges.... :-)