New Owner with Upgrade Questions

Welcome to! This bulletin board is for builders of the Chesapeake Light Craft-John C. Harris "PocketShip" design, a 15-foot micro cruiser sailboat built from a kit or plans.

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New Owner with Upgrade Questions

Postby jcrawf on Wed Jul 01, 2020 1:31 am

Hi all,

I just purchased a CLC PocketShip third-hand that I've recently christened Beija Flor ("Hummingbird" in Portuguese). I adore this little boat so much and am also excited to be a part of this community! From the blogs I've perused, it seems like a fine group of folks that I hope to meet someday. I currently live in Wyoming, but the organization I work for sends me to the Salish Sea and the Sea of Cortez to teach sailing and lead multi-week expeditions. I've been sailing for 26 years and this is my second personally-owned vessel, the first being a Newport 28 that I lived on in Seattle.

I've taken Beija Flor out a few times and am looking for insight from current builders/owners on some upgrade ideas.

1. Mast Risk Management - I had Beija Flor out in some gusty conditions with a double-reefed main + half-furled jib the other day and had risk management concerns about the rigging. I've spent a lot of the last few years taking Drascombe Longboats on month-long expeditions in Baja California Sur. One of my big learnings from those boats is that the boomkin, which is a similar size to the bowsprit, isn't infallible. Over the last 5 years of long expeditions, I've had a couple of them break while underway (granted, it's a fleet of about 20 pretty old Drascombes that take a lot of wear and tear). In that scenario, I lose some pointing ability, but otherwise, consequences are low. If the bowsprit breaks, the spinnaker and jib halyards acting as forestay are gone and while the tabernacle provides some support, a gust could hypothetically send the mast crashing down, maybe caught by the boom gallows or crashing through it. The potential consequence of bodily harm here is pretty high, so I'm wondering if other folks have implemented secondary reinforcement for their masts? I'm considering creating a backup lashing system near the top of the tabernacle.

2. Lee Helm - In general, I'm noticing that with 3 adults in the cockpit, the bow is relatively lightweight and is being pushed downwind. To counteract this, I'd like to look into adding more weight into the bow, adding a mizzen as a steering sail, or both. The builder was two owners ago, so I don't have direct access to how much lead has been put in (I'll get around to counting the loose disks soon). So, my question is, has anyone found a way to put significant weight further into the bow that is removable for trailering but secure enough to not crash around while sailing? Also, any mizzen pictures out there?

3. Visibility - John C. Harris is a pretty tall fellow who I imagine has no trouble seeing the bow of the boat while seated in the cockpit. I'm 5'5", so need to make some adjustments. Right now, I have to be up on my knees or sitting up on the side to see properly. I'm going to need to add a tiller extension and potentially some hiking straps. What length of tiller+tiller extension has worked well for folks? Has anyone else added hiking straps?

4. Capsizing - This is less of an upgrade and more of a question. Has anyone intentionally or unintentionally capsized a PocketShip? I'm curious about recoverability and float tests. I have an electric bilge pump but that's not going to be very effective if the cockpit is full of water. I've armed myself with a couple of 5-gallon buckets, but would still love to hear insight from anyone who's gone over. It would be helpful to know if anyone had learnings that led them to reinforce flotation in certain areas past what is laid out in the plans.

Whew, that's a lot. My sailing work was canceled this summer due to the pandemic, so I am pretty grateful to have such a beautiful project to tinker with. If you have thoughts on one or more of these, or just want to say "hello," I'm looking forward to hearing from you!

Fair winds,
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2020 6:44 am

Re: New Owner with Upgrade Questions

Postby mark48 on Thu Jul 02, 2020 8:00 am

Greetings, Jesi,

Welcome to the PS Forum. I have only sailed my PS for one season and have limited experience in it so far. However, I offer a couple thoughts about your questions, and will be watching for others with more experience to read their answers.

1. John Harris has cautioned builders who are contemplating additional reinforcements to the mast to ensure that their mast stays are tensioned properly. The boom gallows is intended to protect passengers (as you note) but attempting additional reinforcement at the forward bulkhead will likely be insufficient to counteract the forces involved with catastrophic damage to the cabin's bulkhead. I think John writes something about a hail of splintered wood, or some such language elsewhere on the forum. Check the forum on this topic; I think there are several relevant posts.

2. Likewise, there are a number of posts (including advice from John Harris) about proper ballast and distribution. It would be helpful to identify and communicate with the original builder to confirm his or her use of lead in the building phase - but it would seem unlikely that the builder deviated from the plans with respect to the sealed keel and the smaller amount of lead in the C/B. You can certainly count and weigh the ballast under the floor boards (in the bilges). Weight placed forward of the forward cabin bulkhead is unlikely to move very far so just make sure you've loaded enough ballast for your typical sailing configuration (e.g., solo, multiple occupants, or "camping").

3. I've sat on the rail (but I'm quick to move inboard when Puffin heels). I have not seen (or used) hiking straps on a PS. I have sailed with another more experienced PS sailor in some pretty strong winds and observed that the PS heels abruptly and then "settles into" its new attitude and doesn't go over further. That leads to your question 4:

4. I will be very interested to see others' responses to this question. I've never heard of a PS capsizing. I have two oversized holes low in the transom to drain water in the cockpit. If I were truly worried about water entering the cabin, I'd have the cabin enclosed - or better yet, not be out sailing in the first place. I also have extra flotation in the aft-most bilge area but I devoutly hope I never need it.

Welcome aboard. You'll have a blast.

All the best,
Posts: 148
Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 9:55 pm

Re: New Owner with Upgrade Questions

Postby Mflyer65 on Thu Jul 02, 2020 6:58 pm

Welcome Jesi,
I have not sailed my Pocketship yet so can only talk about item 2 where you are wondering about adding weight to the bow. The plans call for a starting point of 160 pounds of lead under the floor at the forward area and suggest for some that more might be preferred. Many builders have a lead acid battery or such in the forward hold area in the cabin for lights and other devices. You may already have that but if not it could add as much as 60 pounds well forward and maybe help out. Just a thought.
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2018 12:09 pm
Location: Durham, NC

Re: New Owner with Upgrade Questions

Postby Bflat on Mon Jul 13, 2020 9:48 am

Lee Helm - mine exhibits it too, but not when it matters. As soon as there's enough wind to heel the boat weather helm returns. I think that's due to the chine kind of digging in. It's one of the idiosyncrasies of the design that I easily live with (light weather lee helm isn't particularly dangerous). In moderate and heavy air I never experience lee helm.

Capsize - being ballasted, once knocked over nearly every force on the boat will try to right her. It's not like a dinghy whose most stable position is turned turtle (upside down). Being a quasi keelboat, she'll experience a knockdown rather than a capsize. Obviously, if on her side long enough water entering the cabin would be catastrophic, but not likely to happen due to the relatively brief event that is a knockdown. Also, Pocketship has the endearing quality of heading up in puffs all by herself, spilling air in the process. She's very well mannered and communicates her needs clearly and with enough time to adjust.

Posts: 234
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:15 am
Location: North Central Wisconsin, U.S.

Re: New Owner with Upgrade Questions

Postby Bflat on Tue Aug 11, 2020 3:13 pm

I'm here amending some of what I said in my above post. My pocketship (Luna) DOES develop lee helm when sailing close hauled with the 2nd reef in. Allowing enough heel reduces that somewhat. I think the only recourse when sailing her upwind in heavy air is to furl the jib and go under main alone. Without the jib, she's slow upwind in those conditions, but still makes her way. In light and moderate air she's surprisingly fast upwind. Others in my club really like her (one guy is even looking to buy one).

I'm still experimenting. I do find that I often ease the main in puffs enough to allow it to be backwinded by the jib. That seems to move the CE aft enough to balance the helm and it certainly reduces heel.

Posts: 234
Joined: Sat Dec 03, 2011 12:15 am
Location: North Central Wisconsin, U.S.

Re: New Owner with Upgrade Questions

Postby truenorth on Sun Sep 20, 2020 10:10 am

Hi, Jesi. I haven't finished my PS but I have been on 3, including PocketShip #1, once in blustery conditions. The boat sails and settles well, but it's definitely sensitive to weather and seas. This is partly due to a relatively robust sail plan and windage. On one sail, I purposefully put the rails into the water and held it there. It didn't seem to want to go over much more but would have if forced. PS will capsize if faced with the right math, but that's true of any boat.

To manage that risk, one modification to consider if you haven't is to not only weigh the lead installed as ballast, but to secure them as they are. You can do this any sort of ways but some folks have put blocks or stringers in those compartments so they don't fall out in the event of a knockdown or worse. If they fall out, PS will lose much of its righting moment and then you'll have blocks of lead rolling around the cabin. There's some lead in the centerboard but it's not meant to keep the boat upright, just to drop the CB. On the topic of more ballast, if you sail solo or light you might want to add another 100lbs or so of ballast (this has been OK'd by CLC). An easy way to do that is a couple bags of weights you can bring with you on those solo sails.

I'm not sure you need more weight in the bow. If you have a battery up there, you'll have enough to keep the bow down but not so much to affect the balance. However, if you really wanted to add weight forward that wouldn't be hard to manage, you can consider water ballast. Bring a couple 5-gallon water bags and put them in the forward compartment when empty or light. Then fill them up just before you sail, and empty them just before you leave. A small water pump can draw water from overboard and then drain them when done. Each 5-gallon bag would be about 40lbs. But again, I don't think you need this but it would be interesting to see how PS sails with one or two extra bags of ballast.
Posts: 137
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2012 12:10 am

Re: New Owner with Upgrade Questions

Postby jcrawf on Sat Nov 14, 2020 5:34 am

Thanks, folks! I appreciate the welcoming and informative messages.

To give some context, I wrote this post after a surprisingly burly sailing day at a high mountain reservoir with poor forecasting, clear skies, and novice crew. Conditions went from 0-3 kts to highly variable gusts of 25-30+ kts within 10 minutes. The cliffs created multiple wind shadows where I was holding a fairly straight course and transitioned through most points of sail. I was able to reduce the sail area pretty quickly, dipped a rail a couple of times, and got back to the dock under control but with a lot of questions to ponder over a beer. After sailing and racing mostly on oceans, I wouldn't have guessed a reservoir would keep me on my toes like that, haha.

I'm looking forward to trying some of those ideas. I'll keep playing with adjusting the lee helm with sail balance, human weight, ballast, and maybe some weight with water bags forward just to see what happens. Securing the ballast is an excellent idea. Also, I purchased a tiller extension and may also play with hiking straps so I can sit on the rail more securely for boat balance and to have a better line of sight.

Truenorth, it's good to know you were able to hold the rail in the water for a while. To your point about a knockdown, Bob, I'm still curious how much water she could take on in that scenario. The cockpit seems like it can hold a lot of water but drains pretty slowly, so she may not right as quickly (or at all) after a knockdown as larger, bluewater keelboats do. If anyone else finds this post and has experience here, it'd be great to hear more. My intent is to outfit my PS to go on week-long trips, and I'd just like to have more info on what would happen in the worst-case scenario, even though I'll be doing my best to avoid that potential.

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Joined: Tue Jun 23, 2020 6:44 am

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