Article published in Cruising
and in La Revue maritime L'Escale (in French)
he set out around the world, Yves Gélinas took the engine out of his Alberg
30 Jean-du-Sud. When time came to re-power his boat after coming back
home, the designer of the Cape Horn Integrated Self-Steering System adopted
an original solution.
In order to sail a four-ton boat non-stop through the Roaring
Forties, I had to make its structure and rig capsize-proof. I also had to
take off any useless weight : with the needed provisioning and spare parts,
my little boat was loaded to its maximum and any excess weight increased its
vulnerability. The first item that went was the Universal Atomic Four
engine : with its ten gallons of gas, it would be of little use in a
non-stop 28,000 miles voyage.
The other item I got off the boat was the steering wheel : I
had just designed a self-steering system that could steer through any
weather, and the wheel became useless, a tiller being enough if I ever had
to steer by hand.
I did not succeed in sailing non-stop : I was capsized and
dismasted in the Pacific Ocean and I had to stop at the Chatham Islands to
repair the mast. I did reach Gaspé (Québec) however, after 282 sailing days,
without steering .
left behind in Brittany and after
back I could not afford to have it shipped home. In any event I did not want
to put a gasoline engine back into my boat. So I sailed without an engine
for a while. I used a long oar instead, not so much for propulsion, but
the boat took
the wind on the offshore tack when I pulled up the anchor. It also helped in
maintaining way as far as a dock by sculling after dropping sail. In a calm,
if a harbor was at any distance, I rather used my old Seagull on the Zodiac,
lashed to the quarter, which gave the boat a speed of three knots.
Sailing like that without an engine, I found that I did not
go so far in any given time, but I enjoyed it as much. Yet, after ten years
of coastal cruising, I had visited every destination I could reach without
an engine between Gaspé and Ottawa many times and I decided to re-power my
boat. However, having a certain tendency to question generally accepted
ideas, I did not think an inboard diesel would be the best solution. Bob
Townsend, a member of the Great Lakes Alberg 30 Association, told me he had
a trailer built for his boat and he hauled it without problem from Toronto
to Newport RI to enter the Bermuda One-Two Race. That made me think : maybe
the best solution would not be to put an engine back into the boat, but to
have the engine in front of the boat, in a vehicle, with the boat on a
trailer. This would yield a speed of forty knots on the road, versus the six
knots on the water with an inboard engine, accessing a much greater number
of cruising grounds.
However this did not address the problem of entering harbors
or moving the boat through calm weather. The solution to this was inspired
by an other friend who replaced the Atomic Four of his Grampian 29
with a 9.9 hp outboard engine with no appreciable drop in speed.
But I did not want the usual spring-loaded outboard bracket
bolted to the transom, as the stern of my boat is reserved to the Cape
Horn self-steering. I could have retained the solution used on my
previous boat, a 24 ft Olympic Star, and mount the outboard in a well in the
lazarette. After thinking a while about it, I rejected this solution for two
reasons : first the lazarette on my boat is one of the four watertight
compartments that could keep my boat afloat in the event of a major leak and
I did not want to lose this feature; second, the
shaft and propeller while under sail is not negligible and I would have to
pull the engine completely out each time I sailed to avoid it. While
this solution is not in coastal sailing, the engine being used too often.
After some experimenting, taking advantage of the tools and materials I
currently use in building my Cape Horn vanes, I was able to
make an engine bracket placed on the port quarter, that pivots at deck level
and allows a 9.9 hp long-shaft
move up or down. In its up position, the engine blends with the
weather-cloth and (almost) looks like any dinghy motor stowed on the rail.
In its down position, it pushes my boat at
knots, enough to move it in calm weather and even against a moderate head
wind. The only drawback is the prop sometimes coming out of the water in a
heavy chop and I must reduce speed to keep it from racing.
One end of this crank-shaped support pivots inside a
foot-long tube placed over the rail forward of the stern pulpit and is
bolted at each end through the deck (see photo). The engine is clamped on a
plate pivoting around the other end of the crank, to which I welded a heavy
diagonal tube that absorbs the thrust of the engine and keeps it vertical.
When the crank pivots up or down, the
end of this diagonal tube slides fore and aft, guided by a small horizontal
tube placed on the rail, its forward end being held by a stanchion, and its
aft end bolted to the deck (the whole engine bracket assembly being held to
the boat by three bolts only). A small four-part tackle pulls the engine up
with minimum effort.
Materializing a trailer and a towing vehicle took a while
longer : I had to wait for the sales of the Cape Horn self-steering
to generate enough profit. I started this business without any cash outlay,
assembling the first units with the onboard tool kit and for the first five
years, all the revenue had to be re-invested in materials, tooling,
advertising, etc. Sales taking off, I was finally able purchase a used
trailer built for a heavier boat and I modified it so that it would accept
my boat. Even though two axles are enough for a four-ton boat, this trailer
has three (two with electric brakes), the third axle being an added safety
feature. The frame of the trailer is heavier than needed, but I consider
that a good trade off for the higher gas mileage.
The boat and trailer weigh approximately 5 tons; although
this is above its rated towing capacity of this vehicle, I purchased a used
9 year old GMC Suburban, with low enough mileage, that was already fitted
with the towing package
: transmission cooler, heavy duty hitch and electric brakes. The only thing
I had to add was extra blades on the rear springs, to compensate for the
1000 lb. tongue weight. The total cost of the trailer, vehicle and outboard
was probably not much higher than that of a new diesel and its installation.
On the highway, I can maintain a speed of 50 - 55 mph (80-90
km/h). Obviously, I accelerate slowly to avoid straining the towing vehicle
as much as possible. I can reach 60 mph on a straight and level road. I
favor freeways with as few hills as possible, although I crossed the
Appalachian Mountains between Québec and the East Coast without problem,
shifting to second gear a few times. All the moveable boat equipment
(anchors, lines, sails, outboard, etc.) is taken off the boat and loaded in
the truck, to minimize the weight differential between vehicle and trailer.
Obviously, one must drive very defensively and maintain a respectable
distance from the vehicle ahead, the inertia being considerable.
Even though the Alberg 30 is three inches in beam above the
limit allowed on the road without an escort (set at 8 ft 6 in.), I never had
a problem on this respect. The trailer itself being 8 ft wide only, the
extra three inches do not really show.
designed for salt water immersion,
I use a travel-lift for
launching and loading. I also often use the mast stepping system I
have rigged, as in most yards it is often more expensive to step
or unstep a mast than to launch a boat.
With this rig, I brought Jean-du-Sud to Newport RI
in the summer of 1998
in order to take part in the parade of boats
celebrating the Joshua Slocum Centennial. From there, with my wife, I sailed
to Nova Scotia and cruised the Southwest Coast to Halifax. I then trailed
the boat back to Oka QC, west of Montréal (800 miles).
summer, I hauled
the boat to Fredericton NB and I launched it in the St. John river (using a
crane, as no travel-lift was available). I then sailed 60 miles downriver,
through the Reversing Falls, and I cruised Southwest along the Eastern US
Seaboard as far as Annapolis MD. After the Boat Show, I hauled the boat back
Georgian Bay, on Lake Huron,
and in the summer of 2001, I
hauled Jean-du-Sud to Caraquet, N.-B., to bring it closer to the
Ocean we wanted to cross.
Summer 2002, we motored up the River Seine, the
as far as the canal de Bourgogne, then back up the Oise, the
canal du Nord, entering the Norgh Sea at Dunkerque. Motoring through
the French canals was no problem, except occasionnally in locks, as with the
outboard offset to the side it is impossible to back up.
With this kind of engine power, I consider Jean-du-Sud
to be very close to the ideal boat : big enough to sail around Cape Horn,
but small enough to access virtually every cruising ground within
reasonable time constraints.