Monday, August 22, 2011

Did you ever wonder?

Did you ever wonder what your boat might look like if it sported a different rig?  How it might sail and change the way you sail?  I know I have.

When I purchased my Westerly Nomad, Francesca-Rose, I did so with the intention of cruising (shorthanded), lakes, rivers, estuaries and specifically, the US Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) between the west coast of Florida and the Chesapeake Bay. 

My wife and I enjoy shallow-water sailing.  I like the challenge and she feels more comfortable sailing close to shore.  And it’s always been my intention to sail-away part of my retirement with her.

Francesca-Rose was built in 1968 and came to me in a somewhat shabby state, and was equipped pretty much as when she left the factory.

From the beginning, I adopted changes to her rig to facilitate single handed sailing.  For example; all lines are led to the cockpit and downhauls are used for main and jib.  For Lake Michigan sailing the rig works fine, but in short-tacking situations as one might find on rivers, channels or canals, the original sloop rig, with baby-forestay, is just too much work for this old man.

Need an easy sailing rig.

From the get-go, I thought of changing her to a junk rig. 

I contacted Robin Blain at Sunbird Marine in the UK and sailboat designer and junk-rig aficionado, Tom Colvin in Florida.  Both men reviewed my situation and provided me with general plans, encouragement and quotes on hardware and sails, but, unfortunately, both expected me to do the work or find someone who could do the work for me.  Well, Chicago is not Poole or Annapolis. 

Then, while out in California a couple years ago, I discovered a new variation to an old idea, the Flying Lateen, (Animation) which proved to be a remarkably simple rig to sail in tight quarters.  After a two hour sail, weaving in and out among the moored boats and tacking back and forth across the channel, I was hooked.  And I still am.  Unfortunately, my circumstances changed a bit and I was forced to implement Plan-B; the purchase of a new main with three-reefs, a jenny.with reef-points and a new 4-stroke outboard.  The rig shown on the picture to the right.

So, what would Francesca-Rose have looked like had I implemented Plan-A?

Westerly Nomad - Flying Lateen - Color

Ok!  I know it’s a kid-level picture but what can I say?   I used Microsoft Paint to doctor up a drawing.  You do get the idea however. 

Simple lines, simple deck stepped rig, easy sailing.  

Shortcomings?  There are a couple for sure.  Not traditional!  Also, a bit more windage than when sloop or gaffed rigged.  Doesn’t point as high as a sloop either.  Finally, I found it slower to come-about requiring a little more planning on my part.  For the kind of lazy sailing I have in mind, none of these issues is a problem.

Now, I’ve also been reading a lot lately about older couples (much older couples) sailing their “trawlers” over the kind of waters I plan to sail.  What would a Westerly Nomad look like as a 22’ “trawler” for two?

Westerly Nomad - Trawler

Add a bimini and voila! 

Now, how would you change your “Rayner” to suit your sailing needs?


  1. If you go to a trawler she won't be a sailboat. Why not junk rig her? See Roger Taylor's success with Mingming.

  2. Tom,

    You’re absolutely right. A trawler is not a sailboat. That said, I am suggesting one need not get rid of ones old Nomad when ones sailing days are over. We’ve all motor-sailed our Nomads at some point or another, yes?

    As I said in the post, a junk-rig conversion was my first choice. I’m not handy and could not find a competent junk-rig rigger here in Chicago. Also, I found the flying-lateen rig easy to sail in tight spaces and easy to reef as well. And, as I do not intend to perform off shore work, I see no advantage in installing a junk-rig with its added complexity and loss of fore-cabin space.

    The conversion price works out to be about the same for both rigs.

  3. What would you change to?

    I sail single handed and don't find the Bermudan rig that bad?

    I am however always open to improvement...

  4. Kenneth,

    I know of several rigs that have been used on the W22/Nomad boats. First, of course is the the gunter rig that was Rayner's favorite. Despite early suspicions of its weakness, it proved to be sturdy enough for a transatlantic crossing. Most of the Nomads were equipped with the more conventional Bermuda sail plan. In this rig the mast is set back about 1/3 of the boat's length form the bow. Even when flying a masthead working jib, in strong winds the main tends
    to overpower the foresail and the boat has a strong weather helm. I have seen several ways of correcting this tendency. Some owners have fitted a bigger jib, moving it forward by using a bowsprit. To my mind the problem with a bowsprit is that if it is permanent, one has to reposition the forestay to the end of the
    bowsprit or face endless difficulties in trying to get the sail over when tacking.

    Others, like myself, simply fly a #2 genoa as a working jib. This restores balance in all but the stronger winds. If the wind is in excess of 15 knots I simply go back to the working jib and take a slight reef in the mainsail to balance the boat. Boat speed does not seem to suffer. The W22/Nomad is limited by its <6 kt. hull speed in any case.

    In very strong winds, I take a greater reef in the mainsail, fly a small jib from the inner forestay and a storm jib from the outer forestay. The boat is now rigged as a makeshift cutter. If the wind increases still more, I douse the main and fly the storm jib from the inner forestay. By this time I'm looking for a
    sheltered harbor.

    I have heard of gaff rigged and junk rigged W22/Nomad boats but I haven't seen any so I can't really comment on their suitability.

    The Flicka group is really imaginative in the variety of rigs attached to their small boats. The Flicka is about the size of the W22 so it might be informative to see what they have done. Look over the rigs at:

  5. Has anybody fitted a W22 Gunter rig to a Nomad? Is the mast in the same position? I would like to do this as my boating includes rivers and canals and it would be a great advantage to store the mast within the length of my Nomad plus, in my experience, a Gunter Rig is easier to manage single handed.


  6. Charles, August 23, 2011 8:17PM,

    For the type of (mostly open water) sailing I have done to date on my Westerly Nomad, I have no problem. The Bermudan rig as you can see in the sidebar picture, works just fine.

    I am looking to the future however. And knowing that a:) age catches up to us all and b:) my intended sailing area will include long stretches of canal and narrow river with my wife sometimes at the helm, in areas requiring constant tacking, and wishing not to become addicted to using the motor; I’m considering an alternative easier managed rig.

    What I would change to? At this moment, a junk or flying-lateen, both single-sail rigs.

    Under the conditions described above, what rig might you suggest?

  7. Larry Z, August 23, 2011 8:22 PM,

    I have installed a hanked-on-135% jenny with a reef point setting to simulate a working jib. So far, this combined head-sail has worked very well.

    Remember, I am currently sailng on Lake Michigan, one of the larger Great Lakes.

    That said; my future sailing challenge will be very different. I will be sailing in shallow water over long stretches of canal and river. My current rig will be to tiring for an older couple short-tacking backing and forth, back and forth all day.

    Given my intentions, what rig would you suggest?


  8. Brian Chislett, August 24, 2011 9:22AM,

    I have not heard of anyone converting a Westerly-22 or Nomad to a Gunter rig. Now that you’ve wet my curiosity, I intend to find out more about this rig.

  9. Hi Ken

    I've thought about it only insofar as curiosity how it might work with a Junk rig. I have a long-standing interest in that rig and have read a fair bit about it. Would I seriously consider it, most likely not.

    When I purchased our W22 I got it for 3 reasons.

    1. It was available and very cheap at the time.
    2. The Gunter rig was also high on my curiosity to try list and here was one in front of me at
    a great price.
    3. I have sailed a number of bilge keeled boats in the past but never owned one. In our area it offers some good opportunities so refer to the later part of 2.

    As an aside to my original purchase; the salesman's folder had written on it, "Bug Ugly and totally unsellable!" Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I guess. Mind you on the trip up the Rideau Canal shortly after our purchase, a fellow on one of those big plastic bulgy overpowered weekend cruisers who was sharing a lock with me leaned over and said, "Thats the ugliest boat I have ever seen." My young son was ready and willing to jump up and clock him one but diplomacy prevailed. Rayner's boats do look strange to many on the Lakes though.

  10. Bob, August 26, 2011 8:50PM,

    Well, what can you say? I have friends who think my boat is ugly too. On the other hand, I’ve had people tell me how neat they thought my boat was. All I know is this. I think my boat is neat too. And I’m hoping to live long enough and be healthy enough to sail it on her 50th birthday!