SimplySailingOnline.com shows by example how easily you can eliminate stress, become more independent, raise your children in a safer environment (while spending more time with them, instilling values not based on the mighty dollar) and avoid the traps of commercialism. Because we live and sail simply, we have been wandering for 11 years with no intention of stopping. This is not a trip for us; it is our life, and I hope to share our success with stories of laughter and tears, as well as how-to tips and DIY projects for preparing, sailing and making a boat a home, so that others can join us.

Flat-Bottomed Boats

July 29, 2013

For 20,000 miles we had a keel. It stabilized us, dampened the motion of the worst waves, prevented us from heeling as much as we otherwise would have, gave us a sense of security and severely limited where we could gunkhole. For the past 1,000 miles, we have had no keel. We sail our AS-29 like a dinghy, short-tack through anchorages, only half pay attention when the water gets shallow, anchor in inches of water and let the 9-foot Georgian tides put us on our flat bottom if necessary.

But our sharpie's flat bottom has its disadvantages, too. We discovered in Key Largo that not only CAN we tuck up in the lee, within feet of shore, but we HAVE to be anchored in a lee. If there is more than a few inches of "seas" in an anchorage, Walküre's bottom pounds like she's falling off 9-foot seas. A mooring in Boot Key Harbor, Marathon is often untenable in Walküre, or at the very least extremely loud and uncomfortable. Without a riding sail, she yaws at anchor, sliding around on her keel-less bottom like walking on ice in cowboy boots. This is hard on the ground tackle and her seasickness-prone crew. And as we learned in our hop up the tidal US's eastern coast, a riding sail doesn't work when you're laying to tide instead of wind. So now we know that we have to anchor close to shore, in the lee of the tallest thing around, with two anchors. Not a bad price to pay for being able to anchor in inches of water.


Riding the chine

It wasn't until we started crossing some big-for-Walküre water that we learned the true secret of sailing a sharpie, though. Georgia and South Carolina's coasts are littered with wide, exposed bays with clear fetch to the ocean. Though we tried to time our crossings with the tide so that we would not be in the unlucky position of wind against tide, sometimes the fetch was great enough to create an uncomfortable roll or pound that, depending on the size of the bay, could last for hours, which feels like days. We watched other boats, mostly monohulls but no other sharpies, traverse these bodies of water and saw that they were having bumpy, wet rides, too. Then we remembered the secret of all our Eurisko miles in the Caribbean. If it's an uncomfortable ride, there's a chance you don't have enough sail up. If it works for a rounded-bottomed, keeled boat, it should work for a sharpie.

What we discovered was pure magic. Try to picture this with me. Walküre is mostly flat-bottomed. When we encounter a wave she must go OVER it. Her bow raises then comes back down on the backside of the wave with a BANG, spraying water all the way back to the cockpit. Now picture her with her giant (330 square feet) main raised. She heels to less than 15 degrees and suddenly becomes a V-bottomed boat as her chine slices through the waves. The motion eases, her crew is dry, and rather than dreading those wide bays, we hoot and holler as Walkure struts her stuff. This is what sharpies were made for: sailing.


Flat-bottomed girls

The next time you're having a bumpy, rolly, wet, unpleasant ride, ask yourself, do I really have enough sail up? Raise that main, shake a reef, raise a staysail, unfurl some more genny, raise a mizzen, do what you have to do to heel your boat over enough and give her the momentum to slice through the waves, rather than being at the mercy of them. You just might find that, like us, you become a fan of riding the chine.

MONDAY we'll share our favorite city experience in Georgia.

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