Mismatch between hull shape and trailer

This is a killer. Had I known how big a problem this was going to be I would not have listened to my wife’s advice to buy a ‘proper’ boat trailer. Proper boats in Finland have a round hull shape and a keel running the length of the boat. Hence, any off-the-shelf boat trailer is made to fit such a boat. The Pelican is a wide, flat bottomed, keel-less freak by these standards. The trailer is great, but it puts the hull under horrendous stresses as well as scratching the hell of out of it. Basically the flat bottom of the hull is supported in three or four small points on the trailer and visibly bends under the strain. Oh and the side arms need to be set that high to get the wide middle section of the hull over the mud guards of the trailer, even with the mudguards removed and the side arms lowered fully it is a mess.

Solution: In the short term I’ll make a cradle to fit between the two. It should make launching painless and allow me to work in the boat on land too by supporting the hull properly. In the long term, I’d like to make it a three chine hull, i.e. V-shaped on the bottom, with a proper structural keel. Pure heresy to the Pelican fraternity, but if I ever want to do some serious towing or resell this thing I need to have a boat and trailer that work well together. We’ll see if I ever find the time (next spring at the very earliest I’d guess). Oh and maybe I’ll give it a nose job while I’m at it so it cuts through waves and doesn’t look like an optimist on steroids.

priority: urgent

Poor weatherproofing for cockpit

Every time I get to the boat it has rain water inside it. This is a killer, especially as the torturing the hull has been put through by the trailer may have damaged the sealing around the stringers. I can already visualise the water soaking deep inside them and then waiting to freeze solid and blow the whole thing apart come the winter. This needs urgent fixing so everything can dry out before the winter arrives. Since I need to store the boat outside in the winter too, I’ll try and make the design winter proof too.

priority: urgent

Minor leaking at the rear end of the centreboard trunk

This may or may not be a new ‘feature’ due to the mismatch with the trailer. Since the centreboard trunk is the only stiff part in the middle of the flabby, soft, flat underside it probably is trying to work loose during the flexing of the underside. No point working on this until the cradle is in place.

priority: medium

Insufficient bulkheads

Pelicans should have a solid connection between the coaming at the front of the cockpit and the front of the centreboard trunk. This acts as a structural bulkhead to stiffen the bottom, as should the seat at the back of the centreboard trunk. I.e. to transfer loads from the middle of that floppy flat bottom to the sides. Neither works on my boat, the front has zero attachment, the seat is not stiff. The centreboard trunk visibly bounces when hitting a wave belly on. There is no point in working on these until the cradle is in place. Given that fibreglass has less stiffness than plywood this is an exceptionally bad error by the builder made when transferring the design to the new material.

priority: medium

No means of securing boom and yard when the main is down

These move about in the cockpit far too much during launching and landing. Single-handing this is a situation I can live with. When you have three adults and two small kids aboard they feel like they completely fill the cockpit.

priority: medium

Lack of a gaff downhaul

Apparently the builder didn’t know how the pelican was meant to be rigged.

priority: low

Rot at the tip of the boom

I suppose it was left exposed or was left sat in water. Otherwise the spar is totally sound and i’ll probably just restore it in the winter with epoxy, filler and glass fibre.

priority: low

Beaten rudder and centreboard

They’ve had a hard life and it shows. Otherwise they function well enough. Come the winter I’ll restore or replace as needed.

priority: low

Drainage hole not located in a sensible position

The previous owner put one in the middle of the boat on one side of the centreboard trunk. I honestly have no idea why, it needs to be moved to the transom.

priority: low

This may all sound like doom and gloom. But I think the Pelican is a great design and I am certainly a happy owner. These issues need fixing to make the pleasure lasting and to make it enjoyable when sailing with others. There is nothing worse than arriving late, with sleeping children and then to have to wrestle it on to the trailer, all the while stressing about what is happening to the hull. Here’s a video of my Pelican out on the waters in a fearsome wind – pelican flying


Below is a photo of the sailboat I bought at the beginning of the summer. I’ve wanted to get sailing on the Baltic since I moved to Finland about five years ago. Where we live (in Espoo) is right on the coast and there is an unending smattering of islands extending all along the coastline. This results in a truly remarkable environment, gentle enough within a few miles of the shore to see pensioners kayaking, but wild enough further out to allow for some serious sailing. Even vast cruise liners ply these waters, just to spice things up a little.

Initially I had no car (or even a driver’s license), so the whole concept was a non-starter from my perspective. The impetus to get a car and license was the imminent arrival of my oldest child. I actually picked my first car up from the dealer on the same day my wife went in to labour! Two and half years later and with two kids in tow, the urge to get out there became too much to resist and somehow the work I knew would be involved felt manageable. Also by that point we really knew that we didn’t always want to be driving a few hours to the summer cottage with the kids if we wanted to get out and have a change of scenery. So I started looking for a second hand sailing boat that fitted my specs. They were:

  1. Cheap to buy (100o euros or thereabouts)
  2. Cheap and easy to run
  3. Suitable for small children
  4. Suitable for single-handing

That’s not too demanding a list you’d think? Well let’s break it out a little.

Cheap to buy

This means it is old and probably not in good nick

Cheap and easy to run

This ruled out a swathe of boats unfortunately. Here boats are not stored in the sea during winter, because being not terribly salty it freezes completely solid. Mooring fees tend to be extortionate (500 euros per year at the very least) and then you need to pay a crane operator to get it in and out, oh and you pay for winter storage too of course. However, boats with a fixed, ballasted keel are all the rage here so this was a big problem. The entire trailer sailer concept is exceptional here, except for the terhisail 375, which commands a surprisingly steep price.

Suitable for small children

This means most small dinghies are out, no laser, snipe or 470 will be suitable. More specifically, it means being able to take two adults and two small children, plus all the paraphernalia required for a days outing to the islands, i.e. picnic, changing bag, endless spare clothing and possibly even a push chair. Within a few years even camping gear will be on the list hopefully.

Suitable for single-handing

This is equally limiting of boats like the 470, which really need that extra adult to keep it upright.

Of course the most limiting factor is simply what is available at the price I wanted to pay. I was really pleased then when one night I spotted this boat known as a San Francisco Pelican listed on nettivene.com. Having read more,I felt very confident this would be the boat for us. I have to admit, it was a wrench to push attractive to the bottom of the list of criteria. There’s a reason why a boat should have a woman’s name. But I knew that if it was suitable for a young family and cheap enough to run then the odds of us using it and keeping it was much greater. So I bought it and so far it has been a great success with the whole family, it fits the four criteria listed above admirably. That said, it is not in good nick and has some other issues. Those will be the subject of my next post.

Okay, so having negotiated the tedious process of setting a WordPress account up, here goes the first post. Firstly, there is little likely hood anyone will ever read this post. Such is the imperfect nature of blogging. It represents a very transient form of communication, where old posts fade in to oblivion. So from the outset I acknowledge and reject these limitations. This is my diary, my notebook and if others find the occasional post worth commenting on or of interest that is a bonus.

So what’s the point then? Well the process of documenting ones thoughts is important. The written thought becomes an independent entity, a meme an individual or others can return too, reflect upon and criticise. Writing, as a technology, has done more to elevate man above the apes than anything else except for language itself.

I already mentioned that one drawback of blogging is that it lacks any kind of narrative structure, it is all about what was last written, but perhaps even worse is that it is essentially like a newspaper column, the author is king. The comments section offers some scope for discussion,but this rapidly dies as each fresh post forces the topic onwards. Blogs, in their current form, offer a crude and imperfect medium for collective discussion and thinking. Which is, in my opinion, a great shame and a missed opportunity. So here’s hoping that someone reads this and one day we can have a proper discourse about blogging and written thought.