Photo above: Wee Lass, 2012
In 2004 I launched Wee Lass, a Penobscot 14 designed by Arch Davis. She’s been a great little boat, and I’ve had a lot of fun with her. She’s also a tough little boat, having survived Hurricane Ike in 2008. I expected to lose the boat in that storm. She was damaged, but I was able to repair her to what I thought was “nearly new” condition and get her back in the water. She has a leak where the centerboard case joins the hull, not enough to sink the boat but each year becomes more and more of a nuisance. The interior is bright-finished, and last year I noticed some discoloration on some of the hull planks. I consider this to be premature aging due to damage from the hurricane. With my lack of spare time, I had better get started building a replacement, so I could have it ready before Wee Lass became unseaworthy.
Of course, I had to start out dreaming big and work myself down to reality. My first choice for a replacement was Eun Mara, a double-ended small cabin cruiser designed by Iain Oughtred. Wee Lass’ small size is both an advantage and disadvantage. On the plus side, I can keep Wee Lass at home in the garage, it’s simple and quick to rig, and it’s light enough that my truck with it’s economy-sized engine can pull it without any problem. The downside is that Wee Lass is really too small to safely sail in Galveston Bay, which is nearby. Eun Mara is stunningly beautiful, somewhat larger at almost 20 feet and burdensome enough so that I would feel safe sailing in the Bay. I ordered the plans for Eun Mara and have already gotten my money’s worth just in studying them. Eun Mara is a gaff-rigged yawl. In practical terms, that means it has three sails and a lot of spars. A lot of spars means a lot of time rigging and taking down the boat – not something I’m likely to do for a quick evening sail. Fortunately, a gaff sloop version is also available, but the more I studied the plans, the more changes to the design I wanted to make to “optimize” the boat to suit my needs. Red flags started going off – as much as I admired the boat, if I’m making too many changes, then this isn’t the right boat for me.
I turned my attention next to Wee Seal, another Iain Oughtred design. Similar in style to Eun Mara, and only slightly less handsome as Eun Mara, she was only a little smaller and had many of the features I liked, and was designed from the outset as a sloop. She had a gunter main sail, which I wasn’t attracted to, but a letter to Mr. Oughtred and a very modest fee resulted in a new sail plan with a high peaked gaff. Again I spent many hours studying the plans. Slowly at first, reality started to settle in. My garage was not big enough to either build the boat or store it once it was complete. Also a small cabin cruiser, this boat was significantly larger and would take much longer to build than Wee Lass. Although the sloop was simpler to rig than the yawl on Eun Mara, my experience watching other sloop sailors with boats of similar size was that this was still not a quick or simple operation. Wee Lass has a single sail with an unstayed mast, so set up and take down is simple and easy. I’ve gotten spoiled by that.
I finally settled on Tammie Norrie, yet another Oughtred design. I’ve been aware of the design for a number of years. It is very similar to the Penobscot 14 in style and dimensions, but has a few details which make it a slightly prettier boat. I would be limited to sailing the same waters that I currently sail, but I could build the boat without first having to build a shop or take out a mortgage to finance the boat.
Photo below: Don Maurer’s Tammie Norrie. An absolutely beautiful boat; this is a yardstick – something to shoot for in my boat.