Bruce Kirby & Epiphanies

Bruce Kirby, 92, passed away July 19th 2021. Besides his Laser from 1969, his many boats include the Norwalk Island sharpies, and two Canadian entries in the America's Cup.

CLC Eastport Ultralight dinghy But it's his 1990 Trinka 12 daysailer that's smitten me. Since 2011, almost daily, I've stared "lovingly, longingly," - as Mario Lanza sang in The Student Prince - at her 12 feet by 63 inches. The Trinka 12's shape pushes Venus and Nefertiti. The glass hull's sultry sculpture rests outside the guest trailer under the house's raised concrete platform.

After the bare hull arrived in 2011, I emailed Bruce Kirby. He responded kindly, and quickly snail mailed a full sized print of her plan, profile, and sections. We wrote frequently into 2015. He was a generous, personable correspondent.

In 2013, I lofted ten foot four inch Clam Girl on the plywood floor 24 feet above the Trinka hull, then built CG's model. Although Karen and I love sailing together in canoe Bufflehead, we'd wanted a dinghy just for Cedar Keys' formidable shallows. A boat easy to stand up in so we could stretch and wiggle around; small, but big enough for family or friends.

CLC Eastport Ultralight dinghy

In 2018, Karen and I built Clam Girl from a JF Bedard zip-tied "kit," after he meshed my drawing into his software. Simon Lewandowski engineered and built the leeboard cones. She's open inside; her wide bottom is flat and tough. The rig is a brailed bundle that drops into a deck-height mast tube. It's big for light air and easily reefable to a fifth of its 88 square feet. The aluminum rudder blade, and leeboards with their aluminum toe inserts, kick up and bounce off oysters.

After rain in mid and late June, came more rain and standing water in July from baby Hurricane Elsa.

For the gazillionth time I looked at the Trinka hull. I glanced at the tarped twin keeler, 95% complete, an ocean cruising Letcher "Aleutka" on a tandem axle flatbed, and admitted to myself the prospect had come and gone for it, or a coastal Egret, Cornish Shrimper, or Farrier 24 trimaran. Then I was slapped by a thought - 'Very few of us have cruised enough in dinghies! Nor have I.'

Dinghy cruising and its seamanship teachings can be invaluable for toddlers to geezers. Youngsters will learn fast, suck it all in. They could be able crew by the time they're ten. We oldsters need ever greater dynamic engagement with the real world. Dinghies give it.

CLC Eastport Ultralight dinghy For us, a cruising dinghy should 'sail like a witch,' be weatherly with an easily handled, controllable rig including loose mast hoops, a boom vang, downhaul and outhaul. It wants friendly reefing, and to be as aerodynamic and low-mass aloft as possible. Paddles and oars are assumed, and an electric motor and batteries are likely. Think the capability of Captain Cook's Whitby Colliers, but with a light, 12 foot hull, and a 21st century rig - albeit with mast hoops.

Like the Colliers, light-load form stability gives sailing power. And, we, too, want plenty of displacement, not for coal, but for anchors and chain, water, batteries, guests, a hundred pounds of who-knows-what.

Bolger Fieldmouse, courtesy Josh Colvin Stability for the sailor working at the mast is crucial, too, for setting and striking, reefing, and handling ground tackle. It's essential for livability and tent life.

And, without stability for us aged sailors, comfort can be hard to find for efficient sailing, and lounging and sleeping.

Yes, a capable dinghy cruiser should be rightable, sailable when swamped, and, ideally, self bailing. And be light enough to drag up a beach without a winch or tackle.

CLC Eastport Ultralight dinghy While Clam Girl is tucked under the house, more rain only squelches weed whacking. Work on her 'Style B' tent resumed with corner poles of old growth Sugar Pine, bequeathed to me, and saved from Detroit's pre-computer days of insatiable consumption of wood for patternmaking. This tent is for warm weather, so shade, ventilation, and a broad, adaptable rain fly over no-see-'em netting are mandatory. A snug tent won't do. We want a shaded, screened veranda, not a hot bunker.

CLC Eastport Ultralight dinghy Another epiphany. Instead of finishing the very bare Trinka hull, it would be simpler to get with JF for a zip-tied boat like Clam Girl, but a shape as close as we can get to the Trinka 12's, while lighter, too, and maybe four inches longer. Rather than Kirby's high performance daysailer, the Bedinka 12.3 would be a warm-water, optimal dinghy cruiser for Florida's west coast, for an experienced person or couple old enough to adapt.

But, Clam Girl's tent comes first. Chagrin reminds me, 'hours wise; days foolish,' so, she's solidly level and dry at working height under the house. An old cat can learn new moves.


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