Friday, April 17, 2009

Minimalist Cruising part one revisited, Roger Taylor, Mingming and a book review

Roger Taylor's book

Roger at the helm of Endeavour II

and in her rigging

Heavy going, port deck awash

Wreck of the Endeavour II

wire  and wood for Roc


Roc's cabin top, notice aft deck, no cockpit

Roc about to be launched

Roc from aloft

Roger Taylor with stores for the first Jester Challenge

Mingming's galley

Mingming 2008

Self steering setup

Whales accompany Roger and Mingming northing

all photos courtesy Roger Taylor

I've just finished Roger's book the "Voyages of a Simple Sailor" and as a reader of many, many  sailing adventure books, this is one of my all time favorites. This book spans a lifetime and the evolution of a bluewater voyager, from tall ships to a tiny 21' Corribee which is junk rigged and adapted to the kind of sailing Roger currently pursues. It's an informative journey. Roger first left his home near the Dee estuary in western England to pursue adventure at the tender age of 8 years. Though hunger brought this first escape to an early close, it wasn't log before Roger was off  to seek adventure in earnest. he travelled Europe, as many others did in those days, riding on his thumb. Eventually Roger made his way to Oz where he signed on to  the tall ship Endeavour II and found adventure aplenty, encountering an adversarial first mate, extreme weather, questionable seamanship on the part of his captain and eventually the loss of the ship, with all hands making their way to safety but not without a great deal of uncertainty and travail. He then forswore putting the responsibility for his life in other hands, but not a life at sea. Roger built a ferrocement cruising vessel appropriately named Roc, and continued his adventures. Take  look at the build, no cockpit! Roger recounts his early experience with Roc in crossing the Tasman sea.
Many years and several boats later Roger Taylor's imagination was captured by the first Jester Challenge in 2006, a 'race' for singlehanded sailors across the Atlantic inspired by and intended to restore the self sufficiency and integretity of Blondie Haslers original intention when initiating the Ostar.  He's still at it, with plans to enter the 2010 event from Plymouth, UK, to Newport RI, USA. Roger's latest boat, Mingming, a seriously modified Corribee 21 with a Junk rig, has been fitted out to enable long voyages singlehanded. In the interim he's made some voyages in Mingming to arctic waters, and  to the Azores. It is possible to investigate all of this, including videos of these voyages and photos of Roger's modifications to Mingming at his website, The Simple Sailor. I want to give both Roger's book and his website my highest recommendation. visit the website, buy the book, you won't be disappointed. anyone interested in blue water cruising in a small boat, or just dreaming about same,  it's (they are) must read!

I recently wrote Roger inquiring as to what preparations he was doing on Mingming to get her ready for the next Jester Challenge, but his focus is more on this summers cruise to Jan Mayen Island (71N 8.5W) in the Arctic, near Svalbard and then to Scoresby Sound in East Greenland, time permitting. He's been insulating the boat w/25mm. foam and has added a set of 10' Ash sweeps for propulsion.
Roger is adament about the advantages of a light displacement small boat for the kind of intimate cruising he pusues. I asked him about heaving to and he replied that while not as easily or simply done as in a long keeled boat, he has been able to achieve similiar results for  Mingming. In his own words:
Certainly traditional cutter and sloop rigged yachts will heave-to better than a light fin keeler, where there is more tendency for the bow to falloff. However it's largely a question of balance between backed jib, mainsail and tiller setting, and I'm sure a reasonable configuration can be found for most yachts. With Mingming I can't heave-to (in heavy weather) in the traditional way as I don't carry a headsail in anything over F5. However I can get her to fore-reach gently to windward with the vane set at 45 degrees to the apparent wind and the mainsail just feathering. This is possible withthe fully-battened junk sail as it doesn't flog. I've ridden out a F9 in theNorth Sea (where running would have sent me the wrong way and into gas rigs and shoal waters) this way in 2007. My most recent Youtube video is a short clip of doing the same thing 20 miles from the Azores, where I just wanted to hold position in a strong headwind until there was a wind shift. 
But there's nothing like going about in a long keeler, leaving the headsail backed, locking the tiller down and enjoying the ensuing peace!