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Boat of the Month

October 2023   Surprise

By Johan Uil

I'm a captain on inland barges by profession. Most of the time I have worked on tanker barges and my working area stretches over the Western European waterways in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, parts of France, and Switzerland.

These days I'm hauling vegetable oil, but I used to haul chemicals and fuel as well.

My boat is a Regina 1, Dutch designed, steel hard chine double ender, designed and built by Valk in Franeker, Netherlands in the 60's.

They are built mainly of steel, with a mahogany cabin.

In those days you could order plans and weld your own Regina in your backyard and for some reason I suspect my boat started life in a backyard.

I bought my boat in 2005 and named her Surprise, because I'm a big fan of the Aubrey/ Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brian.

When I bought her, she had a wooden mast and, I think, still her original sails, made of Egyptian canvas. So, after a year or so, I ordered a new set of sails. I wanted to refit her interior but due to unsuspected circumstances it took me more than seven years. During that period, I was able to purchase a second-hand aluminium mast because the wooden one was completely rotten. Finally, in 2017, Surprise was sailing again, but I never really liked her performance. Although she was bermuda rigged she could not point as high as other sailboats.

Then, one Friday evening I bought a magazine, called Practical Boat Owner, which included an article about Annie Hill who converted her Raven 26 from a bermuda sloop into a junk. She mentioned the JRA and Arne Kverneland and how he designs and builds his sails. That kept nagging ...  It took a few years to gather the courage to finally convert Surprise to a junk.

I didn’t know how to weld, but after some encouragement and You Tube videos I set about learning. I was determined to have a tabernacle because I wanted to be able to lower my mast. I removed the forepeak hatch and welded a 4mm steel plate in the opening.

After fixing the mast position I cut a 12x12 cm hole in that plate and inserted a square tube which I welded at the bottom, so that it protruded 70 cm above deck.

(A heavy beast, by the way).

For the mast, I bought two alloy tubes, one of 11 cm diameter and thickness of 5 mm, and the other 10 cm x 3mm.  I cut 2 meters from the smaller tube and inserted it in the bigger section, and fastened it with rivets.

All around the JRA I read about people using Odyssey II for the sail, so I figured I must get something equivalent. I ended up with Mehler Artex Classic which I purchased at ESVO camping and outdoor in Volendam, Netherlands. I didn't know how to operate a sewing machine, but once again, a video on You Tube saw to that. 

Then the battens. I didn't want to use aluminium because it is so expensive. So, I ended up with bamboo. I first put the question on Facebook and I looked up discussions on the JRA forum, and after some other research at the website of Bamboo Import Europe, it looked more promising.

Then, finally, the day came for the sea trial. But then my outboard engine decided he could do with an extra day of rest. Luckily, a neighbour skipper came by and asked: " Sea trials today ?” 

“No”, said I, “engine broke down”.  “Well”, he said. “I can offer you a ride on my boat, but what did you actually build?”  “A junk rig”, said I, and hoisted my sail just to show him what I had done. 

He was in awe. “I want to see that sail”, he said, “I will give you a tow”.

And so went my first sail with a junk rig.

Since then I have been out two more times and I'm wondering why I didn't do it before 

Our "Boat of the Month" Archive is here, and the forum discussion for comments and candidate suggestions is here


The forum posts listed above are from selected public fora. To see all the public posts, select "Forums" from the menu at the left.

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       " ...there is nothing - absolutely nothing - half so much worth doing as simply messing about in junk-rigged boats" 
                                                               - the Chinese Water Rat

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