A neophyte's view of the junk rig

  • 24 May 2024 21:44
    Reply # 13361579 on 13360136
    Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Anonymous wrote:

    I've read Hassler's book many times, Roger Taylor's, and others, and I've watched every video on YouTube on the subject. I've made little models of rigs out of paper but have yet to touch an actual sail.

    Bonjour Andy

    Yo didn't notice Bill Tilman who is the reference in term of minimalism in climbing and sailing. Just in case you didn't read "Mischief in Patagonia by H.W. Tilman"; a great book.


  • 22 May 2024 16:02
    Reply # 13360269 on 13360136

    Hello Andrew, 

    Have a look at the writings and you tube postings from Swedish sailor Sven Yrvind, (formerly Sven Lundin), who has built a number of boats in the basement of his mother's house in Goteborg. He has achieved some notable voyages in these micro cruisers. One of his most recent designs, named Exlex, used very short, light masts that he can pick up and re-plant in various positions, to help his boat self steer. I think you will discover that his philosophy and yours are closely aligned.


  • 22 May 2024 13:23
    Reply # 13360165 on 13360136

    Hi Andy,
    Being the first to answer your message doens't mean by far that I am the most experienced.
    I like the approach of buying a boat before learning to sail. I was mine also several years ago, and a small boat like the Hurley 22 is certainly the good boat who will forgive your mistakes and keep them cheap.
    The only curious thing that strikes me, is when you write about having "2 or 3 junk sails", I suppose, each on different masts. Though I understand that a short 16 feet mast is certaily easy to handle, I can't imagine having 3 of them on a small boat!
    Having unstayed masts means they have to go through the cabin, taking an already cramped space in the living quarters.
    Plus you'd have to multiply halyards and sheets, and organize them on the deck or in the cockpit.
    A 22 feet mast and one sail would be my preference. I once had a Dufour T7, 21 feet, and with 2 inox pipes forming a "A" frame, I could put the mast up or down alone in about half an hour (there was no tabernacle, otherwise it would have been a lot quicker).
    Now I may not have understood correctly, but I'm eager to read other members comments.
    Best, Patrick

  • 22 May 2024 12:05
    Message # 13360136

    Hi everyone. I don't know if this is where to post this, but here I go.

    First, I'm not a sailor. I'm a mountaineer and climber, and have been for the last fifty years (I started climbing aged 4). I have only ever been a passenger on boats. But for some reason, for the last twenty years, I've been a student of the junk rig—not really boats as such, but just this esoteric way of propelling them.

    I've read Hassler's book many times, Roger Taylor's, and others, and I've watched every video on YouTube on the subject. I've made little models of rigs out of paper but have yet to touch an actual sail.

    This interest stems from an obsessive study – important in mountaineering - in pure utility and simplicity, always about what can be stripped, reduced, left behind, never what can be added to make something "better". Complexity hobbles you, holds you back, and can kill you. "If you were not cold, you had too many clothes. If you were not hungry, you carried too much food. If you were not frightened, you had too much gear. If you got up the route, it was too easy anyway." To my novice mind, the junk rig seemed to represent a more practical, robust and functional way of moving a boat on the water. It was alpine-style sailing.

    This week, I finally bought my first boat (it was basically free), a 1968 Hurley 22. The idea is to strip it all back to basics, fit it out with a junk rig, and then learn how to sail (most people learn how to sail, then buy a boat, but I'm doing it the other way around). 

    On having got my hands on a real boat at last, here is my novice - alpinist - view on a trad Bermuda rigged boat:

    1. the term 'junk' might be more fitting for the Bermuda rig, as there seems to be so much stuff! To make the boat move seems to require a nightmare of 'things' big and small, long and short, fixed and moving. I've got bags and bags of sails, poles and pulleys, wires and connectors, pins and shackles. I can't make head nor tail of it all. If I had an unstayed mast with a junk sail, my novice head could get my head around that. But not this. This all seems like a recipe for disaster.

    2. If a boat's fundamental duty is 'not to sink,' this traditional rig, with all its stresses and strains on the deck, all those through deck fittings, seems designed to rip the boat apart. It appears to work like a helicopter, requiring constant maintenance, tweaking and scrutiny to avoid catastrophic failure. If one thing breaks, the whole thing could come crashing down. Nothing is overbuilt; everything is built as close to failure as possible. 

    Just looking at the mountain of bags and poles in my garden, I can't help but feel - even though I'm a no nothing - that this junk rig method has to be the way to go. Yes, it might be a bit slower, but what price for speed?

    Although not a sailor, I have a lot of sea kayaking experience, and my idea is to make the Hurly into a super sea kayak, strip out all the junk, the wires and electronics, with one or two or three junk sails, probably with short (16 foot) wooden masts on tabernacles. I'm lucky as I can leave my boat at the local harbour for free (I live in Ireland), but being able to drop the mast quickly would be handy for the constant storms on the West Coast. I want a boat and mast scaled to a human size that could be manhandled without machines. 

    But being a neophyte, I probably don't know what I'm talking about, but I'm looking forward to learning what I don't know.

    I'm sharing these thoughts and observations because my day job is writing books that are painfully detailed about the technical aspects of climbing (think Haynes manual style, but rather than cars, about people). This can easily lead to a very dry and methodological relationship with the subject, all about methods and systems, and less about what they're designed to help you achieve, the art and poetry, the safe and successful completion of a creative endeavour.  And so, one thing I've come to value most of all is not the input of the most experienced on these subjects but the novice, the no-nothings, as they remind me of the viewpoints and questions and realisations I once had, which helps to keep the spark of what made it special alive.

    So, as a new member of the JRA please be patient if you see me posting any really stupid questions, as I'm still at the stage of not even knowing the right questions to ask.




       " ...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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