Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dirty Duck

For Throwback Thursday this week I give you the Dirty Duck.

Dirty Duck was a wooden Optimist that I bought for my sons in the winter of 1985/86.  We were in the  process of moving house from west of London (where I sailed at the sailing club on Taplow Lake) to the county of Rutland where I planned to sail at Rutland Sailing Club on Rutland Water. Rutland SC had an excellent Optimist junior training program and so I was keen to buy an Optimist so that my eldest son (then 7) could join the beginners' class in the summer and my younger son (then 5) could do the same in a couple of years.

One of my colleagues at work was a member of RSC and had a daughter (older than my sons) who was already in the RSC Optimist program. It was the time when all the hot sailors were switching from wooden to fiberglass Optimists, so he was quite happy to sell me the Dirty Duck. I took the boat back to the rented home where we were staying and set her up on the lawn. My sons just had to try her out right away.

By the time we moved to America at the end of 1988, both sons had learned to sail in the Dirty Duck and we had acquired a new fiberglass Optimist for the older boy. We imported both boats into the USA in the container with our furniture (along with Laser 134628 which I had bought earlier that year before I knew I was moving.)

Dirty Duck (sail number K1400) was sailed in New Jersey at Mountain Lakes Sailing Association (the home of Sunfish Fleet 17) and eventually sold to another English sailing family who lived across the road from us. They exported her back to England, their kids are now grown up, and I have no idea where she is now. Probably rotted away or ceremonially burned. Does anyone sail wooden Optimists any more? All that painting and varnishing every winter!


Tweezerman said...

You knew I couldn't resist commenting about wooden sailing dinghies. There is still quite an underground movement building wooden Optis, especially if you don't care if your kids will be following an Olympic track in their sail training. CABBS, Cleveland Amateur Boat Building Society, offers plans for building a wood Opti that is not class legal but still an Opti in all respects. Click here for a blog about building a wooden Opti from the CABBS plans.

Tillerman said...

That's good to know Tweezerman. There is something special about sailing a wooden boat - even if I do hate all the extra maintenance involved. And of course building wooden dinghies at home does give people an entry into the sport without shelling out the big bucks for a new plastic boat.

Baydog said...

Classic! Beautiful little boat. I never knew they were originally wooden, thought they were fiberglass from the git go. 3 years later came the win at Lavallette.

Tillerman said...

Oh yes, the original Optimist pram dinghy was designed by Clark Mills in 1947 to be built from 3 sheets of plywood.

My son's win at Lavallette was in the newer fiberglass Optimist, a Danish boat built by Winner who I think are still going strong as Optimist builders. That boat was sold to another neighbor in Mountain Lakes for her grandchildren to use.

George A said...

One of the great tragedies surrounding the Opti is it's transformation from a little boat that amateur builders could knock together for very little money so that kids could go racing without bankrupting their parents, into an international class where measurement tolerances are so tight it's almost impossible for a home-built boat to measure in. There's no good reason why an 8' pram should cost $4K. We're not talkin' Olympics here. Some clubs do build woodies in spite of the class and just race 'em within the club. My hat's off to 'em.

The international class stance is that having tight measurement rules and sanctified builders insures a true one-design fleet. Hog Wash. The International Opti represents a class bureaucracy trying protect it's own interests and is also a silent testament to the fact that most adults in this county couldn't drive a nail straight if their lives depended on it. It's easier to just write a check even if that check is for an absurd amount.

Tillerman said...

Fighting talk George!

But you are right. I am no good at woodwork. I can't drive a nail in straight or even saw a straight line. Nobody would want to sail a boat that I built. But I did have other talents and was able to earn enough money to buy a fiberglass boat for my son that was good enough to sail competitively at our club and in local regattas. So shoot me.

George A said...

Ah Com'on Tillerman; just beat that last little bit of craftsmanship out of your soul and you'll go on to build many fine boats. The first few will be messy but are part of the learning curve. My point is that normal people with just a few skills should be, and indeed are, capable of building the slab sided box that is an Opti. Plywood, a few bits of timber, epoxy resin, some screws and you've got a hull and blades. Even if you bought spars, a sail and all the associated hardware (blocks, lines etc.) you could probably put a woodie on the water for a grand.

Interesting note: The Windmill hull is basically two Optimists joined together with a sharp stem instead of a "transom" bow. This is not too surprising in that Clark Mills designed both boats.

Damian said...

My first boat was also a wooden Optimist - K-1243. It had many quirks, but the most notable was its solid-wood mast. Man, that thing was heavy.

My parents finally decided to buy me a new boat (also a Winner) when they were watching me sail at a regatta at Bowmoor Sailing Club. I was sailing on a broad reach, and just about to disappear behind an island on the lake, when I was hit by a gust. The last thing they saw was me hiking out the back of the boat, next to the tiller, while the weight of the mast and the gust buried the bow and lifted the back of the boat out of the water.

I didn't reappear out the other side of the island for quite some time.

Once they had recovered from the hilarity and wiped the tears of laughter from their cheeks, they agreed with each other that they'd buy me a boat that didn't have spars that required two strong men to lift them.

Incidentally, one of the national championships I sailed in was won by a wooden boat (K-2997), sailed by Chris Mayhew. It was pretty much the only wooden boat in the fleet. His dad built the boat for him, and it was absolutely beautiful. I hope someone is still sailing it somewhere.

Joe said...

Optis rock! The Opti was designed by Clark Mills in 1947. He designed the boat so it could be built from three sheets of plywood....wooden opti. It's based off of the Sabot, which was designed in 1939. Other variations are the El Toro (1940 NorCal) and the Naples Sabot (SoCal 1946).

Anonymous said...

Excellent comments.
What a great nautical history lesson
I think I'll go bend some nails

Jamie said...

While I do love wooden boats, at least the idea of them - not sure I could spend that much time varnishing, this post piqued my interest because of your comments about Rutland. I've sailed there for the past 10 years, recently bought a Laser so have been reading your blog for 6 months or so but always just assumed you were an American born and bred. However, I was racing last night in my main boat, an A-class catamaran, in the Thursday evening series in about 18-20 knots... Came round the 2nd leeward mark and was getting in the groove upwind and, of all coincidences, saw a lovely looking wooden Oppie out for a play! The club, and the sailing school, is still going as strong as I can remember it, churning out great sailors still! Just thought you might like to know :)

Tillerman said...

Thanks Jamie. Good to know there is still at least one wooden Optimist on Rutland Water.

my2fish said...

That is a very nice looking Opti. I'm pretty sure that Kyle, owner of Shoreline Sailboats in western NY, has been building a wooden Opti.

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