Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Lello 34

*Appeal for Info on the Lello 34:  We are urgently looking for further information on the Lello 34 for possible inclusion as an approved design in the 2018 Golden Globe Challenge. If you can help, PLEASE email myself, or Neree Cornuz (one of the selected entrants). Specifically a copy of the plans, plus any verifiable information on the number of Lello 34's built. It would be fantastic to see this design revived for this race! If you own a Lello 34, we would love to hear from you, and I would like to publish a list of all the Lellos we can trace.
Nice looking Lello 34 (SV Double Helix)
Very traditional, long-keeled sloop, with beautiful lines, Designed by Bryan Lello in about 1966, in South Africa.  It was evidently intended for the first Cape to Rio Race in 1971. They were (mostly) built by Henry Vink in Walkerville on the Vaal Dam in South Africa, and very solidly built at that. Both Bryan Lello and Henry Vink are now deceased for some years, and regrettably we don't have much detailed information on the design.

I think this one was called Coconut....
Full keel with trailing rudder.
Note the position of the prop - aft of the rudder, high up and offset.
Racing aspirations!

Masthead rig, single spreader. Big genoa and long boom.
A simple rig with  good downwind performance.
Nice protected aft cockpit, ideal for shorthanding.

Click to expand.
The advert in SA Sailing in 1968.
Thanks and credit to Richard Crockett (current editor of Sailing Magazine) for digging this up!
Vital Statistics:
LOA 33'7"
LWL: 25'
Beam 9'3.5"
Draft 5'9"
Disp: 6.5 tons
Sail Area 520 sq. ft.
Masthead Sloop with Deck-stepped mast
Aux motor (if fitted!!) 8-15 h.p.
Water tanks 50 gals.

Conventional interior for the time, quite narrow but adequate.
These Lello 34s proved themselves as very solid seaworthy racers, with a number of racing achievements at the time. They were well capable in the very challenging waters on South African South coast. I personally recall the harrowing tales told by two crew (one being an uncle of mine) on a trip from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth - with the late Bobby Bongers - if memory serves. Much of it was upwind....It seems that the boat took it all in it's stride, but the three of them took a few days before they could walk properly!

Although the Lello 34 was a great example of this class of boat - simple long-keel vessel with a simple but modern sloop rig - it would be unfair to compare it with the modern designs we see today. Still - it is very interesting exercise! Looking at say the L34, or Didi 34, the approach has changed fundamentally - these have fin keels, spade rudders, relatively flat underbodies, bulb keels, high reserve stability, taller rigs, and displace about 60% of the Lello 34. Naturally they are significantly faster on all points of sail. Personally, I think the evolution was driven largely by a combination of modern materials and the contribution of new designs from van der Stadt with the RCODs and similar. However, if I were faced with a passage across the Southern Ocean I wouldn't be disappointed if I was forced to take the Lello.... for all its aged design, this is a true "get you home boat" and a long keel does a good job of looking after you when it gets really tough. Also a very seakindly design, if you don't mind getting a bit wet and hobby-horsing on occasion. One would expect this design to track reasonably well with the long keel, but I do wonder if that rudder is adequate for downwind control, especially with the long boom... I suppose it will all come down to reefing strategies, and favoring the large Genoa as the dominant sail in strong winds. Having said that, I haven't sailed on a Lello 34 personally, so I can't comment on the handling and speed from experience. If you can add to this, I would be glad to include it here!

This boat comes from an era where "auxiliaries" were truly optional, and many of the facilities we take for granted simply didn't exist back then. These were the days of sunsights, dead reckoning, hank-on headsails, plumb-bob depth sounders, wind-vane steering systems etc. No GPS, Decca, autopilot, satphones, chartplotters, digital depth sounders or EPIRBs. They often did have VHF and HF radios  (before SSB though!). This was very much the era of the first Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, famously won by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston in Suhaili. Great movie called "Deep Water" on this race, and especially the fate of Donald Crowhurst, who committed suicide near the end.

Now as it happens, this era of sailing is being revived again, in the form of the 2018 Golden Globe Race!!!  Essentially, it's a re-enactment of the first one in 1968. Personally, I look forward to following this race more than any other event I can imagine, America's Cup included. The race is by invitation only, but already around 30 confirmed entrants. The rules specify yachts of 32-36 feet, long keels, and rudders attached to the back of the keel. Technology is limited to what was available to Sir Robin in 1968 - which means almost no electronics besides a VHF and an SSB radio. Details on the link above. Remember this is a non-stop singlehanded circumnavigation from Falmouth-Falmouth. The routing instructions are quite simple:

"Race Route
The race course is an east-about circumnavigation starting and finishing in Falmouth UK. Competitors will sail down the Atlantic from North to South leaving:
• Cape of Good Hope to port 
• Prince Edward Island to starboard
• Crozet Islands to starboard
• Kerguelen Islands to starboard
• 50°S latitude to starboard 
• Cape Leeuwin to port
• Then to a ‘Gate’ in Storm Bay. Tasmania
• Then leaving 50°S latitude to starboard until 100°W longitude 
• Cape Horn to port 
• Sail up the Atlantic from South to North.
• Finish in Falmouth. "

So that's it then! Did I mention just one lap? Any queries from the French? Are we back already?

At this stage I will confess my sudden interest in the Lello 34 took a new turn when I received an email from one of the signed up competitors asking if I had information on the Lello 34. He would like to have it included in the list as it fits the bill quite well, and is likely one of the fastest, given it's LWL / Disp ratio etc. For a number of factors he considers it to be something of a performance boat amongst the other designs. To get the design approved, we are looking for a complete set of plans, plus some kind of confirmation that at least twenty were built. 

Most grateful for any help, it would be great to see this well loved South African design in this race!

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Sad Story of SV Tara

This post is dedicated to the memory of George Mills and Rachel Daly, 
and in support of PJ Daly, the sole survivor of this tragic accident.

Tara, a beautiful 47' Holman and Pye Traditional Wooden Yawl.
Solidly constructed of Mahogany Planks over Oak frames,
she was a strong and well-found vessel displacing 13 Tons.
Images of Tara before the wreck courtesy of Roy McBride of CKD Boats. See his excellent blog here.

George Mills, Tara's most recent owner. Larger than life, and very humble at the same time.
George was a true Scot, a true sailor, happy soul, and an enthusiast of Traditional Scottish Music.
You just have to see this impromptu recording of George in action at HBYC just a few days before this accident.

Tara's most recent owner was George Mills, a member of both Hout Bay and Royal Cape Yacht Clubs. Sadly, George perished along with Rachel Daly at approximately 3 a.m. on Monday 1 Feb 2016, when this boat was wrecked near Bokpunt on the Cape West Coast (near Yzerfontein, South Africa). We have a short tribute to him and the crew (all wonderful people and well known at HBYC) - on the club website. George's death was widely reported in several UK newspapers including The Sun, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail, The Scotman as well as a number of local news agencies.

George spent a lot of time on this boat and kept her immaculate.
Tara also served as the Committee Boat for the previous two
Admiral's Regattas at HBYC, with George at the helm.

Yesterday, just six days after the accident, a gathering was held up at the site of the wreck, in a small bay (now called Tara Bay by those who knew George). This is a very remote and wild piece of coast, access possible only with 4x4s or similar vehicles. A number of folk arrived on horseback too from Ganzekraal.

Some beautiful bunches of flowers placed in a remnant of the hull,
 in memory of George and Rachel.

A few of the 4x4 arrivals from HBYC at Bokpunt.
The stern section of the hull was the only piece "in shape"

Friends of George, PJ and Rachel examining the wreck.
Tara had received a severe pounding on the rocks and the remnants
had been prepared for recovery in small piles.

"Bill" (surname unknown to me) - manager of the Bokpunt conservation area - related the events as he recalled. Tara had wrecked at around 3 am Monday morning, in pitch darkness and heavy mist (suspected possible auto-pilot error - but  investigation still in progress). PJ had scrambled ashore and found the vehicle track along this part of the shore. Fortuitously he followed it Southwards and found the (completely unlit) cottage of Bill about two kilometres further down. He (PJ) banged loudly on the door, as one would expect. An equally shaken Bill responded and together they set off back down the track to locate the wreck in the dark. The managed to spot a small section of the mast pointing upwards and so found the wreck. Bill (via his wife in Cape Town at the time) raised the alarm and a fast and well coordinated disaster plan was effected, including National Sea Rescue and all the related disaster teams. By 9 am the project was complete, save for the visit of SAMSA (SA Marine Safety Authorities), who arrived just two hours later.

I came to know of this tragedy earlier in the week, and we posted a piece in memorial in the HBYC Club website, and laid flowers in the club. I knew George personally via HBYC and had many good drinks with him. But I must confess that this memorial visit to the wreck was absolutely chilling. Besides the human aspect, seeing this beautiful yacht so completely smashed up - along with the rawness of this bleak and vicious coastline - was quite disturbing. To think it all happened in the middle of the night, with dense fog, must have been a complete nightmare.

Go well George, Go well Rachel. 
Our thoughts are now very much with PJ.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Leisure Liner Houseboat

Leisure Liner 1 on a classic river cruise.
Designed by Angelo Lavranos.

The nicest thing about boats is that they whisk you into a different world - away from traffic, taxis, banks, politics and news. This is a world of freedom, sailing, fishing, barbecues, reading, photography or whatever. Trouble is, for most kind of boating adventures, it is a brief and limited experience because you need to return to port for some reason all too often, supplies, perhaps bad weather, or perhaps just because you are cold and miserable! This is the beauty of a houseboat, settled in a nice inland waterway, there is no need to go anywhere - you really have everything with you! Pure bliss!

Spacious and simple, with nice covered aft deck.

Over the past few years, I have had the privilege of three separate holidays or excursions on the Knysna Lagoon in a Leisure Liner Houseboat - being the original Leisure Liner series 1 operated by Lightleys. All three trips were very different but extremely enjoyable - due in no small measure to the design of this boat. I well remember arriving for the first trip in the middle of winter and with a fair bit of rain. We had booked for four nights and I first thought it would be a big mistake! It wasn't. Within an hour or so of arriving we had done the skippers briefing, loaded the boat, parked the car and we were underway. Easy-peasy - nothing complicated about it at all. With evening approaching we settled off Belvidere and laid anchor. Quite a decent anchor at that - this is quite important if you want to get any sleep! The cabin was really neatly laid out with all home comforts - a decent saloon, galley, heads and separate sleeping cabin up front. The sun had set by now so out came the red wine, the Weber braai, some music and soon we settled in for supper. Then a light rain started so we rigged the canvas bimini over the aft deck and just watched the lights on the shore and the odd fish jumping. The boat had very adequate lighting - including the navigation lights obviously - and it really was quite cozy. Eventually we moved into the saloon where out came some whisky, followed by my collection of cameras, ipads, laptops, GPSs, radios etc etc. We had a full 3G signal right across the bay which was a mixed blessing because I had some work to do as well. The rain picked up and we could see it bouncing off the water right next to us. Only 200m off the shore, but what bliss. I set the anchor watch on the GPS to a radius twice the length of the Anchor rode - being tidal one tends to spin around twice a night or so. The next three days were spent exploring the lagoon, braaing, and visiting the various restaurants such as Crabs Creek, the Waterfront, Thesen's Island etc. It was also a damn nice office for a while - very relaxing place to do the odd telecon, write a report etc. 

About the boat, at last! One of the nicest things about these craft is the size and placement of the windows. Strange to open with this but it has to be said. I am beginning to think this is one of the most important facets of practically any liveaboard boat these days - and one which could be largely improved in most cases. The Leisure Liner is fantastic in this respect. The saloon has great windows and so does the galley directly opposite. This makes it a great place to sit and survey the world should it be a bit cool outside. Even the cook and dishwasher can see the world which also helps! The sleeping cabin is superb with all round views - whether one has chosen to settle in and read a book in the afternoon sun, or see the sunrise, or simply to settle in during a day cruise in cold weather - as my ageing parents did on one day trip.
Main sleeping cabin. What a view!

Saloon and Galley. See the nice big windows.
Heads, including a shower.

I haven't spoken with Angelo about this design as yet - I don't know what the design brief was at this stage. But I would guess it would have included aspects of safety, comfort, stability at anchor, manageable by an inexperienced couple, economical to operate and maintain, fit into a standard mooring, decent aft-deck, shallow draft, transportable on a trailer for maintenance etc, cope with reasonably adverse weather in the larger estuaries, and be reasonably mobile (for a houseboat). All of which it does pretty well.... Did I mention anti-claustrophobic? Well that too.

A lot of this is made possible only because of the choice of hull - being a nicely shaped cathedral hull. Cathedral hulls have excellent form-stability, shallow draft, good load capacity, useful internal volume, and they move easily and efficiently. It is possible to keep the weight quite low and central. Certainly this boat felt like it had pretty good reserve stability - even in a large side-on chop. A very stable platform it is and I don't recall any rolling to speak of. Buoyancy in the bow is another useful aspect and this one is high and proud, coping easily in a severe chop. All this means you can load it up with a large cabin right to the ends, on a small footprint, and still have a mobile boat. Construction would be economical relative to the capacity. 

The cabin uses the full width of the boat, which gives it loads of internal volume and full standing headroom. To get to the bow (anchor) it is necessary to walk on the gunwales either side - but this is very easy due to the handrails on the coach roof. Once on the bow, there is a secure place to stand and handle the anchor.

The coach roof is flat and accessible although I never really used it much. Nice for sunbathing on a calm day or perhaps sight-seeing... solar panels even....

This design (Leisure Liner 1) was intended to have one engine, about 22 kw (about 30 Hp), which is quite adequate for rivers and estuaries. I could imagine wanting a wee bit more on the Langebaan Lagoon if facing a fresh South Easter, perhaps 40-50 Hp, but that wouldn't be needed anywhere else. The boats I used all had single 40 Hp 2-stroke Yamahas, which did remarkably well. In practice I ran them at about 30% throttle at about 4-5 knots. This gives a pleasant and quiet ride whilst not wasting fuel. Full throttle would bring up 6-7 knots depending on load and wind etc, and a far higher fuel bill. Not necessary at all. In this age a 4-stroke would be a nice choice though. Personally I was quite happy with a single engine, having used outboards all my life without much trouble, even at sea. 

Single Outboard neatly mounted under a noise cover,
which can double as a lid for the small kettle-braai!

Under way, it looks the business!

Any criticisms? Of course it's easy to criticize a houseboat either as a boat or a house - it's actually quite a challenging design process! 

One issue I recall was trying to steer this boat between the pillars under the Knysna railway bridge in a fresh crosswind. These flattish hulls do tend to yaw somewhat at slowish speeds - and one is advised to go fairly fast and concentrate. That worked fine... 

Manoeuvring a large flat bottomed boat like this with one engine in the tight confines of a marina is another aspect that takes a bit of getting used to, and in some cases the charter agents offer a pilot to come aboard for this. But tight marina berths are not the norm for many of these vessels and it won't usually be an issue. A bit of practice is all that's needed. One one occasion, I thought it would be neat to have an indoor steering position, although I can see how this could add unwanted cost and complexity.

Overall - dam nice boat - cleverly conceived and designed - and loads of fun in my experience.

Near Knysna Heads
Leisure Liner 1, vitals, per Lavranos website:
  • LOA: 8.3 m
  • Beam 3.0 m
  • Draft 0.35 m
  • Max Speed 8 kts
  • Sleeps 6, 2 cabins
  • Power 22 kW
Described as a "LOW WASH GRP PRODUCTION HOUSEBOAT". Designed in 1988, 90 built!

NOTE that the Leisure Liner 1 is no longer being built, and would require design changes today to comply with current SAMSA regulations.

The Leisure Liner 2: In recent years, a newer update model of this design has been released - known as the Leisureliner 2 (LL2). Full details on their website at www.leisureliner.com

I have not experienced or even seen the new model personally, but the new design is a MAJOR UPGRADE from the LL1. 

Recent LL2 at the V&A in Cape Town

Major new features:
  • Flybridge and helm option
  • Two outboards, 40 - 90 Hp - easy cruise at 10-12 knots, maxes out at 20-25+ knots with 90 Hp!
  • Covered aft deck
  • Complies with SAMSA CAT E and D 
  • Coastal capability in light to moderate conditions!
  • Improved internal layout, and slightly larger
  • Furnishing as for a luxury yacht.  
  • Quite good value considering the package - this is a substantial vessel... pricing per the wesbite shows R 795k for the basic vessel, excl. VAT, motors, options (at Sept 2015).
  • Large variety of ownership options (sharing, chartering etc)

Angelo Lavranos, the designer, has a website at http://www.lavranosyachtdesign.co.nz/index.htm