<b>Although updated for the contemporary sailor, the Caledonia’s still very visible lineage is part of her appeal.</b> Viking raids must have been shocking. Seemingly from nowhere a fleet of sleek, shallow-draft, square-sailed vessels would appear through the fog at dawn and run up to the beaches. Hordes of warriors hardened by weeks at the oars would swarm ashore wielding spears and battle axes and screaming like madmen. The Vikings were able to penetrate virtually any waterway in Europe in their narrow ships, some with length-to-beam ratios greater than 6:1 and as many as 30 rowing stations. Doubled-ended, they could reverse direction without having to turn around. The versatile longships epitomized Scandinavian naval power and helped to make the Vikings a dominant force until the middle eleventh century. Not until the 14th century were the low-freeboard vessels exposed as ineffective against newer, taller ships—the last Viking longship was defeated in 1429—but their influence on nautical design was profound and lasting. Although the fearsome dragon head prows are a relic of the past, the basic longship design lives on. The Shetland yoal, a smaller, six-oared, lug-rigged double-ender used primarily for fishing was popular through the 19th century. Early yoals were actually imported from Norway in marked pieces like kit boats since the Scottish archipelago lacked the trees to produce them domestically. It could be said traditional small-boat designer Iain Oughtred was standing on the shoulders of Norse giants when he drew his 19' 6" Caledonia Yawl—a boat he says was inspired by the yoal. With interests that include WWII airplane models, traditional music, and medieval calligraphy, Oughtred admits to being something of an anachronism. “Sure, I like things that are old. But only if they are good examples of their kind,” he says. “I’m content with the ancient technology, especially the simplicity, the toughness and durability, and the old-fashioned style.” Although Oughtred’s Caledonia might look as if she sailed directly out of 19th century, she’s not actually a re-creation. Designed for the contemporary sailor, she’s lighter, more versatile, and almost certainly a better all-round performer than her ancestors. Having seen quite a few of them on the water lately, we asked Oughtred if the Caledonia was his best selling plan. “The most popular designs have always been the traditional lapstrake dinghy designs. But the more versatile double-enders have been consistently popular as well.” Oughtred notes that over the last couple of years the 18' 2" Arctic Tern, his personal favorite, has been the most popular, closely followed by the Caledonia. “The Caledonia Yawl seems to be especially appealing to sailors in the Pacific Northwest and in Maine.” Oughtred says. “I managed to sail three of them on a recent trip to the Northeast.” He says it’s always interesting to see what builders have done with their boat to suit their particular purpose. “One has built-in buoyancy forward but not aft; I point out that this could be complicated if the boat is ever swamped or capsized. Some like steel centerplates for the effective ballast weight; I prefer a nicely shaped wood board and separate ballast if required. A compromise is the 1/2" steel plate with shaped wood sides in a standard-width case (trunk).Some like a simple fixed rudder; some need a lifting one. One added a jib to the lugand- mizzen rig, which seems to work fine, as these boats seem to be very un-fussy about the CLR. Folding cuddies for a bit of shelter are very appealing; some sailmakers specialize in these. Some prospective builders are thinking of stretching the hull up to about two feet longer.” Oughtred also notes the varying finish standards. “One was superbly built and finished to ‘yachty’ standard, which requires more care and attention. The others were bare basic workboat-finished boats, which suited their owners fine— they can heave aboard the barbecue and boxes of picnic or camping gear, make room for all their friends and the dog etc., and drive them up onto a gravelly beach.I like both!” We were fortunate to meet and sail with Caledonia Yawl owner/builder Roger <b>Coulter at Liberty Bay in Poulsbo, Washington. PERFORMANCE: “I also fly a small spinnaker downwind—a used Blue Jay spinnaker is just the right size and doesn’t require a pole. The shallow Draft, small wetted surface, and canoe stern makes it very effective in light air. ” Roger Coulter, 2004 Spindrift “Excellent in light air. I often pass larger keel boats, much to their chagrin. Points pretty well, but in a moderate breeze I can’t point as high as larger marconi-rigged sloops.” Christopher Cunningham, 2003 Alison Speed is impressive. Hull is very easily driven up to about four knots, and can be sailed near six with bravado. Doesn’t point real well. In light air the most effective close-hauled tack with my balanced lug is about 60° to the wind.” Nik Worden, 2009 Sutil</b> Coulter opted for the jib-gaff main-mizzen rig when building his Caledonia Yawl, as opposed to the original balanced lug with mizzen. The downside is more rigging complexity (the jibbed rig uses shrouds and a forestay) and that this rig is harder for a short-handed crew to manage with its additional sail and sheets. One advantage is that this setup can be quickly matched to heavy air when the main is dropped and the boat continues under just jib and mizzen, but the most important potential upside is improved weatherliness—which Coulter contends is substantial with his high-peaked gaff and jib. Pushing away from the marina dock we set sail and ghosted along in barely a whisper—the sail area adequate even for light air where we expect the Yawl might surprise some bigger boats. When a bit of breeze did finally arrive, we found she got up to speed easily and pointed as well as a typical cruising sloop. What surprised us was how much effect The mizzen had on handling. In fact, Coulter suggested we use the mizzen sheet—not the push-pull tiller—to steer the boat. This took some getting used to, and with three sheets in hand sometimes, we’d call this setup a “sailor’s rig,” as there’s certainly plenty to think about. Although in most conditions the jib and mizzen can be cleated. While controls were unfamiliar, the boat itself was responsive. In either configuration the Caledonia Yawl is regarded as versatile: running wing and wing, heaving-to easily—even being sailed backward. <b>TRAILERING AND LAUNCHING:</b> “Very easy to trailer. Shallow draft and very little rocker means that virtually any ramp will work and the boat slides on and off easily. The boat is light and sits easily on a bunk trailer—I added a 2 x 6 on top of two blocks on top of the bunks —the 2 x 6 gives just enough natural spring so that the boat is cradled.” Roger Coulter, 2004 Spindrift “The traditional rig requires some care in stowing so that the lines and parts unwrap properly when re-rigging.” Nik Worden, 2009 Sutil At probably 550 pounds for boat and rig, with a low profile and shallow draft, the Caledonia Yawl is an easy tow behind almost any vehicle. And most owners told us launch and retrieval was simple at virtually any ramp. Rigging the two-sailed lug version is apparently painless, with one owner saying he can be ready to launch in five or six minutes. Roger Coulter’s three-sailed rig requires setting shrouds and forestay (he uses Spectra), and he has to lace the main to mast and gaff, a process he says takes another 10 minutes—for a total rigging time of approximately 40 minutes. <b>SEAWORTHINESS: </b>“It absorbs gusts without fuss. I’ve sailed the rail under only once or twice and just eased the sheet. There was no sense of impending doom.” Christopher Cunningham, 2003 Alison “The boat’s very capable of sailing well in heavy weather—the main has two reef points, and I’m fond of sailing under just jib and mizzen. The push-pull tiller arrangement can be a challenge in heavy weather, but I quickly learned to steer by trimming and easing the mizzen. The relatively low initial stability can be startling to people. It’s not a sailing dinghy, but it’s not a keel-boat either. I’ve found that it does require the crew (and passengers) to move around under sail—which can be difficult for people with stiff bones.” Roger Coulter, 2004 Spindrift The Caledonia’s historically seaworthy hull shape inspires confidence, as does her generous beam and greater initial stability. Good reserve buoyancy and a strong sheer also indicate the Yawl is plenty capable. While more tender than a hard-chined boat of the same size, the Caledonia is more stable than many boats of her type. The boat dipped her rail some when we stepped aboard, but there was no alarming heel. In her stock form the Caledonia might be difficult or even impossible to self-rescue in the event of a full capsize. However, she would be self-rescuable if the boat was equipped with buoyancy bags, or better yet—built with sufficient fore and aft buoyancy from bulkheads, decking and secure hatches. Oughtred has not capsized a Caledonia Yawl but says he’s done so on the 19-foot Ness Yawl, and others, and found that after he instinctively climbed over onto the centerboard, the boats came up right away. He says with a piece of cloth, an old towel, or even a sweater stuffed into the top of the slot, the boats were easily bailed out. Like with reefing, he suggests capsize recovery should be practiced in calm conditions. A transom mounted rudder, lack of through-hulls, and good heavy-weather rig all contribute to seaworthiness. The stock design scores a solid 134 points on our SCA Seaworthiness test. <b>ACCOMMODATIONS:</b> “My wife and I have cruised for nine days very comfortably in Desolation Sound. We raise the floorboards to make a platform and use Thermarests—which make you wake up a little stiff, but not unreasonably. We’ve found you need a well protected harbor because waves or wakes make the rocking a little unnerving as you sleep. There’s plenty of room for a few coolers, a portable head, a three-burner camp stove, water bags. We keep our gear in dry-bags. We made a simple canopy tent with roll-down walls that hasn’t been tested in a squall, but has worked well in a stiff breeze. Living on-board does require collaboration: ‘I’m going forward to use the head, can you move aft and switch sides?’ On the other hand, sleeping on-board is superior to sleeping onshore because there are no bugs over the water.” Roger Coulter, 2004 Spindrift Many as four or even five aboard is reasonably comfortable on the Yawl. There are seats running most of the length of the boat fore and aft, and a thwart or two— usually one at the centerboard trunk. Stowage options are many, with lots of room under or inside seats and in bow and stern lockers. Most owners raise floorboards or place filler boards to make a raised berth for sleeping two. There is plenty of length and width, but only the typically modest height from seat tops to rail to keep crew from rolling overboard. Custom cockpit tents are popular. Owner Christopher Cunningham redesigned the entire interior for campcruising— even moving the board and trunk off center. He calls the boat “a great beach cruiser” but points out the keel and the garboard deadrise preclude her from taking the ground level. <b>QUALITY:</b> “As the builder, I’m well aware of all the failings and mistakes. Indeed, I’m quite surprised that it performs so well.” Roger Coulter, 2004 Spindrift “The garboard ends have a lot of twist. I opted for using 12mm plywood on the garboards (9mm for the strakes above) and got one home to the aft stem. The other broke. I scarfed a new end on and steamed that into place.” Christopher Cunningham, 2003 Alison. “I am presently building the Caledonia Yawl and can only say that the plans are exquisite. Each and every part of the boat is clearly diagrammed and dimensions given, taking all the guesswork out of the building process. This is certainly necessary for me as I have no prior education in the field of woodworking. I trust my boat will be launched early next year. I would certainly recommend an Oughtred boat as a first build due to the details.” Eric de Jong, Uitgeest, The Netherlands Naturally the quality of wooden boats built to plans varies considerably, in fact the designer even allows for lighter or heavier construction methods. In general, however, owners appear pleased with the function and durability of glued-lapstrake construction as called for by the plans. It should be noted Oughtred has released a new 7-strake Mark II model. The primary reason is that it eliminates the 1/2" garboard; all planking is 9mm, making construction easier. The plans themselves were called “good or “excellent” by most owners. One owner suggested Oughtred’s book (Clinker Plywood Boatbuilding Manual) was a worthwhile companion to the building process. <b>COMPROMISES:</b> “People may be a bit unsure about the pushpull tiller. Build it and get used to it. You’ll enjoy it. It gets around the mizzen easily and since it doesn’t sweep through an arc like a regular tiller it doesn’t occupy much working room. The helmsman sits where his weight Needs to be and the tiller follows.” Christopher Cunningham, 2003 Alison. We specifically asked Oughtred about any compromises he made so that the boat would row well, as owners were mostly quite favorable in their review of rowing performance. “There was no tradeoff for rowing,” he told us. “The intention was a sailing boat which could be rowed. It is good to hear they row well, although I am not sure that a single-handed rower would get far to windward in any sort of breeze.” For their part, owners mentioned the rig choices and the decision of whether or not to add an outboard well as important considerations with tradeoffs. There were also some references to compromises associated with a lack of any cruising accommodations like head or galley, or any easy way to escape the weather. <b>MODIFICATIONS:</b> “I elected not to have a motor well, because I didn’t want to remove a motor in order to sail well, nor to have a strut and prop dragging in the water when sailing. Grapeview Boat Works devised an exterior motor mount on the stern quarter to carry a Torqeedo electric motor. This worked after two modifications, but the motor has been unreliable in saltwater, apparently because it is exposed to spray. It might have worked better in a motor well. The boat should have a long-shaft motor in any event—my mistake.”—Nik Worden, 2009 Sutil Most of the owner modifications we heard about have been noted already. We’d also point out that the addition of some decking makes good sense to us, as it keeps the boat drier and offers a logical place to add flotation and stowage. <b>VALUE:</b> “This boat does exactly what I wanted it to do and it does it well. It’s got tremendous versatility within a very narrow field (i.e. it’s got many sailing options, rowing, outboard, it’s got kick-up centerboard and rudder so it can go into four inches of water), but it’s not versatile in the grand boating sense—it’s a camp cruiser more than a daysailer, the two-horse engine is plenty for auxiliary, but at four miles per hour the range is limited (unless you’re on a trailer doing 60). I’m very happy with the value, but I had a very specific need.” Roger Coulter, 2004 Spindrift We’ve heard of Yawls being built for as little as $3,000 and for more than $15,000. Custom boats to-order might cost substantially more. In the end, cost is largely up to the builder. Roger Coulter likes to point out he’s a finance professional by trade, and the first time his wife asked about the expected cost to build the Caledonia he guessed $1500—which is precisely what he spent on the teak floorboards and few associated upgrades. The Caledonia Yawl has a lot to recommend it, and it will be popular with those whose interests include raids and beach cruising, and also with people like Roger Coulter who was a paddler “looking for a wider kayak.” But the heart of the boat’s appeal has to be the sense of tradition. As Iain Oughtred told us, he appreciates new things, but “... old things bring a story along with them.”
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