Profile of the Caledonia Yawl "Heron"
In late 1999 Bill Boyd admitted to himself that he owned the wrong
For a while he'd been thinking that his full keel sailboat
no longer met his needs.Then in 1996 he saw a Caledonia Yawl at the
WoodenBoat show in Mystic where Geoff Kerr of Two Daughers Boatworks
was giving demonstration rides in one. For Bill, who wanted to start
doing some sailing in places other than the Maine coast, and wanted
to simplify the whole business of boat ownership, the Caledonia Yawl
seemed ideal. Returning home, Bill reflected on the 14 years he'd sailed
with his 30' sloop and began contemplating its sale. But such decisions
don't come easily. Finally, he made up his mind. The keelboat had to
Click on the boat pictures to enlarge. Select 'Back' to return to
Now I'll let Bill takes up the story;
loved the boat up at WoodenBoat Magazine, where I got the plans. I checked
with friends there about building a Caledonia Yawl and they confirmed
my feeling that it was a fine design, that edge-glued plywood was a
relatively easy-to-build, strong, and light method of construction for
such a boat. I had built one other boat before, Joel White's "Shearwater",
a 16' pulling boat; also of edge-glued plywood, and felt excited by
the challenge of something bigger, but quietly confident too that I
could do it.
As I was expecting to keep the boat on a trailer and sometimes tow
it long distances, I also thought this method of construction was ideal
as the boat wouldn't dry out or open up at any seams.
Of the three rigging options, I chose the balanced-lug rig for its
simplicity and because I had heard that high-peaked lugsails could sail
almost as close to the wind as a sloop rig. But above all, I wanted
it for its ease of rigging, dismantling and stowing.
built "Heron's" hull of 3/8" Shelwood sapele mahogany
plywood (Shelwood is reported tobe as good or better than Bruynzeel)
and laminated the stems up from 1/4" strips of Douglass Fir. I
got the Shelwood plywood from Maine Coast Lumber in York, Maine. They
are a division of Harbor Sales, a plywood distributor of Baltimore,
MD. Sapele is tougher than Okoume, and has a lovely finish.
I gave all the plywood planks 3 coats of epoxy. They looked so lovely
I wondered about finishing the boat
bright, but in the end and for the sake of practicality I decided to
paint almost everything except the gunwales, rudder housing, and mizzen
partner. I made the benches from 1/2" miranti marine plywood, which
is less expensive than sapele and not nearly as fine a finish but what
the heck, I planned to paint them anyway. I used laminated sapele and
miranti (sometimes mixing the two) for some heavier pieces, such as
the lifting rudder's stock, the 1 1/2" thick cambered deck support
under a portion of the forward deck, and the centerboard. Five pounds
of lead went into the bottom of the centerboard and the whole bottom
half of the board was sheathed in fiberglass.
I made up bilge runners for the bottom to protect the hull, but have
not covered any of the hull's plywood with fiberglass.
Oughtred 's design for the interior of the CY leaves much to the builder's
imagination and needs: the boat can be left entirely open or almost
completely decked-over. I decided to deck over the bow section 6"
down from the sheer line as far back as the mast partner (resulting
in a higher and stronger mast partner) so that I would also have a location
to stow an anchor and place a block or cleat. I also placed the mizzenmast
partner just below the sheer line - again, a high and strong location
where I could also place a cleat and some controls for the mizzen sail.
I ran benches from the after thwart to the forward thwart. Apart from
this, "Heron" is open. Stowage is in dry bags under the benches
and up in the forepeak.
I made the forward thwart completely removable. Instead of having
the thwart for structural strength I glued in a 2x4 under the forward
thwart at the same level as the center thwart, side benches, and the
centerboard cap. I plan to fabricate two bunks out of two sheets of
marine-grade plywood which will lie on top of the 2x4, cap, benches,
and center thwart and extend well into the forepeak. This will provide
7' of sleeping space for two, with stowage under. I hope to someday
have a dodger or tent to cover this area.
I built the spars of solid "Northern" Spruce, whatever that
is. I was fortunate to find very good stock for this and the price was
reasonable. Sitka spruce would have cost double and not been much lighter.
I laminated most of these spars out of two sections, the main mast out
of three. The spars, I thought, were amazingly quick and easy to do,
and I was pleased how well they came out
The forward mast and mizzenmast lock into position behind a wooden
"gate" which is easily opened or closed. The masts can be
lowered into the cockpit, pivoting in their mast step. There is a downhaul
and cleat attached to the foremast, which attaches to the boom with
a simple shackle or carabiner. This is very fast and easy to undo. I
have also run a topping lift to the end of the boom.
and pintles for the lifting rudder are bronze castings from Classic
Marine in England (they have them already made up for the Caledonia
Yawl and some other boats).
I fashioned a wood support for a stock canoe motor mount (from L.L.
Bean) which carries a 2 hp long-shaft Honda outboard on the aft port
quarter of the boat. This arrangement works well for auxiliary power,
although I have to be careful where everyone sits to keep the propeller
and bottom shaft submerged. I sense this is adequate for occasional
auxiliary power, but not for more frequent outboard use.
I opted for the Norwegian-style tiller, where the steering force is
imparted to the rudder via a long push/pull tiller, because I thought
I could sail more comfortably with it. This has indeed turned out to
be the case! I can stand, sit, face forward or back, on the port or
starboard side, and steer the boat comfortably and effectively. I suppose
this steering system is a little more complicated and perhaps a little
less strong than the centerline tiller, but so far it has worked just
fine despite the strength of the wind and the height of the waves. It's
simply much more comfortable to steer with!
For the last few years my wife and I have taken a winter holiday camping
in Florida. If you know Maine you'll know why. This year, for the first
time, we took Heron as well. It was to be her inaugural launch and sail.
1800 miles is a long drive even by US standards. I was a bit nervous
about towing Heron so far, but needn't have worried. She's light and
the trailer tracks well. My belief in edge-glued ply proved right too.
Except for turnpike grime, sustained 70-80 mph blasts of sometimes very
warm air did my boat no apparent harm at all.
sailing in Florida was
.great. Well worth all those dark cold
nights in the boatshed.
The lug rig proved every bit as quick and easy to set up as I had
hoped. Indeeed I found I could "commission" or "decommission"
Heron in just 10-15 minutes..
The sails were made by Center Harbor Sails, Brooklin, Maine. A friend
sailing with me commented that the sails must have been very well made,
thus accounting for the exceptional windward performance of this boat.
I don't know if the sailmaker is the answer, but I do know that Center
Harbor Sails has the advantage of being just down the road from WoodenBoat
Publications and School. I know they have built many traditional sails
for WoodenBoat customers before. The sails do draw very well and the
sailing performance of the boat is beyond my expectations.
I found the lifting rudder works well too. It sets deep in the water
when lowered and can be raised to adjust
for the shallows. The big question is whether the housing of the rudder
gives the lifting blade enough support where necessary. I built it following
Mike O'Brien's admonitions (Mike is Senior Editor at WoodenBoat Magazine)
to fabricate it so there is a larger interface area between the blade
and the housing than the plans show, but I still worry about how adequately
the blade is supported. To cut to the quick: I think my rudder housing
might be spreading a tad as the result of rudder pressures on it. We'll
We have yet to see about how much ballast seems appropriate for the
boat. In Florida I sailed with no ballast at all. Down in the Keys when
the wind was sometimes more than 20mph, the boat still sailed well -
little danger of heeling too much - yet I found the rolling motion of
the boat was a bit too quick. I think some ballast will correct this.
I also think another one or two hundred pounds of ballast might give
the boat more momentum to punch through waves. Remember, the hull is
very light due to the way she is built. I sense that removable or trim-able
ballast might work well in this case. I am thinking of installing 100
lbs. or so of permanent lead ballast, and having on hand another 100
lbs. in removable sandbags for when I sail solo.
I live in Maine. March, and sailing Heron down in the Keys seems long
ago. I haven't had a chance to sail Heron since. But the Maine summers,
if and when they ever get here, are always worth the wait.
See pictures of Heron sailing at the Wooden Boat Festival in Maine
in July 02 here
Bill has also sent me some more detailed pictures of Heron's outboard
bracket. These will be added to a new page I'm planning for the website
on fitting outboards to a Caledonia Yawl. I'm looking for pictures of
more outboard brackets and pictures of outboard wells. Contact me please
via the Discussion Board if you can help.
More Caledonia Yawl stories and pictures anyone? Contact me via the
Discussion Forum and I'll create a page for you and your boat. Nick