Home>Dale Davenport's Caledonia Yawl Rebecca Ann
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Rebecca Ann

Dale Davenport buys a Geoff Kerr Caledonia Yawl hull and tells how he then fitted her out and rigged her. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Rebecca Ann - a Geoff Kerr hull fitted out by Dale DavenportAn interest in both boats and woodworking led me years ago to subscribe to WoodenBoat magazine. The "Designs" article on the Caledonia Yawl (CY) around 1992 caught my eye. A few years later a photograph in the magazine of Oughtred's MacGregor sailing canoe captivated me so much that I ordered plans and built the decked, single-masted version for one of my children. Then I built a CLC Chesapeake kayak with the trimaran sail rig for my other child.

Rebecca Ann all set to goIn mid-1999 I saw in an ad for that year's WoodenBoat show that builder Geoff Kerr of upstate Vermont would be exhibiting his CY. I couldn't attend the show, but later that summer I got the chance to visit Geoff's 2 Daughters Boatworks shop in Westford and see a Caledonia Yawl for myself. Then in the fall of that year I took a ride in Geoff's own CY during the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival at St. Michaels, Maryland. Geoff and I discussed that day the possibility of him building a hull for me to complete.
By the spring of 2001, it was time to get my own boat and the choice of design was easy. The Caledonia Yawl had no single characteristic that wasn't bettered in some other design I had seen. But no other craft I had come across had a combination of features better suited to my type of sailing. I liked the fact that it is tough, beachable, light for transport, can be slept on, carries a lot of stuff, will take an outboard motor, and sails well.

Geoff and I struck a deal. He would build a hull of half-inch material including stems and keel, centerboard trunk and floors. I would take delivery in Vermont in October and bring it back to my home in Virginia on a trailer he would provide. He would assist me with email and telephone support while I completed the hull.

Rudder case showing wooden plates covering recessed pintle straps and shims to line up gudgeon holes.Finishing out a purchased hull appealed to me for several reasons. First was the time\money ratio. I didn't have enough time to build the whole thing, and I didn't have enough money to buy it. Plus, buying a hull was more efficient and I simply felt it made sense. After all, Geoff already had the building jig, and I knew from my MacGregor experience that the jig alone would require at least fifty hours of my time. He could make some profit spending far fewer hours than it would take me. I could use the limited hours available to me shaping pieces of wood that would actually be part of the finished product. Further, I don't even have the space to build a CY hull. Lastly, I really didn't want to repeat the jig and hull building experience of the MacGregor on an eight-fold larger scale.
On the other hand, figuring out the myriad details of the interior, rig and steering of the open two-master did interest me a great deal.
Knowing I would have the hull in my garage around Halloween, I started in May building the rest of the parts, beginning with the rudder. I had promised myself I wouldn't succumb to paying for the best in materials and fittings. To economize I used up small pieces of 3 and 4 mm Bruynzeel left from my earlier projects for the inside of the rudder case and my larger leftovers of the same thicknesses for the blade. I had a huge piece of solid mahogany on hand, so when my small marine plywood supply was exhausted, I sliced up the real stuff to ensure stability and glued together a mosaic. I counted seventy pieces of wood in the finished rudder. I took the advice of the design reviewer in the old magazine article and beefed up the rudder case in terms of thickness.
Foremast partner with seizing on gate arms.  Safety line shown worked loose.  I carved a detent for it after photo was taken.Having sewn camping gear since my college days, I turned to Sailrite for my sails, as I had done on my earlier boats. Their CAD kits provide pre-cut panels and all other items together with good instructions at a price that is little more than the cost of materials. The use of Mylar double-sided basting tape makes these projects much less tedious.
Next, bursting with enthusiasm, I made my five main spars using the hollow birdsmouth (Noble} method. I would recommend this over solid construction for stiffness and the weight and material savings, although making the sprit spar hollow was a little silly. As someone pointed out, the epoxy weight probably exceeds the weight of the thumb-thickness hollow in the center of the finished spar.
Motor mounted in well - attached to starboard side but swung 90 degreesIn addition to choosing the lug rig, I opted for the basic, open interior. By the time the hull was ready in late October - exactly as promised with no builder issues whatsoever - I had most of the parts pre-cut; and to the extent feasible, finished shaped and ready to install. Cold weather in an unheated garage, and then work and family obligations resulted in eventual completion in June.
It may be helpful to others for me to mention several building variations chosen for Rebecca Ann. The major one is the motor well, built mostly according to the plans. I bought a 3.3 hp Mercury two-stroke motor and carefully mocked up and puzzled out the hole for it, which I made round and ten inches in diameter. Poring over the plans, I never could understand the proposed manner of hanging the motor from the front of the well. Mine hangs on the starboard side and the top of the well is flush with the top of the aft bench.
I made two more changes from the plans, following Geoff's advice. My inwales are a singlestrip and my outwales are made of three strips like Oughtred's first generation plans specified. The current plans reverse those. Also, my gunwales as a whole are more like you find on an American canoe, rather than angled as some have done. That's just how they turned out. My bench knees are steel strap, which take less space. I lined up the center and aft benches in anticipation of later making a level sleeping platform.
Looking aft and down on motor well with well plug shown upside down withLooking foreward from under port side aft of well hole - showingOne area where I parted ways from Geoff was in the rigging. With my neophyte sailing experience and skills, so different to his, and with most of my sailing involving trying to keep a tender canoe upright, I was extremely receptive to Oughtred's warning in his book that the capability of fast reefing is important. Therefore, I installed reefing hooks for the main, along with jamb cleats for the reefing lines. The mizzen has the single-line reefing system shown on the plans, which seems to work well.
Well plug from outside - faired to planking contour.I made a padded canvas case to house the motor under the aft bench. A plug faired to the planking fills the well hole in the hull. It fits closely enough to minimize drag, but is not watertight.
I have run only about ten miles so far under power. The motor easily drove the boat to 6.3 knots by GPS at three-fourth's throttle with both masts dropped. A slightly reduced speed was less buzzy. I had no problem with exhaust fumes choking out the motor or with splash coming up through the hole, both apparently chronic deficiencies of wells. However, I was running in only one foot waves, so time will tell if splash is an issue. I have made, but not yet tested, a splash baffle.

Experimental well baffle; two parts with crude connectors - not shown inFor amateur boat builders some parts are easier to make and some are harder than expected. For me the spars and rudder were easier to get together, while the gunwales and motor well were harder, particularly the well. Making the well splash baffle was much harder than I would have thought. I finally settled for harness leather for the flexible portion.

Bilge pump with quick attached outlet hose in place.In my CY I installed an 18-gpm Edson manual pump, the vertical model, on the aft edge of the forward bench. The pump handle at the bottom of its stroke just touches the front of the centerboard trunk. Eventually, I want to remount the pump on sliders running in tracks to allow the whole pump to be raised at will so the intake can clear the floorboards by eight inches or so. This would permit a hose to be quickly attached to the intake, giving the capability to use the pump other than for the bilge. I have my eyes open for the right hardware.
As soon as the boat was in the water at her launching on June 8, 2002 it became quite clear we had a big leak. Beaching eight miles later and removing floorboards revealed two half-inch holes in the lower trunk- a misaimed bolt location I forgot to patch. The Edson kept up with the leak until we plugged the holes with sticks from the beach.

Rebecca Ann under sailMy few sailing hours so far in Rebecca Ann, as well as my limited frame of reference as a sailor, keep me from providing any useful review of the boat's performance. However, I did on my second voyage sail the day in the company of Sarah, a lithe, Kerr-built Ness Yawl. Many of you are familiar with this design, which has the extreme extension of the design characteristics of the Caledonia Yawl. Oughtred's personal boat is a Ness Yawl and the design is meant to go fast. A comparison may be of interest. Side by side the Ness is noticeably smaller in all dimensions and much more tender. Hauling capacity must be much less. To my eye she is considerably prettier than a Caledonia Yawl. In very light wind the Caledonia Yawl moved faster and pointed higher, but above perhaps six knots of wind the Ness reversed the situation on both scores. The Ness is a Porsche; the Caledonia Yawl is a Ford F-250. I know that's a pedantic analogy, but it really is apt. You can fall in love with either one, and in a perfect world we would own one of each. All in all, I was surprised with how well the Caledonia Yawl performed alongside the Ness Yawl.

Rebecca Ann, photo from accompanying Ness YawlMy plans for future enhancements fall into two categories. First, I need a place for all the gear. I expect to stow most of it secured under benches and side seats, in leather holders, dry bags and Rubbermaid containers.
Secondly, I have big ideas for camp cruising. I plan to try constructing a sleeping platform of foam sandwiched plywood, full sheet size sliced into six-inch wide strips, to lay athwartships, filling the space from center to aft benches. With a longitudinal center support extending over and past the trunk to the aft bench, I think the strips can be short enough to stow in two manageable stacks. I plan a tent zippering to canvas fore and aft decks, along the lines of the one described in the WoodenBoat article of a few issues ago on the camp cruising surf dory. I am thinking about the 7' x 10' sun and rain shelter from LL Bean as the starting point for a freestanding fly.
Looking forward to many more days sailing aboard Rebecca Ann I look forward to many years with Rebecca Ann on the Chesapeake, and perhaps the Florida Keys in winter and the Penobscot Bay in Maine in summer.
Thanks Dale - Great story and lots of useful information.
Dale is a lawyer and lives in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.
More Caledonia Yawl stories and pictures anyone? Contact me via the Discussion Forum and I'll create a page for you. Nick Grainger
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