A Boat on the Side
23Dec/130

A tale of two Secrets

1. David’s Secret

For many years on and off I worked in the building industry – joiner, builder, shop fitter – and on many a job the cry could be heard ‘All architects should be made to build their own xxxxxxxx houses! (Please insert expletive of your choice.) So it should be with boats, and I’m glad to say that I’ve built lots of mine over the years – that way you iron out the faults, fine-tune the process and ramp up the performance – of the boats, that is.

So the request to build a new Secret for David, a Victorian sailor, was greeted with delight – yes delight, for my profession is not simply a job, it is a source of great satisfaction akin to a musician being asked to perform one of his own compositions – and being paid for it – a delight surely, and who could ask for anything else? What’s more, the new Secret is for racing and day sailing with a truncated lowered cabin and lots of little go-faster hull tweaks.

The new Secret was delivered as a kit some years back but the client’s business took off and spoiled any chance of leisurely gentleman boatbuilder activities. He framed her up quite quickly but being a realist, he shipped her back to us for completion.

We finished the framing and stringers, coved, and coated everything and got the sides on in the first week and by week two we had her turned over and ready for the bottom panels and glassing to commence. Turning her over is quick and easy but it requires five blokes, a selection of local and imported beer and exaggerated tales of past exploits afterwards.

Our Secrets have pioneered lots of boatbuilding design systems, including the double chine plus faired strip planking to get a nicely rounded bottom, and the almost undetectable rudder gudgeon system for good water flow, the dovetail keel and, of course, our tried and tested slot-system framing.

Secrets were born of a desire for performance of course, but outright speed was not the sole purpose, for that you need hydrofoils and Formula One technicians. No, Secrets are more a retro take on the racers of a century ago, vintage aesthetics with 21st century attitude, if you like. That they go well is beyond doubt but it’s the whys and wherefores that are of interest. Secret’s deadrise, for instance, the angle of each frame to the keel changes from frame one to ten, flattening as it goes to form a semi-displacement hull. Now there’s a compromise if ever there was one! Semi-displacement hulls are somewhere in between a planing and non-planing hull with the emphasis on all round performance at displacement speeds with the added bonus of adrenaline injection if the wind is strong enough and the crew brave enough. So the flattish aft sections of the Secret will allow her to lift up and fly but it takes more bottle than I have these days. I’ve clocked one at 7.5 knots semi-surfing and Max in the UK has equalled that but double figures will be reached one day. Full main, gennaker, 20+ knots, broad reach – her delivery is in late December so we’ll see.

2. Victoria’s Secret

Having a yard in Main Street means we get a steady trickle of visitors to commission work, buy timber and things, and ask advice. Now in any boatyard you can never have enough rags. Annette does the best – old white cotton sheets and so on, carefully cut into handy resin wipes but my youngest son occasionally brings some up, generally old clothes. Andrew and his partner Christie are a handsome couple – tall, tanned, young, lovely, good natured – much like we all were once, eh?

So last week found me sorting through a big bag of clothes including jeans, tee-shirts, shorts, a little black dress with Aztec detailing, a beaded poly-cotton singlet and something flimsy with ‘Victoria’s Secret’ written on it. In walked a local to enquire about a repair on a caravan. We discussed the job for a while but I couldn’t help noticing he was looking at me in a rather odd way. Now there’s good rags, glad rags, and bad rags, and it was only later that  I realised I had sorted the unusable stuff, the girlie bits, into a pile on the bench between us – ready for the tip – and I was wiping my brow with Victoria’s Secret intimates – ‘It was a hot day, Your Honour, I swear!’ My reputation in tatters, I quickly shoved the unmentionables into a plain black garbage bag and sat down with a cup of good strong Dilmah.

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