For the origins and full set of images in this series, here
Here is the the continuation of the interview with Eric Bergqvist by Ted Bradbury, who, at the time, was looking for a seaworthy cruiser to sail to the Azores – (with thanks to Mike Burns). I guess this would have been sometime around 1982/83:
Ted: I do appreciate how reasonable your prices are – (hull and deck mouldings £1750 +VAT – ed.), but doesn’t that mean that the boat has been designed to its limits – minimum bulkheads and thin laminates etc?
Eric: Not at all. The long low profile of the Folksong uses less materials as well as contributing to the boats sailing performance. The laminate is of chopped strand mat construction resulting in a thick hull which, although hand laid, is quick and easy to make. The deck is an economical one-piece moulding and the bulkheads and other interior fit-out all wood.
Ted: Why is the wood interior economical? It must take a lot of time to fit and finish.
Eric: It will take longer to fit than the kit of moulded and pre-finished parts that you would have to buy to complete a modern production yacht but these kits are expensive because you are paying for someone else’s labour and overheads. Such kits also offer very little, if any, flexibility or freedom of design. Our basic interior kit is simple and straightforward because it’s been designed specifically for the home-builder who can keep the layout as it is or add his own ideas and innovations as he goes along. We sell bare hulls and decks to customers who want to do it all themselves, or part or fully finished boats to those who haven’t the time or inclination for fitting out. Admittedly the finish we use, painted plywood with varnished hardwood trims, is time-consuming, but it is also relatively inexpensive. It has a warm classic look and can be smartened up each spring with a fresh coat of paint.
Ted: I think I see now why you haven’t attempted to give the Folksong standing headroom, but surely this is unacceptable to most prospective buyers.
Eric: I agree that the lack of standing room is a drawback but a box cabin high enough to allow for this would ruin her lines and performance and increase the cost. There are plenty of 25 footers to choose from with standing headroom but few that can be built as economically as the Folksong or perform as well. In fact the Folksong’s headroom rarely concerns my serious customers because the Folksong design appeals principally to experienced sailors. Like you and I they have the ultimate ambition of making that long ocean passage and are confident that the Folksong can help them accomplish such a dream.
Ted: Finally, Eric, have you made any improvements to the Folksong in the three years you’ve been producing her?
Eric: Of course. The design is constantly developing. From the fifty or so boats built we’ve had a lot of customer feedback and each year a new interior is planned for a customer’s own specific requirements. Recently a new cockpit layout was added with an outboard well, and the Folksong hull has been successfully used for other hone designed cruisers. At the moment, two customers are building Chinese junk rigged Folksongs. One of these is a replica of Blondie Hasler’s Folkboat, Jester, that made so many single-handed transatlantic crossings. And what better recommendation for a Folkboat than that!
Well, there you have it from the designer himself. He wanted the Folksong to be good-looking, economical in its simplicity, have a good performance – hence the low profile, be flexible in its design and be capable of ocean voyages by the ambitious and the experienced.
That’s what I saw the day I first saw Blue Mistress. What about you?
We had a great sail – the perfect wind for Blue Mistress, a crew of four, and a sunny day.
Back on the mooring, everything cleared before going ashore . . .”Have you seen this, Bill?”
Ross had noticed the lifted plate – I had missed it. I wasn’t looking. I trusted the fitting. And that could have been a big mistake.
The inevitable questions: Was water getting in? Was the block beneath rotten? The bolts were obviously pulling through, would the forestay pull out of the deck? If so, would the mast go overboard? . . . Or onto the crew in the cockpit?
Yes, well . . . questions like that come up when you are taken by surprise . . . before standing back and sizing up the situation properly.
I had previously thought the forestay to be tight but it carried the hanked-on genoa well. Now I saw it as bar-taut and straining my mast. The mast bend suddenly seemed excessive.
Inspection in the chain-locker showed the forward bolts angled forward.
Removing the bolts released a roughly-shaped offcut which looked as though it had been found in the boatshed bin . . . “That’ll do, George. It’ll just about fit.”
There would have been less of a problem if it had been cut with a little more care so that there was no overlap of the washers at the edge.
It would have been even better if more time had been spent and it had been carefully shaped and fitted. It’s one of those ‘out of sight, out of mind’ jobs. I have been writing about skilled craftsmanship for years now – I hold up my hands, I thought I had cleared up most of the problems on my own boat.
It wasn’t just the ply, of course, but the over-tight rigging that pushed it over its limit. Problems rarely come singly. They are part of a series – one thing leading to another leading to another leading to disaster.
How much strain is required to achieve this degree of distortion in a piece of marine ply?
In the event, there was no sign of water entering. Nor was there any sign of rot. And it probably wouldn’t have pulled through. But that’s no consolation.
We have replaced the offcut with a stainless steel plate, cut to size, sandwiching a wooden block, cut to the same size, for compression. (Thanks, Richard).
The rigging has been re-set with less tension on the shrouds and a more gentle mastbend.
Now I’m going through the boat with a fine tooth-comb. Once bitten . . . . .
There are blogs written by those who are complete experts at designing, building and repairing their own boats with no other help than a forbearing partner and a seemingly infinite amount of time. I am not one of these.
In 2006, I bought a boat. It was the boat I had wanted for most of my life but never had the opportunity to own before. It took a little time to confirm what was right with it . . . and a little longer to find out all that was wrong with it. Fortunately, what was right outshone what was wrong.
That first season was good fun. We sailed a lot, even making a passage to Fowey and back. Unfortunately, there were some problems and I began to think of ways to fix them – and then ways to improve her, and so my ambition grew – (”What is possible? We are not trying to restore a classic boat to its original state. It’s not a wooden boat. Let’s see what modern materials can achieve”). One thing was for sure: whatever I wanted done on the boat would be way beyond my then knowledge and still current skills. So I began to look for someone to help me.
Specifically, I wanted someone who would listen to what I wanted to do . . . and would recognise when I was being unrealistic and say so – and be prepared to come up with an alternative. Over the years, I have learnt how independent boat owners are . . . and how proud of their boats, sometimes excessively so. It takes a diplomat to handle them.
During that summer, following an unfortunate incident with a crossed battery cable, we were in Plymouth Yacht Haven sorting it out. While trying to hide my embarrassment at the earlier mistake, I was explaining to Pete from Marine Systems what I wanted to do with Blue Mistress. He said, pointing to the Hangar across from the marina, ‘why don’t you try DickyB over there’.
A while later, Richard Banks sat in the cabin and looked around while I told him what I was wanting to do and how far back we would have to go before we could move forward – and there was no way of my affording the work in one leap.
I liked him immediately. He caught on to what I was saying, cut through the c**p and we began to work out what might be needed to start the project off. (Yes, I know I was a potential client so you would expect him to be enthusiastic, but there are ways and ways of handling clients – I liked his style).
And so the relationship with Dicky B Marine began. There have been three periods in the Hangar at Mount Batten. Each time, Blue Mistress has been returned to the water greatly improved. On the last occasion, she was a new boat.
Throughout, Richard has been excellent. I often arrived unannounced and, despite other work on other boats, been enthusiastically shown what had been done and what was proposed. If I was in the way, he and everyone else had the courtesy to keep it till I left! I took pictures of everything. I have sent strings of emails and attachments with ideas and changes. Believe me, it’s not the boat, it’s the owner!
It’s a team, of course. In this, our last session, Robin Leach’s skilled carpentry and work below decks have been especially appreciated – I haven’t forgotten the twenty locker lids laid out to paint.
He also made the smart new tiller, one that no longer catches the lazarette locker lids.
At the same time, the stainless steel fittings were made in their workshop by Dave Willey. Andy Wilson worked on her too. That was another reason for choosing this firm. They have several strings to their bow.
In a little under three years, we have gone from this:
The Folksong hull was originally built for the DIY market. Blue Mistress was launched in 1988. She has changed owners two or three times since. Each one had their own ideas. Everyone brings their own personality to a boat. I don’t suppose any two people would agree on what the “correct” solution should be.
Well, this owner is older with a demanding day job, and with not so many tides ahead of him. He has enjoyed sharing the boat with the surprisingly large number of people who have worked on her. (In a recession that can’t be a bad thing).
And he’s not finished yet. Over the next few years her intends to enjoy Blue Mistress, work on her and sail her as much as possible.