Wind and tide

Our thoughts are with the families of those who lost their lives in yesterday’s extreme weather.

In Teignmouth, we were on the edge of it.


Blue Mistress was snug, but the wind was blowing downriver and the incoming tide made for choppy water. In these conditions, there is a tendency for the boat to ride onto the mooring buoy. This has damaged the bow in the past. Padding the shackle and swivel has helped.


The two rows of moorings in the centre of the stream are swing moorings, the shallower moorings at the edge of the stream are fore-and-aft. The long keels of the Folksong and the Contessa 26 are holding the vessels more or less to the tide, whereas the three fin-keeled yachts beyond them are being swung by the wind.


The effect of the wind against the tide is more obvious here. The wind is pushing the two bigger yachts side on to the tide, hence the heeling. The gentleman aboard the far boat is waiting for it to float.

All the while, the bridge was whistling.

Images by Bill Whateley

On sailing a Folksong – Self-steering gear

A comment this evening:

“I have just bought a Folksong and plan to do some extended single-handed voyages in her. I was wondering if you know of any folksong’s that have had self-steering gear installed on them, and if so which system / model has been used with success.”

Lo Shu

Sho Fu is the only Folksong I know of to carry self-steering gear – and this hazy image is the only one I have and I know nothing else about her.

Looking at her again, I notice the spray hood is similar to a design I have in mind. I might use this one.

I use a Raymarine ST1000+ for shorter trips, but would not want to undertake  a longer voyage with this system alone.

When I bought Blue Mistress I spent some time researching self-steering gear with the intention of fitting it fairly quickly. As happens, priorities changed and deadlines came and went and I still haven’t done it.

However, I did think that a system like the Windpilot Pacific Light might work.  (To see one fitted to the stern of a Folkboat, click here and here).

Nick Jaffe made it to Australia in his Contessa 26, Constellation, with this set up.

Here is Blue Mistress crying out for self-steering gear – and an owner with the means to go a lot further than he has so far.

If you have strong thoughts on this, let me know.

On sailing a Folksong – Fram and Eric Bergqvist

I am not the only one owning a Folksong. In fact, compared to some, I am very much the novice – (as anyone who has read this blog for a while can testify). However, I have learnt a thing or two and I know a gem when I see it.

Kite gybe

This is Fram. The picture speaks for itself.

Mike Burns wrote at the end of last month:

“I home completed a Folksong in 1984 . . . and still have her . . .

“Maiden voyage in 1985 was circumnavigation of the north of Scotland, ie. clockwise Fortrose to Fortrose via the Caledonian Canal.

“Raced her last weekend single handed, flew spinnaker & also had to anchor up when wind dropped & strong tide, only came third out of 8 mixed handicap boats. Had to winch up the anchor with the genoa winch!!”

He has kindly sent images of Fram and copies of his original documents, and has given me permission to publish them here which I am delighted to do. Thank you, Mike. I hope we will exchange more details as time goes on.

~ ~ ~

Among the documents is an interview with the Folksong designer – Eric Bergqvist.

In it, he says: “I wanted a yacht fit for sailing single-handed in the Irish Sea.

“The first of my three requirements was that she had to be attractive. Pride of ownership is always a top priority and a gentle evening’s sail followed by a few pints and a chat at the club can be just as rewarding as a landfall after a long passage.

Fortrose Harbour

“My second priority was performance – speed on all points of sail and the ability to keep going in a short steep sea where you’ve the combination of wind over tide in shallow water. Self-steering is, in my opinion, the best aid to navigation, enabling the skipper to keep dry, warm and alert. The Folksong’s long keel gives good directional stability and suits the construction of a very simple self-steering device.

“My third requirement was ease of construction. Simplicity is the essence of both good design and economy, and I’m not in the position of having a lot of money tied up in a yacht.

These three requirements: looks, performance and economy all add up to a fibreglass Folkboat.”

With dolphins

That sums it up for me. Even though I have spent more money than planned on Blue Mistress – (yeah, well . . .), she is still more economical than many similar boats from the more well-known classes. She performs well and looks good.


Now, some detail. In the extract above, he talks of “the construction of a very simple self-steering device.” Do any Folksong (or Folkboat, Folkdancer or similar long-keeled boat) owners know which one from the early eighties he may have been referring to?

On sailing a Folksong – rudder 2

Blue Mistress has a very heavy rudder – “overworked”, the marine surveyor called it.

It might have graced the stern of an early twentieth century vessel.

Compared to similar sized craft, it is also slightly short of the keel . . .

For example, another Folksong 26 . . .

a Folkboat . . .

a Contessa 26**  . . .

This may mean that Blue Mistress’ rudder has been repaired sometime in the past, but it may not . . .

So, I’m looking for the answers to three questions:

What is the effect of a heavy rudder on the sailing performance of a long-keeled boat?

What is the effect of a shorter rudder on the sailing performance of a long-keeled boat?

What is the effect of rudder shape on the sailing performance of a long-keeled boat?


A younger me would have searched for a definitive answer.

Now I don’t think there is one answer – but a series of ideas about rudders that, put together, mean we can learn more about small, long-keeled boats.


For example, a Google search showed the Swedish Folkboat Association having a useful note on this – here.

In their submission to the Nordic International Folkboat Association, they state: “We have consulted Lars Larsson, professor in hydrodynamics on Chalmers (Gothenburg’s technical university), folkboat sailor, and earlier three times Swedish Champion in Folkboats. He thinks that the lifting power 10 kg has a moderate effect – the same as if the whole crew (250 kg) moves 0.1 m forwards in the boat. Hydrodynamically it can be a favour to make the rudder a little thicker, so that the water follows a harmonic bend along the keel and rudder on the boats windward side when it tacks with a rudder angel of about 5 degrees ( to prevent the boat from turning up against the wind). The shape of the leeward side is of less importance. To make an even thicker rudder is a disadvantage hydrodynamically.”

The Association then dealt with it in a formal fashion, i.e. there is a revised class rule to be adhered to – here.


Fair enough. But here are no class rules with a Folksong 26, so we have some leeway, which means we can work it out for ourselves . . . with a little help from friends.

If you have answers, part answers – or even more questions, please feel free to comment..

**(I am very grateful to Nick for allowing me to use this picture of Constellation. I enjoy his blog and highly recommend following and supporting his venture back to Australia on Big Oceans/Tiny Boat)

On sailing a Folksong – rudder 1

Getting to know a boat . . .

How long does it take to get to know a boat?

Longer than most people think.


When I first sailed Blue Mistress, she had a lot of weather helm.

I thought it might be something to do with the rudder.

It became a feature of our sailing – slowed us a little but it didn’t stop us. I got used to it.

Then I discovered it wasn’t necessarily the rudder.

I learnt to trim the sails more carefully, and got used to selecting the ‘right’ foresail for the particular weather. I reduced it – significantly.

That was a pretty obvious, you say.

Perhaps, but, problems often work that way – they crop up and are set aside to be solved later. We get used to them and move on because there are plenty of other problems to deal with.

The bigger, more pressing problems draw our attention and the lesser ones are tolerated and fade into the background.

As a result many of us live our lives at less than our full potential – mildly (or heavily) inhibited by a pot full of unfinished business.

“All problems carry their own solutions” (anon), but it takes some event to stir us into revisiting a tolerated problem and looking for the solution.


So with the weather helm.

A calm day, force 1, following two slightly bigger yachts with different keels, wondering whether I could keep up – (it was already apparent that my leeway was less).

I was sailing with the No 1 foresail. The lighter, larger genoa would have made a lot of difference.

On Blue Mistress, the No 1 foresail works best in a blow with one reef in the main. It was good practice to be working with it in light airs.

Easing the foresheet to give the foresail more power, and bringing the main sheet up the traveller and the boom midships, took some weigh off the tiller and gave us an extra half knot in the light wind.

They always had the edge on me in this light air, but we sailed all the way to Cawsand whereas they tacked back as they approached Picklecombe Point.

Straightfoward stuff.

I didn’t solve the weather helm problem, but I did consider it more closely and began to tackle it.


And I enjoyed the sense of a race.

Sailing is always a race – sometimes against other boats but mostly against the tide, the weather, time – and our own need to keep up.