On sailing a Folksong – Ossian



Eddie writes:

“Only had the boat 7 months, previous owner had her based at Loch Melford near Oban, spent the first three months of the year traveling backwards and forwards every weekend getting her ready for the water.

Once launched we sailed around to the Loch Crinan then through the canal to Ardnishaig  then 54 NM dash down the Clyde to our home port of Irvine.”

As you know, I’m biased – but what a good-looking boat.

I’m particularly interested in the furling headsail – difficult to get my head round the ease of use against having a choice of sails.

As I get older, the prospect of the plunge forward becomes less appealing – on the other hand . . .

On sailing a Folksong – just checking

This post is for fellow Folksong owners – knowing you would understand.

On the way to St Ives, we detoured to check on the boat.

Around 1230, it was raining hard – big drops with more to come.

All seemed secure, so we drove on – south west, meeting the heavy weather on the road, half of me wondering how things were on the mooring now.

On sailing a Folksong – five boats

This blog never set out to be a website for the Folksong as a class. It was designed for me to find out more about my Folksong. (At the same time it has given me a chance to share maritime subjects that inspire me).

Folksong are not common. I still do not know how many home-completion hulls were built and sold from Eric Bergqvist’s yard in Lymm, Cheshire. So when owners and prospective owners come out of the ether as they do at intermittent intervals, its always a pleasure to hear from them. They are an independent lot.

For the record, here are five boats whose owners (or, in one case,  prospective owner) contacted me in 2009 – (and if they’re reading this, “Happy New Year!”):


Sailing out of Fortrose on the Moray Firth in Scotland, Fram is the most ‘authentic’ of the Folksong I have come across. Finished to Bergqvist’s original plans in 1984 by her current owner, her maiden voyage included a circumnavigation of the north of Scotland – clockwise Fortrose to Fortrose  via the Caledonian Canal.


Solaire was discovered this year after ten years beside a barn on a farm in New South Wales, Australia. She is due for complete renovation on the western shore of Port Phillip Bay. Of course, the big question is: “how did she get to Australia?”


And Matilda, on the south coast of England, is also a recent purchase, the owner looking for thoughts on the rig and news of other Folksongs in the area.


In September, I was contacted about Betsy, which was for sale in the Algarve. I had to admit that I didn’t know of her previously – but I was fascinated by the blue stanchions!

Sea Pigeon

And Sea Pigeon, seen here at Brightlingsea. Back in 2007, it was Sea Pigeon’s cabin, and particularly the engine housing, that gave me ideas for the layout in Blue Mistress.

Sea Pigeon is now for sale. For an excellent description of a Folksong, I commend her details to you.

On sailing a Folksong – wind over tide

“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.” – Eric Bergqvist

“When waves run from an area of relatively slack water into an opposing stream they will bunch up in a way similar to when they run into shallow water. Likewise, if waves run into a stream flowing in the same direction, they will spread out.” from Weather to Sail, by Mike Brettle and Bridget Smith


After the Yealm trip, the crew went home and I spent the night on the boat – bacon, two eggs, beans followed by half a tin of pineapple chunks, then tea and chocolate, a Raymond Carver collection of short stories and the weather forecast – bliss.

Except the weather forecast was bleak – southerly winds, (force 7 was mentioned), rain, poor visibility.

The rain arrived in the middle of the night, beating an uneven tattoo on the deck, while the wind flogged a loose halyard against the mast of an unidentified boat nearby.

And in the morning? Well, what do you do? Stay in your bunk bemoaning the bad luck that brought inclement weather on the one weekend you had to spare for the boat – or do you do something?

OK. Going to sea in a 25 foot boat in poor visibility with the possibility of force 7 onshore winds is not sensible. How about gaining some experience with a motor/sail inside the Sound and up the Tamar to the Lynher River and back?

Not particularly sensible either. The challenge here would be heavy, possibly gusting winds opposing an ebbing spring tide – one of the highest of the year, meaning strong currents, broken water and short steep waves. In our first year with Blue Mistress, we had a swing mooring on the Tamar – on the Cornwall side of the river at Torpoint. I am more than aware of the effect of wind over tide here, and the way the wind can funnel up the river.

Blue Mistress at Torpoint 2006

On the other hand, this a boat designed with such conditions in mind.

And, if nothing else, it would be a chance to see whether my new flotation suit is waterproof!


The sail from the Plym to the Tamar is brisk – foresail only. The Sound is lumpy, the outgoing tide from two rivers meeting somewhere along the way and the wind blowing hard from the south. Dinghies are flying to and fro to the east of Drake’s Island preparing to race. RIBS full of stewards flitter everywhere.

The current flowing through the Narrows slow us to 1 knot – engine and sail. Sheltered from the full effect of the wind, the water is smooth here, but as we turn north into the wider expanse of the Tamar, the waves become more urgent. By now, there are three of us yachts running with the wind, occasionally surfing, but comfortably settled to the task, helmsmen concentrating.

The car ferries are still running. I commit to going astern of one ferry just leaving the Torpoint shore and have to alter course more than expected passing in close to the fixed moorings – carefully avoiding the ferry’s chain.

We meet one of two fishing boats, powering into the waves, throwing water aside. Towards the entrance to the Lynher, my companions keep straight on towards Saltash while I veer slightly to port looking for the red canister buoy that marks the entrance to the channel. Here there are Royal Naval moorings, with various barges attached.

At his point I am passed in very quick succession by four large RIBs each carrying perhaps a dozen or so helmeted young sailors making for HMS Raleigh. I get a few side-lnog glances but in the main each man clutches firmly the back of the seat in front, looking determinedly forward in the, by now, heavy rain. They must be looking forward to hot drinks and dry clothes a few minutes ahead. As they disappea down the line of bargees a naval launch scuttled past, an officer leaning nonchalantly against the cabin top. They show the way to the buoy and disappeared up river.


So, rounding the buoy into the Lynher, we (boat and I) are faced with a strong head wind, a strong out-flowing tide and smoother water.

Although we can manage the stretch to the next buoy close-hauled, the sail will have to come down. There follows a few minutes scramble as I point the boat into the wind, slight throttle on the engine to give some direction – (but wind and current too strong to keep that direction for long), let go the jib halyard, rush forward to catch the sail before it drops in the water, hurriedly make it fast to the lifelines, back to the tiller to bring her back into the wind – which requires more throttle than expected, forward again to tidy loose ends, and back to regain control. Thank goodness for the low cabin top and free movement forward on the Folksong.

I motor slowly past HMS Raleigh and turn across the wind towards Antony Passage, making the red canister buoy. At this stage, the prospect of an even slower plod straight into the full force of wind and current loses its thrill and I decided to turn for home.

A large (40 foot?) yacht is running downwind and passes me at speed, three older gentlemen on board, blue ensign flying. I follow her, travelling fast now with wind and tide. under engine only, knowing that all would change when we reach the Tamar again.

An even larger ketch motors across in front of us, seemingly heading for a quieter mooring in the lee on the North Wilcove side.

A white, wooden Folkboat motors upriver towards Saltash, towing a small pram dinghy.

The yacht ahead, heeled abruptly taking the full force of the wind and headed close-hauled to the Devon side on the river. I keep close in the slight lee on the Cornish side until there is no choice but to face the wind.


It would be possible to write an exciting adventure story around this – how we overcome wind, waves and repeated danger to triumph in the end. But the point is that the boat is up to the trip. All that is required of me is to make directional decisions – keep to a sensible course and speed and avoid taking a wave over the side.

We enter the main part of the river through two standing waves. They are quite steep and close together – or seemed to be as there isn’t time to think about them. Blue Mistress lifts to the first one and comes down onto the second one, slicing into it, throwing water aside – the long keel keeping a firm grip. Very little comes on deck, despite the low freeboard. This seems to be the pattern – spray will blow aboard, but green water very rarely. (As EB says, she was designed to take this).

The wind is strong and steady, throwing up plenty of wind-blown spray. This is the first time I have ever had to abandon my glasses – too salty of see through, too much rain and too much concentration on steering to clean them.

This length of the river is a little over two nautical miles long with a width varying between a quarter and a third nautical mile. Apart from the car ferries and the police patrol launches, there is no one ahead of me. The yacht that has been ahead is now behind and a little later she disappears into the Torpoint shore. The prospect is bleak – empty wharves, dockside buildings, moored yachts appearing and disappearing in the incessant rain.

As we progress, wet sails ready to set if the engine failed, it looks as though the water is slightly less rough over on the Devon side and I angle across. Looking back, I doubt if it was – it certainly didn’t feel it at the time. The waves are short, steep and some of them are breaking – not dangerously, but enough to want to avoid them. At no point am I concerned, but once or twice I remember something my grandfather used to say – “. . . no more – – – – – – sense than he was born with.”

At the end of the straight a much larger boat suddenly appears round the corner heading upriver and we get a friendly wave – then I saw him look upstream and then back across at Blue Mistress and give a thumbs-up. Actually, that’s what I thought, too.

The rest is straightforward. The current down to the entrance to the Narrows is still strong, but the water smooth. I cut the engine, set the foresail and we shoot back to the Plym, passing the Brittany Ferries’ ‘Pont Aven’ manoeuvring stern first into her berth. At the entrance to Sutton Harbour, a large white yacht appears, pauses while a conversation is held in the cockpit, turns and disappears back into the marina.

I lower the foresail off the Cattewater wharves and motor back to the mooring, picking up the trot rope easily in the now slackening tide.  The time is 1430.

Leaving the soaking sails on deck, the rest of the day is spent with Raymond Carver below – and the rain keeps falling!

On sailing a Folksong – Mike Burns and ‘Fram’


Mike has kindly written the following about Fram:


“I thought I might just add to this email the raison d’etre for my boat being called Fram

so Episode 1

Back in around 1965 at the age of approx 23 I signed on as a marine geophysicist with the British Antarctic Survey. I had some Scottish rock & snow climbing experience but only a couple of races sailed as crew on an Enterprise at Kippford in Scotland. I had however as a Grammar School pupil in Sunderland attended the local Cathedral at some memoration ceremony to RF Scott

Three years under canvas as a dog driving scientist down south was certainly “justifiable training for the youth of GB” as once stated by Fuchs the then Director of BAS.

I completed my polar exploration stint & returned to UK, Birmingham University, to work on & eventually publish my scientific findings.

No chance of a PhD but I did get a Polar Medal and eventually a mountain named after me. (This turned out to be more of a ridge than a mountain) very aptly named “Burns Bluff”

The thought of what to do next was challenging, so I married, we canoed in two slalom canoes around north cape in northern Norway on our honeymoon and then thought that the next best thing to dog sledging would be sailing a boat travelling at around 4/5 mph with every day changing plans as to the destination according to weather etc.

Having read much of Antarctic history I grew to favour the Norwegian approach as opposed to that of Scott, It did not take long to find that Nansen had a much more erudite approach to travel and hence the Norwegian word forward or “Fram” was obvious. Nansen’s nautical travails were also far more challenging than those of Scott

In addition as a tight fisted half Scotsman four letters certainly fitted the frugality constraints which resulted in “FRAM”

perhaps Episode 2 might follow in a day or a week or perhaps a month or so as to how I found the boat in Doncaster !”


I look forward to Episode 2 Mike. By the way, what were you studying?

And is Fram still for sale?


Boat names can be tricky. I called briefly into Plymouth Yacht Haven the other day, and, as I passed a very large yacht,  a young woman looked down and asked if I had a green and a red mistress too. There were several answers to that – all of which came too late!

On sailing a Folksong – evolving designs

In the Trechandiri post  a week or so ago. I was thinking about evolving boat design, talking about it in old man’s ‘generation-to-generation’ terms. But, of course, boat designers are continually modifying their ideas – and boat owners continually modify the designer’s ideas with ideas of their own.

Below is an extract from an interview between Frank Rosenow and Thord Sund, the designer of the Folkboat. It first appeared in Sail Magazine, June 1979, and was reproduced in Yachting Monthly, October 1979 under the heading “Folkboat Encounter”.


“”I first designed her (the Folkboat) with a fully battened mainsail. It took me quite a while to realize how impractical that arrangement was . . . , another brainstorm was when I saw that a canvas cot I had intended for the cockpit would fit into the forepeak with room to spare.

Another twist was that I had conceived her as a weekend cruiser, with the simplest possible rig and equipment. There were no winches of course since the jib halyard and the jib sheets could be taken care of with two-part tackles.

In spite of all this simplicity, or maybe on account of it, people started sailing Folkboats to and from every conceivable corner of the world. And I’m glad the boat proved equal to it, even without a self-draining cockpit and all the rest of it. . . .”

In 1966, Thord Sund redesigned the Nordic Folkboat for production in fiberglass. On the “inter­national Folkboat” he retained the proven hull sections but increased the freeboard from 550mm to 660mm to obtain more room below.  He also drew out the bow and rounded off the stern, for appearance’s sake. The clinker pattern of the original’s fir planking was dropped, marginally reducing wetted surface.

This time, he opted for a self-draining cockpit, mainly because potential buyers seemed to think it would make the boat safer “They” also wanted a spinnaker, so he raised the headstay attachment point on the mast and settled on an altogether new rig. The new rig configuration allowed the use of higher aspect ratio jibs and of large  over-lapping genoas. Halyard and sheet winches were now called for.

Sunden’s final variation on the folkboat theme came in the mid-1970s when, again responding to popular demand, he designed the M26 (Sunwind) with an even higher freeboard and provision for a Volvo-Penta diesel engine.

Then, with another quantum jump in the freeboard, she had come to the box-like apparition we were sitting in – “Of course, she does have a hell of a lot of space.” mused Sunden.

“We live in a different age.” he said, almost angrily. “People swarm onboard at the boat shows wearing muddy clogs, and the only thing they are interested in is standing room by the galley. So here you have it, the private flush toilet, the walk-in closet, a wall-to-wall carpet and all that garbage.”

He proceeded to decant the sherry, his heavy-lidded, sea-blue eyes staring sadly at the cork.”


At the same time as Thord Sund was thinking along these lines, Eric Berqgvist had taken the idea and produced the Folksong – this post. He too evolved his design as production proceeded.

All this was happening thirty or so years ago. Since then, technology has leapt forward, construction materials have developed, design ideas are continually being modified. These are exciting times.

Nevertheless, I picked the Folksong for the ideas that Berqgvist and Sund were working on. It suits me.

(With thanks to Mike Burns for pointing out both articles).

On sailing a Folksong – Interview with Eric Bergqvist (continued) . . .

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?

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?