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.

On sailing a Folksong

At the top of this blog is a subtitle which says ‘”Blue Mistress” our Folksong 26’. The blog was started with the intention of seeking out other Folksongs and learning more about the boat.

However, in the past year, I have only occasionally written about Blue Mistress and I think it is time to get a series together for other Folksong owners and anyone else who is interested.

Blue Mistress – January 2008

Firstly, the honeymoon was over for me in the spring. Blue Mistress was no longer ‘new’ to me. A couple of major refits had been completed and I had become familiar with the boat. I could go aboard and know that she would be dry below despite the heavy rains we were having. In a sea, I could trust the engine box not to come apart. I have solved some basic stowage problems, and so on.

People are very complimentary about her appearance. Being complimentary about a boat will always flatter the owner and I’m no exception. I would like to say that I carried out all the work, but it’s not true. I’d like to say I spend more time sailing than I do, but I don’t spend enough time, I have to earn a living.

However, from being a very naive owner of a boat, I am now slightly less so and ready to talk seriously about the ups and downs of sailing this boat. When they are ready, I hope other owners will join in. I am not a committee person or a ‘lets all do this together’ person. I value my independence. But neither am I so dumb that I can’t see that two, three or more brains bent to a problems can be very useful.

Enjoying the wait

The trapeze artist said: “Living is walking the wire. Everything else is waiting.”

The finest Sunday of the summer. The sun shone, the wind blew. A brilliant day for a sail.

But there was something wrong with the car. . . and, as I have damaged my thumb, sailing was out.

So we took the train to Exeter . . .

Teignmouth – Dawlish – Dawlish Warren – Starcross – Exeter St Thomas.

This is the coast-line – to be more exact, Isambard Kingdom Brunel‘s line, the line of his Atmospheric Railway.

The sea sparkled the way it does here when the wind blows from the west and stirs the calm surface to catch the morning sun.

A mile or so off the beach, a ketch, in full sail, was reaching across the bay. Each time we emerged from one of short tunnels through the cliffs, she had stretched away further south towards Hope’s Nose and Berry Head.

We stopped in Dawlish, then Dawlish Warren, (disembarking families carrying beach clothes and picnics), before we turned inland along the Exe estuary.

The tide was high and the Folkboat (I always notice her) was on her mooring. I had thought of keeping Blue Mistress here before settling on Plymouth.

It seemed that people were taking to the water wherever we looked.

In Exeter, they were enjoying the river, including the short crossing on Butts Ferry.

The ferry is left over from the wonderful and much lamented Exeter Maritime Museum.

The warehouse that housed the museum is still there. I have always thought, whimsically perhaps, of the boats moored along the canal as ganging up in sympathy for the small gem of a museum that has been lost forever.

We had come to Exeter to visit our son and spent the day doing ordinary things – walking and talking, greeting and eating, before returning to the train.

Along the Exe, the tide was now very low and the Folkboat closer to the shore – well, close to the bird flocked mud flats.

And in Teignmouth, in the late afternoon, there was gig racing. On shore, rowers were hurrying to their boats, busying themselves before the start of their race.

Offshore they were heaving on their oars, some boats flying, some labouring, all working to a common cause.

Today the rowers had been out ‘walking the wire’, while we were ashore ‘waiting’ and doing ordinary things – walking and talking, greeting and eating  . . .

and we were all having a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Back from holiday

 We have just returned from a holiday in Croatia – not sailing, but walking, busing and ferrying along the Dalmatian coast and through the islands – another opportunity to wander around small harbours, (some very small indeed), looking at boats.

Hvar Town

I am fired up with a new enthusiasm. In the face of some of the more elegant and expansive examples of modern yachting (of which more later), I understand why Blue Mistress suits me and have an inkling how to evolve with her over the next few years.

I come from the Robin Knox-Johnson first era – (his first circumnavigation, rather than his second), and, while watching (and enjoying) the more extreme examples of modern sailing, which a younger generation takes for granted, I am able to pause and wonder what are the things that are being lost in the rush for the new that would be worth highlighting.

There are skills and knowledge that grew over time (because they took time to grow) that will be lost in half a generation. Some are obvious, and some we do not need any more, but there are others that we will miss when they have gone. And they are less obvious than you would think.

Blue Mistress’ lines were taken from the Folkboat, (which was designed in the 1940s), but she is not such a classic boat that we can’t put some new materials and innovative ideas into her – and still have a fine boat. We can straddle the generations and see what comes out of it.

Even if we wanted to, we cannot avoid the modern – it constantly hits us in the eye. But we can take the time to look a little further, trawling beneath the surface. And wondering along a coastline, wherever you are, is doing just that. Some of the knowledge and skills I am talking about can still be found in places like the little harbour below.























The Folksong 26 (sic)

Blue Mistress back on mooring 1
The main reason I started this blog was to find out about the origins of the Folksong class, and hence my own boat ‘Blue Mistress’. I have learnt a great deal and met some good people from doing so, but after nine months I still only had part of the Folksong story. 

On Saturday, thanks to a small note in Sailing Today, I found a new website www.yachtbrochures.co.uk, run by Mike Davies. Included in a very long list of class names is “Folksong, Eric Berquist, 1983”. Search over.  Mike replied almost immediately to my email and the transaction was completed within a few minutes. An excellent service. Thank you. 

So I have received a brochure written for the Southampton International Boat Show, Mayflower Park, 17-24 September 1983 (Stand B10).  From this I learn that the Folksong was originally sold as “a thoroughbred cruiser/racer you can afford”. 

“Based on the lines of the Folkboat, the FOLKSONG embodies the three principle virtues of that classic boat – looks, performance and economy.”

The builder was Eric Bergqvist, Boatbuilder, The Square, Lymm, Cheshire. 

“Specifications: LOA: 25ft 2in;  LWL: 19.8ft;  Beam: 7ft 3in;  Draft: 3ft 9in;  Ballast: 2500lbs; Hull: GRP, 7oz from deck to waterline, 11oz below; Deck: glass fibre sandwich construction with built-in non-slip surface; Cockpit: self-draining;  Sail area: 280 sq ft;  Engine: provision for an outboard well or an inboard engine.” 

“The Folksong is based on the lines of the Folkboat which was designed in 1941 for a Swedish Yachting Press competition. Over 2000 Folkboats have been built embodying the traditional virtues of a long keel, conventional outboard rudder and seven eighths rig with a sailing performance to match. Although the Folkboat design was intended for wooden construction, clinker and carvel, three fibreglass versions have since been moulded. The Folksong is the only one designed specifically for home completion.

In order to retain both the classic lines and the excellent performance of the craft no attempt has been made to cater for standing headroom. If necessary though, this could be achieved with the use of a spray dodger. The accommodation is not spacious but the layout is flexible. With thoughtful planning and use of timber and fabrics you can create an interior which is warm and comfortable as well as practical.

Twenty five feet is the minimum length of yacht generally considered capable of continental cruising without bravery or heroics. The Folksong is an uncomplicated yacht – economical but with no compromise on safety.” 

There’s more. If you own a Folksong and would like to discuss it, please contact me. Alternatively, I recommend Mike Davies’ website.

Stern Lockers

Back to Blue Mistress.

The refit proceeds and the quality of the finished work so far is excellent.

Stern locker hatches.

Original Hatch Covers Wooden frame

Four problem with the old ones:

1. The wood frame was beginning to rot.

2. To open them, the tiller had to be moved out of the way, which was a nuisance at sea.

3. They could only be opened so far before getting caught on the (divided) backstay – so had to be held back with shot cord.

4. They leaked.

I asked for a solution that we could sit on and would also take my full weight if stood on.

It also needs to be shallow enough to allow the Autohelm, which stretches horizontally from a deck fitting on the starboard coaming into an attachment below the tiller, to move freely.

Richard has come up with a solution that seems to covers all the above.

Old frame removed New lipping

The new lids are heavy and robust and, when finished, will seal neatly over the new lipping around the lockers.

Because they are not hinged, they will be permanently made fast to the boat from internal eyebolts.

New stern locker covers
They have to be put to the test, of course, but I am delighted with the result which is practical, skillfully fitted and has added considerably to the appearance of the boat.

Boom Outhauls – a query

I went down to the boat last week to run the engine for a while and check out the jobs we are going to do when she comes out of the water in March. A quiet couple of hours messing about in a boat – is there anything better?

The engine started first go and settled into a friendly rhythm. The no.1 battery was low again but charged up ok.

We are going to tackle a whole range of jobs from reseating deck fittings to replacing the hatches on the stern lockers.

There’s a design problem with the stern lockers – water gets in far too easily. Having played with ideas of rubber seals on the hatches themselves and also around the opening, I’ve gone for the more expensive, but more robust and long-lasting grp option, on the lines of the ones in the image below.


I’m not over keen on the wooden embellishment, but the hatch lids are tight fitting, and, at the same time, can be accessed easily. They can be removed completely so I’m not banging my head or having to hold them open. They are permanently attached to the boat by a length of rope long enough to allow temporary stowage in the cockpit, or on the adjacent lid, or made fast to the pushpit. They can also be tied down in a sea.

The rigging needs some attention too. Contemplating the setup, and how she sailed during the summer, it struck me that there were one or two points I’d failed on. I am sure I can get her sailing better.

One of these is/are the boom outhaul/s, below, not currently rigged.


I would be interested to hear how other people set them up and manage them under sail. There seems to be plenty of room for adjustment – but in which direction?

New phase in the Blue Mistress story

Today marked a new phase in the Blue Mistress story.

It was time to decide on exactly what the spring refit will involve – jobs, time, costs.

Richard from the boatyard came and helped move us forward – very diplomatically I thought, although he needn’t have been. We agree where we are going with the boat, we just needed to agree the process of getting there.

Waiting for refit - January 07

Basically, we have to ensure the deck is watertight before we can do anything below. So this will be the focus for 2007.

It will involve removing all the deck fittings, including some recent ones, reseating them, replacing and making watertight the lazarette hatch covers, replacing the window ports, repairing grp, stripping and recoating the deck. The mast will be removed and the rigging checked.

She is booked to come out of the water and placed under cover in March, and will need to be dried out (with dehumidifiers) first.


That’s all I’m going to say on the subject for while. It’s grit your teeth and cross your fingers time.

Boat Blog – Second Phase

What did it take to keep me writing?
One week and some encouragement from the other side of the world.

What is it they say?
‘Praise’ is the greatest form of motivation?
Certainly worked for me.

This marks a new phase in the Boat Blog
My purpose has changed a little and we shall see how it develops.
More on this later.

Refit under way – end of blog

Summer mooring

This is the last entry in this blog.

I started it three months ago as a way of finding out more about Folksong 25s.
The idea was to create a contact point – (throw out a line).
Anyone could place a comment on any of the entries and that comment would arrive in my inbox almost instantly.

Three months on, a number of people have kindly contacted me and been extremely helpful and informative.
I would like to thank them.
I have the information I was looking for and I hope to continue these contacts over time.

I am old enough to be totally amazed at the power of this medium.
Imagine, even five years ago, having the ability to search across continents to find out information that is relevant to only a very few?

A letter to Practical Boat Owner might have got a result, but the message would have appeared only once and, even if it had been picked up, would have required much more energy from those wishing to reply.

With the blog, I have a small body of work that will remain on the internet for another nine months or so.
I am keen to see whether others follow it up.
Blogs – and I’ve read a lot of them, seem to me to be mostly more useful to the writer than the reader.
They are an opportunity for the writer to state his/her point of view.
Sometimes they’re informative, sometimes expressive, often plain dull.

For me, it has been a short journal.
To ‘spread the net’, I have done more than concentrate on the boat alone and I hope the writing has been of passing interest.

Snug for the winter

As for Blue Mistress, the first steps of the refit are underway.
Yesterday afternoon, there was a definite sense of direction on board.
Perhaps I shall come back later in the year with an update.

In the meantime, enjoy your sailing