On sailing a Folksong – Self-steering gear

Earlier in the year, Seb (Mischief) asked about self-steering gear on a Folksong. He was interested in a bracket to carry it.

I know he has now fitted a Hasler gear and has since sailed from the Tamar to Portsmouth with it, so I hope to hear how he got on.

In the meantime, this is the gear I picked for Blue Mistress – the Windpilot Pacific Light.

One of the reasons I like the Folksong is that there are no predetermined class rules. You have to make up your own mind. So, having  decided which self-steering would suit me, then comes the problem of how to mount it on the stern with a rudder post that stretches as far aft of the transom as that on the Folksong?

This is what we eventually decided:

The Pacific Light is relatively simple to fit on most boats and Peter Foerthman of Windpilot is immensely helpful. However, there are always problems to overcome in any project like this. If anyone with a Folksong would like more detail, let me know.

There is a learning curve. I have already discovered a great deal about sail balance using the gear . . . but there is a long way to go, and, as only way to learn  is to get out there and do it, I am going to keep Blue Mistress in the water through the winter and stick at it.

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 – A ‘come-in’ for Blue Mistress

I have had a small ‘come-in’ fitted on Blue Mistress.

This is not the large, curved, ‘extra-room’ spray-hood seen on most modern cruising yachts but a small, upright pram hood over the companionway. I believe this design is called a racing spray-hood, but I prefer ‘come-in’ – (a description I came across in a book written in the 1950’s),  for the comfort of the name.

I can now sit in my favourite spot out of the weather – on the companion way sill with my feet on the engine housing and a good view forward.

The frame is well-constructed and robust (Dicky B Marine). It is designed to fold flat onto the deck with an angle to clear the wooden bar at the front end of the hatch. In the upright position, it is secured firmly onto the bulkhead either side of the companionway with straps.

The canvas zips onto the frame and is attached to the aforementioned bar with studs – it can be shipped in a trice. The original design had the attachment further forward to give it an elegant slope and also create some room to stow a camera etc. This would have involved fitting a new batten across the hatch housing. However, bolts through the deck here would have stopped the hatch sliding forward. In the event,  it has been kept as small as possible.

The opening is just too small for me to enter and leave without having to push the trailing edge forward about six inches. Initially that meant lowering it completely every time I went below. The problem has been solved with two short lengths of shock cord stretched from the angle at the bottom of the frame to the point where the retaining straps are fastened. These straps are very secure but it is fiddly to keep releasing and tightening them. The shock cord does the job perfectly.

I particularly like this design because it leaves the winches and lines clear. I can go forward easily without tripping over it.

Also, the window is big enough not to block the view forward from the tiller.

. . . I’ve yet to trial it in a gale

. . . and get used to the interruption to the lines of the boat!

On sailing a Folksong – The timing could have been better

The day job is demanding at the moment – and the holiday was abroad, therefore I have not spent enough time on the boat.

So, I thought, why not lift her now that most boats are back in the water and get a couple of jobs done.

This includes removing layers of anti-fouling that weren’t removed properly in her early years. There are patches where it flakes off easily under a hose.

And there are a couple of innovations on Blue Mistress (more on these later) that have been in the pipeline for some time.

She was last lifted was eighteen months ago. There was limited but great sailing during the winter, but it has taken its toll on her hull.

So we lifted her . . .

– and guess what. We have now had a prolonged stretch of beautiful weather – the best for a long while.

My hands are itching to feel the tiller, the pull on a sheet, the rise of the bow on a swell.

I stood in the cockpit yesterday, my feet seeking the vitality of a boat on the water and, you know what?, she felt solid and lifeless.

However elegant, a boat out of water is little better than a glorified shed.

On sailing a Folksong – Betsy

The last I heard of Betsy, she was fitting out for a trip from the Algarve to Lisbon.

I look forward to hearing how they got on.


In terms of maritime history, this is a coast of great importance, the early Portugese navigators leaving a legacy that is still relevant to us today.

Looking through the links, I came across this report – The Wreck Report for ‘Hantoon’ and ‘Rothesay’ 1882, which occurred some 50 miles north of Cape St Vincent. Although it doesn’t compete with the early use of astronomical tables for navigation (or even events like the Battle of Cape St Vincent), for those  interested in seamanship, particularly where the Collision Regulations are concerned, it’s worth reading – and remembering even though it happened over a century ago, it could have been yesterday.

On sailing a Folksong – Sheet to tiller self-steering

Catching up on my reading.

I see that Webb Chiles posted on sheet to tiller self-steering last month.

With the sails balanced, Blue Mistress will usually sail herself for long enough for me to go forward, do whatever is required and come aft again. In stronger winds I put a line round the tiller.

Of course, moving forward alters the balance and I cannot rely on her maintaining a course for too long.

So I will try this and let you know how I get on.

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 – 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.