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 – Mischief

Seb writes that he has bought Mischief.

Found her in a yard at Calstock on the River Tamar.

There is work to do on her but “her hull, decks and mast are sound; she has new standing rigging; a good set of sails etc.”

“Her interior is completely bare however (pure, as the previous owner put it), with no through hull fittings other than the engine water intake, but she does needs a lot of work done on her interior”

He is doing some immediate work on her “. . . gave her a good scrub; fitted a new fore hatch; refit the genoa tracks; tinkered with the engine . . .”

“I will be taking Mischief to Portsmouth from Plymouth as soon as she is sea worthy.”

Seb has plans for Mischief and originally contacted me about self-steering gear:

I posted on this and two useful links came back – thank you again for those. In the meantime, he (Seb) has noted:

“It seems that few Folksong’s have been fitted with mechanical self-steering gear, so I have been using the Contessa 26 as a source of information regarding the suitability of wind-vanes (given that they are both loosely based on the Folkboat). So far the Windpilot pacific light servo-pendulum gear, or the Hydra Autosteer trim-tab system, seem the most likely candidates, mainly due to their weight and cost.”

My choice would be the Pacific Light but that’s based on study and other people’s preferences – not practical experience.

Here is a clip of one in action following last year’s Jester Challenge.

“Crossing Lyme Bay after returning from 2 months away on Jester Challenge to Azores. Big following sea and wind around F5.”

I’m sorry, I don’t know who made the clip – perhaps somebody could let me know so I can thank them personally.

Any further comments would be welcome.

And Calstock looks the perfect place to find a Folksong!

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 – spinnaker preparation

I went aboard during the slack tide to do a few jobs – strengthen the mooring lines, make it easier to drop the pick-up line and also the anti-chafe plastic piping on the stern lines had slipped and need re-securing. I ran the engine and remembered how much it needs a service.  And there was very little water in the boat – one pull on the hand-pump was enough.


When I bought Blue Mistress, I inherited a spinnaker that had seen better days and, having written it off, I have been content to sail without one. However, I have recently acquired a nearly-new spinnaker from a Folkboat –  (North Sails), so am now looking at ways of setting it.

The idea is to prepare the ground for doing it single-handed and then, for the first few times have a crew, to test out the the theory.

By sewing tags onto the spinnaker bag at the forward ‘angles’, I can tie it to either side of the pushpit forward of the stanchions. It will be held open by the line to the forestay and fixed at the base to the bow roller. The bungee cord can be tightened or loosened to control the size of the opening and keep the sail in the bag until needed.

Having worked that out and found the halyard was not long enough to feed back to the cockpit, which could be a problem –  (and dropped the bag back into the dinghy to bring home for sewing), I looked at the pole.

I wanted to decide on lengths – length of sheet/guy and downhaul.

By shackling a block forward, and feeding the downhaul back to the cockpit, I can control it from there.

The sheet/guy can be fed to the second track aft of the main sheet track and brought round the winch to the usual cleat, (Blue Mistress does not have self-tailing winches – doesn’t seem to need them).

I know it’s possible to do this single-handed because it happens on Fram.

In theory, given a good day and light winds, I could probably manage this sail – but, hey, that’s theory and I have a way to go yet. (All suggestions gratefully received).


By the time I came to leave, the flood tide was well under way and it carried the dinghy back to the slipway.

Just the two of us on this trot at the end of February – Blue Mistress and Charisma.

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 – of dolphins and speed

AA has come up with an answer to my ‘the speed of dolphins’ question via this link.

Under the title “Dolphins swim so fast it hurts” the author reports:

“What is the fastest a dolphin can swim? Near the surface, no more than 54 kilometres per hour. Why? Because it hurts it to swim faster.Those are the findings of a pair of researchers from the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.  But tuna, they say, do not suffer the same problem. Gil Iosilevskii and Danny Weihs carried out a series of calculations to model the tail and fins of fish such as tuna and mackerel, and cetaceans such as dolphins. The aim was to determine what limits the maximum speed at which these creatures can swim. The researchers found that although muscle power is the limiting factor for small fish, this is not the case for larger and more powerful swimmers such as tuna and dolphins. . . .”

Citing cavitation – (the same problem that causes erosion in propellers), as the painful limiting factor, they give 10-15 metres per second (36-54 kilometres per hour) as a maximum.


So how does this tie in with man’s maximum speed on water without an engine?

For that, you have to look at Hydroptere achieving 51.3 knots over 500 metres

It seems they built an aeroplane and then found a way of gluing it to the surface of the water.

By the way, if you are a wooden-boat person, don’t for a moment think that boat-builders haven’t for ever been constantly developing their skills and technology to improve the speed and/or capacity of their craft, especially where commerce or glory were involved.

It’s not for nothing that the organisers of class-racing have had to place limits on boat specifications to make racing fairer – and don’t for a moment think that individual racers aren’t for ever looking for ways to quietly (very, very quietly) improve the performance of their own boats.

Hopefully, technology will come out of Hydroptere that will filter down to the rest of us.

(And let’s hope they continue to sail where there’s no traffic).


Which brings me to Blue Mistrss and a more prosaic rate of travel!

When the Folksong were built, one of the accepted methods of calculating maximum boat speed was as follows:

“The speed that a yacht’s hull can be made to travel through water is related to waterline length.

The formula for an average sea-going yacht of conventional shape is:

Speed in knots = 1.4 x Square root of the L.W.L. in feet

The multiplier is altered according to the type of hull. It may range from 1.25 for a tubby hull to 1.5  for a large racing yacht.”

Therefore Blue Mistress’ theoretical maximum speed at L.W.L 19’ 8”: (I have made no allowance for hull shape)

= 1.4 x square root of 19.66 ft = 1.4 x 4.434 = 6.2 knots

I guess there are several other calculations now, but that was then.

The maximum speed (recorded on my handheld gps) on last Sunday’s sail was 6.8 knots.

The best ever is 10.4 knots, remembering that this is speed-over-the-ground rather than speed-through-the-water, i.e. there was an element of tide in the speed recorded – and in the case of 10.4 knots it was a spring tide plus surfing that helped, which makes it even slower than Hydroptere where, presumably, for their record to stand, the water was slack.

Oh, and also not forgetting that my numbers would have to be achieved for a mere nano-second to satisfy the gps, not a timed distance over 500 metres!


But there’s one distinct advantage for Blue Mistress here  – I bet Hydroptere’s crew didn’t have time for the dolphins.

On sailing a Folksong – Matilda

One of the pleasures of writing this blog is to hear from other Folksong owners – in fact, that was one of the reasons I started the blog.

So, let me introduce Matilda.

Alex contacted me because he was looking for other Folksong owners for advice and comments.

He writes:

“Having recently bought my first cruiser, a Folksong called Matilda (Aug ’09) I am in the early stages of a major winter refit.”

“I was . . . hoping to find some other Folksong owners based on the south coast as it would be good to get in touch with them, with the thought of meeting up next year for a mini rally of sorts. Also I was thinking of setting up a Folksong website, but wasn’t sure how much interest there would be. What do you think? Incidentally do you know how many Folksongs were built and how many are still sailing in England?”

“One question that springs to mind is regarding the primary winch mounts you have. Currently I have large wooden blocks under the winches, which I found stop the water flowing along the deck whilst heeling and water comes over into the cockpit. I have tried to find some stainless steel mounts similar to yours but have not been able to find any. Do you know where yours came from?”

In answer to his last question I have sent the telephone number of the boatyard I use in Plymouth, but, like Alex, I would be interested if other people have a similar problem to his. As he noted from the images I sent, Blue Mistress has a stainless steel bracket for the sheet winches that allows for the free flow of water along the deck. We don’t have a problem with water entering the cockpit.

Out in the boat today, it seems that the boat has to heel at least 30+ degrees to bring water along the deck to hit the winch bracket.

Alex has started his own blog  and can be contacted here.

On sailing a Folksong – small jobs

The weather was due to set in yesterday afternoon and I was late getting aboard – so no sail, but a happy couple of hours doing small jobs:

  • A small brass cleat plus a short lanyard on a brass screw will stop the lid over the stove crushing the kettle every time we go onto a port tack.
  • Two O-rings will hold the chart table firmer to its fittings. The play wasn’t much but just enough to cause concern.
  • The greaser for the stern gland has been recharged. How do you stop grease travelling around a small saloon? Answer: wear gloves, have a couple of cloths handy and be very, very careful!
  • The oil has been checked. We have used a little since the last check, but it’s ok.
  • The screws on the autohelm attachment below the tiller needed tightening. I have used it much less this year – enjoying the helm myself or letting the crew steer. It was only when I removed it  last time that I noticed the fitting was moving. I shall watch it more closely in future.


I have been playing with a tubtrug as a simple solution for extra stowage in the fore cabin.

They are large enough to hold all sorts of odds and ends that you don’t need often, but when you do need them, it’s always in a hurry and they are always buried somewhere.

Because space (including headroom) is limited in a boat this size, stowage is critical. It’s hard work searching beneath piles of loose gear. Using these for bins, clears the fore cabin and makes it easy to open the lockers in the sole.

As from yesterday, this one holds various coils of rope, lines etc; it was  sea boots, awning, hand-bailer and a couple of fenders (as in the image) before that.

They are flexible, meaning they are very easy to pull into the saloon or up on deck.

I like the versatility  – it would bail a lot of water in an emergency.

This one  fits snugly just forward of the main bulkhead. It needs a simple fastening to hold it steady on a starboard  tack.

They are an excellent place for wet heavy-weather gear in a boat with no hanging locker.

I am going to buy another one in a garden sale.


Oh, and I took a some of bearings and transferred them to the chart. Just practising 🙂

On sailing a Folksong – an October Saturday

A perfect sail yesterday – sunshine and steadyish wind (maybe needed a little more for absolute perfection).

Starboard tack out through the eastern entrance to Shag Stone, then a close reach to Cawsand.

Plenty of other boats out.

We anchored for an hour or so’s picnic close inshore, a short distance from Cawsand and Kingsand

And enjoyed the run home to Cattewater wharves. picking up the mooring around 1700.

Good sail, good company. Thanks, guys.