Reprinted from an article by Tony Latimer for "Boat World"....Dec/Jan 1995
The idea for Forbes & Cameron began to take shape in the Virgin Islands. In the harbour of Charlotte Amalie lies Hassel Island, where Manfred Deitrich has his sail loft. You could work for Manfred doing hand work in return for a loft full of sails to sleep in, an unlimited supply of spuds and unions, and best of all, the use of a skiff with an outboard.
Dave Dana was a builder/designer and Lloyd's surveyor for the Caribbean. Every evening, on Dave's sea wall, we would discuss boat design and construction and swap yarns. Among our number were Bill Slocum and Les Anderson. Bill had built a 40' Tancook Whaler at Yacht Haven. "Jusfine " as she was called, sailed like a witch. That boat took my eye. The idea of such an old fashioned rig sailing so well really appealed to me. The rig was easy to build with common materials. Les Anderson with his Cowhorn Schooner "Penelope" was another source of inspiration. Les is a "get it done" kind of bloke with an exquisite artist's eye. He sketches in wood with the most delightful results.
During these times I rebuilt a 27' foot clinker built sloop, which I subsequently sailed up to the 1974 America's Cup races in Newport. Dana had told me that if I rebuilt this boat and took her to sea, he would design a boat for me. Some time after Newport I went to visit Dana at his new home in Martha's Vinyard and approached him with a counter proposal. I would design my own boat under his supervision. He agreed, I think with some relief, as he was very busy at the time.
I had obtained the Tancook lines from Howard Chapelle at the Smithsonian. These were the same lines that Slocum had used for his boat. "Jusfine" had one fault. She drew a quarter wave in the form of a three foot rooster tail about twentyfive feet astern. After putting her lines through the numbers, we found as expected, her prismatic coeficient was very low at .47 - This meant that she was pinched at the ends, hence the roostertail. After slackening the middle diagonal out to full fair curve, and fairing the sections to that, we found the prismatic to be up around .54 - exactly where it should be. this process added about one ton of displacement back aft.I wanted a larger boat than these lines represented, so we multiplied by 1.2 - this yielded a hull 48' on deck, 38'8" on the waterline, 12' of beam, 5' of draught and 12 1/4 tons of displacement.
In order to control and manipulate weight distribution, it was decided to use multi - diagonal construction. by trading off light overall construction with lead instead of stone ballast, deckhouses and accomodation could be added without adversely affecting the center of gravity. The hull and deck would be three diagonal layers, each layer 5/16" thick.
Once the design was completed a building site had to be found. Vancouver Island was the final choice - good wood and a mild climate were the deciding factors. To my surprise, good wood proved to be difficult to obtain. My landlord finally stepped in and introduced me to the boss of B.C. Forest Products dry land sort at Port Renfrew. They sold me 14 excellent yellow cedar logs. They were 42' long and filled a self - loading logging truck. These were sawn by a local independant sawmill. I assisted while we cut for edge grain material. You will find ony half a dozen dime - sized knots in the whole boat.
Meanwhile the rig was taking shape. The spars would be round in section, built of box constuction with tapering wall thickness. They would be laminated of Douglas Fir. the original Tancooks had long overhanging booms. I wanted access to the end of the boom so it was shortened and a pink stern was added. There had been written and photographic references to "pinked " Tancook Whalers, so it was appropriate. the gaff of the main was peaked up to a spiked topmast where a gaff tops'l of 100 sq. ft. was added - this doubled the luff of th main without affecting the center of effort. She was no longer a bald headed rig but could be sailed as such when short handed or in a good breeze.
All her fitings are bronze, mostly custom cast. Bronze is easy to work and very handsome. If a person is handy with tools, it doesn't take long to pick up some of the tricks of the pattern maker's trade. If one's own time is discounted, the price of bronze fittings compares favourably with the other materials and the results are suited to the job.
After years of escalating costs, raising a family and working for a living, "Forbes & Cameron" was finally launched in Cowichan Bay. She remained a power vessel for a few years while the rig was built. Her SABB 30hp diesel with contollable pitch propeller drives the boat at eight knots in flat water, and 6.5 knots when it is blowing 25-30 on the nose.
The sails were made by my old mate Tom Clarke of Essex Connecticut. They were one of his last suits and are a credit to the sailmaker's art. The total sail area is around 1800 sq.ft. All sails are of manageable size, none exceeding 550sq.ft. The single jib can be set self tending to a club or to sheets. The overlapping fores'l - the driving power of the rig - is tended from the cockpit by winches. The main of course is self tending. The fore may be set from a boom when one reef is tied in , making all sails self tending. "Forbes & Cameron" had her first sail in the 1993 Gaffer's race in Sidney. The rig has proven to be a delight. Under working sail of 1200sq.ft. she sails very well, reaching at about 8 kts. in 15-20 knots of wind and it is quite amazing what 600sq.ft. of tops'ls can do in light conditions.
These days when someone tells me they are going to build a boat, I usually tell them to lie down until the feeling goes away. I'm only half kidding. I can't say I've loved every moment (the winter night the boat shed nearly blew away, or the day the basement flooded on my lovely dry laminates!) but all in all it has been a positive endeavour. Would - be boat builders should not be discouraged. When I started the project I had a boat I could not sell and no money .... come to think of it, I find myself in the same situation today.