Finally, after what's been a very long time in the making, our nesting dinghy; fidget, has been sailing for the first time.
We started off, still in America by making cardboard models to scale. Finally happy with the appearance, we roughly cut the ply needed, storing it under the forward berth; which didn't make for a very comfortable bed.
In Guatemala we shaped and glued up the hull between torrential downpours. A word of warning from this; if you're trying to build a nesting dinghy, obviously it must nest, but when you glue the hulls to the mating surfaces, bolt the surfaces together so they will definitely mate later!
Some more progress was made before we left; we scoured a timber yard for wood suitable to make into a mast, gaff and boom for our Gunter rig. Knowing we wouldn't have access to a table saw for a while, a bolt rope run was made in the gaff with this and an inverted T shape router bit. I used a 1” radius roundover bit to route the shape from the square stock (we made our oars the same way). If you ever do this don't attempt a perfect circle, leave enough wood for the bearing of the bit to run along. Then knock off the edges with a plane. The gaff jaws were made with offcuts of plywood.
That's where the progress stalled. At first we hoped we'd have her sailing around the enchanting San Blas islands in order to visit exotic villages in tucked up spots. It was not to be.
When that opportunity sailed by we dreamed of having the rudder, sails, mast and daggerboard ready as we visited the coral encrusted Pacific islands. We set to in Taiohae bay, Nuku Hiva, first concentrating on the buoyancy chambers. Progress was made, but a disproportionate amount of time was spent wrestling fenders on, trying to stop her beating up Impetuous as she swung around in the swell of that rolly anchorage. That cemented her name 'Fidget'.
As we left for the Tuamotus we still hoped we might explore shallow lagoons with crystal clear water, swept by the refreshing trades; mask and snorkel in hand, in our own little bug. There were always more islands and atolls coming up in the future. We dreamed of her sails providing the tranquil power we have grown accustomed to, gliding across the large open stretches of brilliant colour; Impetuous safe at anchor in deeper water. But, it wasn't to be. To be honest we were having too much fun being fleet of foot to concentrate on the task.
When we arrived in Auckland for Christmas we turned to each other and agreed we should really use the opportunity of inactivity amongst joviality to finish the sailing part to the dinghy. So, between partying, we set to work.
The vision I had always had for Fidget was a smaller version of the mirror dinghy. To that extent no plans for fidget ever existed beyond the cardboard model. How the mast, sails, rudder fitted together as well as its general appearance draws from my happy memories of sailing a mirror dinghy as a child.
Buoyancy, seemed the first place to start, no point putting in all this effort to have fidget sink on us the first time we capsize. This was simply a question of sealing up the inspection hatches.
We had been given an old dinghy sail which Ruth set about converting in to main and jib. The boom is particularly high cut as it exactly follows a seem in the original sail. It has the added bonus of not hitting our heads as we tack. The jib tack has since had to be further reinforced where we were delighted to find our sewing machine could manage 6 layers of heavier sail cloth with a run up and a following wind!
The rudder pivots up into the stock so we can land ashore without fear of tearing off the gudgeon’s that are bolted through her transom. These are made from offcuts of teak strengthened by stainless steel. The whole arrangement is topped off by the tiller, perhaps douglas fir from the bowsprit; we have so many offcuts.
'Life is too short to splice wire', Bernard Moitessier reputedly once said. This didn't deter Ruth from spending a couple of days learning how to splice eyes in some old guardrail wire to make a fore stay and two shrouds. Frequently piercing her fingers in the process, the result was not as neat as she'd have liked but will be strong and saved us $60 in cable clamps. Perversely, this took about as much time as making all the stays for Impetuous. A wise chap, that Moitessier.
Of course, as you would expect for her maiden voyage there was scarcely a breath of wind. We did manage to sail around the headland of the bay and far out of sight of the grown up Impetuous.
Despite having all sailed thousands of miles across the Pacific, sailing Fidget brings out the inner child in us all. We had barely finished our morning tea and had scarcely thought of putting on some clothes when the rasp of our neighbours outboard alerted us to Jean-Michels' imminent arrival, gleaming like a child on Christmas. Soon he was reaching across the bay in the light winds of the morning. Other friends are keen to get sailing and we've even had a race challenge.
At last we are able to explore to our hearts content under sail, as we did exploring Great Barrier island. Fidget may not be the prettiest dinghy but she fits perfectly under our boom and is very roomy for guests and shopping. It takes us about 20 minutes to get her from lashed down to intact in the water and another 10 minutes to get all her sailing paraphernalia in place. But she is still light enough for us to pick up and walk up a beach, just. Finally, with all the offcuts stuck together and only an unfinished table leaf to contend with, we sleep a lot more comfortably.
Ingredients for our sailing nesting dinghy;
4 sheets 1/4” marine ply
Cable ties and epoxy
Fibre glass to tab the joints
Offcuts of wood for various reinforcements
Various small offcuts of stainless steel (from an old stove)
10 metres of 2”square softwood
Rigging (old lifelines)
Donated old sail
Miscellaneous bits of rope