sailing models in DC - Page 6 - RC Groups
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Feb 07, 2013, 08:22 AM

Plan B

Upon reflection I do not think of this project as fun, too much protocol and security. So skip this idea. I prefer to go to Constitution Gardens and freesail a boat or two with a grandchild or two.
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Feb 13, 2013, 08:35 AM

Searching for those pesky regulations

Recently I received a letter from Jason Baltimore as general counsel to the Architect of the Capitol. Since I have not been able to locate the Capitol Police Board's regulations which are said to have been published in local newspapers, yesterday I mailed a letter to Mr Baltimore asking him for a copy of those regulations.
Feb 15, 2013, 12:28 PM

"Traditional" pre radio control ways of sailing models

The March issue of SAIL magazine on page 18 describes "hands off" ways to control life sized sailboats. It is called "sheet-to-tiller." This looks helpful when sailing non-radio controlled model sailboats.
There is also a history of windvane control of model sailboats, and there may be one source for us to buy that equipment. I will investigate that potential and, perhaps, several books on this topic.
Feb 15, 2013, 04:56 PM
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i think that's what they used when sailing model ships on beaver lake when i was a kid in montreal....loved it ....left such strong impressions which lasted my whole life
Feb 16, 2013, 09:05 AM
Well here is one. SELF-STEERING UNDER SAIL by Peter Christian Forthmann from INTERNATIONAL MARINE, Camden Maine. iT LISTS ten similar books.
Feb 17, 2013, 11:56 AM

Another alternative

The U.S. Vintage Model Yacht Group is devoted to sailing model sailboats without the use of radio control. They use "sheet-to-tiller" or "wind vane" control of their sailboats. Their publication is "The Model Yacht" and it comes out about 3 times a year with designs of boats not controlled by radio control. A while back they offered a wind vane control system and I have asked if they still have any for sale
So I suggest that you check them out.
Feb 19, 2013, 01:16 PM

I need a "fleet" of simple free sailing boats.

Last summer an out-of-state child with spouse and children came to visit and we explored the museums on the mall. In American History we found a room full of models of sailboats. For me the most interesting was a scow schooner, two masted gaff rig. Now my plan is to build four of them so each child can be captain of his/her boat: no radio control. I will add a fin keel with ballast on the bottom. Maybe I will put a brig rig on one of them or make a 5th boat so rigged for me.
Feb 20, 2013, 09:54 AM

Alternatives to rc

Since the Capitol Police have prohibited radio control of model boats on the reflecting pools on the Mall in DC we now have to consider alternative ways of controlling our model boats. Various control methods used in the past include adjusting sheets. long strings, weighted rudders,Braine gears, multipul centerboards and leeboards,, wind vanes controlling rudders, and adjustable fins. Thus it would be helpful if you described your experience with these various methods. Thanks.
Feb 20, 2013, 09:46 PM
Damp and Dizzy member
Brooks's Avatar

Free sailing control methods

George, Braine and Vane gear is not a requirement for free-sailers. It would not be appropriate for kid's models due to it's delicacy. Braine gear was designed for adults who raced, not kids wanting to have fun messing around with boats. An interested 10yr old could have fun with it, I imagine, but for the casual sailor, it'd be overkill...and likely end up being the plaything of the attending adult while the kid "watches." :-)

A simpler rudder setup is to put lead on the trailing edge of the rudder. As the boat heels, and the bow wave tries to drive the bow to windward, the rudder falls, keeping the boat from heading up. This setup requires a free-swinging rudder, no tight hinges allowed. Sophisticated skippers will have different rudders for different courses, varying in the amount of lead and perhaps the rudder shape. This would be for someone who likes to experiment. My sandbagger uses this system, along with a rubber band on the tiller to keep the rudder centered when not heeling. The rudder free swings on copper wire pintles and brass screw eye gudgeons. I just have one rudder, it works fine for beats and reaches, not so good for a run. I'd need a larger rudder area to keep the huge mainsail boom from overpowering the boat during a run: the mainsail tends to drive her into a broad reach instead of a run.

Another simple setup is to lead the mainsheet to the aft end of a T-shaped tiller. The fore end of the T leads to a rubberband. When the wind blows hard, the sheet tugs the tiller to make the boat fall off. When wind lets up, the rubberband returns rudder to center.

A multimasted vessel can be rigged, via differential sheeting of sails on the masts, to sail a fairly straight course. This requires no special gear at all, in fact it does not even require a water rudder: the sails are used as air-rudders. My 2 masted schooner sailed this way for years, then I converted her into a brigantine, and she still sailed w/o rudder. I sailed my 4 masted barque Pamir using differential sheeting and no water rudder. This was prior to adding RC gear, sailed as an experiment in differential sheeting.

Basically, for a 2 masted boat, the foremast sails are sheeted for the desired course (say, tightish for a beat). Then the mainsail sheet is adjusted, though trial and error, until the boat holds the course you want. Tight mainsheet makes boat head up, loose mainsheet lets boat fall off.

For a fore&aft rig, there is no penalty for mis-adjustment: too tight a mainsheet, and the boat tacks more often than you wish. Too loose, and the boat falls off, perhaps wears, etc. Either way, the boat continues sailing, though perhaps not making the intended harbor.

For a squaresail rig, sheeting the aftermost sails too tight ([promoting heading up too far) results in the squaresails going aback, thus causing the craft to heave-to. Unless you have a kayak to retrieve the squarerigger, you are in for a longish wait as the boat slowly drifts to leeward. Thus, squareriggers, though eminently suitable for freesailing, can be more tricky to trim than fore&afters. See my bottle boat brig for some details, if you wish.

Boyle was a master of free sailing squarerigger models in the 1930's. He used a weighted rudder with a rubberband/spring to center. My sandbagger setup is based on his method. See his article for details.
If you are pressed for time in your building (say the kids are coming next week), you could buy simple Pine Wood Sailers kits from Seaworthy Small Ships. They are not expensive, sail very well, and can be made up in advance by you, or by the kids themselves when they arrive. A kit would take about an hour to make, if you don't have to wait for paint to dry. A first grader could make one, with supervision. George and Marla Surgent, the owners of the firm, have debugged them, making them good sailers and easy builders. They have several years of experience running model boat events at waterfront festivals. The kits are a good value for the money (~ $10/kit, only require marker pens for coloring quickly, or paint for the more patient builder). My schooner=>brigantine was made from their Coastal Schooner kit (more expensive than the Pine Wood kits @$45)

The Seaworthy kits are not self-righting, though they don't capsize as often as I'd expected. I made the sandbagger and brigantine self-righting to deal with the gusty winds in Bozeman. My Pine Wood sailers were Ieft as is; they do well, and I rarely have to rescue a capsized boat. They could be made self-righting with lead on their centerboard, I expect.

Bottle Brig freesailer:

Seaworthy Small Ships:

Boyle's 1930's square-rigging tips:

Pamir as freesailer and as an RC boat:
Last edited by Brooks; Feb 20, 2013 at 11:12 PM.
Feb 20, 2013, 10:23 PM
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A fishing reel&bottom half of the rod make a simple way to control models. I used this setup with the schooner when I sailed on ponds w/o kayak access. The boat was set up to sail away from shore. The fishing line was tied to the bow. When I decided to bring the boat back to shore, I just tugged the bow around, making the schooner tack, and back she came. A kid will have to be shown how to manage slack in the fish line: for a spin cast setup, just let the line spool out as the boat pulls it. During retrieveal, or the tack back to shore, the kid must put tension on the line as he reels in, to prevent a big snarl on the reel. He'll also have to learn to manage the loop of slack; reeling too fast will pull the bow off course.

This is a suprizingly fun method. It's especially popular with young families who don't have enough $ to get into radio control. As a Big Kid, I had fun with the direct control of the boat's course; no invisible radio waves. For the mechanically inclined, you can make a mechanical escapement to control the rudder via the fishing line. I used this for course control of my rubber-band powered Nautilus sub (dynamic diver).

I even "sailed" once from a bridge over a small irrigation ditch. I just let the boat drift downstream, then flipped the bail and set the line. It was not sailing, but it was still fun. Model boats are amenable to simple pleasures :-)
Last edited by Brooks; Feb 20, 2013 at 10:33 PM.
Feb 21, 2013, 12:10 PM

Thanks Brooks,

That is a huge help. I have Surgent's schooner, I recently finished a free sailing solid balsa schooner 35 inches LOD (freesailed it once on the Capitol Reflecting pool ) and should stop chattering by email and finish the solid balsa galleon
3 ft 6 inches LOD that I have been working off and on for some years. I also have 3 more store bought freesailoring sloops so I should stop belly aching about the Capitol Police situation on the Mall. While I like sailing the grandchildren are mostly nuts about tennis. (and I can not find my radio for my Malabar schooner. Things are a bit of a mess here since my wife died.)
Feb 21, 2013, 04:46 PM
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Brooks's Avatar
Dear George,

I'm sorry to hear about your wife :-(.

Couples unconsciously divvy up the "where's it at" tasks. It is quite common for the surviving spouse to not be able to find things. Women are often particularly good at remembering where stuff is, at least that's true in my home. It was the same in my parent's home, too; Mom could find stuff no one else could. What you are experiencing is completely normal. I hope you will be patient with yourself.

Brooks Martin
Feb 21, 2013, 05:14 PM
made of fire and pop rocks
bgnome's Avatar
I've shared all these pictures before in various places. But this is my Dumas Ace racing sloop free sail. simple rubber band control.

a rubber band is attached between the main sheet and the tiller and tension is adjusted for fine tuning control. Simple control really.

I've made several clones over the years, and am still working on a RC version of the same boat for giggles.

I dare say the cap police may still try to crack some skulls if we drop even the free sailboats in the reflecting pool. I think their over all concern is people trying to reenact the Mall scene from Forrest Gump in there.

the best bet very will be using the turning basin for models, and asking for permission in the reflecting pool for special events, like a regional regatta, or a scale model show. I don't think they will grant carte blanch permission. to use the pool in any capacity.
Feb 22, 2013, 02:45 PM

This all is very, very helpful

The US Vintage Model Yacht Group used to advertize a vane gear but I have not been able find out if they are still selling them.
Feb 23, 2013, 11:51 AM
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George, the SFMYC sails vane-controlled ("free sail") boats, you might contact them for plans and info.
Boat photos and info, about 1/2 way down the page:

Mike Stobbe is listed as the free sail squadron officer and person to contact (click on the line under his name to bring up a contact form):

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