Gem 23 day-sailer

You know some­thing’s up when a hard­ened petrol-head launch­ing his jet-ski at the boat ramp stops to ad­mire a tim­ber yacht. “Bloody beau­ti­ful!” The smitten jet-skier was ogling Jade – a Gem 23 class day-sailer – and he was one of many ad­mir­ers.

Boating NZ - - Contents - BY MATT VANCE

A mod­ern rein­ven­tion of a time­less clas­sic, hand-crafted by a tra­di­tional wooden boat­builder.

The key to Jade’s celebrity is her clas­sic lines and var­nished spars. They have some­thing about them that seems to at­tract the ro­man­tic streak in peo­ple. Her 23-feet are pure magic and the de­sign and de­tail of her con­struc­tion is thanks to Her­bert Krumm-gart­ner. As a young man in Ger­many, Her­bert loved sail­ing so much he de­cided to build his own boat and sail around the world. Un­for­tu­nately, al­though there was plenty of tim­ber in his home area near the Black For­est, there were few boat­build­ing or sail­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

He promptly moved to Lake Am­mersee, near Mu­nich, to be­come an ap­pren­tice boat­builder. In 1986, with his wife Romy, he moved to New Zealand and set up a clas­sic boat­build­ing busi­ness.

Ini­tially he worked for John Glad­den, be­fore be­com­ing one of the work­ing part­ners of the Wooden Boat Work­shop. Aspir­ing to build real boats and deal with clas­sic boat en­thu­si­asts, Her­bert then stepped out on his own to run a work­ing boat­yard ex­hibit at the New Zealand Mar­itime Mu­seum.

The ex­pe­ri­ence and crafts­man­ship gained over the years has cul­mi­nated in the for­ma­tion of Clas­sic Boats Ltd – and the build­ing of Jade – with the aim of get­ting peo­ple hooked on wooden boats.

The de­sign in­spi­ra­tion for the Gem class came from the day­boats of the United States east coast of the early 1900s. It was a time when Nat Her­reshoff dom­i­nated yacht de­sign and the day-sailer was the gen­tle­man’s ver­sion of sail­ing.

Her­bert de­signed her the old way, with a spoke­shave and a piece of kauri cre­at­ing a half model that looked right to the eye and the re­sult is a work of fine art. Jade’s long over­hangs, counter stern set be­neath a clas­sic gaff rig are im­me­di­ately strik­ing. The ad­di­tion of a spoon bow for up­wind work, a nar­row beam and deep dis­place­ment have pro­duced a rare mix of per­for­mance and beauty.

Says Jade’s cur­rent care­taker, Dirk Spoel­stra: “Wooden boats just have that some­thing ex­tra. I en­joy the sail­ing rather than the main­tain­ing and Jade of­fers the beauty of a wooden boat with the re­duced main­te­nance of a boat that can be trail­ered and garaged.

“This also avoids all the cost of own­ing a keeler and opens up a whole world of cruis­ing des­ti­na­tions that can be got to by road. With Jade we can get into places most peo­ple ig­nore which, in the end, is what sail­ing is about for us.”

Jade’s con­struc­tion is carvel-planked in yel­low-heart kahikatea over lam­i­nated tanekaha ribs. There was a mould per frame to en­sure a fair hull and the nar­row carvel planks were ta­pered and edge-glued.

Get­ting the kahikatea planks to Jade’s curves must have re­quired much steam and pa­tience, as there is not a straight line in her. Once the hull was com­pleted the struc­ture was glassed over. This is tra­di­tional boat­build­ing meet­ing mod­ern con­ve­nience and it has pro­duced a hull that is both strong and pleas­ing to the eye.

Jade car­ries her counter well aft and she has a long keel to pro­vide di­rec­tional sta­bil­ity and to pro­tect the low-as­pect

rud­der and the prop of the 8hp Yamaha. The out­board pro­trudes through the hull from its well in the aft end of the cock­pit.

A pipe from the out­board’s ex­haust ex­its un­der wa­ter and in­ge­niously re­moves ex­haust fumes from the well. There are two wa­ter­tight com­part­ments in the bow and stern which pro­vide am­ple buoy­ancy in the un­likely event of swamp­ing.

Teak floors and long bench seats di­vided into lock­ers are fea­tures of the cock­pit. The for­ward star­board locker dou­bles as an in­su­lated ice box and bodes well for the chance of cold beer.

The cabin is a sim­ple af­fair and doesn’t of­fer com­modi­ous ac­com­mo­da­tion. Built from heart macro­carpa with ma­hogany trim, its low pro­file pro­vides room for two and some gear. But the cabin does have two great fea­tures, not ob­vi­ous in the photos. The smell is of oiled tim­ber and the sound is pleas­antly sub­dued due to the thick carvel con­struc­tion

With an Ore­gon mast in a cap­tive taber­na­cle, rig­ging Jade is easy. Be­ing gaff-rigged the short six-me­tre mast stays in po­si­tion when low­ered, only just clear­ing

the counter stern. With the mast locked in the up­right po­si­tion it is a sim­ple mat­ter of bend­ing on the sails be­fore float­ing her off her trailer. At 1,100kg she is no more has­sle to trail than the av­er­age trailer-sailer and, with prac­tice, quicker to rig.

Step­ping aboard is the first of many pleas­ant sen­sa­tions. The mo­tion is pure keel­boat with none of the skit­tish­ness of a trailer sailer. Most of her 300kg of bal­last is down low in the keel­son and the pre­dictabil­ity of her mo­tion alone en­gen­ders a sense of calm for non­sail­ing guests. This makes her per­fect for in­tro­duc­ing first-timers to sail­ing.

Un­der power Jade has good ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity – the prop’s di­rectly in front of the rud­der. The 8hp Yamaha fits into one of the best-fit­ting out­board wells I’ve come across, with no slop or gur­gle or clouds of blue smoke. This makes a nice change from the in­tru­sion of an out­board bracket on the stern and keeps the tra­di­tional trim look of her day-boat her­itage.

Once clear of the ramp we raised Jade’s sails. The peak and throat hal­yards are be­side each other on the cabin top – this makes rais­ing the main­sail a sim­ple task from the cock­pit. Each hal­yard has its own bronze horn cleat

and with prac­tice you can get the throat and peak to rise in sync.

Both the gaff and boom are var­nished Ore­gon with the jaws beau­ti­fully crafted and fin­ished off in leather. Her tan-coloured sails by North Sails are cut with nar­row pan­els to give the au­then­tic tra­di­tional look.

Within min­utes the in­ge­nious­ness of the gaff rig is ap­par­ent. It is enor­mously tweak­able, with sub­tle changes to the peak, throat and out­haul pay­ing big per­for­mance div­i­dends.

Jade’s work­ing jib is set on an Ore­gon jib boom with the sheet lead­ing back to the cock­pit along the star­board side deck. In the nar­row con­fines of Lake Hood this was a bless­ing as its abil­ity to self-tack took the drama out of close-quar­ter ma­noeu­vring.

De­spite hav­ing a rel­a­tively small rud­der she re­mained well-bal­anced on the helm. The large 15m2 main­sail is the pow­er­house of the boat with the cen­tre-of-ef­fort low. The strain on the mast is min­i­mal, but the grunt is such that a first reef would be considered around 16 knots. Like many nar­row boats she is ini­tially ten­der but stiff­ens

up dra­mat­i­cally once the lee­ward rail reaches the wa­ter.

The cen­tre­board low­ers via a small bronze cock­pit winch and is made of 50mm thick Ore­gon tim­ber with a 30kg lead in­sert and glassed over. With parts of the lake sus­pi­ciously shal­low we sailed most of the day with the cen­tre­board raised and the per­for­mance did not ap­pear to suf­fer greatly.

Down­wind the gaff rig came into its own. A lit­tle tweak­ing of the trim and Jade had the pace to show her long counter stern to all but the skin­ni­est rac­ing boats. With three teenagers aboard the sail­ing was ef­fort­less as the large, com­fort­able cock­pit meant every­one main­tained their po­si­tions.

Jade’s trim was such that large crew were per­fectly po­si­tioned for fore and aft trim with­out any of the tail drag­ging. This of­ten hap­pens when every­one crowds into the aft cock­pit of a trailer sailer. From the photo boat

Jade was a de­light to be­hold from ev­ery an­gle. Each roar­ing power­boat or jet-ski that shot past of­fered ad­mir­ing glances and a thumbs up – de­spite the bar­rage of en­gine noise and sound sys­tems. On Jade there was noth­ing but the sound of wa­ter mov­ing around a long hull and the unique com­bi­na­tion of beauty and func­tion with the prom­ise of great ad­ven­tures ahead. BNZ

FAR LEFT With freed sheets the big main drives Jade ef­fort­lessly. ABOVE Im­mac­u­late crafts­man­ship, the rich­ness of tim­ber – and plenty of tra­di­tion.

BE­LOW A boomed, self-tack­ing jib makes short work of up­wind legs.

ABOVE, LEFT & FAR RIGHT Jade’s clas­si­cal lines are ac­cen­tu­ated by the bronze fit­tings.

ABOVE & BE­LOW RIGHT The var­nished Ore­gon spars are beau­ti­fully fin­ished, and the out­board en­gine is dis­creetly mounted.

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