One week on Manu Rere
Manu Rere (‘Bird on the Wing’) danced at her anchor out in the bay like a white seabird just landed on the ocean for a little rest.
Klaus and I met Glenn Tieman and his beautifully built 11m Child of the Sea (Tama Moana) design at the harbour wall overlooking the Bay of San Lucas at the tip of Baja California on the Pacific coast of Mexico. We had flown out from Europe to spend a week sailing with Glenn and to learn all about this ethnic double canoe, the Polynesian crab-claw rig and the side rudders/steering paddles.
We at James Wharram Designs, had designed this boat for Glenn 4 years ago, with a hullshape based on those of the canoes of Tikopia and Anuta. Glenn spent 3 years building her and had since sailed her down from California.
To get on board we had to paddle through the surf in a tiny outrigger canoe that Glenn uses as dinghy. At first this seemed very precarious, but in fact it is safer and less prone to flooding than a rubber dinghy in these conditions. Glenn even uses it to lay out anchors in a gale and says he can paddle into a gale force wind where a dinghy would be impossible to row. I was glad though that I had brought several waterproof bags.
Climbing on board I immediately felt at home on Manu Rere. She has a very similar ‘feel’ to our Pahi 63 ‘Spirit of Gaia’. This feeling of familiarity stayed with me through the week, as her motion and the way she sails in both strong and light wind conditions felt similar to Gaia. Understandable, when we first discovered the 9m Tikopian canoe in Auckland Museum in 1995, on drawing her lines, we found a surprising similarity to the lines of ‘Spirit of Gaia’.
The first day we went for a brisk sail out round the famous rocks of Cabo San Lucas, into the Pacific swell and strong winds. We took a couple of long tacks to windward to see how the Crabclaw sails coped and were pleased at the speed and how the sails, made from cheap polytarp, stood up to strong winds. We got wet as the odd wave splashed aboard and had a speedy downwind sail back into the bay.
That evening in town we stocked up on food, which Glenn brought aboard the next morning, as well as filling the 1 gallon water bottles, which fit neatly in the bilges under the bunks. No wind at first this morning, so a good opportunity to go for a swim, armed with a scraper. Glenn had sailed down from California and had not had an opportunity to scrape the bottom and I found it was more fouled than we had realised.
From experience I know that a slim double canoe, that relies on the shallow draft V-eed hull shape for going to windward, will not sail well if the bottom is fouled. I had noticed the previous day that our angle to the wind was a bit disappointing, now I knew why.
Bottom cleaned, the wind sprang up and we set off Eastwards along the coast. A force 3 wind on a broad reach gave us an average speed of 4 knots and an easy motion. We now could quietly study the boat, the rigging, the steering paddles/side rudders and all the little details that Glenn had worked out over the last year’s sailing. I took lots of photos to study later.
Manu Rere does not have a motor, so we were entirely dependent on the wind. This I found very liberating, as you don’t have the pressure of making that decision of when to start the motor to get to an anchorage before nightfall. As the first good anchorage was 40 Nm from Cabo San Lucas, we ended up sailing through the night under a beautiful full moon and very light winds. Manu Rere ‘ghosted’ along in the lightest of winds and when I came on deck for my dawn watch we were within a few miles from our anchorage. Still we did not anchor till about 11 as the wind died on us half a mile from shore. No motor!
Next day we set off down the coast back to San Lucas. An offshore wind gave us a pleasant beam reach. I suggested we try to use both steering paddles (side rudders) together. We connected the two short tillers with a suitable piece of timber and some bungees. The result was good and steering seemed improved, it also gave the helms person more options of where to sit, including a very comfy low chair on the platform with the tillerbar under one’s legs.
The weather gods decided we needed some more testing sailing and backed the wind to a SW headwind and increased it to force 5, gusting 6. White horses all round; Glenn de-powered the mailsail by tilting it down. This really worked, much easier than traditional reefing and quicker.
Though we were now sailing a good angle to the wind, due to the clean bottom!, the wind direction forced us out into the open sea. A tack inshore showed us we were doing 100 degrees between tacks on the compass. Not bad for these wind and wave conditions, and self-made ‘polytarp’ sails. It reminded me of beating up the Red Sea for 12 days, ten years ago on Gaia.
It looked like this could be a wind set in for a few days and the decision was made to turn round and see if it would last and take us the 95 miles or so to La Paz.
We were beginning to get to know this piece of coast as we now sailed up it for the third time, this time at exhilarating speed. Without a speedo we judged the speed at 8-12 knots, maybe peaking at 14 knots when surfing on a wave. Later I timed it from land bearings over a 2 hour stretch and we averaged 8 knots. There was a brief panic as the knot on one of the lower steering paddle ropes slipped and the paddle swung loose. Klaus hung on to the remaining steering paddle, while I jumped to the mizzen brails to reduce the turning force of the mizzen and Glenn tried to pull the other paddle on board. Soon we were able to retie the rope and continue our ‘Fair’ ride, this time without the mizzen. Glenn also reduced the force on the mainsail by partially tightening the brails. This creates bulges in the sail that lets the wind spill out of the top of the sail; again an effective way of ‘reefing’ (something similar was used to de-power Viking sails).
Unfortunately our luck did not hold and 8 miles North of our starting point that morning (we had actually sailed 38 miles since then) the wind again reversed on us, now blowing at force 5 from the NNW, again on the nose. So La Paz was out of the question as we had just 2 sailing days left. So a fourth chance to see the same piece of coast, this time again by night, during which the wind went very light. By dawn we reached San Lucas, having sailed 86 Nm since the previous noon.
So what did we learn?
We all felt very safe on board, Klaus particularly commented on this, which was most important, for as a life-long monohull sailor, this was his first experience of sailing a Polynesian Double Canoe. He was also impressed how well the very low-tech crab-claw rig performed. My worry about how to reef was solved by de-powering the rig through tilting it, followed by tightening the brails, which spilled some of the wind.
Glenn carries three sails, one mainsail and two small mizzens of equal size. The second mizzen can be hoisted on the foremast, but will also be a spare for the mizzen. This is seen as a better solution than a third sail half way in size between main and mizzen, which means moving the mizzen (the smallest sail) to the fore mast in a gale and then back again after the gale.
In fact Glenn told me he thought the best gale tactic would be to reverse the boat (i.e. sailing stern first), raising both steering paddles and sailing on the backed mizzen. This may seem a mad idea, but it means the mizzen acts like the storm jib and can be lowered at any time as it heads into the wind. The higher bows would be facing the storm waves and one can trail a sea.
anchor from them to keep them facing the wind and to slow the boat. He hasn’t yet tried this out for real; I hope he won’t have to for some time yet…..
As the Tama Moana design is first and foremost an Ethnic Double Canoe, with no concessions to modern man’s comforts, the living accommodation is basic. Glenn has left the centre bulkheads in situe, so there are 4 private single cabins in the hulls. Each cabin was snug and comfortable with good sitting headroom and a big hatch over the bunk, which can be left open or propped up in good weather. If you are used to camping in a small ‘mountain’ tent, living on Manu Rere is at least as comfortable.
The small galley was in one of the bow cabins. I cooked a couple of meals in there, one while sailing in a moderately rough sea. As a ‘woman’ and long time boat cook, I suggested a few changes to make working in there easier. I made some sketches for Glenn for increased stowage possibilities. The same for the sleeping cabins; to increase stowage one can make wall bags, which can store all clothing and give a soft backrest.
Throughout the week we studied the steering paddles. Glenn had sorted out the attaching ropes perfectly, so they could be tightened as hard as one should wish. Still the movement of them seemed at times very stiff, at other times there seemed to be a side force that could not be explained with bad sail trim. The stiffness on one of the paddles we found was due to the ‘boss’ on the hullside being not pointed enough, thereby not allowing the rudder to move much. The other boss was better.
The strange side force we think we tracked down to the paddles being quite thick in the upper part where it pivots on the hull. This puts the pivot point about 5-6cm to one side of the blade axis, so the water force wants to drag the paddle sideways, rather than it trailing in a straight line. I never experienced such a side force on the steering paddle of the Tahiti Wayfarer. Her side rudders are much flatter and more paddle shaped. The pivot on the hull is where the blade is quite thin, so it pivots close to the paddle’s centreline. I therefore think that the solution is to flatten the inner face of the Tama Moana steering paddles and maybe re design their shape more in line with the Tahiti Wayfarer steering paddles. I will be making some models to test out this theory.
Klaus and I also discussed possible additions and changes to the Tama Moana design for use as the Lapita Voyage boats. We decided that we should extend the crossbeams so they stick out at least 1 foot - 30cm each side (a common practice on Pacific ethnic boats). This will give more stowage space for the spare sails and spars and also for an outrigger canoe to be used as dinghy, leaving the centre deck clear for living on. The extended beams would also give lifting points to carry the boats up a beach. We will be sailing in the hurricane season, so may have to find a place of safety ashore.
We had a fantastic week sailing, all we need to do now is to raise sufficient funds to start building our own canoes and prepare for the voyage.