“After moving ashore from my first schooner, and having acquired a wife and a small son,” writes Michael Colfer of Bellingham, Washington, “I realized I needed a smaller boat.” He started his search for a boat appropriate to his new life by building a Nutshell pram. It proved too small, so he next built Pete Culler’s Good Little Skiff. Christened SHAMROCK and rigged with a spritsail, it served well for cruising the San Juan Islands and camping ashore on state park campgrounds, but while the skiff did well sailing the protected waters within the archipelago, Michael wanted a boat capable of taking on some more challenging weather in the more exposed areas around the archipelago.
In his search for a more seaworthy beach cruiser capable of carrying more gear, Michael found his way to faerings and variations on the theme by Joel White (16′ Shearwater), Iain Oughtred (14′ 11″ Elf and others), and John Atkins (18′ 7” Valgerda). All three of these designs were inspired by Hardanger faerings of southwest Norway and had similar shapes below the waterline.
Michael bought plans for the Shearwater and although White’s dimensions and drawings make it possible to build without lofting, he lofted the lines and began making some modifications that would make the boat well suited to all Puget Sound waters. He added freeboard throughout and extra height to the ends to provide a dry ride in steep chop. To keep these modifications from increasing the width along the sheerline, he made the sheerstrakes closer to vertical. His changes brought the length to 17′ 3″.
He wanted to improve upon the boat’s sailing abilities but didn’t want a centerboard trunk cluttering up the boat’s interior, so his keel is deeper than that of the Shearwater, adding only a little at the bow and increasing the depth to 7″ at the stern for additional lateral resistance. The change was also meant to protect the rudder, making its removal unnecessary when landing on beaches.
Michael added storage compartments fore and aft for dry storage of his cruising gear. The aft compartment has a sloped bulkhead to make a comfortable backrest when taking the helm while sitting in the bottom of the boat. The three removable rowing thwarts clear the interior for a night spent aboard at anchor. The floorboards provide a flat, level platform for sleeping.
Michael christened his faering IRONBLOOD, drawing upon the meanings of his surname, Colfer: col is a Gaelic word for blood, as in blood relative, and fer is the French for iron. IRONBLOOD would be at home in the fjords of Norway, but sails the waters of Puget Sound. She can carry enough gear for a week’s beach camping for two, makes way under oars well, and is stable and smooth under sail, making very little leeway.
Michael says that IRONBLOOD “will run like a scared rabbit for hours at a time given the right conditions.” The increased height at her ends keeps her dry in a chop as he intended.
He writes: “I have had her now for 12 years, and even though I am sure I will build other small boats, I doubt that I will ever sell IRONBLOOD. She is perfect for me.”
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