What Floats These Boats?

Sailing Through The Winter Solstice Update

The boats created for Sailing Through the Winter Solstice 2018 are looking spectacular this year! Multiple teams have created and crafted an impressive variety of sailing vessels at six separate shipyards. Max Wingerd, Vicki and Ed Poole, Thom and Teresa Beckley, Bernard Gouin, John Casey, Kyle Thomas, Patty Hurwitz, Branden McGee and others are behind boat designs that “boldly go where no one has gone before.” 

Innovation and Reality Meet Head-on. Arctic creek sailing is a new “pop-up” public art genre unique to Frederick, Maryland and it’s definitely not for the faint of heart. The challenges of keeping water craft aligned and tethered, bow and stern, in a narrow intermittently icy and extremely windy creek for 10 weeks of unpredictable winter weather present a daunting set of problems for designer/builders.

At a typical marina, most boats are attached to a mooring fixed only at the bow and are able to move freely, aligning with the shifting winds and tides. In our case, if not moored by the bow and stern most of our boats—which can reach 25 feet in length—would swing into the stone walls of the Carroll Creek promenade.

The lack of free movement with the wind means our craft are subject to strong broadside crosswinds and gusts which reached 40 to 60 miles per hour during three separate storms last year. Further compounding the challenge is the surface ice in Carroll Creek. Ice can form several feet in thickness, applying potentially crushing forces to our boat hulls.

The Effects of Winter. The heavy oak and iron-clad Endurance, Terror and Erebus—and many other arctic exploration boats of years past—met their end as a result of ice compression and shear. The beautiful sparkling sheathing of ice common after freezing rains that often weighs down and snaps tree limbs and power lines may have a similar effect on our brightly lit rigging, spars and sails as well. Heavy ice contributed to the failure of the main deck hatches described in Gordon Lightfoot’s classic ballad, “The Wreck of the Edmond Fitzgerald” and sent her to the bottom of Lake Superior. 

Weighting Our Boats. The combined forces of tall masts, topside weight and wind can heel and capsize a boat on Carroll Creek. These forces are usually counteracted by fixed heavily weighted keels, often reaching up to 6 feet or more below the waterline. The deeper and heavier a keel the better it is for a boat’s stability. Our craft must be trailered to and launched from a spot on the Creek where the water depth below the hull is only 18- to 25-inches, making fixed deep keels impossible. To recreate the stabilizing forces of a standard keel, we use a variety of tactics. These include adding extra ballast to our holds and attaching heavy steel or concrete weights that are suspended directly under the hulls or to short retractable dagger boards and swing keels. The larger boats this year employ 1,400 to 2,400 pounds of stabilizing and anchor weights.

Add Electricity. Finally, the multiple electrical connections on each craft and their shore power hook-ups are subject to the usual wet-weather problems we all know about. 

When you walk by a decorated boat on Carroll Creek this year take a minute to reflect on how they’re more than just pretty lights on the water. Shared strategies among multiple teams are at work trying to keep these crafty works of art floating and alight.

Pete Kremers and Kyle Thomas   

Sailing Through the Winter Solstice

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