There seems to be a fad that is being foisted onto the general public that having their vessels classed by one of the regulating societies assures them of some sort of excellence, not only in the structural strength but in the design of their vessels. This is rubbish. The rules are good, but far from perfect. All are good guidelines PROVIDED that your box is exactly the same or very similar to their box. How dare I use the term “box” for the most beautiful (owner’s idea) vessel in the world? The rules are based on length, breadth, and depth, otherwise noted L, B, D and combinations thereof, and this is a BOX. Once a departure is made from their standard box, penalties are imposed to bring one back to that box. This usually results in very heavy scantlings and out of proportion material sizes for different parts of the hull, such as the rudderposts, stems, keels, etc. wherein practice and experience suggest a much lesser size. Most will consider modifications to their rules if elaborate mathematical proofs are proffered and even then will probably class the vessel as experimental. There is also a cost factor involved for certification and plans approval, which may be justified on multiple buildings when it can be prorated, but is often beyond the budget of the individual owner.

Most designers have their own scantling systems based on each family of vessel they design. For example the scantlings of a steel dory are quite different from a steel sharpie, however, both are different than, say, a trawler, although all may be of the same length and breadth and, in the instance of the dory and sharpie, may also be of the same depth. This is a simple example that one rule cannot fit all vessels without numerous exceptions. Some designs may need slightly heavier plating due to their occupation and expected maintenance. Others can use a smaller corrosion factor, thus lighter plating. The designer from experience and observation gains a sense of what is good, acceptable, and bad. Just like a builder who has built 100 boats, he is just a builder, but let him build one bad boat and he is a lousy boatbuilder. The same applies to a designer. It is foolish to design or to build to the lowest common denominator.

United States Coast Guard Certification

One must understand and remember that the USCG claims to have no duty or even responsibility to fully understand the individual elements of the maritime industry. It seems to me that they are determined at all costs to protect the general population and the environment from the people operating vessels.

For example, the wind heeling moments cannot be accurately predicted from only a sail plan. In practice, sails are trimmed at various angles to the centerline of the vessel, and the vertical curvature, or belly, is not constant from top to bottom. The headsail’s luff sags off to some extent to leeward. There is never a time when one could have all sails strapped flat directly on the centerline; sheet leads and rigging prevent this and, if it could be done, the vessel could not sail. Yet USCG dictates this proposition times the minimum wind pressure needed to heel the vessel to one half her freeboard or 14°, whichever is less. This is the paper boat steered and sailed from a desk theory and has nothing to do with actual conditions or the practice of seamanship. When struck by a gust of wind, the resulting heel will depend largely on whether the vessel “heads up” or “bears off”. How much sail that is carried should be left to the judgment of the master. Most ocean sailing vessels have at least 90° or greater positive stability. I have always maintained that more than 90° is academic as too many other things are happening, and prefer to use the down flooding angle as the safest approach to permissible angle of heel. In well-found sailing vessels, most if not all of us reduce sail when the deck edge becomes immersed; an occasional sea lopping over the rail does not count. In weather laced with frequent squalls, one canvases to the squalls even though there may be a significant loss of speed during the lulls. On US vessels the masters are licensed by USCG, who must be satisfied with their experience and knowledge, before issuing their certificate. I guess the question is why can’t they, without interference from shoreside people who are not there and do not know the circumstances, be permitted to exercise their best judgment? The US regulations promote an under-canvased vessel that lacks the power to efficiently work under sail in all types of weather. Dependence is on the auxiliary, which must be of greater horsepower to compensate for the inefficiency of her rig; therefore, sail-assisted motor vessel would be the correct name rather than a motor-assisted sailing vessel. Well, I suppose it makes little difference as the document will say OIL SCREW, regardless of how many masts or sails she has.

After having to letter in the name of each sail on the sail plan in order to obtain approval for a vessel, I decided that I would not do any more designs that required USCG approval. I still work with the rules and regulations in other countries and seem to have no problems.

While I am in agreement with many of the USCG safety regulations which are just plain common sense, it is their endless ever-changing of rules and the notion that everything can be reduced to mathematics that makes working with them a chore rather than a pleasure. The trouble with governments and all of their agencies is that they attempt to control every facet of one’s life from the erection to the resurrection.