Gloucester 16. Article by Edward Haile

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    Gloucester 16. Article by Edward Haile

    My Favorite is a Gloucester 16

    Gloucester 16 sailboat
    Main with drifter up, about 2 knots in virtually no wind at all. This is the old main, with boomed foot

    I have owned a dozen boats from 14 to 24 feet, and none has invited me to go sailing with as little premeditation over as many years of sailing season. At first glance, looking at the boat cartoons on Sailboatdata.com, the Gloucester 16 has a bit too much rocker and her overhead view shows a downright fat, chunky, stubby little boat. In other words, a tub. But she was designed by a genius. Let us take another look at the only shortie ever drafted by the great C. William "Cal 40" Lapworth.

    Every boat was designed to beat another boat, and the little Gloucester is no exception. Which boat was it, you ask? Who cares, Lapworth has produced a contender that for her size can be called rock solid and carefree, a take-it-easy, largely self-tending piece of nautical grace, that stays smooth and dry over winds ranging from zero to force seven. Speed in sailing craft is okay in its place. You get that with thin skins, trapezes, mylar genoas. If, on the other hand, sea-kindliness is on your list, with decent speed, seek it here. She is the finest set of family daysailer trade-offs I have ever encountered. I have a strong small boat bias. And it leads to straight to the Gloucester 16.

    Line drawings are for studying volume, layout, sailplanónot for evaluating performance or really even looks. Seen in the water, the G16, all of 15 feet 7 inches long, has exactly the right amount of what Bob Perry calls eye-candy. Chunky? Not exactly. She has a fine entry under that ďcarrierĒ foredeck, flares her vee nearly flat amidships, where she is beamy, but then tucks up very ladylike under her quarters with enough deadrise to make it quite a challenge to boot-top her waterline aft. It makes for a clean wake and a rocker that matches a five-knot bow wave. Result? A helm that balances almost to "let it go."

    I bought mine used but well-preserved some years ago. I liked a lot things, made a few changes. After six sailing seasons, I think I have just about figured this little boat out and got her right with modified accommodations, modified rig and sailplan, and beefed up the glass job where it matters.

    1988 was her last year of production. The hull is a layer or two of woven roving, the liner and deck is chopper gun. Of course, it depends on who wields the gun, but the best chopper lay is going to be inexpensive if not resin heavy/glass poor. I noticed on first inspection that nowhere did the hull or decks oil-can. Punch it anywhere, stout as a log. The topsides have no cores. They are all glass, likewise without flex.

    The liner, however, is another matter. Poorly designed, it serves no purpose but to prevent bailing the boat dry and accessing the all-important keel pivot pin. I cut it out completely the very first year for a significant weight gain of maybe 50 lbs, leaving all but the part that formed bunks in the cabin. These I tabbed into the hull to make them a sealed air tank. Also towards that end, in place of the original plywood lids I installed flush waterproof deck hatches in bunk storage ports. So now a bunk was not just a bunk or just a storage locker. It was flotation in case the hull flooded. Best of all, with the crummy liner out of the way and gone, below decks opened up and became accessible space stem to stern.

    To listen to the chat group, few G16 owners realize that the boat has internal ballast. Hidden behind the liner. I am not sure the Neptune and Newport versions of this boat include it. When I removed the liner I discovered 150 lbs of lead along either side of the keel trunk, midway fore and aft. It explained why the boat was trimming down by the stern. But it also accounted for her unusual stability. Two 25 and two 50 lb pigs. I slid them three feet forward into a storage bay, blocked them in position, and put her on an even keel.

    Gloucester 16 sailboat
    In the slings, 12 inches of hull draft, 51 inches of keel.

    The rest of her 350 lbs of ballast is in her iron swing keel, a 200-lb mystery and, truth is, a disappointment. It is just the worst feature of the boat and I suspect Lapworth is responsible only for its weight and its profile, which I do not fault, and not the cross-section, which could stand a lot of improvement in regard to lift.

    First of all, the swing keel concept is not a sailor's idea. It is a trailer-sailer selling point, although frankly an irresistible one when home waters are as shallow as mine. But in my opinion a swing keel is the most dangerous thing ever put aboard a sailboat, barring a spinnaker (and a gas tank). They will all sink you. If a thin steel cable control line breaks, hundreds of pounds having more or less the shape of a blade drop to smash a hole in your bottom. All without warning. Even if the control line never fails, unless tension is always kept on it, the keel may ride up over an object underwater and then drop all but full-force as the boat passes, with the same result. I know because it happened to me in my Gloucester 16. What saved us was the fact that, due to the properties of fiberglass, a 200-pound object (the weight of her keel) falling four feet can severely damage but not quite destroy an inch of well-laid glass. If your "swing" keel weighs more than 200 lbs, well, don't say I didn't warn you. I seriously think a swing keel heavier than mine puts you forever on the brink of disaster.

    Conclusion: Never have a swing keel that weighs more than 200 lbs. I believe that is a maximum. Or, perhaps, two inches of high density glass/epoxy on the leading edge of the trunk for every hundred pounds of keel weight. In addition, a couple of layers of 1/4-inch rubber pad glued on the point of slam-bam contact. Whew, but even then! Lapworth apparently knew what he was doing when he designed a swing-keel boat no longer than this, so as to need a keel no heavier than she has.

    Sorry to say the problem doesn't entirely end there. If the pivot pin fails, the keel can drop right out of the boat and dangle from the cable. Try getting back to shore then! Even with a tow! Naturally without heavy-duty cable cutters. Or scuba gear so you can feed it back into the slot while crew winch it up.

    But the G16 keel, even in perfect working order, remains a mystery and a disappointment. A mystery because it ought to change helm balance as it swings and alters your underwater profile, yet it doesn't in any way you could call fine tuning. It means helm balance, when reefing, for example, requires adjusting head sails instead of keel, which is less convenient. I used to own a sharpie that had leeboards. Adjusting them could always produce a neutral helm on any tack. In fact, you could steer the boat all day with the lifting lanyards and without touching the helm. Not so the G16. Not so, but almost. A good aspect is that stability changes little whether the keel is up or down.

    The disappointment remains the keel cross section. It is symmetrical, rounded on leading and trailing edges. Call it a squashed ellipse. Not much hydrodynamic lift in that. Upwind in very light airs it just plain stalls out, the boat has lee helm and crabs sideways. Occasionally, when tacking, the boat stalls on the new tack until she falls off, gains a knot, and gets back on her feet to come up. Otherwise the keel works as well as any slab. Once enough water is going over it, the boat points and comes about in 75 or 80 degrees with no trouble and the keel gives you a tad inside 90 degrees true. No bad with minimal forestay tension.

    So, live with it? No, the problem had a very nifty solution. The cure for keel stalling in light airs was to have a drifter cut that was the biggest sail the mast could carry (see photo). In other words, I cured it by maintaining way in "no wind" conditions, as can be seen in the photo. I discuss rigging and handling with the other sails below.

    It could be that Newport and Neptune keels are better shaped. I have not examined them. If they are, I feel certain one could substitute on this boat. So far, I do not see building my own new and improved keel. But no question the boat could use it.

    The keel's trapezoid profile, fully extended, draws 4 ft 3 inches. Fully retracted its leading edge, now horizontal, protrudes and the hull draft is 12 inches. Another reason this boat is stiff! It certainly gives her that yacht feel.

    She holds a course by putting the helm right amidships and steering by shifting weight port or starboard, as the case may be, once the sails are right. But close-hauled in a fresh breeze, over 10 knots, she will hold a course no matter where you sit, in the way of all good boats. Downwind, I also found she stayed on course better when I was on the foredeck than in the cockpit, politely letting me take my time rigging headsails. I tried developing windvane self-steering and/or a sheet-to-tiller arrangement. After much fiddling, I decided the boat was easy enough to handle the old fashioned way with a fixed helm and sail balance. Moreover, her light helm makes her a pleasure to hand steer at any time. I am spoiled. Her sweet helm is the first thing I miss when I get in other boats.

    The rudder is a mahogany slab, and has the advantage of pivoting completely out when not in use. It is held down by shock cord in two positions when the cord is properly attached. The first position is fully down vertical in normal sailing trim. It is close to neutral and turn-on-a-dime responsive. The second position, for shallow water, is trailing but still held submersed. I loop the shock cord then over a jam cleat. It's the one that jams the lanyard when I pivot the rudder out. In second position, steering is labored but effective and the attachment hardware is heavy-duty and seems up to the strain. This is a great boon to me because I am out in low-tide conditions frequently and canít get home without crossing a shoal. Of the dozen or so centerboarders I have owned, the G16 is the best thin water sailer. The combination of trailing rudder and fully up keel has just enough lateral resistance to allow half the boatís upwind efficiency in hardly more than a foot of water. You need a lot of wind, but this is an excellent trait, something that shows the Lapworth in her. Weatherhelm, though, is max at such times.

    Gloucester 16 sailboat
    Clew of 100% jib showing the sprit attachment. The single-sheet here is being led to the base of the mast. A subsequent better arrangement is described in the text. The jam cleat allows sail camber adjustment.br>

    Lapworth also gets kudos for the foredeck. My narrow sidedecks are unusable due to a lifeline stanchion or two, but the cabin is low enough to allow easy stepping over, going and coming, and the foredeck when you get there is a generous breadth for a little boat. With pulpit and lifelines, I have always felt it easy and safe to work there and keep sails, lines, sprit, pole inboard, sitting or standing. The bow sections flare quickly so the boat keeps her motion and her head up when you are forward and single-handed, and keeps you dry. In fact, in ordinary river chop, two to four foot whitecaps, the G16 is among the driest boats on the market. Thanks to bow shape and stem rake but also the curled 3-inch overhang in the gunwale of the hull-deck joint that turns down all but the worst spray, giving her some frost-biting potential.

    No sooner did I get my boat than I set about several modifications, all of which have ended up being improvements. Lapworth designed this boatís shape and her rig. I prefer to think he does not get the blame for the crummy details, such as the liner mentioned earlier. And such as the cockpit locker. Only one, a boxed locker to port. I cut out the box and then cut a second, matching hinged lid to starboard, both opening into the hull itself. This provides more than enough big-boat loose storage for the usual junkóropes, lifejackets, sailcovers, bucket and swab, even a two-piece sculling oar and a boom crutch. Until I did this, all junk was dumped on the cabin bunks.

    The sealed cabin bunk lockers were maybe a safety feature. No need. I stuffed my cockpit coamings with styrofoam blocks, carved to fill almost three cubic feet up under there. Next, from Foam Factory I bought sheets of 4x9 foot, 1-1/2-inch thick polyethylene closed-cell foam (life-jacket material) and form-fitted another six cubic feet in the two-foot-long void between the bunks and the area under the cockpit locker lids (leaving a notch for drainage against the keel trunk). By my best calculation this makes my boat unsinkable, even without the sealed tank under the bunks. And in case we were holed there, I stuffed another two cubic feet of diced up polyethylene scraps in the space under the vee of the vee bunk, an area otherwise inaccessible for stowage.

    With all that flotation you might wonder if there is much storage space left. I have enough inside the bunks and in the after bays easily to store two weeks of food and water. The little stuff can be dropped in pouches and hammocks below. No, there is plenty of room in this fat little hull.

    Big boats are much less concerned about positive buoyancy. Their hulls are thick, tougher than almost anything they are bound to hit. If that is famous last words, little boats have naturally much thinner skins and there are far more things in the water that can hole you. Let's face it. Small keelboats need foam. How much is enough? I calculated 9.25 cuft, or 600 lbs for this one. Forget the brochure. My hull stripped down bare, less mast and boom, weighs 1031 lbs. The brochure claims with classic optimism 840 lbs, 900 rigged. However, this is honestly so far short of my scales (agricultural commercial), I should do a second weighing to be sure. But until then, if correct, equipment, spars, and rigging add another 150 to 200 lbs for a 1200-pound boat, before crew comes aboard. Add 200 lbs of me and displacement/length ratio puts her sort of into the heavy range, wouldnít you sayó3/4 ton on a 13 ft waterline? Actually, it's hard to gauge displacement characteristics in small boats because crew position is so important. All the same, no wonder the lee coaming stays high and dry! So, I figure if you take the 1200-lb figure and estimate 50% for the specific gravity underwater, I should have enough flotation.

    Lapworth designed the cabin as well. It is a good compromise between camping comfort and topside obstruction, a factor in all cabins. You canít sit up in it. However, if you fit a spacer over the well between the bunks, you have a double bed worthy of the vee berth in yachts twice her lengthóreasonably roomy and restful for a boat this small. The Neptune 16, an all but identical version of the G16, has a trunk extension into the foredeck. It gives more volume below but not headroom, the only volume needed to advantage, and I think it spoils the foredeck work area.

    The companionway hatch does not slide. It is hinged on the forward edge, and much as I wish I could improve that arrangement, I have so far failed to find a solution. There is nothing to do but slide out the hinge pintles and stow the hatch for the day in the starboard locker. It also has to be removed to make way for dropping the mast. A regular nuisance. I close the companionway with three drop boards. I have a replacement for the bottom board with a seat on the top edge. It is cut out to hold a yacht compass with a nice 4-inch card. There is far too much local attraction from the iron keel to settle a reliable bearing, so for an accurate magnetic reading I imagine I could use a handheld compass and transpose if it came to that. A lot of boats hang a compass on the cabin bulkhead, but on the G16 the bulkhead is at such a comfortable angle to recline on that I donít want to clutter it. Instead, the compass seat is a perfect place for my weight to trim the boat fore and aft and occasionally even steer if I run a line from the tiller.

    A nice feature of a boat that is stable and small is the ability to drop the mast at any time. You go under bridges with little fuss, check or replace fittings, retrieve escapee halyards, and, most of all, reset the windvane after a kingfisher has perched on it. I installed a U-bolt on the stem, ahead of the forestay, and run the jib halyard through it and tie a line on it aft. I undo the forestay and pay out the halyard until the spar lies horizontal in a crutch with pintles that fit in the rudder gudgeons.

    My spar is 21 feet long. The rig is factional sloop. The forestay and shroud hounds are 15 feet aloft. No backstay The shrouds are single, no spreaders, chain plates inboard on the cabin. That last feature is not good, although it makes for a good sheeting angle for the lapper. I had to reinforce them considerably. Some day I will move them outboard where they belong on all good boats. But this is a choice rig for a couple of reasons. No backstay on a sloop means you can have a huge main, which is to say a self-tending sail that can drive the boat all by itself without headsails. This is very handy in close quarters or for a quick, lazy-man's reef. Cutters and virtual cutters known as masthead sloops are fine offshore and with crew, but as daysailers their puny mainsails are a drawback. Under main alone a cutter goes dead in the water in light conditions or positively gripes in heavy conditions. Give me a 2/3 fractional sloop any day.

    All the boats I have seen have a tough little rub rail. I am amazed how few boats these days, even big boats, have them. Kinda reminds me how fenders incredibly have disappeared on cars.

    The Gloucester brochure claims a sail spread of 137 sqft in main and lapper. Thatís about right. I have three headsails: A 100% jib on a sprit that is self-tending, single-sheeting (30 sqft). The 150% lapper that came standard with the boat, double-sheeted and a strong upwind driver (50 sqft). Both these sails hank on the forestay. A 220% nylon drifter (108 sqft) is set flying from stem to masthead. None of these sails requires a sheet winch. Perfect!

    The 97-sqft oversized modified main has two reefing bands. Each reef rolls up 22 sqft. My sailmaker cautioned that if the boat needed a second reef, I should probably get off the river. Wrong! The first reef, taken at 15 knots, wants the lapper replaced by the jib, but that is not imperative under 20k. Over 22k you need that second reef and over 25k the jib comes down and you are still out there. Third reef? Thatís when you drop the boom at the gooseneck to sweep the hatch.

    Of course, third reefed, the vang comes off. I use a vang, or kicking strap, to pull the twist out of the mainsail. Instead of a permanent fastening I took advantage of the deck-stepped mast to run a stout hook under the toe carrying a single-block tackle that hooks to a bale on the boom. To ship or unship only takes a second. The leverage is two to one.

    In fresh winds the boat gets plenty of weatherhelm reefed and bare-headed, but you live with it, thankful for an otherwise comfortable, or fairly comfortable, boat with the spray flying. On normal days, with company aboard (meaning more than one passenger), I sail beautifully under full main alone, all tacks. Unless they are sailors and don't get strangled by sheets. The difference in sheeting is that under main alone the same course close-hauled is sailed with the boom out more than it is with headsails drawing.

    The original main had a bolt-rope in the boom foot. My new main is an open foot, boomed only at clew and tack. As a result I spend more time adjusting foot tension and getting a better shape and I think it is helping the boat get close-hauled in light air. The open foot also gives you a nice handhold on the boom when itís rough weather and you're returning from the foredeck. Tying in reef points is nicer too. Once the clew and tack are jiffy-reefed in slab fashion, who cares how loose or how tight the points are when they no longer go around the boom (and the bunt is out of the way)? The standard G16 main is 85 sqft on a 20 foot mast, but my mast was somehow 21 feet, so I had a larger sail made. The tradeoff is more weatherhelm than normal in breezy conditions.

    Reefing a sloop is always a chore. You haul in the sheet until the bow kicks up into the wind, you cast off the halyard, secure the new tack, belay the clew line, then haul the halyard, or haul in theory, because by then a minute or two has passed and the jib, beating itself to death, has caused the bow to fall off, the slumped mainsail is full and it is impossible to haul it up without a winch, and a mighty winch at that. So you bear off, get way, and throw the helm down again, then race to the halyard and this time, hurrah, the main luffs and shoots up the mast with the reef. One hopes the rocks are still furlong away. The only improvement, short of stepping a small mizzenmast, is now and then a very rapid halyard action at the mast and I have put on a friction clutch cleat in hopes achieving that. It is instantaneous and you can throw your entire body into it if you mount it so that the halyard can turn under a horn cleat (a good back up in case of malfunction) or a turning block. I think it's well worth the money.

    About the sprit jib, it's a sprit and not a club because it runs from the clew to the forestay perpendicular to the luff. A jib club runs along the foot, usually all the way clew to tack, like a boom on the main. The sprit, in theory, is self-vanging. In practice, the leech twists too much on the wind unless the sheet pulls it down hard. You get that by running the single sheet from a padeye on deck at the proper sheeting angle to one side (nine degrees of the centerline), namely the leading corner of the cabin on the G16, then up to a block at the clew/sprit, then to a turning block on the other side ditto, then to a cleat. When close hauled, there is a direct downhaul on the leech and the sail works. The sprit allows for a clew adjustment similar to the outhaul on the mainsail, and on the G16 you can actually reach it from the cockpit, a simple jam cleat on the sprit (see photo). Love a little boat! I bet a boat that was even just a foot longer would not let you do that. Final detail, the sprit is bowed enough never to touch the sail. The bow doesnít sag because of the width of the fork on the stay.

    Gloucester 16 sailboat
    Forward end of the jib sprit, perpendicular to the forestay. No hardware, itís just a deep fork that fits over the hank and the stay.

    The lapper, roughly 150% of the fore-triangle, sheets to stationary fairlead cleats port and starboard. It should be on a track and some day I may just install one. The lifelines are potentially in the way. But the position chosen by the boat builder is all in all general purpose and I have no complaint.

    Both lapper and jib suffer from the lack of forestay tension in a boat with a deck-stepped mast. Take your choice: either a spongy mast step or a post in the cabin through the double-berth. I prefer the G16 no-post choice because forestay tension is "just-not-all-that-bad-anyway" and "who-said-this-was-a-racing-rig?".

    Similarly with a sail set flying. I sail the waters in the Chesapeake Bay. The winds are either a lot more than you want or a lot less than you want. Without a drifter you are going to be dead in the water or firing up. I prefer to be engineless. This boat is already down a tad by the stern. No motors, no fuel tanks, please! The drifter is flown from a ring, or U-bolt, at the stem, separate from the jibs, and goes to the unstayed mast head, so it comes down or goes fisherman in a breeze over 8 knots. The sheet is continuous, running all the way around the boat. It attaches at the three corners (no hanks), the peak and tack with clips and the clew to the sheet with a brummel hook. A brummel hook is about the size of a nickel, so the two halves won't crack your skull when you get slapped by the clew, gathering the sail down on deck. I tack the drifter by wearing around, or crossing the wind over the stern, so it is not for narrow channels and short stays. But boy does it work! It works so well that I have never been stuck offshore after four years of close calls, and I go out a lot. Engineless, I repeat. The last yacht in maybe the Northern Hemisphere! Itís an old trick. Cram on tremendous sail area, the taller the better, and on the Chesapeake have the ability to douse it quickly, and almost every day is a nice day. Using GPS in still water and a wind gauge I have clocked 4 knots in 4 knots of wind, beam reach. What these figures mean is that the drifter overcomes the serious disadvantage of poor keel cross-section and prevents light-air stalling upwind. You would still save money if this sail was gold-plated. Does it need a track to adjust sheet angle? Hardly, since I only carry it over a narrow range of wind velocities. The sheet runs right to the aft end of the cockpit coaming, just like a spinnaker sheet. I hoist and furl always downwind, using a dedicated masthead drifter halyard. When I drop it, I bag it and take it below immediately, and hoist one of the jibs that is always left piled up on deck.

    How well does the G16 rig let you lie to? The lapper is too powerful. The only success I have had is with the backed jib, and since it is single-sheeted, you have to tie it to the pulpit. But do that and by all means you can eat lunch.

    The G16 has a sweet helm downwind, and a truly wonderful moderate to light air experience is scudding and getting the main to fill the wung- or poled-out lapper which then fills the drifter with no pole. That is effortless, ethereal sailing at its best. I have never quite had that sense of lifting and gliding in any other boat. A spinnaker, which I also carry on at times, does not do that. Also, a spinnaker requires much more attention.

    Actually, I don't believe a spinnaker belongs on this boat. I have one, but itís too much rigging and, like a drifter, it's only for light airs even though the halyard block is ably braced at the mast hounds. Under those conditions it works if you work. And it will defeat the enemy in a downwind race, but I see the above wung-out combination actually doing a better job, so my 105-sqft balloon is currently for sale, with the "e" and without the "i".

    Incidentally, with all these headsails, you might wonder where's the roller furler? Sorry, I don't have one because I have had two or three on other boats and learned not to trust them. They work in light conditions, they can get in a fix in the heavy stuff. If they part on you (worst case) the mast comes down. I use a jib downhaul. It takes under five minutes to change out headsails. On a mooring, it takes less than half a minute to stuff in a sailbag whatever is currently hanked on the forestay, leaving it hanked on the forestay.

    A jib downhaul is a piece of marline tied onto the sail peak and threaded through the hanks, or most of them, to a turning block at the base of the forestay and led aft. It isn't perfect but it never jams aloft and it is more reliable than a roller furler. The roller furler, as everybody knows, is not a roller reefer, although we've all used them that way. A furler, half furling, will stretch a good sail out of shape, the experts tell us, especially a lapper or genoa. But my complaint goes beyond that. The small boat furler, or reefer, actually replaces the forestay, substituting an aluminum casting with bearings for a plain old solid swage end and steel pin with ring cotter. Oops, that just wonít do! The alternative is the big-boat system that fits over the original forestay, leaving fittings intact, which, as the name implies, is too heavy for this boat in the smallest size, and way too expensive. Even then you need the kind that allows a jib halyard to be cast off to bring the sail down on deck when all else fails.

    A simple downhaul is just not that labor-intensive a solution, and, I repeat, the G16 foredeck, with pulpit and lifelines, is a secure work area, and a downhaul lets you change out headsails.

    She is a typical bear to try to paddle. She just wants to spin like a pan until you put the tiller hard over (and trail the rudder blade). I made up an 8-foot PVC oar that twists apart in the middle, hoping to lash it or lock it on the coaming and use the winch thwart for a seat. It only works if you drop the sails and somehow get a bit of way on. But that is anything but convenient and rowing this boat is still too much effort. Perhaps using the same as a scull? I am at a loss. Maybe I'll try lashing it to the bow pulpit and steering with the drifter sheet hitched to the tiller. Watch me!

    The cockpit deck puddles forward. That was true even before I shifted the internal ballast. What a mess! Only one scupper and thatís aft and really too small. But one good trait is that at no speed does water spit up through the keel cable slot. The winch is set on a shin-buster bracket right in the middle of a nice long 7-foot-plus cockpit. The main sheet block sits on top of it, so the sheets are forever tangled up in the crank handle. I have learned to live with that, and have no plans to run the sheet off the stern. I have no complaints about the Dutton-Lainson winch itself. I might wish there was a way to gauge keel draft in various positions, other than counting turns on the handle. Eight turns exposes 21 inches of keel for 33 inches of draft. Over ten turns and the cable begins to give that motorized hum at 3k or so. Thirteen turns and the draft is 42 inches. Max, or about 25 turns puts it out 39 inches, which means more than four feet below the waterline. But who can remember all that?

    Some of the Neptune 16s have keel stops. It's a screw mounted aft and a little below the pivot level that jams the keel and prevents jumping and thumping. Thumping is irritating and happens when lateral pressure diminishes on a course downwind. Should it matter? In one circumstance it does. A swing keel makes an excellent anchor in shoals, a preventive against mooring overnight but drifting ashore from a bad set on the Danforth. Fine except the thumping in swells will keep you awake.

    Anchoring is a chore. There is enough space in the bow to build an anchor stowage like the big boats have, but I haven't done it. It's a major glass job to do right with hatch and scupper. Meanwhile it is nothing but awkward carrying ground tackle from a cockpit locker forward to the bow to drop overboard. I tried tying down big coils on the foredeck with nice anchor chocks on the pulpit, but the drifter sheet fouled it too often and the coils were not welcome on a work area. The best method is to anchor by the stern and walk the rode around if you want to switch to the bow. Not hard to do on a little boat once you drop sail. But hoisting sail, you still have to weigh and haul anchor at the bow, and walk everything aft in your arms, and that is slippery awkward, prone to mishaps, and the sails might fill before you get to the cockpit.

    On an overnighter, I was hit with a squall on a mooring and the waves got up. The sails being down, there was no tension on the mast. The G16 has no post under her deck-stepped mast. When underway the thrust of the mast butt is adequately supported by a step on a box beam glassed in under the cabin top, and the weather shroud takes up the weight of wind. But moored, there was just enough flex in the cabin and deck to cause the mast whip back and forth, shroud to shroud. Very uncomfortable. The give was not at the box beam but where the corner of the cabin met the foredeck and side decks. I glassed in a knee there port and starboard and that seems to have helped (see photo).

    Gloucester 16 sailboat
    Starboard knee taking some of the mast load.

    For twenty-five years hundreds of these little sloops were built successively by three or four yards and sold on a trailer like hamburger and bun as a family mini-yacht. My own hull number under the Gloucester Boats name is 1217, year 1985. Probably equal numbers under Newport and Neptune labels. They still turn up everywhere, and not seldom on SailingTexas.

    In sum: Dick Newick, of Cheers fame, once said you can have cost, comfort, and performance in a boat, you just can't have all three. You should, however, get two out of three. Well, cost? Golly, anybody who can afford a sailboat can afford this one. No question. And comfort, absolutely on deck, and at least acceptable for two down below for a boat this size. Sailing qualities? You will never exceed five-plus knots with a keel slot as big as this one. But that or under and the Gloucester 16 leaves little to be desired but thrills and spills, and deserves a good sea trial among fans of small craft. I once sailed a rip-roaring trimaran a couple of hundred miles over a weeklong voyage, and some of it was at speeds easily ten to fifteen knots. But winds vary and the trip average came to two knots. I might have done just as well in the tortoise as the hare. PHOTO CAPTIONS---------- #1 Caption: In the slings, 12 inches of hull draft, 51 inches of keel. #2 Caption: Main with drifter up, about 2 knots in virtually no wind at all. This is the old main, with boomed foot. #3 Caption: Clew of 100% jib showing the sprit attachment. The single-sheet here is being led to the base of the mast. A subsequent better arrangement is described in the text. The jam cleat allows sail camber adjustment. #4 Caption: Starboard knee taking some of the mast load. #5 Caption: Forward end of the jib sprit, perpendicular to the forestay. No hardware, itís just a deep fork that fits over the hank and the stay.

    Please let Frank know what you think about this new section of Sailing Texas. We need feed back!
    Email Frank.

    If you would like to add your thoughts on this or on any sailing topics, please Email Alison at alisonluc@earthlink.net and I will post your sailing experiences on this website.

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