written by: Ben Ho Jan.
Ataraxia is an 18 foot wooden sailing dory type built by boat
builder Tim Cox. The hull is dory-style lapstrake construction, but uses
modern materials and techniques where they will do the most good and thus
is planked with mahogany marine plywood encased in epoxy and fiberglass .
A bowsprit extends the overall length to slightly over 20 feet. The boat’s
design is inspired by the Alden/Crocker 'Indian' Class design of 1921,
which in turn was a sailing refinement of the Swampscott Dory, commonly
used in New England waters as a workboat, both as row boats and fishing
sailboats, and with a well established reputation for seaworthiness.
Ataraxia’s design, style, and construction faithfully follow the best
wooden boat techniques: Deck framing is made of spruce, and decks,
cabintop, hatches, cabin sides and coaming are made of mahogany. Exterior
trim is ash and mahogany, and interior is mahogany, pine and ash. Spars,
hollow, are built from Sitka spruce. While keeping the traditional wood
building material and workmanship, modern technology and boat building
technique are applied in attempting to keep maintenance to a minimum: all
woodwork is sealed in epoxy, and deck surfaces are painted in durable,
anti-skid topside paint. Metal fitting are stainless, brass or bronze.
Sails are in traditional Tanbark, made by professional sail loft
Ullman-Fogh in Toronto. The centreboard is offset to the port side,
skillfully hidden in the cockpit and galley inboard sides; it extends from
mid-cabin to mid-cockpit. Gravity-dropped, the center board is easily
lowered and raised from the cockpit. The beauty !of a gravity-dropped
center board is that when it hits the ground, it simply rises up without
resulting in any damages.
Ataraxia’s yawl rig is relatively uncommon among today’s more popular
fiber glass sloops, and many sailors mistakenly view it as an old
fashioned arrangement. Actually, a yawl rig provides many advantages over
a sloop rig. According to Alerion Yacht (a modern manufacturer of high-end
sailboats), measured in terms of cruising – time reaching, running, and
beating, the yawl rig is both faster and easier to handle than the sloop
rig. There are well known yawl-rig sailboats of similar sizes with proven
sea-worthiness and sailing performance, for example the Caledonia Yawl.
One advantage of the three sail rig is that individually, each sail is
smaller and easier to handle. The three- sail arrangement provides a lower
center of effort and hence less heeling. In heavy winds the simplest
option is to go with the ‘jib and jigger’ (jib and mizzen alone). Sailing
under main alone is also an option, and typically yields a completely
balance!d helm. The mizzen sail is very useful when anchoring, since it
acts as a wind vane to keep the boat head to windward and reduces
uncomfortable rocking motions.
Another unique aspect of this boat is it’s inboard electric motor. A 24
volt electrical marine motor is built into the boat and runs off two banks
of deep-cycle batteries, which are charged by an onboard charger. The
batteries are designed to also act as ballast. Fully charged, the
batteries have a theoretical range of at least 15 hours of driving the
motor at two-thirds power, more than enough for a typical week-long
sailing-camping trip. The motor control is an advanced, high efficiency
type using pulse-width modulation technology which minimizes power
wastage. The control console of the motor is conveniently located at the
cockpit and has an integrated battery charge indicator. No more smelly,
noisy gasoline motors!
Elephant Lake Test Sail
the opportunity to take Ataraxia for a week-long camping trip at Elephant
Lake, a beautiful lake system located at the Near North of Ontario.
Connected to Baptiste Lake through a narrow but navigatable channel, the
two lakes offer a total boating range of about 20 km – perfect for
exploring in a small sailboat. Ataraxia was completed in 1999, and for the
next several years it mostly sat in an indoor storage while the owner was
relocating to south of the border. After some cleaning up and re-rigging
at my local sailing club, the boat was ready to join the waves once again.
The wood work still gleams, and the sails still have the vibrant rust-red
color of the traditional tanbark. This beautiful boat is practically new.
five-hour drive to Elephant Lake was uneventful. The trailer is well
balanced and the 1,300 lb total weight of the boat and trailer is not much
of a load. The mast is hinged on a tabernacle, and the main sail is furled
on the mast and protected by a sail cover while the boat hurtles down the
highway. After setting up camp, we were eager to launch the boat. Rigging
took me over an hour, much longer than my own boat, a 17 ft Marsh Hen. But
this was only the second time I rigged this boat; with practice one can
easily reduce the rigging time by half. With its shallow draft of slightly
over 1 foot, Ataraxia was easily launched from the gravel ramp and onto
the peaceful lake in a gentle late-afternoon breeze.
a 4 knot wind Ataraxia sails well in all points of wind and barely heels
with two adults on board. With a total sail area of 158 sq. ft., she is
conservatively canvassed, meaning she likely won’t win races, but also
likely won’t easily tip over either. She is meant to be a stately lady.
The helm is almost completely neutral. When tacking, she has a slight
tendency to over-tack if the jib is sheeted in too early. Let her take her
pace to switch to the new course, then adjust the sheets, and everything
will follow. The mizzen helps to balance the helm and gives the crew
something to do.
below-deck accommodation of Ataraxia is actually quite luxurious for an 18
ft boat. There’s a good size V-berth that could comfortably handle my
six-foot frame. The batteries are well hidden and out of the way. There is
a Porta-potti with built-in pump out, and space for storage and a small
stove. A cooler is stored ingeniously such that it can be accessed both
from the cockpit and from the cabin. A double sliding hatch opens the
cabin almost mainmast, providing standing room for moving around. Inside
the cabin the quality wood work and joinery gives one a luxury feel. The
interior looks completely new; the foam mattress has hardly been used.
Once can almost still smell the wood shavings. Of course a boat design is
fundamentally one of balancing size and functions against wants and costs,
and Ataraxia is a well-balanced cabin boat ideal for day-sail for a family
of 2 adults and 2 children, or for a weekend cruise trip for a couple.
During the week we had all types of fair weather. In the morning when
there’s little wind we would go fishing on the boat, mostly as something
to do while we enjoy the morning scenery. The electric motor works
perfectly as a trolling motor. Other than the limitation of battery
charge, I am beginning to think why would one ever want a gasoline motor
on a small dinghy, with the inherent problem of noise, smell, and
occasional difficulty in starting it. Even the charge range does not seem
to be a problem. At the end of this 1-week trip of camping sailing, with
the typical motor use – getting to and from the dock, motoring up-wind
when one’s tired of beating, trolling for fish, I still had one battery
bank still showing half-charge, and the second bank showing two-third
charge. This is after all a sailboat, and most of my sailing friends get
by with no motors on their boats on similar outings.
days of mild weather, a front began to move in with the promise of strong
winds. But in the morning there were still patches of blue sky, and we
decided to sail the several kilometers across the lake to the
marina-resort on the opposite shore for lunch. We reached on a steady 10
kt wind, and with 2 adults and a teenager on board Ataraxia moved through
the calm water with hardly any heel. At such winds the relatively heavy
dinghy comes alive and charges along at hull speed. The dock at the marina
was crowded but we managed to find a berth of just the right length for
the boat. That’s when the motor comes in handy. The electric motor purrs
along silently on the simple turn of a dial. The downside of an in-board
motor is that it cannot be rotated to the desired direction to provide
directional thrust, unlike an outboard motor, so slightly higher speed is
needed to maintain steerage. But one quickly gets the hang of it.
Parallel-park a sailboat in 10 kts! wind on the beam? Nothing to it. At
the dock there were the usual admirers watching the boat and wanting to
chat about it. The restaurant had a wonderful view overlooking the lake
and was decorated with monstrous-sized trophy fish.
a luxurious lunch we were ready to head back. Wind had picked up
significantly, and occasional white-capped waves were leaping over the
rocky shore and spray was splashing the docks. It was blowing at 15 kts
with gusts at over 20 kts. A bit more exciting, but it was by no means
unmanageable. To play it safe we sailed with a reefed main and proceeded
to sail in a big circle around the lake. Once one gets used to sheeting
the mizzen to balance the helm, especially when close-hauled, the boat is
well-behaved on all points of sail. It always makes me nervous when
running in front of big gusts, but with a yawl rig at least the force is
shared by the mizzen, rather than all on a big main sail. Soon we went by
several small islands where the wind was funneled, and it got more gusty.
We had an exciting ride. A dory hull is initially tender, but once the
boat heels to the rub rail, she digs in and holds her ground. Spray flew
by, but the long deck and cabin kept the! water away from the cockpit.
She’s a relatively dry boat. When beating she does not get quite as close
to the wind as a sloop rig, but it’s not far off. I am happy enough with
any boat that manages 45 degree true. Heading back, it was up-wind all the
way, and as this part of the lake was relatively open, with steady wind
and not as gusty, we shook off the reef and let Ataraxia show her colors.
Soon it seemed the lake was too small; we were back at the camp site and
it was time to pack up.
was early September, still with a hint of summer but the scent of dry
leaves was just around the corner. We took the opportunity to sail on Lake
Ontario off Humber Bay under a beautiful blue sky with a low setting sun
and steady, fairly light wind. This time it took me much less time to rig
Ataraxia, so much so that I kept wondering if I forgot anything. And it
didn’t help my concentration that people kept stopping by to chat about
the boat. Soon we were off the sheltered water of the bay and headed
towards Toronto Island. Getting through this part is actually the worst,
as the waves rolling in from the open water build up upon reaching shallow
ground, becoming steep and close together. But the electric motor handled
the chop fine and got us beyond the tree line where we could pick up the
wind. It was a gentle 6-8 kt breeze coming from the east, just the
direction we wanted to go. We took our time tacking back and forth, while
enjoying the impressive cityscape of downtown Toronto. The Sunday
afternoon regatta of the Toronto Yacht Club was underway and there were
quite a number of large sailboats racing. We stayed out of their way. The
wind continued to be fairly light, but coming down the full fetch of this
big lake, there’s the usual 2-3 feet chop. The fine entry of the bow
slices through the waves with barely a noise. A fuller hull would likely
have produced more pounding. The four heavy marine batteries safely tucked
away in the bowels of the boat also act as ballast, and also help dampen
pitching of the boat resulting in a more comfortable ride. There are
compromises, of course; at about 1,100 lbs Ataraxia weighs several times
more than light-weight race dinghies of similar sizes, and by comparison
is not as nimble. She is designed to be a cruise boat, great for day-sails
or weekend trips in waters such as this. We were not in a hurry. As the
setting sun reflected off the glass towers of Toronto downtown and
sparkled off the shimmering waves, we were content with Ataraxia's pace,
keeping us safe and dry.
As the noted founder of
Wooden Boat magazine Jon Wilson once commented, “Wooden boats are
beautiful, as if the grace of the forest trees were bequeathed in
abundance in every plank sawn.” Ataraxia is one fine specimen of such a
class of custom boats, and the workmanship reflects the countless hours of
labor of love spent in her construction. One can only hope that her
eventual owner will lavish her with the same tender and care.
Length overall 20' 3-1/2",
Length on Deck 18' 3-1/2",
Beam: 6' 4"
Draft: 1' 2" with center board up, 3' 0" with board down
Displacement: 1,690 lbs Trailering
weight: 1,000 lbs
Sail area: 158 sq. ft
Auxiliary Power: 70 lbs thrust/24 volt electric skeg-mounted
Ballast: 200 lbs from 4 batteries
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