Naiad On The Mind

by · November 7, 2008

By Kristen Posey

I grew up with weekend sails on the family Nonsuch 26, a boat you’ve likely never heard of, but once you see it, you won’t forget. It’s a catboat with a massive marconi sail, controlled with a wishbone boom. It’s similar to a sprit rig, but better, in my humble opinion, because on either tack the sail hopefully isn’t deflected by the sprit boom. Once the internet was introduced to school and household I remember finding out that there was a Nonsuch 22. I went on thinking to my silly self that some day, when I finished college (done, including a masters) and was making some decent money (has yet to happen), that I’d own a 22. I thought the 22 would be easier to handle, being somewhat smaller than my Dad and brother. Some time shortly after college, I laid eyes on a *.jpg of a Naiad, courtesy Bill Wickett, and had a paradigm shift. Take a gander yourself: Naiad

I remember stealing into Mom’s junk closet and finding a book by Arthur Ransome calledSwallows and Amazons. The combination of a small open catboat, exploring a lake, landing at new destinations and taking them in as an explorer called to me. Few of my just-outta-college generation have read these books. I knew my fiance was something to latch onto, when he saw them on the bookshelf and said he’d read them too. 
Despite the wishbone marconi rig instead of SWALLOW’s gaff rig, I envision this as a perfect SWALLOW. I consider the Naiad the bite-sized version of the Nonsuch family. Sure she’s an 18′ boat without a cabin, but as a catboat has the payload capacity to trundle some camping gear, if you’re adamant about going somewhere. I can see where it could handle a Miniature Schnauzer and a Papillon, a fiance at the helm, and still room for me to nap somewhere, napping being my favorite point of sail. I could see us launching on a foggy morning at the John Day launch near Astoria, OR, and playing behind Tongue point, beaching to let the dogs wander, laughing as we pick out the small channel upriver that only the fishermen know and run aground frequently. I could imagine evenings like we used to spend on the Tchefuncte in Louisiana–motoring quietly, staring up at the stars, feeling as though there was all the time in the world, drinking in the clarity that comes when one gets away from land and its inherent conflict. I can also imagine being under canvas. A puff of wind, a slight heel over, and we are dancing forward, headed off. My hand may be on the tiller, but she’s providing the adventure. In my daydreams she’s definitely got my number. 
The Naiad has a sweet beam of 6′; the length-beam ratio works out to 2.9. More slender than some of her traditional catboat cousins. Many of the revered catboat designs in production today have a quite a bit of sheer at their bow and stern. It keeps them drier, I suppose, but aesthetically I prefer moderation, which is what you see on the General Arrangement sketch. If the designer, Mark Ellis, had drawn this hull by hand, he wouldn’t have fought with his spline, or his French curve set. Maybe he was thinking of Sinatra’s "Nice and Easy" when he drew it. 
The stem was similarly catboat-ish, being nearly plumb, but not at all vicious about it. 
Smoothing my hand along the waterline I can imagine the entry softly filling outward, at most only a hint of inflection compared to the Marshall 18 I actually do own. As a naval architect by education, I have the bad habit of imagining laying my hands on her curves, eyes shut, concentrating on the paths that water would take around her underbody. There are millions of watery vectors pointing out the direction of flow, each integrated into a final value as the boat moves at speed X with resistance Y, a mathematical beauty appended to a physical one; complex and simple all at once. 
Walking around to the stern and sighting down the skeg, I can see the soft, but clear and sure rise to the transom. I can bet it’s a very nice ending to a good story. I’ve been told I look like a teenaged guy staring after a passing bikini bottom when I do that. It’s at least an insight into the male mind; I can’t help looking at the usually hidden underbodies of these floating femmes and guessing what they feel like. The transom itself I can finally define properly, since I’m planning a wedding and involved in the infernal process of registry research. It is most definitely similar to a champagne saucer. It’s raked slightly aft, with just a hint of camber rounding it outward. The mast and boom are like coming home to me—that sigh of relief and delight when the plane touches the tarmac and I see the first Texas flag in months. 
The mast will have some bend to it when the sail is up and filled, being unstayed, but it was designed that way. The boom will be similar to her larger sisters, except it will be finished bright, being made of wood this time. The sail will fill to an uninhibited shape, the roach and draft getting taken up into the shape. The burgee at the top will flap in the breeze, and the water will gurgle past. Despite my daydreams, owning a Naiad still hasn’t happened. I would be extremely lucky if I ever did manage it; there were less than 20 built in the short production run. Since it’s rare to find one for sale used, I expect each of the owners are as happy with their floating mistresses as I daydreamed.

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Discussion1 Comment

  1. Mike Bolt says:

    Really enjoyed your thoughts about the very unique Naiad sailboat. I actually have one and considering selling it. It is fully restored and near perfect condition. Let me know if you have interest. It is located in central Illinois.
    Mike Bolt
    Cell 309-824-0026

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