Harken Derm

Competition, Comradery, and Potluck

Published on September 18th, 2018

by Kurt Hoenhe, Sailing World
It would be hard to find a more anachronistic racing boat than a San Francisco Bay Pelican. Its short rig, 12-foot pram hull and hefty 600-pound weight don’t exactly lend themselves to heart-pounding foiling into a jibe mark. Like the bird, the Pelican looks a bit “different.” And, like the bird, it suits its environment just fine.

And for Fleet 3 in the Pacific Northwest, different is perfect. In this small fleet (around 10 active boats) the main event is usually the potluck. Wherever the potluck is, they’ll get in some races. Racing, members say, is really secondary to eating and socializing. The racing season is fall, winter and spring when there’s more predictable winds. Summers, after all, are for cruising.

The Pelican was designed by Californian Bill Short in 1959, to be easily built from sheets of plywood and sailed by a family on a budget. It was supposed to fill several roles; cruiser, racer, daysailer, fishing boat and even a yacht tender.

At the time, Fred Smith, of Samish, Washington, bought some pram plans for 25 cents and built one for his own use. It caught some neighbors’ eyes and they started lining up for one of their own, and voile, Smith and his brother Don had burgeoning careers. Then came along Bill Short’s design, Smith built hull No. 38, and it wasn’t long before Smith was building them and selling them all over. One went to Norway and 17 to a reservoir in Oklahoma.

Local families took an immediate interest. Here was a boat that was easily trailered, launched and rigged. The lug rig is an important feature. It makes it easy to step the mast, a big plus for smaller or older crews rigging at the ramp. While only 12 feet long, the Pelican is roomy and stable with high freeboard. A large rudder makes it maneuverable. But it’s not fast. As every sailor knows, if it’s one-design, it’s game on at any speed. – Full report

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