Saturday, January 26, 2013

Header Photo: Cape Cod Frosty Dinghy

As Tillerman correctly guessed, the previous header photo was of the diminutive (6 feet 4 inches - 1.93 meter overall length) Cape Cod Frosty dinghy; the skipper deep in concentration, peeking out from behind the daggerboard. The Frosty name fits the function. The Cape Cod Frosty was originally designed in 1984 as a frostbite dinghy and, after a brief burst of popularity throughout Cape Cod, Ohio, and Maryland, is now found (during the winter months) fleet racing in a small lagoon off the fast-flowing Piscataqua River, on the border of New Hampshire and Maine.

I have always been fascinated by, what I term, micro-dinghies; those sailing dinghies less than 8 feet (2.43 meters). Immensely impractical (8 feet length overall is the smallest dinghy that most people can fit into and seems to sail well), I have been enthralled at those who attempt to design, build and sail Lilliputian vessels.

In 2003, on a whim, I drove over to the Maryland Eastern Shore, where there was a Frosty for sale from the now defunct Salisbury fleet. The price was right - $200. I arrived there as night fell and in the dim radiance of a flashlight, checked that the boat had no holes and all the sailing pieces were there. The check was written and off I drove, a proud owner of a 6 foot sailboat on the roof of the car. Only in the daylight of the next day could I see that the builder had managed to give the bow transom a considerable deviant angle from that of the stern transom. Somewhat disappointed at now owning a crooked boat, I nonetheless sanded and stripped the paint off, put a coat of primer on and worked on the mast step before losing interest and moving on to my Maser project. My Cape Cod Frosty remains to this day as a modern sculpture in white primer, perched upright on it's transom in my basement, much to my wife's chagrin.

In 2004, now as a owner of a somewhat deformed Cape Cod Frosty, my curiosity at sailing these craft could not be thwarted. I finagled an invite to the Frosty nationals where they kindly lent me a working (and also completely competitive) Frosty for the regatta. The Frosty Nationals are traditionally held at the end of their frostbite season, around the mid to end of April if memory serves. I finished a creditable 8th out of 19 in my first and only Frosty regatta. To my surprise, where I thought there wouldn't be much speed difference in such a small dinghy, the top six boats had a clear advantage and the leaders could open up 1/2 leg leads on short frostbite courses. Here is a scanned photograph of the blogmeister rounding the weather mark in one of the 2004 National races.

Another strange characteristic of the Cape Cod Frosty is that it sails best with the helm's weight forward; the bow transom is always immersed at least 1/2 way, pushing up an immense bow wave and one feels as if you're always sailing downhill. Race committee is done off a large floating square dock that is towed to the center of the lagoon; the floating dock is large enough to fit 10 Frostys pulled up. There was enormous incentive to finish in the top ten each race as one could pull his Frosty up on the dock, get out and stretch one legs. The tailenders were left to cope with creeping paralysis as they remained shoehorned into these tiny craft, race after race. Finally, toward the end of Saturday's racing, the RC took pity, kept the leading sailors off the dock and allowed the tailenders some respite; some had to pulled out of their cockpits, succumbing to Rigor Frostitus. I had a great time at the Cape Cod Frosty nationals. I would do it again but am now wondering whether my knees or hips would be up to the task. Here is another scanned photo showing the bow down attitude of the Cape Cod Frostys. The blogmeister is in the second row coming up to the weather mark.

A photo looking down on a onshore Cape Cod Frosty klatch, a trio with camp chairs, the scene replete with a quaint New England barn door. One can get a true sense of how small these dinghies are.

The Frosty is one sheet of plywood, stitch and tape construction. The original design didn't have any flotation. As you can see in this boat building photo, the design has been modified to add enough flotation to make them somewhat self rescuing. (I'm not sure how easy it is to climb into these boats from the water after a capsize - I didn't capsize during the 2004 Nationals, the wind being a kind 5-12 knots for the regatta.)

And the obligatory video.....

1 comment:

Tillerman said...

Bravo to you sir. I should really do the Frosty Nationals or Intergalactics one year.

I see my friend Peter Shope was 3rd the year you sailed the Nationals.