Baggy Wrinkles

Baggy Wrinkles
S/V Nautica, Hull #614, Built at Whitby Boatworks Ltd., Ontario, Canada 1977, one of the most recognizeable Carl Alberg designs. A masthead sloop displacing 9000 lbs, keel hull, Yanmar 15 hp diesel, LOA 30.27 Beam 8.75, Draft 4.29, roller furling headsail, tiller, berths for 4, interior teak bulkheads, teak cap rail and cockpit teak coamings, 12 volt lighting, aluminum mast support, Harken self tailing winches, in its day was designed for customers as a Cruiser-Racer, the Alberg 30 remains a Classic design of the modest Alberg inventory.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Baggy Wrinkles is a curious name for a vessel.  But is not unique to just my vessel.  In fact, baggy wrinkles has been around since the days of tall ship square riggers, canvas sails, crows' nests, wooden boats, salty dogs, windjammers, belaying pins, eye patches and crinkled sails.  You can Bing it or search it any way you wish, and you'll find some curious results but I prefer the descriptions on Wikipedia for baggywrinkle.  It's an art-form for protecting sails before the days of "sail tape" and aluminum spreaders and so forth.  It's really "old school" as the term is used often these days.

Many years ago, while I was living in Los Angeles, working with youth, I chartered a Danish ship named the Argus, for a voyage from Newport Harbor to Catalina Island.  A distance of about 30 nautical miles off the coast of Southern California provided a nice weekend passage for about 30 youth aboard a classic wooden ketch about 108 feet long from spar to stern.  Argus had been retrofitted with a diesel engine, just in case the winds would not cooperate.  ( View the current Argus Foundation here ) 

S/V Argus from the Argus Foundation-a Danish freight ship
now a training platform for youth in Newport Beach, CA.
Somewhere on that voyage I looked above and notice these furry fuzzy things on the shrouds.  They looked as if they were an accumulation of sea growth in the standing rigging, something needing to be scraped away, certainly curious, and not part of the elegant design even of a wooden ship.  Our captain, Dennis was his name, curly black hair and a youthful thirty something like myself, followed my gaze upward as I asked of these strange furry creatures.  "Baggy wrinkles," he said.  "They keep the sails from chafing."  That which looked like some sort of fungus in the rigging was actually a functional buffer to keep the lines from wearing holes in the sails.  The photos here are taken from photographs taken within the past ten years as the Argus transitions from a ship in disrepair to its continuing life as a seamanship training vessel. The baggy wrinkles are just barely visible on the portside shrouds:

I had the same curious gaze recently as a member of the yacht club gazed at the Cape Dory and asked, "Tell me, what are those things in your rigging?"  I smiled, knowing so personally that very question.  My mind went back to that morning on the deck of the Argus and I answered her, "baggy wrinkles," they are the old form of sail tape.  "Oh, I see.  I wondered what they were, thank you!"  And off she went, putting that piece of sailing genre in a file drawer.  And this is what she saw:

Baggy wrinkles hung on the top of the spreaders.  The first time I saw a Cape Dory, I also thought of baggy wrinkles.  They seem to be just the right sense of form and function for a classic yacht.  Made from the very rigging lines that hoist the sails, so their composition is integral to everything that is a sailing vessel.  On my Baggy Wrinkles I had to fetch the proper hemp rope. 

A classic pictorial, also found on Wikipedia, of how to make the baggy wrinkle is here:

By braiding sections of rope strands along a fixed line, the baggy wrinkle can then be circularly wrapped around the shroud and secured with a tied a line which holds the wrinkle in place at the point of contact between spreader and sail.  The results are classic and endearing.  After a while the brown seaweed look fades to grey and the wrinkles become softer yet continue to fend off the furious whipping and poking that often takes place above our heads while we sail.

I know what you might be thinking--this is much ado about nothing.  Perhaps for some.  But for me, the baggy wrinkle is a salute to tradition, functionally protecting the sails while providing a touch of yesteryear class to a classic little yacht.  And this says a lot about how we view our vessels. 

After having owned a brand new Beneteau for a number of years, it's a great feeling to have a new yacht, state of the art electronics, beautiful new white sails, a vessel on which everything is new, smells new, and works just right, well, almost works right.  Won't get into the warranty items here!  But in all, the Beneteau is a terrific yacht and sails like magic.  But after walking away from that vessel, the smaller, older, and particular Cape Dory is something more like art, than a model number.  Like my friend nicknamed the Hillbilly says, "buy a used vessel."  All the problems require the owner to warranty with hard work and sweat, fighting mosquitos in the boat yard, dodging rain, and enjoying the happiness which comes in fixing an old boat. After all, she sails as good as the Beneteau anyway!

This is the origin of the name Baggy Wrinkles.  She will take her place alongside a handful of vessels named after these odd additions that cause people to scratch their heads and ask questions!