2014-04-16

Alcan Petrel 951 Sailing Dinghy

The Lewisporte Yacht Club is in possession of 3 boats from the now defunct junior sailing program. These boats have been in storage for a few years, and in 2013 it was decided by the club's executive to make them ready to sail again. As a member of the LYC executive, this became primarily my job.
Brochure Photo

One of the boats is an inflatable dinghy which was used by the instructor to follow the kids, and tow the sailboats in and out of the marina. That one I did not have time to look at. The smallest training boat is an Optimist. They are very common and popular for introducing young children to sailing. Being too small for me, this one also did not receive much attention. The third boat, and the one that took up most of my time, was so unique, that I had to do some research on it. Information was scarce, so that is one of the reasons for this blog post.

It is a metal sailboat designed for The Aluminum Company of Canada, also known as Alcan, in 1966. Apparently, they commissioned a lot of boats in the 1960s and 1970s, and this model is called Petrel, of which over 1400 (2000?) were built. In the U.S., they can be found under the name AeroCraft, a company in Michigan. The club has boat #951.

Designed by Phillip Rhodes (#794), it is roughly 12' long and 5' wide, with a 20' mast and 100 square feet of sail. The sails measured as follows - Jib: Luff 138", Leech 145.5", Foot 85" - Main: Luff 185", Leech 202", Foot 85".

The planing hull, mast, boom, rudder and centerboard are made of aluminum. Cavities are foam filled, so the boat is unsinkable, and will not turn turtle if capsized. Weight is about 225 lbs.

The Petrel on its sledge.
This particular boat had been modified at some point. The main sheet attached to an eye on the centerboard trunk instead of a stern traveller, and the jib sheet cleats were turned around so that they would not hold the line. This made sailing solo difficult, so I put them back the way they should be.

The forestay was attached with an old piece of string, so I replaced that with a small turnbuckle. The jib tack was also attached with string, and that was replaced with a shackle. The halyards were in reasonable shape, but I replaced the one for the main sail anyway, and used that as a spring line when docked.

A set of oars were donated to row the boat when winds were not favourable, but I didn't have time to come up with a reasonable way to mount the horns. I'm now thinking that perhaps they would be better used for sculling the two dinghies.

Not being all that experienced with dinghies, I only took it out on days with light winds of under 10 knots. Once I had the jib cleats corrected, I could use both sails, and the dinghy moved along quite nicely. Getting in and out of the marina was always a challenge, however, and I learned not to try that with both sails up.

The Petrel is in pretty good shape now, and can be used with very little more work from now on. It could use a cockpit cover of some sort. A lot of time was spent bailing it out after each and every rainfall. Eventually, I'll have to take it to a pond or lake for capsize practice. Too much chance of hypothermia doing that in the harbour.

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A look at the sails after launching.


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Tacking out of the marina on August 5, 2013 for a test sail.



                                   Petrel photos gathered off the internet.                                   

Petrel Photo Album