As previously published in

January/February 2000
by Karen Larson

Beautiful Blackbird

A sailboat to fit Bill and Nancy Leonard's lifestyle had to be aesthetically pleasing. It had to sail well. And it had to look good. Moored in front of the beautiful home they designed and built themselves, this boat had to complement the house from the water and be a joy to look upon from the shore.

Outdoor people, the Leonards spend much of their time at home on one porch or another, on a dockside deck, or in the greenhouse that extends the outdoor season on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. So it's perfectly understandable when Bill says, "We figured we'd be looking at our sailboat on the mooring 90 percent-of the time. It had to be nice looking. We wanted to be able to see it and smile."With her classic Alberg-esque lines, their C&C Redwing elicits that smile.

The Redwing isn't like the rest of the Canadian-built C&Cs that came a bit later and are so common on the Great Lakes. A 30-footer, she was replaced by the ubiquitous C&C 30, the boat Jerry and I sail. Only 145 to 150 Redwings were built by Hinterhoeller between 1967 and 1972, before they cast those plans aside in favor of the C&C 30, of which more than 800 were produced between 1973 and 1985.

Since the Redwing came relatively early in the history of production fiberglass boats, Cuthbertson and Cassian were clearly influenced by the designs of Carl Alberg. The Redwing has the recognizable wooden cockpit coamings and the pedestal-mounted winches. She has that beautiful upswept stern and a narrow beam. At 21 feet 9 inches her waterline is much shorter than her 30 feet on deck would lead you to believe. And space below is tight, as can be expected of all boats with the Alberg look.

Surprising shape
What is surprising about the Redwing is her shape below the water. Designed as a family racer/cruiser, the Redwing has minimal wetted surface below - no doubt a revolution for her time. Her keel is the same inverted shark fin found on the early C&C 30s that followed in her wake, and her rudder is an unusual affair that looks for all the world like the blade of a scimitar

Bill and Nancy use their Redwing exactly as she was intended. They participate in club races on Sundays, and they take an annual two-week cruise to Isle Royale on the other side of Lake Superior. Isle Royale, a pristine national park, is one of the most desirable destinations on Lake Superior. It's a long day's sail from their home on the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

The Leonards bought their 1970 Redwing in 1994 and named her, appropriately, Blackbird. They began their annual excursions to Isle Royale the following summer.

Bill started sailing dinghies many years before that, while growing up in Connecticut. His formative years at the seacoast have been a defining factor for the Leonards throughout their years together. They had to be by water because Bill can't imagine life any other way.

Bill discovered this need when he went to Indiana's Rose Hulman Institute for his civil engineering degree. Nancy, a Hoosier, met her Connecticut Yankee there. She was attending Indiana State, working on a teaching degree. The two worked for a short time at their intended professions in Indianapolis and sailed a Sunfish on Eagle Reservoir there.

But it was the time of peace, love, and flower children . . . a time for dreaming dreams. In 1973, they quit their jobs and sold their home to chase a dream. They bought a Volkswagen camper bus and spent the summer circumnavigating Lake Superior by land and living on $10 a day, as the books of the time said they could. They were looking for a home by water, one where they could put down roots.

Bought a farm
The community of Houghton, on the Keweenaw Peninsula, attracted them as the home of a growing technical university and a community influenced by the water surrounding it. That fall they bought a farm that hadn't been inhabited in 40 years. After doing a lot of work to make it habitable, they moved in on May 6. It burned to the ground with all their possessions on May 13. Many family treasures were lost, of course, but they are philosophical about the loss. They lived through it, saved by their faithful Saint Bernard dog, who awakened them in time.

But they were new to the community, and they had nothing but the smokepermeated clothes on their backs, a large dog, and the VW van. Some people in the community helped them make a new start. More than 25 years later, they have become so much a part of the Houghton and Chassell community that a similar loss would bring an outpouring of support personal and financial. In addition to their status as well-known merchants there, Bill serves as Chasssell Township Supervisor, and both volunteer their time in many areas of community life.

After the fire, they bought a small store in Chassell, a small town just south of Houghton. There they opened a gift shop and rented out apartments upstairs, living in one of these themselves. The gift shop flourished, and the civil engineer and specialeducation teacher never returned to their "careers." Instead they discovered their artistic and aesthetic sides. It is this sense of beauty that defines their lives today.

One and the same
The Leonards transformed the shop building into a place of beauty with a delightful garden in the back, and filled it from wall to wall inside with tasteful treasures beautifully displayed. They named the store Einerlei . At the time, they were studying German and learned that einerlei meant "one and the same." To them, the concept meant having your work and play intertwined and indistinguishable. Over the years, the shop crowded out the apartments and grew to include a building next door and a second shop in downtown Houghton.

Meanwhile, Bill and Nancy were enjoying sails on a 17-foot Windjammer daysailer, and converting a log cabin on the shore into a spectacular home worthy of a feature in Home & Garden. In fact, it was featured in Country Living magazine in June 1983.

During this time, they discovered the joys of sailboard sailing and had a series of his-and-her sailboards that could be launched from the beach in front of their home. When the homebuilding project drew to an end, it was time to buy a cruising sailboat, and they selected Blackbird, based on her pretty lines. They didn't first sail her or have her surveyed. Luckily, she sails like a dream, and very little refitting was necessary.

We sailed with Bill and Nancy in late June. It was Sunday, time for a club race, and their crewmember was unable to come along. This was good news to Jerry (Good Old Boat technical editor and my husband), who still misses his racing days on a Flying Scot in an active one-design fleet. There are not enough sailboats on the entire Keweenaw Peninsula to create a onedesign fleet, but the club members race PHRF and have a good time with the boats they've got.

First over
The Redwing crossed the line first in two races, and may well have won the races once the ciphering was done. That didn't matter. There was plenty of wind, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.

The club races on Portage Lake, a wide spot in the Keenenaw Cut. It is unlikely that Bill and Nancy would ever be accused of carrying too little sail when they race. The day of the race, they hoisted a Mylar 170 before the first race in light-to-moderate winds with large black clouds looming on the western horizon. They carried this sail through both races and through the pleasure sailing that followed, even when a cold front arrived toward the end of the day, bringing very fresh winds for a 170-percent genoa.

The Redwing has a high ballast ratio in a fairly narrow beam by modern standards. But the big gusts could do no more than roll her rail down a bit and shoot the spunky 30footer forward. Bill says he likes to sail her with up to 25 degrees of heel and has observed no loss of speed at the higher angles of heel. So this couple does not do a lot of reefing or headsail changing.

Racing on the Leonards' Redwing is meant to be fun. Exchanges between skipper and crew are conversational in tone with an occasional laugh. Still, make no mistake: the Redwing was first over the line each time, and they made sure they didn't give away an inch. That day, Nancy was at the helm for both races. Bill was skipper, tactician, and deck ape. Jerry served as utility string-puller of jib, main, and spinnaker sheets.

Compression problem
After many years, one problem for the Redwing and others with a deck-stepped mast is that the deck begins to sag under the load. Delamination is sometimes an additional problem. John Vigor has said that deckstepped masts often lead to trouble in the end. The Redwing had indeed experienced some trouble with hers. She was designed to have a removable compression post located under the deck beam that spanned two bulkheads forward and aft of the head compartment.

It's possible that if the compression post had been left in place continuously while sailing, the mast wouldn't have been able to distort the deck beam and crack the forward bulkhead. But as Bill points out, the interior of the boat is virtually unusable with the compression post in place. Access to the V-berth is nearly impossible, and the two cleverly arranged doors that close off the hanging locker, V-berth, and head aren't functional with the post in place because they won't swing through their intended arcs. Only the most dedicated of owners will have used the compression post routinely.

Since Bill and Nancy did not use the compression post all the time, they eventually noticed that the deck beam, an aluminum weldment, was bent, and the bulkhead supporting its forward end had a small stress crack. Bill modified the deck beam by increasing the thickness of the panels and the depth of the webs. As a rough guess, it might now be four times as stiff as it was. Then he put aluminum doublers on both sides of the forward bulkhead beam inside the cabin and through-bolted them on close centers. The original wooden beam is reinforced in this way to several times its original strength.

Not easy
Other sailors may wonder why the designers at C&C didn't take these kinds of measures to begin with. There may not be any good answer to this except to say that a lot of otherwise very acceptable recreational sailboats were designed with mast steps (deck- and keel-stepped) that would eventually prove to be inadequate. Perhaps it's not easy to estimate the compression loads of sailboat masts and to provide a structure that will last for 30 years. It's all the more tempting to keep unnecessary weight out of locations as high as the cabintop, which is perhaps why so many deck-stepped masts seem to have been underbuilt.

Blackbird continues to be exactly what Nancy and Bill wanted when they bought her: a complement to their home, a boat that sails well, and an important component in their lifestyle. They are not planning to sail to Tahiti some day. If a plan of that nature begins to develop, they agree that a bigger boat would be in the picture.

Right now, they are happy to spend a couple of weeks in the northern paradise we know as Isle Royale, using an inflatable kayak as their dinghy, and racing for fun with friends on the Keweenaw. They also use their shore base for launching a canoe for quiet paddles in the nearby marshes and their sailboards for the occasional whisk away. Blackbird is just one part of their lives, not an all-consuming displacing passion as sailboats can become for some of us. The Leonards have created a nice balance in their lives, one that is both remarkable and exemplary for the passionate sailors among us.

C&C Redwing plays it both ways

Whether you're a racer or a cruiser or a racer/cruiser (like Bill and Nancy Leonard above), the C&C Redwing is just right. Brian and Joanne Novak are cruisers, new to sailing, who were captivated by the Redwing and are getting to know her inside and out as they refurbish and sail her. At the other end of the spectrum, Andrews Hooker has been sailing and racing aboard his Redwing for the 30 years she has been in his family. His father bought her from the factory in 1969. Since 1986 she has been Andy's restoration project and racing yacht.

Brian and Joanne are turning Scimitar (so named, we suspect, for the unusual shape of the rudder) into a cozy home for their cruises on Lake Superior. Since buying this 1968 Redwing in 1997, they taught themselves to sail, as Brian says, "through trial and error." During a couple of cold Thunder Bay, Ontario, winters, the two attended Canadian Power and Sail Squadron boating and piloting courses.

Naturally, the most advanced course is out there cruising, and they did not delay this practicum. During their first season, they began longer cruises along Lake Superior's north shore, around Isle Royale (where they easily could have met Bill and Nancy Leonard - we first saw both Redwings during our own cruise to Isle Royale in the summer of 1998) and farther south across the big lake to the Apostle Islands at the northern end of Wisconsin.

Their cruising and seamanship courses have been mixed with elbow grease and sweat equity. They have completely sanded and refinished all exterior teak, revaruished all interior teak, constructed a cockpit floor of white cedar, reupholstered the cushions, built a variety of teak racks and holders, and installed a CD player and speakers. They also sanded the deck and interior surfaces with 150-grit production paper and painted these surfaces with Interlux Yacht Enamel rolled on and brushed out, and they replaced the flameproof propane stove surround with 1/16-inch stainless steel plating.

Andy Hooker came of age with Battlestar Pegasus, or *Pegasus* for short (with the asterisks suggesting stars for "Battlestar"). Like the Novaks and the Leonards, Andy's boat name draws on the boat itself. In this case, the wings of the flying horse are, you guessed it, red. Since his mother was an equestrian, the red-winged horse seemed appropriate for the family. This boat, primarily used for racing on Lake Ontario, is rigged and fitted out with a flourish. A resident of Youngstown, N.Y., Andy is president of the Lake Yacht Racing Association. In spite of that status, he has to win each LYRA race fair and square. *Pegasus* is set up with winning in mind.

"It's a real pleasure to sail a pretty boat, and more so to pass a newer boat while racing. At the dock, people remark what a pretty old boat she is, but it is quite a `neck snapper' when this good old boat goes sailing past them," he says. "It's good to win races. It is better to win comfortably in a pretty boat. It is great to kick butt in a good old boat."

By the time he purchased *Pegasus* from his father, Andy says he had "a very good idea of improvements that needed to be made . . . time and wallet size dictated progress." In his zeal, only the keelbolts, V-berth and starboard interior have been left untouched.

Although his wife, Pat, selected the material, Andy did the reupholstering, adding convenient storage bags and a strap to hold the cushions out of the way when the belowdecks space is more important for such operations as folding spinnakers. He added backing plates for the stanchions, but later adopted an unconventional approach to this subject, eliminating lifelines altogether. Andy says, "On our first race after Awlgripping topsides, deck, cockpit, and cabin, the lifelines had not been installed yet. The crew enjoyed not having to `skirt the jib' with every tack. While admiring her on the mooring after the race, we all concluded that she looks much cleaner without the lifelines. They have remained in my garage ever since, with no crewmembers going overboard."

Like the Novaks, Andy created shelves, added speakers, and redid floors, installing teak-and-holly flooring and replacing floor stringers. He removed the stove, installed an electric pump in the sink to drain the icebox, and added refrigeration. He replaced the companionway hatchboards with a solid teak hatch (modified from a Catalina). The sliding hatch at the companionway has another novelty. Made of two pieces of 1/4-inch Lexan, it has the current racing instructions sandwiched in between for quick reference.

All mainsail control lines are led aft, and cleats and leads are located for function and ease of use by a racing crew. He even replaced the hinges on the port cockpit locker with a piano hinge, so jib sheet tails don't get pinched inside when the locker is opened.

Andy's tiller and rudder have been remade. He explains, "A few years ago while playing in the whirlpools upstream in the Niagara River, I `found' the foundation to the old LewistonQueenston Bridge while traveling at 13 knots over the bottom in a 7-knot back eddy. Needless to say, it destroyed the rudder and snapped the tiller. I replaced the rudder with an elliptical rudder I made, giving better downwind control. As the original 1 1/2-inch rudderstock bent in the incident, I went to a 2-inch rudderstock and Harken rudder bearings. This necessitated replacing the rudder tube. The tiller I laminated out of 18 pieces of ash.

With these steering improvements, I was able to fly down the lake at 10 knots with the chute up while enjoying dinner. The elliptical rudder has the same surface area as the largest of the four rudders designed for the Redwing 30 by C&C."

Neither *Pegasus* nor Scimitar is equipped with the compression post which is on Blackbird, a boat manufactured in 1970, a year after *Pegasus* and two years after Scimitar. Like Blackbird, *Pegasus* has had to have her mast step reinforced, but Scimitar, perhaps because she was not raced often, is still using the original step without a problem.

Andy concludes, "While *Pegasus* is raced extensively, her improvements make her very easy to sail and trim quickly when I'm out for the occasional pleasure sail or delivery. She handles all sea conditions like a lady, being very seakindly due to her displacement. The 7-foot 3-inch long cockpit seats allow for ample seating when out sailing. And who wants to be down below when you're sailing?"