Crackers the Mirror in South Australia

Hi, I'm Bruce from Adelaide, South Australia. I recently bought a very old Mirror which I've named Crackers. I bought it as a cheap beach cruiser for the local city beaches and occasionally an overnighter in good weather.

I've done a little bit of work on Crackers including replacing the sails. I'm not intending to do a full restoration. There is no sign of a boat number on the hull, although there is a lot of old paint on it so maybe there is one buried somewhere.

Here's a video of a recent trip along the beaches, an 8 nautical mile total distance out-and-return from Largs to Tennyson.


PuffinInTegel's picture

Hello Bruce
Good to see that you have got a foot aboard here ...
Not wishing to steal your attention from the Wooden Boat Forum (aka WBF; which I warmly recommend to all wooden Mirror Dinghy owners)!
For those Mirrorists who are interested in Bruce's complete exploits, see the Photo Stream (Bruce: as this was published on the WBF, I assume you don't mind it being published here too)
and the WBF thread .
Crackers is definitely a vintage boat as she came with gunwale-mounted jibsheet fairleads and a wooden mast.
Whereas a brand-new Mirror, even in kit form, no longer meets the original specifications as a "low cost family dinghy", boats like Crackers are demonstrating that sailing on a low budget is possible if the sailors or prospective sailors are prepared to put a bit (or a lot) of elbow grease into their dream project.


Gernot H.

Hi Gernot and Mirror Forum members.

The link in the comment above, to the flickr photo set of my Mirror, Crackers, is broken. Unfortunately the forum breaks a html address at the "@" symbol in the address of the Set where the photos are stored.
If you want to view them you'll have to do a copy of the whole URL including both the blue and black text and paste into the address bar of your browser. The photos are all public access though so you should be able to view them OK.


Hi Mirror forum people,

I played with adding a Cunningham and an Outhaul to Crackers, using the help and advice of others who actually know what they are doing (unlike me, I make it up as I go along). I bought some Spectra cord, scrounged some cleats and blocks, and got someone to sketch up a diagram. I think it looks like it might all work, but I do expect to have to fine tune it all to make it work.

I took a couple of photos. Any comments welcome, except I already know it's just as easy to tie it all off at the start of the day for an old cruising Mirror.

If you click these links they may take you to see my handiwork:

Here's the new name plate i had printed for Crackers. It's a parody [parotty] of a brand of cracker biscuits in Australia



sail_and_oar's picture

Hello Bruce,

Your rigging in the pictures looks like it should work fine and is similar(ish) to the one I use. I like to tie a line through the tack cringle and around the mast to give the outhaul something to pull against.

At the clew end it is most common for the line which goes around the boom to to pass through the clew cringle and be completely seperate from the outhaul control line. If you find a lot of friction in the system re rigging as I describe may improve the situation.

I moved the cleat fot the outhaul much closer to the gooseneck so I could adjust it when the boom is out over the water. It depends on your sailing style, many people rarely adjust the outhaul and many boats have no provision for adjustment while underway.

When I tie a line around a spar and use a reef knot I usually make sure the knot is pulled really tight with 2 pairs of pliers so it cannot shake loose.

Pleased to see you used metal cleats. The plastic version have a limited life.


curlew's picture

I agree with Cliff. At the clew, it might be better to attach the outhaul direct to the sail, then have a separate loop around the boom. It is important to do this so the boom does not sag down. In my case, which I thought was standard, there is a short track on the boom at the clew, with a sliding shoe on to which the outhaul is attached. At the tack, the normal arrangement is, I think, to take the line from a fixed point, up to the clew, then down again to a cleat, and as Cliff mentions, it can also go round the mast to obtain a forward pull. With your single purchase you might find it very hard to pull.

Yesterday I had a bit of longer trip along the suburban beaches. I launched at Largs Bay in the late morning, sailed back and forth for a while expecting a phone call from friends who wanted to have lunch with me, and when lunch time came and went with no phone call I headed south in a WSW light breeze.

I had some lunch including a big pot of coffee, so I wasn't left hungry. I got as far as West Beach, about half way along the length of Adelaide's inner suburban beach, before turning back when the wind turned more SSW and slightly strengthened. I did a little bit of dead-run, and quite a bit of 'downwind tacking' on broad reaches. I don't have any data to back it up by my impression is that I was covering the ground on the 'course ordered' more quickly by reaching than running. I suspect that there is wave advantage that is on top of the wind advantage, as the extra boat speed on the broad reach seemed to get Crackers up to the speed where it could take a lift from the following choppy waves, whereas on a dead run it seemed to not get that advantage, mostly wallowing rather than taking the surf.

All up I covered a bit more than 17 nautical miles by GPS reckoning at an average boat speed of just over 3 knots, which is pretty good considering the wind speed was low, 5 - 8 knots at first, rising up to 10 - 12 knots at the end of the trip for about the last hour.

I took all the advice here about the outhaul and Cunningham. I'm pleased that all seems to work fine now, at least in light wind. I'll see how it goes under more pressure but I expect it will work fine. Bad news, I broke one of the shroud anchor saddles when I was de-rigging. I'm replacing both of the rear-position saddles now and will do the forward-position saddles at a later time. They are a real pig to get off. I've replaced the jib cam cleats on the starboard side as well. For whatever reason they were not the same as the port cleats and did not work as well.


curlew's picture

Well done, Bruce, sounds like a great trip.
On my boat I use both shroud fixings, giving two shrouds each side. I also bolt the fixings right through the hull for security.
One of the main points I picked up from recent discussions is that it might be worth sailing at 50 degrees to the wind when going to windward, and I noticed Cliff was doing this when we sailed together and he is much faster than me. I also need to look at the luff tensions, which I have completely ignored up till now.

Not sure if you'll be interested. There's not too much to see when the boat is simply doing a straight out and return.

curlew's picture

Hi Bruce
Really nice to see you on the video and your boat. It is real sailing in a boat like this. I like your sailing position and also your aft mainsheet. I notice you have an outhaul (plastic ball) dangling at the aft end of the boom, which might theoretically get itself around the mainsheet block. Your sails seem to set perfectly. I am sure you will stay 100% fit doing this activity! Lucky Aussies having summer coming.

sail_and_oar's picture

"....One of the main points I picked up from recent discussions is that it might be worth sailing at 50 degrees to the wind when going to windward, and I noticed Cliff was doing this when we sailed together and he is much faster than me..."

45 degrees is often quoted as the close hauled angle to the wind. A lot of boats cannot get anywhere near this and quite a few others would do well to bear away a bit, gain some speed and get the centreboard and/or sails working properly.

On the occasion David mentioned we were overtaken by a couple of Wayfarers and I could detect little if any difference between their close hauled sailing angle and my own. Leeway didn't seem much different either, they did better mainly by virtue of greater speed.

In choppy water I can often sail no better than 60 degrees and to this we must add leeway. When it's really rough it is sometimes necessary to bear away at the top of a wave to prevent the bows burying in the following wave and yet more is lost. Often these situations are caused by wind against tide and it is the strength of the tide which makes the greatest contribution to progress. Sometimes these occasions involve feelings of regret at having left protected water.

My centreboard is longer than class rules allow. The immersed area is approximately 29" by 14.5". It is laminated from alternate strips of sepele and meranti, very stiff and heavy and fits a standard daggerboard case. David's conversion to centreboard is a very good idea. There are dimentional limitations in the chord of the centreboard and in length by the acceptable size of the centreboard case within the boat. My centreboard has a similar aspect ratio to David's but 50% more area. This may be a significant factor in sailing faster to windward. Almost all the minor details of the two boats are different (sail reduction, bilge water management, rigging, anchors, auxilliary propulsion ... the list goes on)

I think the differences are natural developments from us being very different people even though we play much the same game with boats that started off almost identical. Cruising is very often a race against tidal restrictions, darkness, approaching bad weather and most significantly fatigue. Our "class rules" are the Laws of Physics. I think we all try to play them to our best advantage.


Last Friday, 1st of November, the weather forecast was for light winds most of the day, eventually going round to a SSE in the afternoon, and staying light. I was keen to get onto the water while it was flat and have a play with Crackers, testing the outhaul and Cunningham again, and setting the sails in lighter wind. I also had a cunning plan - if the wind came up to the point where I could average more than 3 knots I was going to have a go at crossing St Vincent's Gulf, a 30 nautical mile crossing, and either sail back the next morning or call for a retrieval car.

As it turned out I had a bit of fun chasing a yawl, but lost interest when I realised he had his engine running slowly to assist, then checking out some dolphins at close range. Around 4:00pm, at 6 NM off the coast and with no sign of wind, I called it quits and came back home. The wind died so much that on the way in I even had to break out the paddle, the first time I've done that with Crackers. It taught me that I really do need a pair of oars, so that's now on the shopping list.

Max speed all day was 3 knots, and average speed was 2.1, on the GPS. I use Navionics on an iPhone 4 for tracking.

I had a bit of fun not getting run down by a container ship that was anchoring directly in my path. He missed me and I missed him so all is good.

Here's a video
Because it was so light there's not much action to see, however I did get an excuse to record another backing track with my new baritone ukulele again.

I'll spend some time this week replacing some fibreglass tape in the cockpit, and looking for leaks in the keel seam. More to follow.

curlew's picture

Hi Bruce
All read with interest. The Mirror does row quite well even with the supplied oars.
My rowlocks are 12.5 inches aft of the thwart centreline. The rowlock holes go through the gunnel, and there is a strengthening piece screwed to the inside, shaped like a Moon.
When removing tape, I use a hot air gun and it just peels of. Try to pull off all the layers.
I have replaced some critical seams using a fillet of epoxy/filler followed by epoxy/ tape. However, for small repairs over the top of existing polyester, I recently tried polyester resin and fibreglass. It sticks better to existing polyester, is very easy to use, but it sets quickly and very hard, so try to avoid any sanding. It would be good for emergency repairs on a cruise.

Today I parted with Crackers the Mirror Dinghy. A very nice family including two quite young daughters are now the proud owners. I patched up Crackers as best I could, and there is still enough work to be done to make it interesting to own and operate. All four family members are new to sailing and are taking lessons, and I think Crackers has a new lease on life.

dictate's picture

Bruce, you must tell us all what divorce feels like, or are you still in a state of shock and numbness?

sail_and_oar's picture


Now that Crackers is gone do you still have a Mirror?
I think you said you were building a Scamp. Is it ready or are you boatless.



Yes I'm a bit numb and shocked. The place where Crackers stood on her trailer just doesn't look right. It will pass when I get another boat. Romana the Scamp is a long-term project in my shed and she will be finished eventually. I have no idea when :) but not soon. so yes, for now I'm boatless. I've started to look at pictures of other boats but nothing is happening yet. Hopefully it will happen before our Autumn comes and goes because that's really our peak sailing season.

My best to you all,


62816inBerlin's picture

I hope you've handed on the Forum details to the new owners.
Are they in the Adelaide area too?

Gernot H.

I am sorry to hear about your circumstance and having to give up your boat.
I have an old mirror that I am doing up with my young son, and also live in the Adelaide area. In fact I started sailing as a kid at Largs Bay and still have family there. When I came across your early posts I thought that I had found another mirror sailor in Adelaide, but alas it is not to be. Apart from the unfinished mirror I have been boat less for over 12 years now and know how it feels. I hope that you get back on the water soon.


PuffinInTegel's picture

Hi Paul,
there are probably one or two other Mirrorists in Adelaide. I've sent you a PM on the subject. Unfortunately not all have joined this forum.
Other meeting places are FaceBook (several Mirror-related groups) and the Wooden Boat forum. On both of these platforms, you can usually see where the people are located, provided that they have volunteered this information in their user profiles.
I have relatives in Adelaide and quite like the city.
Gernot H.