Beyond Liberty.

My experiences so far with the Liberty have been good, within its envelope its possibly the best boat i have ever owned : its not as fast for example as my first small boat (Wharram Tiki 26 which was good for 15 knots) nothing like as much space and comfort as my Frances 26 and nothing like the character (if a bad one) of my briefly owned Deben. Each of those boats did something well although i struggle to remember what the Deben did well but its only this one that seems to be an all-rounder except that it is a weak boat in the tougher conditions i experienced in the channel.

Of course i have fantasy boats : there is a Freedom 33 (centreboard version) in the yard that would do the same job but is way beyond my modest means, in France we shared a berth along 3 of the latest OVNI’s…about 46 feet with a lifting keel and all the space and toys but maybe a tad large for a middle aged couple !.    What i do have though is designs on a smaller boat that would fit the specification of what i want, would be a little bit larger than the Liberty and could be built from something that already exists.  The hull shape of the smaller poacher gave me an idea as its basically a failed IOR mini-tonner with a lifting keel and a weird rig, as i have said before they are very small inside : i could just about get in there and lay down but it would be a pretty grim experience in bad weather and yes i do know of many small boats that are worse.

I understand the IOR hull form, its kind of what i grew up with in sailing until i really grew up as a sailor and learnt their foibles and weaknesses…but size for size you do get a lot of volume in a short hull so one project direction i have played with is to use the hull from an older and unsucessful quarter tonner but modify it in the liberty direction with variable draught and an easier to live with rig.  I have already worked out the basics for one potential project based on this boat : an old westerly GK24 , just a foot and small change longer than the Liberty, a lot wider and a taller boxier hull and with much less space wasted with the square stern and small cockpit.


There is one for sale right now in a boatyard in north wales and on a trailer : i am tempted by that boat partially because of the trailer, that would be easily modifiable for the Liberty and almost the same cost as having a custom trailer built but also give me the project hull. The main idea would be to get the keel off and replace that with a ballasted centerboard and a pair of heavy bilge runners just like the liberty, the rest of the ballast would go back inside low down.  For the rig i would be tempted to rebuild the one with the boat into a tabernacle over an internal ring frame to keep the interior open plan but ultimately to build a pair of hollow stave masts and have one up front and one going through the bridgedeck.  The inside on the original is largely wasted but what i would do  is dedicate one half inside (stbd) to a large double berth and lounging area just like Liberty but have a better galley to port, strip the bow out to have a proper sailors forepeak, give it a lifting rudder and outboard and we are back with my concept boat but with slightly longer legs and much more space than my boat.  A similar concept would be to take something like the mark 2 Robber in plywood but copy a much more recent David Thomas design : the Red Fox and utilise the extreme beam and boxy hull to fit twin asymmetric daggerboards.

Are there other boats and other hulls that this idea would work with ? well yes and some already have the whole lifting keel or CB sorted : the Dehler 25 is a nice boat again outside my price range (here is a nice one    ) as is the older Evolution 26 which is a quick boat although i haven’t yet seen a half-decent one.

Another possible avenue is one boat that is now an odd classic : the Uffa Fox designed Fairey Atalanta, here is one that would need a refit : going down a different route would be to find a more classic long keeled boat , use beaching legs and accept the draught limitation and yes that is going outside the envelope again.

Its all most likely just pipe-dreams though, the kind of thing that keeps me awake going “what if” at night and the ideal boat is almost certanly the one that i have sat alongside in a boatyard right now, the problem with these project ideas isn’t the thinking and even the cost but the time involved in bringing them to reality. Life and time are short, too short i feel to waste much of it grinding epoxy and crawling around inside the project FFS 26.

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