How small : Ocean.

Please note : may contain copyrighted material, all rights go to the original authors.

In an earlier post i started to develop the idea of down-sizing our cruising boat and just having a trailerable dayboat at home. In the same post gave an honorable mention to the late Charles Stock and his excellent little boat ‘Shoal Waters’ which at just 16 feet long has done more miles that many larger so called ‘cruising’ boats.  Also while i am on the subject i would also like to draw attention to some of the early ‘roving’ cruising sailors of the Humber Yawl club and their ‘perfect’ small boats very similar to my own.  My own current boat is very much along canoe-yawl lines and almost at the ‘perfect’ small boat size of 23 feet.


One of my major interests in sailing is what we might call ‘the art of the possible’ and by that i am thinking about the potential and possibilities about doing a lot more with small boats .    I have been sailing now for 40 years and what i have seen in that time is boats getting larger and more complex year on year.  When i started sailing it was often thought that a dinghy or small dayboat was a good starter boat : now many of the magazines tout 35 foot+ yachts as starter boats.  A 35 foot boat was thought of as a ‘big boat’ in those days….not so now and it’s quite common now to see couples with 40 foot and above but equally not doing very much with them.   It’s been my recent experience that the bigger boats and their owners don’t actually sail very much and it’s the small boats like mine that i see out there having fun.

For today’s blog post i want to take the same idea, that of the art of the possible,  out onto a much bigger stage ie the worlds oceans and ocean cruising in small boats.  Today’s post will also feature another highly regarded small boat sailor : Roger Taylor and his 2 boats Mingming 1 and 2.  I wrote to Roger recently to see if i could get together with him and maybe interview him about his boats, well Roger says he has too much on his plate right now but is happy for me to use anything that is already in the public domain and as he has both written and video-blogged there is plenty to borrow from and so of course all rights go to him.

If you haven’t already heard of Roger Taylor he is the author of several books and has converted 2 very small boats into very simple ocean cruising boats and taken both of them on long voyages in the high arctic.  His first conversion was a 21 foot Corribee design and the recent one a 24 foot Achilles.

Mingming 1 (owners photograph)


Lets get straight into a look at Rogers latest boat : a converted Achilles 24′.

That is one sweet looking boat !.

Before any discussion lets also take a look at Rogers first arctic boat. :

Firstly let me give you a link to Rogers own website : The Simple Sailor :    and thoroughly encourage you to go and read some of Rogers own work in the subject.  He has published several books about the small and simple idea in long distance sailing and they are a very good read based on hard-won experience.

For visitors here who maybe aren’t familiar with what Roger does he is essentially a sailor of the high arctic region and where he cruises that area for extended periods in voyages of up to 100 days at sea, solo and in first the converted Corribee and now the converted Achilles.  Before that he successfully completed the Jester challenge in the Corribee and that challenge is also something i want to highlight as all of the owner/skippers in that event run small and well sorted cruising boats.

From memory i have it that Roger actually built his first cruising boat himself and then more recently went on to convert and refit first a Corribee and then the Achilles for ocean sailing.    A mate of mine lived aboard a corribee for a while ! now that boat is just a little bit too small for me but i really like his second boat which is only a foot and a bit longer than my Liberty although its a very different boat. I have considered an Achilles as a cruising boat a couple of times as they are pretty old boats in GRP terms now and often come up at a very good price : when i have been talking about the ‘thousand-pound’ boat project its a very cheap and rough Achilles that i had in mind and i still have a hankering to do that project.

Lucky for us that Roger filmed and blogged as he worked on the refit, from the first days through building the mast and making his own sail, here is the boat complete and looking very smart :

In a post i have just published i talk about the ‘speed’ problem of small boats and where i have mentionned that i wouldn’t mind having a small amount of extra waterline length this is the kind of thing i have in mind and very much along the lines of what Roger says himself ie increase the range by having ‘longer legs’ (more waterline) have a big rig (relatively) to push the boat along in light weather etc.

This is a bit more expensive than i would like but its a good view of the original boat :   there is one on the same site at under a thousand squid  but doesn’t have the triple-keel arrangement which is the one i am looking for as it would be a better boat for my needs (easy to beach) .  In another post i am working on right now i make an argument against building boats from scratch….it just takes too long but equally i argue for buying something basic and then re-fitting it to do the job required. With a boat such as the Achilles it would do my job straight out of the box but equally i would adopt a lot of Rogers own ideas such as the simple powerful rig and all-round shelter of the doghouse which is why i would start with the most basic and ‘rough’ boat that i could.  I can smell a project on the horizon here !

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