Today i made the long drive over to west Sussex to go see the Devon Dayboat ‘Narwhal’ and meet the current owner with a view to buying either this or the standard racing version.  I wrote about the trip back very briefly in the last post : it was pretty awful on the road with steady rain, heavy spray and seemingly everyone heading to the west country on holiday.  On the way out this morning every layby on the A30 was ram-packed with caravans and with more of the bloody things streaming into Cornwall like a pestilential convoy !.

Ok so i got totally lost around Chichester and forgot that my roadmap was on the living room floor and not in the car but aside from that i met up with the man after a couple of phone calls and spent about an hour looking at and talking about the boat.  I think it was Steve Mundane that commented that the owner seemed both very knowledgeable about the boat and was being honest about the condition…he is and was and that’s a great start.

So : what about Narwhal then.  Well she is a rare version of the Devon Yawl but with the addition of that cuddy forward otherwise its the same hull as the racing version with the same rig (nearly) and the same foils.  The boat is from about 1973 so pretty old for a GRP boat but boats of that era (GRP) do seem to have been well molded and don’t seem as prone to the pox as later boats.  She isn’t a pretty boat or at least not in comparison to the race version but i do think a lot more practical as a cruising boat….that cuddy makes an enormous difference to shelter.

Basics then : 16 foot GRP simulated GRP clinker.  Layup looks typical of the era (heavy) the gelcoat is very chalky and its about time for the boat to be painted rather than polished.  Plus + very few if any star-cracks and just some nicks and dings as expected. There are some minor areas of damage to the CB case and around the mizzen step but nothing major.

Both boards (CB and rudder) are plain flat metal plates so very un-hydrodynamic.  The board weighs some 180 lbs so the boat will have a lot more stability than other dinghy’s when its down.  The CB has been out, blasted and galvanised.

Rig. Its a yawl (actually its a ketch) with a bowsprit.  The mainmast normally sits in a tabernacle on the cuddy roof supported by a pair of GRP arches under the roof. The current owner has added a compression post in the form of a piece of plastic tube as the cuddy seems to sag a bit under compression. The tabernacle doesn’t work properly as a pivot as the front is closed.  The mizzen just sits on the small aft deck and there is a similar problem with mast compression loads there. The tiller interestingly comes under the mast !.  Both spars are a bit old and tired, main-mast has damage at the foot.  The vang set-up doesn’t seem to work properly (angle is too flat).  The genoa/jib is on a roller furling spar whereas the race versions seem to use a separate forestay and a jib furler only.  Sails are very old and tired.




Inside.  Is pretty simple : space forward under the cuddy which looks just big enough to sit underneath and make a brew. The owner reckons its just large enough to sleep in there or on the soleboards although the rear-most board would need bringing up a bit. There are bouyancy tanks both sides apparently foam filled which is a shame as they could be good storage spaces.

Trailer : isn’t my area of expertise but its relatively new and looks heavier than the boat needs. Its braked and does have extension bars for the lightboard (legal requirement in France now).  The trailer looks in very good condition to my untrained eye.




Engine : not seen but its a 4HP Mariner stroker i believe.

My opinion and largely shared by the owner is that its a good starting point for a potentially great boat.  She needs a thorough refit now although she could be sailed for a season as she stands.  To be up to standard she needs at minimum a repaint, new spars and sails and a lot of detail work.

Edit. Clips taken during the viewing.


  1. Trailer is a big plus. I would get it, as the rest is straight forward. Maybe in long term fair the foils, again big job of removal and plating already done for you. Would rerig as tall gunter to make spar handling easier.
    Finally, coil type tree wrap on the sprit, painted ivory.


  2. Well worth the awful road trip to see plus a bonus Bovington visit — not a bad day out! I’m with Peter — get it. The trailer alone has got to be worth a couple of grand…


  3. Trailer looks good the brake system is cable operated drums so must NOT see the water wheels only painted so same thing (I did a rebuild on one here to s/s discs the existing went in the scrap bin wheels the lot as the salt had done its work) The style of winch on the trailer is ok but can be a bit light if the boat is heavy to haul on.

    Boat looks ok can you fit on the sole to sleep ? sails probably not to expensive as they are fairly small, mast base Can you shorten the mast to remove the damage and take up the lost distance in the rigging which if original should probably be changed to spectra, PBO or similar anyway.

    I feel some carbon tubes coming on less weight …. so easier to rig …

    Repaint is mainly prep as you know even if you get someone professional to spray it bast’d job with all those lands on the planking to do.

    Does it come with a cockpit tent ? (best get your sewing machine 🙂

    Has the framing under the cabin cracked under compression ? time for some carbon capping or a nice polished s/s post or anodized alloy, you could even use some of that wood stuff that used to be used for boats, likewise under the aft deck.

    Having a ballasted board is going to make it a more stable boat and in our advancing years that a good thing.


    1. Lots to think about.

      The trailer has a hose connection that runs to lines that will flush the brakes out !.

      Probably going to buy, play with, and then work out which way to go with the refit.


      1. Go and grag it home before someone else does. I am actively looking for a similar glass boat as my woodies are too much effort. The lure of an open boat with a cuddy is back. Just parted with my two cabin boats, just my planked cuddy beach cruiser left.l can count the seasons l likely have left, do it now, glad l did whem l was your age, sore back and all.


  4. Wanted to add as a prompter, drove 5 1/2 hrs + on fri to our annual North Channel week long meet, pristine rock and water country, al la Sweden. Did not launch as could not face standing on cabin to rig with a gimpy leg. Spent the next day with the guys rigging their boats and then home. Gave one of my boats to my son.
    Now looking for a gunter glass cuddy l can live with.
    The short message,
    Do it now,
    While you can.
    So endeth the lesson.


  5. So Narwhal has a new home. Nice boat and well used by previous owner Ian. Suggest that the tabernacle may have been put back wrong way round. Best kicker arrangement is a lever system used by the Europe dinghy and available from Selden, Sails from Exe Sails who have made for Dayboat before – foresail either jib version or Genoa. If you decide on replacing the main mast can be either Selden Cirrus or Super Spars M6 with tapered top section, but you will need to sort out the bottom arrangement for fitting to the tabernacle – alternative is to replace tabernacle with a standard mast step. Just a few suggestions to be going on with


  6. … and handrails atop the cuddy. available in teak from Force 4 with either one, two, three or four loops. Usual is four loop version either side of roof. Makes traversing the narrow side deck a lot safer. I really rated Ian’s choice of name as so appropriate, with sticky out bit up front on both boat and beastie. Good luck.


  7. Oh dear, this is like scratching an itch.

    The shape of the cuddy does rather liken her to an ugly ducking, but it is a very practical size, and one gets to appreciate it in a blow with spray all about. The cuddy shape is reinforced with iron hoops glassed in, but they do not rigidly support a rig that is in real tension. The solution is a king post under the mast position, as DD16 has been fitted with by Ian. Plastic drain pipe works well in compression, but of course one can use wood or stainless material for the king post if that turns you on.

    The centreplate is a low grade iron casting. It is not completely flat and does have a shape. One can fettle the leading and trailing edges but beware of making these too fine as the metal is brittle. The flat aluminium rudder blade is prone to stalling, therefore a change to a wood aerofoil blade would make a great difference to the handling.

    Re changes to the rig. One could change to gunter, as the DD is outside the Class Rules that apply to the DY. However, the Bermudan rig works fine, and hoisting and lowering the main mast is a matter of practice, and with the tabernacle the right way round not so difficult. As the use of theboat is for pottering and maybe a little cruising, I would suggest keeping the Holt Reefing Luff spar as one can shorten sail, jib or Genoa, progressively. At present DD16 has the Genoa option. The mizzen sail while small is a useful feature, and of course is indicative of her origins.

    If kept on a mooring a fitted cockpit cover is essential, not just to keep the rain out , but also birds crapping over the inside. Again, like the sails, Exe Sails have made covers for the DD.

    Itch has gone away for the moment so better get on with some Sunday tasks. Good luck.


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