In this post i hope to explain a bit more about why i have bought a much smaller boat than i ever planned to and what my plans and intentions are with that boat. I also want to pick up that side of my blogging that is more responsive to my readers comments. I don’t know the full demographics of my readers now , i know i picked some up from the Liberty owners group although few of them ever comment here : i guess that some members of the Devon Yawl group have had a look and wondered what the hell i am up to as well. I did say right at the outset of my small boat project that i won’t be trying to keep the boat within the DY class and that the boat certainly has a different purpose than just being a class racing boat and one that only gets a bit of gentle pottering around.
Ted posted a comment along those lines and i never did respond so its about time i dealt with this subject : “Morning Steve. Damp and foggy here. You have been busy. May I comment on one piece above all else, and that is mention of an imaginative leap about using her for a cross channel voyage. She is an open boat that is designed as a dayboat for pottering around in inshore waters with grandkids aboard, trolling for mackerel, anchored for a picnic, maybe sleep aboard over night, etc. Like you did in a previous thread, climb aboard with a cuppa and sit in the cuddy and imagine somewhere on the 70 mile open sea voyage becoming swamped. Food for thought. I really believe that before actually doing any alterations that it would be very useful to sail her before the season closes, and with that experience under your belt review what comes next.”
I can’t help but imagining how the conversation went between Frank Dye and Ian Proctor when Frank Dye came up with his ambitious plan to sail a class racing dinghy seriously offshore. Those that don’t know the story would do well to go and find the Dye’s books about their adventurous sailing in the Wayfarer dinghy : i think one is called “Ocean crossing Wayfarer” (i can’t find my copy this morning) and i do know that i have their dinghy cruising book somewhere. I have 3 current sources of inspiration for the things that i intend to do with my modified Devon Dayboat :
1.The late Charles Stock and his cruising boat ‘Shoal Waters’. I did recently try and work it so that i could meet up with Shoal Water’s new owner, see the boat and do a piece here, i think the boat is still based in Essex : however that plan didn’t work out. Shoal Waters does feature in a website/blog : http://creeksailor.blogspot.co.uk/ which is well worth a visit as her owner Tony Smith is carrying on with sailing that little boat just as the late Charles Stock did. For anyone feeling particularly lazy today Shoal Waters started out her life as a hot-moulded hull designed by the late Uffa Fox and made by Fairey marine back in 1963 so Shoal Waters is about 10 years older than the DD. I thoroughly recommend reading his book “Sailing just for fun” in which he sets out the case for small cruising boats especially for his chosen cruising area which is based around the Thames estuary. He did an extraordinary mileage in that boat in a series of weekend cruises that often topped the ‘ton’ (hundred miles) today i don’t know of many sailors who ever do that in much bigger boats.
(had to take these from the internet btw)
2.Frank and Margaret Dye.
Frank Dye i believe died in 2010, i don’t know whether Margaret Dye still sails but she did continue to sail and write about dinghy cruising : from memory she inspired the design of the slightly smaller and handier Wanderer dinghy. Their ocean voyages in the Wayfarer really were extraordinary feats of small boat seamanship especially given that they chose the colder waters and harder conditions of Iceland and Norway. Their wooden Wayfarer is i believe now an exhibit at the national maritime/sailing museum in Falmouth.
This is my favourite quote of Franks : i can’t say it better than this.
“Offshore cruising in an open boat can be hard, cold, wet, lonely and occasionally miserable, but it is exhilarating too. To take an open dinghy across a hundred miles of sea, taking weather as it comes; to know that you have only yourself and your mate to rely on in an emergency; to see the beauty of dawn creep across the ever restless and dangerous ocean; to make a safe landfall – is wonderful and all of these things develop a self-reliance that is missing from the modern, mechanical, safety-conscious civilised world.”
By Doug Sim (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
3.Roger Barnes. (once again i have had to borrow the image)
Roger Barnes currently sails another of the boats that i considered in my small boat musings : the Ilur dinghy from Francois Vivier’s board. Roger has both written a dinghy cruising guide which is great except that the text is far too small and in the modern style films his voyages….he is like me a Francophile too and like me enjoys wild Brittanny.
I am still tempted at some point to build a ply/epoxy multi-chine Ilur just for the creative fun of building a small boat but for now i will just be doing a major refit of the DD.
I can almost immediately hear the ‘but but’ coming in : i am neither Frank Dye or Charles Stock. Charles Stock really had little choice about his starting point and had to do everything himself aside from cutting his own sails. You could say that i have much more choice in boats because there is a much wider choice of good small boats available now and i would agree except that i would also add that ‘yes and i have found one’ in the form of a relatively inexpensive (by todays standards) hull which i will use as a starting point just as Charles did with Shoal Waters. Admittedly i don’t have as much work to do and i am a bit more constrained about what i can reasonably do. Equally i can hear more ‘but…but….but’ that the DD isn’t a Wayfarer, true….it isn’t for example going to be as ultimately bouyant because of the steel centreboard and ballast. Those 2 things make it a better boat for me but also make it more vulnerable to swamping so i need measures in place to deal with that as soon as i put the boat in the water.
So what then are my intentions with the Dayboat ?. First then it would be valuable to immediately stop thinking about it as a class boat : that is way out of the window. If i had wanted a class racing boat i might have chosen a Devon Yawl but to be honest i have no interest in that side of sailing. My boat will be a small versatile cruising boat that can live at home : its almost the maximum boat that can live at home. My sailing will include some just pottering about, no harm in that but it will also include sailing coastal on this bold coast of Devon and Cornwall and of course it will include the estuaries and rivers here for which i think it will be excellent. I will certainly set it up for overnight trips…even multi day trips as i can combine sleeping aboard with beach camping and taking the boat somewhere, say Norfolk, camping there and sailing.
France is an obvious venue, the ferry port is just half an hours drive away and although an expensive trip i could either hit the wild west of Brittanny, the rugged north coast or the softer and gentler south, they are all within reach. At some point i would like to take a boat further south and explore around La Rochelle and Arcachon. Combine sailing in southern Brittanny for example Benodet, Etel , La Trinite and the Morbihan and the excellent campsites around there where we can also enjoy life ashore and that makes for a great trip just 2 or 3 hours driving from Roscoff.
I might too continue the WABI” voyage with DD except that as above i might bring the boat home in between sections : actually there is a very good parallel between those plans and the differences between section hiking long trails and through-hiking them. There are as well excellent places in this country where we could just go and camp and then sail : i have already scouted out some campsites and launching sites around Poole harbour for example.
I think Ted is worried about my conceptual leap of cross channel sailing in an open boat, well i’m not totally stupid and i’m not going to treat this one like an IOR one tonner and go headbanging to windward in an F6 with the blade set and all the crew on the rail. I took my little inshore cruising boat across the channel last year in near ideal conditions except that there was more swell than wind and yes we did have an uncomfortable time coming back. If i was say in Guernsey right now cruising with the DD and i saw similar conditions on the weather report i would simply fly home and go get the trailer to bring the boat home on !. The conceptual leap though is important as it makes me think about every situation i could put the boat and its crew in which is why i want things like the rig to go up and down quickly, the sails to hand and reef positively, the engine to run faultlessly but to have oars as a back-up, to anchor positively, to show its lights properly and to look after its crew. I guess i am from the adventurous side of sailing, not just sailing as i have also been a mountaineer/climber and bushcraft/survival instructor so i am well with the idea of being out there with minimum equipment.
I won’t sail the boat until it is at my standard of preparation, i think readers here might be surprised at how high a level and how professional that level is and it is this side of sailing that i most want to talk about today.
If today i was sailing a rugged offshore boat i wouldn’t worry too much about the boats capability to do the passage unless conditions were really wild, i might worry about the endurance and competency of the skipper and crew nowadays because it is now my observation that aside from the offshore racing crowd not many sailors go out in challenging conditions and get the experience that they should. Most offshore racing boats are usually well prepared enough for the conditions they will meet : its a different matter in places like the southern ocean where even a maxi is a very small boat indeed !.
It is my experience and contention that the same people that would wring their hands in despair about a sailor taking an open boat offshore (or even coastal) tend to be the same people that roll their eyes and mutter ‘elf-n’safety’ when true risk management is being done and yet that is exactly what i do and have done with all my boats since my days in professional sailing. In the southern ocean it might well be me calling for the big 2.2 oz kite to go up because down there to be going fast is to be in control as long as all the crew are attached to the boat….but it was also me that looked after the rafts and their releases, the lifejackets and foulies, managed the first aid and looked after the crew. More importantly it was me that sat down and did the serious work of making each part of the sailing safer : from making it easier to get a reef in or to get the heavy headsails on deck.
This autumn i will be working up a complete risk management strategy for the small boat, some of the things i have already talked about such as putting the water back where it belongs : some i haven’t talked about yet like how to create shelter so that the crew don’t get cold and exhausted. I take from several other disciplines too , for example most sailors don’t think about and don’t learn about actually being in and coping with cold water : as a canoeist and sea-kayaker and some-time wildswimmer i do and am less likely to panic when i do end up in the water. A major factor in my actual preparation is the boat of course but so is my skillset and physical preparation : what do you think all the training is for and no its not just about losing some belly fat.