Open minded.

Following my posts might seem a bit confusing at times, one moment i am talking about taking an inshore boat ‘ocean’ and in the very next post talking about converting an IOR quartertonner for the same task or……. what i really want is a classic long keeled boat.  To be honest sometimes i confuse myself !      With this year’s inevitable hiatus in my actual sailing though it is a very good time to step back a bit and have a good thinking session now and be ready to take on whatever project i do decide to run with next.  I do feel that it’s a critical turning mark in my own sailing life, not just with my knee/back problems which will alter the kind of boats that i might own but also in the kind of sailing that i am likely to do in the future.

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The Dayboat has to go simply because i am never going to sail with toe-straps ever again and i do like a cabin to crawl into at the end of the day.  My Liberty has been a truly great boat in opening up the access to shallow rivers and creeks that i have come to enjoy over these last 2 years.  However, the Liberty does have a limited ‘envelope’ as a sailing boat even though i have often pushed at it’s limits a bit.  I have taken it across the channel in both directions and taken it out in brisk weather although  i am also very conscious that i have avoided certain passages….for example long windward beat’s.  This year for example  i found that nearly all my sailing decisions were based around short weather and tidal ‘windows’.  Well partially that’s just smart seamanship in a small boat but i also realise that a passage i have avoided in the Liberty is one that i took on with few worries in a very old, partially rotten and leaky long keeled boat with virtually no gear.  That boat was the Deben 4 tonner that i owned briefly with the intention of rebuilding it into a proper little offshore yacht.   I didn’t like that boat but even now i have to admit that it got on with a steady beat all the way across Lyme bay : in fact the whole trip westwards from Chichester was upwind.

Same type, was on Ebay and now back on the market at £600.  This is a deck-edge cabin variant of the Deben.  This would need a total refit/rebuild and be at least a years work.


I don’t ever intend to race again and even if i did it wouldn’t be in my own boat ! having said that i will always try to outsail anyone that i meet on the water going the same way.  In the Deben for example i picked it up in Chichester after the most minimal setting-up, sailed her through the Solent and out to the west.  On the second morning as i left Keyhaven where i had anchored overnight a slightly longer but much more modern IOR cruiser-racer followed me out and clearly tried to overtake me on a close reach. Now, the Deben had a huge aperture and a huge fixed blade propeller (but no engine) , the mainsail was some 3 feet short in the hoist and the only decent sail i had was a secondhand genoa that i couldn’t sheet-in close because the boat had no winches… get it….and yet it still outsailed the more modern boat. I wonder to this day what it would have done with no aperture and a proper rig and sails on it.  That boat would also take the ground with a short pair of beaching legs.

Something like this (Inanda) * Photo courtesy of Clare Thomas.

inanda copy

It’s taken a hell of a long time but i feel i am only just at the point that i am open minded about boats and know basically just enough to start to talk about them. Nearly all of my early sailing, and most of my sea-miles, has been on IOR race boats and cruiser-racers so i am heavily influenced by that type.  Perhaps that type of boat is merely a temporary fad and fashion in boats that has now passed by.  Its funny but the IOR wasn’t actually around for very long and those boats are old-fashioned today.  Today if i was a keen young racing sailor i wouldn’t be day-dreaming about slow IOR maxi-yachts but V70’S and the super-wide sleds of today.  I only came late to other boats although when i did go ‘alternative’ i did go to the opposite and extreme end of sailing with a Wharram catamaran.   Last week when i sailed back up the Tamar this little Wharram Tiki 21 was on a mooring.  This is the famous little ‘Cooking Fat’ which has not only been around the world but raced across the Atlantic in the Jester challenge.

I am very sad to say that Steve Turner who built the GRP Wharram’s and lived locally died just recently.  Steve surveyed my boats for me whenever i needed it and was the top bloke for solid advice.*


My first boat was of course a very bad East German Folkboat but i never did sail her very much and at that time knew virtually nothing about sailing.  Today i seem to have come almost full-circle in my thinking about boats , ie that i come back to thinking that maybe the natural evolution of small sailing yachts from small sailing fishing boats might still give us a viable cruising boat.    All boats are clearly a compromise of some sort, my Liberty is an excellent boat for exploring the rivers and creeks but it is weak offshore, it also wastes a lot of its available space on its huge and family friendly cockpit.  The I0R boats that i raced would go upwind offshore like a rat up a drainpipe but give a violent ride and can’t easily be dried out on a beach like the Liberty can.  Most of them also have complex fragile rigs that need spinnakers to move at any speed downwind.   The Wharram i had could be a blisteringly fast boat reaching and downwind, and it would beach easily but the living spaces were awkwardly small….to get a decent space on the type you need a 35 foot boat at minimum and then that’s a lot of boat to store and maintain.  Most of you know what i feel about the generic and mediocre plastic cruising boats so i won’t even bother to go there.

Today i don’t have a single set idea of what a boat must be like except for the list of requirements that i set out in earlier posts.   I do know that with every positive feature in any boat there will be something that doesn’t work as well. Once again all boats are compromises to some extent . Today i know that i like poking around the shallow creeks and anchoring in them and that almost certainly  excludes a deep and narrow fin keel.  Equally i have to get to those places  first and that requires a more rugged boat and capable windward boat around here certainly. Then when i stop for the night or want to make a drink or hot meal on passage i want somewhere warm and comfortable to sit, sleep and cook.

Once again i come back to the list of requirements that i worked up in the past to define what i wanted in a boat and more recently i used that idea in the starter boat series.     I know that i demand a boat that actually sails, can look after itself (and me) at sea, will go upwind in a stiff chop in the channel and won’t be broaching all over the place downwind.     Recent experience tells me that i like the shallow and difficult to get at rivers and creeks because the big generic-eric fin-keeled yachts can’t or won’t and that tends to give me peaceful anchorages.  That means that i need to settle the boat in mud or beach it on a harder surface without worrying about it.  I crave peace and quiet more and more now which is also partially why i like to sail ‘early and late’ when everyone else is still shoreside.  That pulls me towards warm and dry cabins with some form of heating.   I don’t ‘have’ to have a particular boat or type of rig but will honestly look at the ups and downs of each one, i have for instance considered Junk although i don’t particularly like the look of it. I would be quite happy with gaff now having seen the Falmouth oyster boats totally spank the modern boats during races.  My own short-gaff (Dutch high aspect) sailed very well for instance.

A long keeled boat might work well, i can easily imagine this in the Isle De Brehat or Ruan creek.


A big influence when i considered going long term cruising was Lyn and Larry Pardey who built and sailed 2 long keeled and engineless boats just about everywhere in the world and i based my Frances 26 on that set of ideas.  The Frances was a very capable boat and made ‘steady’ miles offshore without ever getting stressed, she was also the most comfortable boat i have ever sailed and lived aboard. Today i wouldn’t be able to afford such an expensive niche boat but she has left me with a very good feel for ‘chunky’ boats that have a load of character as well.  This coast and the east coast have a long history of tough and rugged sea-boats derived from working boats.  I know that the ultimate windward performance isn’t as great as a deep fin keeled racing boat but off the wind it really isn’t a problem.  Of course a long keeled and most likely wooden boat comes with its own problems and compromises but maybe those compromises are acceptable.

Frances 26 La Luz (not my boat)


In this post i hope i have given some degree of explanation as to why i seem to be bouncing around all over the place in my thinking about boats.  I know that what i want to do is keep a boat here, locally, in the mud or on a shallow mooring, leave sheltered waters and go offshore if needs be, sail steadily, consistently and competently and then anchor somewhere quiet. I want the boat to have some ‘heart’ and i may add some ‘balls’ and it has to have a salty character….not be just the same generic and mediocre white plastic seen by the hundred in marinas today.   I’m not quite sure where this is taking me but we have a plan… be off cruising for an extended period in 2 years from now.  I now have that time to get the bearings fixed, go find a boat and get it set up the way i want it.  That’s just about acceptable time for a big refit or to find something maybe pricier but more ready to go and learn to sail it.


In memory of Steve Turner who died recently.



    1. Love Marmite, don’t like Vegemite. Detest all Westerly’s except the GK24, 29 and 35. I would much rather have Chuckle (Folkboat). Met an interesting bloke with a Freedom 21 who told me about an abandonned one in a field near him….twin torpedo bilge boards, always fancied one but they are even lower than the Liberty.


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