Why…..Marconi ?

And why do so many sailing boats all look the same ?

A few years back i had to work from a south coast marina where i had been booked to do a couple of days teaching with a young couple aboard their dad’s boat.  In that marina there was one line of pontoon berths, maybe a dozen or more, of not same-y but identical boats.  It isn’t the first or last time that i have seen lines and lines of near identical, generic, boring white plastic boxes of boats here in many of the Solent marinas and notably in France.  Luckily down here in the west-country we very rarely see that, in fact often there will be a generic-eric yacht berthed next door to a working oyster dredger.


The simplest answer is of course that boats now nearly always come out of molds and it cost’s a lot to tool and build a mold to start with so the factory has to then build lots of them to make a profit. Also its possible that buyers want a lot of boat for their money which forces the market in a certain direction.  That many of them are finished badly isn’t always obvious until hull/deck joints start popping apart as happened at Cabo San Lucas.  Then of course most of them are boringly white ‘because’ and they have industry-standard Bermudan rigs and generic roller-furlers is because that is also the norm…not a particularly good one either. While i grew up in sailing with fragile IOR rigs i don’t particularly like them for short-handed sailing especially from the viewpoint of having to then use roller-furled genoas and/or multiple hank-on jibs.  Out of the 2 i much prefer hank-on sails but that still means working on a foredeck ….maybe not so ideal now on a dodgy knee.   Lucky though that the vast number of those generic white euro-tubs sit in their marinas throughout the season , only cruise from marina to marina and don’t know how to anchor out….even if they even have anchoring gear (some don’t).


Now : don’t think that i am being a total curmudgeon today……….. well i might be but there is at least some purpose to my grouchiness this morning.   My experience over the last few years has been that its the small and quirky boats that i see out there actually sailing or at anchor in the local rivers.


In my new blog series i am chewing on the idea of adapting a very quirky little boat into an ocean going craft and as part of that i am considering really important things such as stability/hull form, rig and interior.   I have been using my own boat, the Liberty, to run a thought exercise about taking small boats on trans-ocean voyages.   It might be feasible with the Liberty even though it’s technically an unsuitable boat but it might be slightly more do-able in a small converted cruiser-racer which i have been looking at.   All of the boats i have considered have a very small interior envelope, much less for example than my old Frances 26 which had a super-comfortable interior.  SO Today though i dipped into the exercise again with a search for the initial features i am looking for in the base-boat for the project.  The basic specification i am looking for is an overall length of 25 feet, a LWL of 22 or so, more beam than the liberty and the Achilles and more topsides depth.  The keel configuration of the triple keel Achilles is good because it will beach well, an alternative would be a shallow fin that will beach with legs or something with it’s keel weight low down like a bulb or scheel keel.  Going a bit further into detail a flat transom would make mounting a windvane much easier than building the struts for the canoe-stern Liberty.   The Sadler i really like except that it’s apparently inadvisable to park the boat on that swept-back keel.


I have been messing around with the idea of a project very similar to that of Roger Taylor and his converted Achilles 24, he has led the way and it works for him very well,.  Right now there is a decent Achilles 24 on ebay with the right keel configuration and at a reasonable price to start with.   There are things i like about the boat, i like the hull shape which reminds me a lot of the old GB11 (later ‘With Integrity) but it has very little advantage over my current boat except for higher ultimate stability and better performance upwind.   I know that i can run downwind with one because i have done that locally…..and he couldn’t get away from me.  The interior space though  is no better than the Liberty and the boat is ever-so slightly narrower.     I like the idea of using the junk rig at sea for it’s ease of handling and that the freestanding tough rig negates the need for all the complexity and forces involved in a highly-stressed IOR style rig. I particularly like what Roger has done with his.   Building and fitting just one bigger rig is less overall work than building 2 small rigs and doing any structural work, say putting in a forward bulkhead and mast partners is fundamentally the same work on a slightly longer hull.  Given that Roger Taylor has already proven that an alloy lightpost will work as a mast on his 24 foot boat i don’t see a major reason why it shouldn’t work on something slightly longer.

The current Achilles 24 on EBay

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Rogers version.

Mingming II

Today i worked on a new exercise, that of looking for boats of a slightly larger envelope for better interior space and lower relative loading when fully stowed.  That would ideally mean a slightly longer, wider and heavier boat to start with.  I set a new limit of 26 feet as at that size gear is more expensive but not desperately more expensive….for example anchors need to be one size up although one of my ‘super’ anchors would still be fine at that size.  I was looking for a boat that had ‘not too deep’ draught but with high stability and that means either a fat keel or one with a fat bulb on the bottom.  The boat would need to be able to sit on it’s keel and take beaching legs.  What i was really looking for was quite a beamy and boxy hull with a flat-ish deck that would provide a good ‘bury’ for the junk stick.  My next thought was something i have always wanted in a cruising liveaboard and yet quite rare which is a ‘deck-edge’ coachroof design and a reasonable straight transom rather than an IOR ‘fashion’ back-end.

That is kind of the point where we come back to the generic white cruising boat with blancmange-like hull , a caravan stuck on top, a fragile IOR rig etc etc…..none of which i want.  What I want is a much more slippery hull with essentially raised decks forward a bit like some 1950’s British designs.  The raised deck and cabin all the way to the sides hugely improves the interior volume and the height gives a potentially much better bury depth for the heel of the rig.  Does such a boat exist today ? i don’t know  and i had to admit that it’s not a standard set of  requirement by any means.

The generic Blancmange + Caravan.


To be honest i couldn’t think of a standard production GRP hull of anything like that specification.  Here by the way is the kind of deck-edge design i mean, this is ‘Patience’ photographed a couple of years back in Falmouth.


And here is a local boat that shows the concept even better.


There is a small sea-story here in that Carn-Pyran above has a sister ship locally which is now a total shanty boat that hides away up one of our local rivers.  I am sure that her current owner lives aboard permanently and doesn’t seem to do very much with her but 5 years ago that boat seemed to be following me all around the south-west…..everywhere i went and hey-ho she would turn up and anchor in the next spot. Today she is a disgrace !


The design is i believe Nick Skeate’s ‘Wylo’ and intended for home build as it’s basically a chine steel hull.   The next part of today’s sea-story is that we met a very nicely built one when we were in the river above L Aber-Wrach.  We had cruised past a couple of times, spoken with the lady owner, and then been invited aboard for the evening.  I am always impressed when people build their own boats and i was even more impressed that the quite petite lady had built her one….not many lady’s i know that can weld…..i think i know 2 total ! and one of those is in NZ.     That was a boat that felt as homely and seamanlike as did my little Frances 26 but much bigger inside and the space seems to be much greater with that deck-edge cabin design.

Now at this point i thought “ok so i have got one step closer to my specs” but in actual fact no nearer a solution because i just don’t know any production boats like that in this country…..and i know a reasonable amount about cruising boats, enough to recognise many of them.    At this stage i took a break and went off in a sideways hunt to see what other sailors have started with to do their junk rig offshore and ocean cruising boats.  This was of immediate interest although it’s a Kiwi design and unlikely to pop-up in the UK.  I think this is Annie Hill who knows a thing or 2 about cruising boats and junk rig.

The boat is one of these .

Rainbows End in the Water Cropped Version


Neat little ‘ah-ha’ moment but , once again, unlikely to help me unless i shift my project to NZ and seriously i didn’t know of anything around that size and shape in the UK…..so off i went surfing on EBay just to see what is of interest this week for the blog.

‘Crikey’ moment ensued !

Ooh-err nursey will you look at this !  https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Maxi-77-sailing-yacht-no-reserve/142718448815?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2055119.m1438.l2649

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Hmmmmm…..have i just found the project boat and secondly….what is it precious ?

This is a very similar boat to the Raven.  It’s maybe got a bit too much draught but a lot of the weight is in that bulb.  The deck edge cabin is there as is the high topside and flat transom…..interesting.  This one popped up on ebay but because of potential blizzard conditions here i didn’t get to go and see it.

Postscript.  Apparently the boat is a Maxi 77…Pelle Petterson design.  The draught is more than i would like and it would definitely need a pair of expensive yacht legs.  The interior space looks much larger but this one would need a total refit rather than the ‘light re-commission’ that her owner suggests.

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