In which we pause…..take a deep breath and ……

This post represents a small step towards sailing normalcy in the otherwise slightly ‘out there’ plan of taking the Liberty trans-ocean.  It’s not a completely barking-mad idea as the same passages have been done in much smaller boats.   Mini-transat boats are shorter than the Liberty for example and that race was done in boats like E-Boats and similar before the extreme mini-transat yachts came along .     Even i have to admit though  that the boat was intended and designed for inshore use and sheltered waters.   Countering that is the fact that a modified Liberty hull has done the Atlantic circuit and years back i briefly discussed the same concept with Trudi Thomas (wife of the late David Thomas)      The hiatus then is while i do more concept work on this ,come to terms with the fact that my (knee) bearings need replacing and maybe that  i should focus on finding a boat that is ‘just enough’ better for the task.

The day that this post comes out is also the day i see the consultant for the first time so possibly as you read this i might even have an idea how things are going to work out.  Today also you would find both of my current boats for sale online (Apollo-duck) and the small one on Ebay.    Most of my personal gear is off WABI”’ and she is ready to come ashore for a spruce-up and the Dayboat has gone on Ebay to get her moving along.


To be honest, although the Liberty has been my favourite boat to own out of all my boats it wasn’t designed with offshore and ocean sailing in mind. I am still tracking down the full story of the modified Liberty ‘Golden Wind’ that did the voyage, i know so far that it was a Liberty hull with raised topsides and a custom made wooden deck, i think it also had a single-stick junk rig.

Referring back a few posts to John Hart and the ‘thoughts of Harty’ ……John would say that there is no such thing as a bad boat, just one that is being used for the wrong purpose. In this case it might simply be the wrong boat, although the planning is all good and relevant.  While being an exciting and adventurous idea to sail the Atlantic in a pretty standard Hunter Liberty it definitely isn’t the ideal task for the boat and it might be a good exercise to go back to first concepts and work out what i do need and find a basic boat that is better suited to the task in mind.  I don’t have a fundamental problem with small boats doing longer trips, just that there might be better small boats for the task.


What i have in mind here is the same exercise i have applied before to try and work out the specifications for a boat that will do the job…..and then go out and buy the boat that i actually like the look of !.    In this case though i think it would be a little smarter to go and look at the actual numbers and be just a little bit sensible about this.  Starting from the official EU line that the Liberty isn’t an offshore rated boat we can ask the question ‘why not’ and maybe take that as a starting point.   The best simple answer is that what it comes down to is raw (ultimate) stability and that the basic Liberty doesn’t have much.   That is part of what makes it a slippery little  boat downwind but not so good in a lively chop upwind.  In fact the stability of the original Liberty, as defined by ballast ratio,  is only about 25% ballast ratio and re-ballasted ones like mine about 30% .   So in crude terms lets work with that number , the actual simple ballast ratio, and look at boats with about the same envelope but that have more stability (higher ballast ratio) and a bit more sailing length (LWL) .

Lets say that we definitely need higher ultimate stability, more sailing length, more sailpower and ideally the same or more living space and carrying capacity.   I think that what we should be looking for is somewhere close to 45-50% ballast ratio.  Secondly what we should be looking at is sail area and sail area/displacement ratio.  The Liberty is an undercanvassed boat especially in light weather upwind and reaching so i am also going to take those numbers to compare them with the kind of boats i have been looking at recently.  A very useful number to look at in that respect is the sail area to displacement ratio.    I have the numbers for some boats but not for example for the heavier but much more canvassed gaffer.   Now i know that is a very crude start and we could end up ignoring the sad fact that an IOR style boat might have much higher stability…..upside down !    At this stage i also can’t make a ‘numbers’ comparison with the gaffer and it would be a lot of fun to compare that against the IOR based Sadler.

To summarise this so far our new requirements are : higher stability, more sailpower, higher sail area to displacement, about the same or better living space, we need to keep the ability to beach the boat and it needs to be a budget project.  I would like also to define the actual sailing characteristics that i think i would want.  I don’t for example expect to go powering upwind in heavy weather although i do completely expect that the boat will heave-to consistently , lay to a sea-anchor, or run slowly with a drogue.  Another thing we should now add to the list of requirements is the ability to carry water, food, fuel and stores and that should be a function of the boat’s displacement.


So case 1 , the Hunter Liberty as standard :  LOA 22.3 ft    LWL 19.03 ft.  Beam 7.09 ft. Disp 2900 lbs   SA/Sisp ratio 13.  Ballast ratio 25% Sail area 170 sq.ft.   I know so far that i have been upwind in force 5-6 on a coastal passage, run and tracked cleanly downwind in the same conditions, reached in a force 7 with breaking waves and hove-to competently in those conditions.  There are some modifications i would already make, for example being able to reduce that huge wind-sock forward when hove-to and improving the security of going forward when i have to.  I have already done a quick summary of the most basic things that would need attention in a separate post.

s-l1600 (2)

Case 2.  Achilles 24 (rouhly the same internal envelope)   LOA 24 ft  LWL 19.5 ft Beam 7.22 feet DISP 2600 lbs  Ballast ratio 50% SA/Disp 17.8 Sail area 210 sq ft.  I haven’t sailed one of this type and can only go on a few observations and what i see of Roger Taylor’s modified version.  The ones i know can outsail my boat upwind and they should be more slippery downwind especially with a spinnaker up. It’s possible that the rig is a bit old-fashioned now and might benefit from a taller fractional stick like the one modified for racing.  Roger Taylor’s own boat is so modified that it’s hard to make comparisons….his boat just relying on that big junk rig and self-steering which he can control without leaving his hatch.  A standard boat would either need slab-reefing and roller-furling (which i neither like or trust) or hanked sails which would still require me to be on that small and insecure foredeck.  If you will that’s the IOR and marconi problem all over again.

So : 2 boats of closely the same living space as determined by ultimate length and beam (but very different layouts) but very different sailing numbers.  The Achilles has massive stability when compared with a standard Liberty (mine is about 30% ballast ratio) more raw sail area and a significantly higher sail area/displacement ratio.  It sounds as though it would be a boat that would self-right in a knockdown and hold onto more sail area upwind…..so a more powerful boat.  With the lower displacement and higher sail area/disp ratio it should be quicker in all conditions as long as the hull shape isn’t terrible….and it looks sweet enough.  Of course a primary difference is that we lose the ultimate creek crawling ability but the triple keel Achilles will sail in just under 4 feet of water and it will dry out upright.

Lets also add-in something of note here.  Roger Taylor’s junk rigged conversion runs with 260 square feet of sail compared to 210 sq.ft for the standard boat and his boat was specifically designed for ocean sailing…..smart man.

Mingming II



Case 3 . Sadler 25, shallow fin keel version or bilge keel version.

We see : LOA 24.3 ft  LWL 19.17 ft Beam 8.75 ft Disp 4000lbs SA/Disp 17.8 Ballast ratio 47.5 % Sail area 248 sq ft.  About the same length but much higher displacement, much beamier (lots more volume) about the same waterline length as the other 2 and quite a bit more sail area than the others.  This is much more an IOR style boat , heavier, more form stability but decent ballast, definitely more internal space and about the same sail area/displacement as the lighter narrower Achilles.  I know of a couple of these boats locally and had a look at one last year.  Chris…the boatyard boss says his one sailed like a big dinghy, they definitely have a better living space, the cockpit feels secure but once again we come back to that rig and sails problems.

I don’t have any similar data on the similar sized Waarschip 725.


Just for a very simple comparison at this stage the gaffer i am talking about is also 22.5 feet , 19 feet on the waterline and 7 feet beam.  Displacement is given as 4 tons but i have no numbers for ballast ratio or sail area.  Right now i can assume that she is the heaviest boat but also might have the most sail area.  She is the closest boat of any of these to the Pardey’s own small ocean going boat.

inanda copy

The problem with the sadler’s shallow fin keel, according to the broker, is that they shouldn’t really be perched on that swept back keel with say, yacht legs. The viable one is then the bilge keel version…..and our man in NZ would then just have a good laugh at me ! even though they are reckoned to sail well and are easy to beach. Clearly the gaffer would be easy to beach with its straight long keel and beaching legs,  A good question then is do i still want the ability to beach the ocean going boat and the answer is still a resounding yes because i still want to do this during the trip or any other sailing that i do.

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The hiatus in this project will be the time during which i get WABI”’ ashore and spruced-up for sale , see what kind of problems or recovery the knee is likely to give me in terms of sailing and then make a committing decision on a boat for the project.                        The heavyweight thinking and planning can all continue around the idea of actually doing the project as it all is relevant to things i want to do in the future.    I definitely like the idea of trying to get the £1000 boat on the water and the recent triple keel Achilles is close to that so maybe its time to get aboard one and see if i think its liveable-in and simply whether i like or dislike the actual boat when i get inside it……similar with the Sadler 25 which we both quite liked even when we saw a rough one.

The starting budget for a project Achilles need only be around £1500 and Roger Taylor has led the way on showing how to do a junk rig conversion with a municipal light-pole. I don’t just want to copy someone else’s project though and definitely want to go my own way.        Converting the Liberty would depend on being able to source a complete rig which is possible and then the greatest expense would be a wind-vane and the hardest work to fit one. Given those problems and the inherent weaknesses of the boat it would almost certainly better to chose a different boat….that choice will come quite soon i feel.

The basic budget for a decent bilge keel sadler seems to anywhere up to about £6k  and after that i might need more sails and definitely the same wind-vane . In terms of a budget project i could start a rebuild of an Achilles almost as soon as there is yard space to have one here after preparing WABI”’ for the market.  She is in basically good condition with not much to do if i was keeping her in standard trim.  Several things are now waiting on other decisions and the outcome with my knee but this project : project SALTY might be a goer.  It might seem as though i am just bouncing around between conflicting ideas here but this does seem to be a critical point in my own sailing life….the knee problem is a definite shot across the bows.


  1. Hi Steve, I read your posts with interest but I’m a bit confused as to what your plans are now ? Originally I think you proposed to sail the Liberty around the UK visiting smaller harbours and estuarys on the way. Now you are talking in terms of Atlantic sailing in the Liberty and whether the boat is capable of that sort of voyage. Do you still think that the Liberty is a good choice for the round Britain trip,being able to sneak up rivers/estuarys on the way, or are you now thinking of a different voyage entirely and in a different boat ? Knee problem permitting .
    Regards Bill W


    1. I’m sorry if its a bit confusing at the moment. The posts should make a bit more sense in the next couple of weeks. The posts are actually written, just not edited and published yet.


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