The big, fat, thin ones.

Our man Al commented recently that i should think about investing in a  better/larger boat so in this thread i am going to look at some of the larger boats right at the top end of the budget.  This group of boats are in the shallow draft/ beachable category, one being a lifting keel and one a long keel with board.  The general rule of draft i was aiming at was around 3 and a half to 4 feet which although a compromise does open up the field a bit.

A couple of years back i made the slippy-sloppy, light weather passage across to Roscoff in the Liberty and left her there in the marina for a few weeks.  Then, when our leave came up we went back over on the ferry and walked all of 100 yards over to the marina to pick her up again.  Once we left the Roscoff/Morlaix river area one of our first stops was the Trieux river and the little marina at Lezardrieux….nice village by the way.   We only went into the marina so that we could go and shop for fresh stuff and i don’t even remember that the marina guy ever charged us for the short stay.


Anyway, just before we left to go further upriver i did my usual thing which is to have a look at the other boats there and just down the pontoons a bit were a pair of large, multi-chine alloy yachts of around 45 feet or so.   They were obviously from the OVNI board and equally obviously just being commissioned.  I think they were both their 46 foot design and very well set up in basic things like their anchoring gear. I don’t ever remember seeing an example of the type before but i’d heard of them as being genuine ocean going cruising boats that can be dried out on a beach.    At the opposite extreme was a ply/epoxy Wharram catamaran with a bedraggled looking crew and all their kit hanging out to dry !

They are possibly the most perfect boat for me but so far out of my reach that i don’t even bother fantasizing about them. I do know of some smaller ones in the range and later on during the trip we moored close to one at around 32 feet and once again it’s a niche boat that i have never seen actually for sale.   I’ve never seriously considered buying an alloy boat either so i have no idea about the potential issues.  One did come up recently…… a local one at around 36 feet that i have shared an anchorage with but apparently it’s got lots of serious problems, exactly what those problems are i have no idea.

OVNI 36 i think.


Today’s post isn’t actually about fantasy boats but rather the very few boats just at the budget limit and there are only 3* of them that i know of and as i write i haven’t been to see any of them.  One is just down the coast but the other 2 are , as always, way across the country.  I have seen a sistership to one of them so have a rough idea what to expect although the one i saw isn’t up for sale.  So. while contemplating long drives again i thought i might do a bit of pre-planning and work out some sort of road trip and go see some of the ‘ideal’ boats and check out some of the others from the small and racy thread and , just for contrast, a couple of the ‘capable caravans’.   As i write though one of the boats, thankfully the most distant one (Canvey Island) has disappeared off the brokerage so i am not now going all the way that way cross country but might have to make a trip to deepest, darkest  north Wales.

First on the list is a kelt 8.5 and a lifting keel boat that i know very little about. This is the one i saw in the yard at Wareham (not for sale).   The basics are : just under 28 feet LOA , 24.5 ft LWL and a beamy hull so it should have good interior volume.  SA/DISP suggests good sailing performance.   There does seem to be several versions of the same hull with different keel configurations…..this one has a keel/grounding shoe, balance keels and a drop keel.


Here is the link to the local one :

Interior photograph from the brokers site….nice open layout but broken up a bit by the keel case.


This is the first boat on our joblist ‘to see’ this autumn.

The second boat on the list is the Limbo 9.9 m and a very fast looking late style IOR boat but with a lifting keel.  What i have been able to find out so far isn’t very much as , once again, there aren’t many out there.                   Some forum posts suggest ‘shit off a shovel’ performance downwind in a breeze but weak upwind in not much wind.  The interior space looks nice but then at 32 feet long and wide it should be.  My main doubts are that they are very lightly built in foam sandwich and i doubt that they can be beached without legs and something to support the wide stern.

Edit….this one is now off the menu, i presume sold.


The last one of the 3, excluding one of the little racy boats and several caravans which i am not now rejecting out of hand is this one which is a Laurent Giles design called a Keyhaven Yawl.   :


The basic idea is a chine plywood hull, long keel with centerboard, not too deep draft so although it wouldn’t get into the super-thin places that the Liberty will this one is 31 feet and will take the bottom apparently with beaching legs.    I like the shape , the layout and the doghouse/space on deck.   I suspect that it’s not a great upwind boat but there again it does have a decent sized engine.   It looks as though it needs one timber repair and a freshen up inside.  My main concern would be the deck which i assume is a thin teak lay over ply. My second concern with a home built (i assume) is the quality of the plywood used and how good his workmanship was.    The shape is reminiscent of John Rock’s designs (Cornish Crabbers) somewhat similar to the smaller Cornish Yawl which is also a boat i like but is expensive at the size.  I wouldn’t expect the Keyhaven to be slick upwind but then neither is my current boat : in fact the keel/board layout is very close to my dream boat which is the CB variant of the Freedom 35.  A lot of the appeal is that i like the homely layout and the space on deck.  One thing that i have recently added to my boat specifications is the ease of getting in and out of the boat and the ergonomics of working on deck, in that regard the decks look good to work on and the access into the doghouse quite straightforward.

From designers archive :

Actual boat inside (brokers photograph) I suspect those are wooden beaching legs alongside the keel case.    Gas cylinder under galley……?


Different boat, same design (unknown photographs)



I am still a few weeks away from clambering up and down ladders but i am looking forward to getting out there and seeing some boats again as right now i am rapidly running out of blog material.

*Possibly 4 boats as another potential one has popped up in the same area.


  1. The ally boat will probably have corrosion problems in the bilge any dissimilar metal + bilge water = battery, the trailer boats here can be really bad one we worked on we named “tea bag” need I say more, 14 hours of welding pin holes on a 5 meter boat why I ask, the owner wanted it done.
    ! I digress any older ally boat can have problems unless it has been really well looked after.

    The ply boat can be OK but as you said original build quality is everything, even LB has had a new rear quarter and new hull around the chain plates and she was really well built, at least repairs are able to be done with normal tools / skills, where ally although easy for us, I have a shed full of gear to do the work with is not so for most others.

    I definitely think the larger boats are where to go especially as you want to cruise for extended periods and as you have said we don’t get any more flexible as we get older. Talking of which you don’t need a huge project, you need to go sailing after the usual refit work not years in the yard.

    My build is starting in January 2019 although I am doing prep now.

    But of course does it go upwind or have a big engine 🙂


    1. We should have been seeing the Keyhaven yawl today but the broker decided he needed some major heart surgery doing !!!!. Bailed out of a trip to Norfolk early due to the knee giving me gyp…..13 hour drive home due to a 7 car and 2 fatality smack on the M5 which got closed for 11 hours.

      Situation with the Keyhaven is that it has been ashore for many years and neglected by it’s current owner. Originally sold to him for £30.000… down to £11k. Must admit that i am happier with ply.


  2. Maximum contrast in the Keyhaven Yawl and the Kelt Steve — what with your caravan considerations you’re really casting the net wide in design terms. Looking forward to reading your boat-buying adventure in due course. Thanks.


  3. That keyhaven teak deck could be expensive if it has not been replaced since the boat was built ….teak isn’t what it was and usually needs replacing at around 25 years . I have had a no of wooden boats love them but even though I have a joinery workshop the time that has to be spent on general upkeep needs to be considered if you are new to wooden boats and speed of deterioration if finishes are not kept up !. I guess do you want to sail or do you want to spend sailing time maintaining?.


  4. I did enquire about the boat myself ! And was told the deck had not been replaced by the broker and although I have not seen it ….since it was built in 1991 I considered that it would probably need to be done and maybe the ply sub structure too .


  5. No I may do later but I have a mother who is end of life so very intensive and time is at a premium.! But also I consider that having spoken to the broker it will probably be a project I may be wrong and it may be much better than I suspect …..the boat is on my list amoung others because I am looking for another project that needs restoration ie new decks extensive refit etc ….


  6. Have you considered any of the older smaller Southerly offerings? not racy but well built and good in thin water. I have a 115 because I have family on board for my cruises but if there were just 2 of us a smaller version would be good.
    Mike J S 115 Seadream on the Yealm.


    1. To be perfectly honest ; no. Iv’e never liked the look of them and from what iv’e read and heard about them they aren’t exactly sparkling sailing boats. If that seems a bit dismissive then do remember that i also detest most of the UK’s most popular boats the Westerly Centaur…in fact most Westerly’s , Moody’s and so on.


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