Ergo 6. Problem 1.

Title photograph : Wells harbour, low water, Norfolk UK

This post is in 2 sections : first is the 6 weeks (post-op) progress report and secondly i am going to get into a bit more detail about boat layout and ergonomics but from my new perspective of reduced mobility and functionality.

Today, as i write, i have done a short section of level walking without using crutches all the time.  That came about because i wasn’t walking from home and thus didn’t have to contend with a steep hill straight away.  It felt a bit weird to say the least because my left leg is much weaker than the right …..i have obviously lost muscle that side and the physio says that what is there will also be infiltrated with fat cells.  To me it just feels weak and ‘squashy’.      I have also made some other progress this week in that i tackled the problem of getting up off the floor from a completely lying down position.  The solution was to use my portable work stand/workstep as a support and intermediate position, with it next to me i can heave myself up onto it and get into a sitting position…..after that it’s an easy-up.  That might seem not very significant but does mean that we can think about having a camping break.  I did think about combining a camping holiday with boat visits in north Wales  but that side of the country looks grey and damp while the eastern side looks sunny and warm and it means a trip back to Norfolk which we really enjoyed last time.  Unless anything pops up on the east coast, where many shallow draft boats seem to be, we will have to do a separate road trip to visit the boats in Wales.   Anyway that’s jumping ahead a bit : week 6 should be the breakthrough point where i can start to do proper exercise.   My next functionality goals are to get up and down stairs without crutches and then up and down ladders.  At that point i should be able to get aboard my boat firstly and cope with other boat viewings.

Norfolk….yay !


At the end of this time off i think i have got a much better idea of what i am looking for in terms of the next boat.  I hope that comes across in the blog where i have done a lot of work to clarify things in my own mind and that i have done that through the slow process of writing it all out and setting out the case for each side.    The ultimate solution will of course be a compromise and it seems like the main focus will be in which features come out better or worse.  I think that ultimate sailing performance will suffer a bit as will totally minimised draft.  What i want to work on here is a feature that i have touched on before which is ergonomics.   In this post i want to look at what problems i am likely to have and the way certain boat features will make those problems more or less noticeable.

The starting point for this thread was really today when i was down at the yard having a coffee from the honesty cafe.  It was good to be just sat outside in the sun for a while and looking across to my boat set me to thinking about getting aboard it from a dinghy, from being beached and then scrambling down a steep and greasy ladder.  Then when i started choosing photographs for the post i then started thinking about the same problems with a different boat… this case say something with 3 feet draft and a higher/boxier hull.  What really brought that home were the photographs from Wells harbour of the Boier and the big cruising boat on the sand.  My own boat would be broadly similar to the little Macgregor in this picture and the potential new boat, for example the Keyhaven Yawl would be more like the green boat or the Dutch Boier.

The second reference point is the extremely poor ergonomics and sheer discomfort of the Deben 4 tonner.  That had possibly the most uncomfortable cockpit of any boat that i have sailed allied with the worst foredeck and most difficult to access forepeak…..aside from that it was ok !

So, problem 1 stems directly from the kind of places and situations i want to have in my sailing and is as simple as getting up onto a boat from a sand or mud bottom.  Wells and Norfolk generally is somewhere i really want to go with the next boat and being able to dry out in the harbour is an essential as is my ability to then get on and off the boat.    The Liberty almost works well in this regard as it already has a folding boarding ladder at the stern although the step over the pushpit is more awkward than it needs to be.


Problem 2 is similar in that i am going to have to board my boat from a dinghy or a low pontoon.  My inflatable dinghy is a bit awkward to stand up in but the greater problem is scrambling over a guardrail from the dinghy or from a pontoon.  I took a look at some photographs of the Keyhaven to illustrate this group of problems and to see what obvious solutions might exist.

Hull section/shape and beaching leg.


Deck layout.


The boat that is for sale does seem to have a pair of timber beaching legs and i have seen legs with steps so that might be one solution for getting up or down to/from the ground.  Logically the leg would attach to the boat at B.Max which should be very close to a shroud plate as well so there should be something to get hold of. There does seem to be good deck space at that point too. The problem with a beaching leg as i see it is similar to that of getting onto a ladder that finishes at foot height in that it’s awkward to start or finish the climb.      For the dinghy problem i think that a removeable boarding ladder would have to be on the menu…..i think a sugar scoop transom might just look a bit wrong somehow !     The final thought in this section is about getting out of the water : on 2 previous boats i have had bowsprits with a bobstay and my fallback technique has always been to scramble up over the bow using the stay as a foothold.  I’m not sure how easy that would be now.

So, this post is the first in a new series where i look at really simple problems of boat access and ergonomics.   Even at the beginning of this today i have started to think about each task from getting on the boat, through sail handling and anchoring that might be a problem….even getting in and out of bunks…and then trying to find out which boat features or layouts make those things better or worse.   A recent example here was the secure quarter berths on the Javelin, these were excellent sea-berths but a bit of a wiggle to get into.  The comparison i can make there is the quarter berths on my old Frances 26 which were easy to get into, in fact we could sit up in them and look into the cockpit from them.  A simple answer of course is to go see each boat and pretend/try each activity and just see how it goes.




  1. That’s good to hear you are making progress with your recovery and mobility.

    I had a look at the listing for the Yawl and it does show beaching legs on the inventory and as you pointed out they are on the cabin sole. Looks a reasonable build listed as marine ply, is it glass sheathed inside and out ? from the pics engine not a pile of rust if its been laid up it should have had the raw water side flushed and drained/preserved. impeller removed as they take a set otherwise. I hope it has antifreeze in the freshwater side.
    Batterys probably knackered ?

    I feel it might not go uphill that well but that’s what the engine is for, as like gentlemen us old blokes definitely don’t sail to windward 🙂

    Just a note about clinker type construction the water laps against the lands producing to my ear (probably as I grew up with it) a very restful sound but its not to everyone’s liking 🙂

    Its good to see you working through the requirements for your next boat in a logical manner happy hunting.


    1. We made the right moves to go and see both the Keyhaven Yawl and a Rossiter Pintail up in north Wales after our Norfolk trip but never got up there. The idea was a long triangle drive with a bit of camping in the middle. We did get to Norfolk which should have been sunny and warm but ended up cool to cold and wet. I ended up with a minger of a cold !. We did make a date to see the Yawl but brought it forward a day…..the broker’s wife than had to pull out because she was up in the Liverpool cardiac centre with him as he went one-up on me and had a heart op.

      I actually like the sound of clinker/lapstrake hulls too.

      I haven’t put it in the blog because it’s a more personal side of boats but i actually really like the look of chunky hulls with small boxy cabin tops……like my old Frances. In ergo terms that shape does tend to give nice side decks and a much better foredeck.

      Next in the series i am trying to work out what other ergonomic problems might exist. One the popped up with the Javelin is that although the quarter berths were very secure they were a sod to get in and out of ! An immediate problem that i am going to work on soon is getting in and out of dinghy’s and getting aboard my own boat and in and out of that from the yard tender. If i can achieve that i might be able to go sailing this autumn although my own boat will have a lot of new problems for me in terms of moving around…..i might for example have to employ a stern anchoring set up as the Liberty’s side decks are all but non-existent.


  2. Happy hunting indeed and also glad to hear about you’re recovery from the op. And Wells-next-the-sea– big yay! I spent many a happy hour trying to catch shore crabs off the harbour wall there in the halcyon summer holiday days of my youth and am happy to see from your photo that children are still trying.


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