The Drascombe boats story.
Drascombe Lugger, Longboat, Dabber doo-dah etc etc.
October 2019…..in one of the rare clear and quiet days i had during my autumn cruise to the west country i was ghosting slowly down Falmouth roads, somewhere off Mylor when i noticed that a little light blue lug rigged yawl was also out just enjoying the day. Like me it’s skipper was sitting down to leeward to heel his boat enough to let his sails take some shape and like me he just about had steerage and forward movement most of the time. I don’t know which model it was but i recognised the little blue boat as being one of the Drascombe’s and i happen to want one for my next sailing project.
If you hadn’t already worked it out then this the second post in the ‘D’ for design series and my intention is to give an honorable mention to any boat or designer in the small boat class that i miss when i do the main post each month. There are likely to be 2 more posts in the ‘D’ series because there’s at least one more designer/builder that i’d like to talk about as well as Dudley Dix so…..
Slack Alice, Wells on sea, Norfolk.
A Drascome, i think it was a ‘Longboat’, was only the second boat that i ‘sailed’ when i first got into sailing around 1976 and i think it was a sailing school boat at a center in the Menai Straits in north Wales. I don’t remember much about it or the sailing that evening ; i didn’t have much to do because my mate, who was a serious dinghy sailor was doing all the work and we had a couple of kids on board as ballast and sheet-pullers.
That quiet evening sail in the south end of the Menai straits was possibly the first and last time i sailed a ‘sensible’ boat as immediately after that i was snapped up by the local ‘offshore’ racing fleet and became rail-meat and winch-winder on a series of twitchy IOR boats for the next few years. I can’t say that i ever thought about Drascombe’s ever again until quite recently : even my dinghy driving mate said they were useful as teaching boats but ……’pretty boring’….!. The sad thing is that they are actually excellent sea-boats with a very good pedigree and a long history of doing remarkable to totally bonkers voyages, and as i said…..i want one for my next project.
I don’t intend to bore y’all with a long exposition of the design and development of the Drascombe range since 1965 and continuing right up until the present day. The boat i sailed was probably the Lugger , the boat that started it all rolling and could even have been a lapstrake plywood version : whatever, there are maybe more than 2000 of just that one design built and sailing….most of them being GRP boats now and there being 2 main lines…..open boats and cuddy/cabin small cruisers.
What i want to jump straight into is that these boats have done many remarkable voyages but 2 boats and their skippers really stand out. The following account is taken from the Wikipedia page :
” David Pyle sailed his wooden Drascombe Lugger Hermes from England to Australia during 1969 and 1970. This was possibly the longest journey ever undertaken in a small open sailing boat (though, later, in 1991, a complete circumnavigation was completed by Anthony Steward in an open 19′ boat . Hermes was a standard production model with the exception of a raised foredeck and a few other minor modifications. The boat was built at Kelly and Hall’s boatyard at Newton Ferrers by John and Douglas Elliott.
In 1973, Geoff Stewart crossed the Atlantic in a Longboat.
Between 1978 and 1984, Webb Chiles sailed round most of the world in his Luggers Chidiock Tichborne I and Chidiock Tichborne II. Starting in California in Chidiock I, he crossed the Pacific, then the Indian Ocean, before heading into the Red Sea. Near Vanuatu during the Pacific crossing, the boat capsized during bad weather, then drifted for two weeks while he was unable to bail his flooded boat. After becoming damaged, Chidiock I was seized by the Saudi Arabian authorities when Chiles was arrested on suspicion of being a spy. Chiles had a new Lugger, Chiddiock II, shipped to him in Egypt. This he sailed south to cross his previous track and then through the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean Sea out into the Atlantic to La Palma in the Canary Islands. Leaving the boat briefly to visit Tenerife, he returned to find that she had capsized at her mooring in a storm. Finding that he had lost a lot of gear, Chiles decided to end his attempt at circumnavigating in an open boat.”
Right now i’m looking for a cheap-ish Lugger or Longboat to set up for a long voyage ; i’m not going to say too much about the voyage except that it will combine seamanship and bushcraft and needs to be in a seaworthy open boat. If i get the chance i might be taking a look at this boat if i can get all the way over to Essex…..why is it always bloody Essex ?
It’s an older wooden boat but it does sound as though it’s been stored dry so maybe it’s a go….
My new facebook page ‘Totally open minded Keto’ : https://www.facebook.com/groups/524455598277075/