Challenging parameters.

Defining the challenger/voyaging boat.

A sail and awe post.

Blog time : mid February 2021 and everything is on hold here.  Iv’e had to keep re-scheduling this post and the series that it is part of because i keep dropping behind in this side of my Challenge 65 project : right now for example i had hoped to be talking about the estimated build costs, show you how the workshop is coming together and maybe even talk about the interim or training boat.  Instead of course we are in an extended lockdown and even after that it looks as though we will have significant restrictions on travel right into the summer.  At this stage it looks as though this whole year will be a write-off unless i can work on a project at home….and my first project is held up because i can’t get the boat here !.        Still…..i keep on working on my larger writing project.

Title photograph : John Welsford designed ‘Pathfinder’ photographer unknown.

In this, my third boats and sailing related post of 2021, i’m going to look more closely at the parameters for my next boat which i’m thinking of as the challenger/voyager boat for my ‘Challenge 65‘ project.    Just to recap a little my intention is to make the final decision on the build before my 63rd birthday (March this year) , buy the plans and start work on the actual project in the late spring this year.  I have the luxury of being able to treat the build or conversion as a full time job although i have first to modify the workshop ; probably with a temporary outside structure to have enough covered space to work under.

Build time…..estimated !

I regard the build as having 3 critical parameters : 1.cost of materials fittings & ultimately an engine and trailer.  2. Time taken to build the boat given a ‘normal’ working week of say of 5 days a week at 7 hours a day (30-35 hour week)…..remember that i also have to spend time writing and exercising ! :  And 3. space to build, tools and ‘skill’….i’m a bodger rather than a boatbuilder.   It’s a slight spoiler alert but 2 of the boats in my current top 10 are given projected build times of around 225-250 hours for an average skilled and organised builder….lets increase that by at least 50 % to allow for lots of bum scratching disorganization and standing around drinking coffee ! .   Given that i intend to work a 30-35 hour week but allow for at least 50% over the designers estimate then allowing a 12 week principal build period should give me some 360 hours of actual work output and that would allow me to complete the job within this summer : long days, plenty of light and hopefully warm and dry-ish.

In a future post i’ll talk about the projected build costs and that because i should soon have the study plans for at least 2 of the potential builds and hopefully they will come with a materials list that i can work from.  Obviously on top of the basic materials i have the expensive stuff to buy : an engine and sails for a starter and then the most expensive single item will be a trailer.  As i write this post i have enough in the way of funds to start the build of the hull, foils and spars so…..

Getting the workshop ready.

005 (2)

Boat parameters.

The fun part of this and the main part of the post is defining the boat’s parameters and capabilities in a similar way to what i did when i was thinking about buying a larger boat than my Hunter Liberty and which i wrote up for a series of posts long ago.  A lot of the technical work i did was working out critical parameters such as the theoretical hull speed on the basis that the Liberty was always limited by it’s hull length and which did cause me to miss tidal gates a couple of times.  At that time i basically decided that ‘we’ll need a bigger boat’, certainly one with more waterline length but also more stability and sail area : this time i’m going in the opposite direction with ‘we’ll need a smaller boat’ because the primary parameter of the boat is that it has to live on a trailer in the yard….and that limits me to a boat of around 17 feet.     Here then is my list of parameters for the boat in a crude priority list.

  1. Maximum length 17 feet to enable me to keep the boat at home, ideally under a permanent shelter.
  2. A boat capable of being handled easily by me solo on and off a trailer and sailed either solo or 2 up, ideally not requiring anything in the way of winches to handle it’s sail area.
  3. I happen to think that i should have a maximum dry weight limit of around 250 Kg which should make handling the boat on it’s trailer and towing it behind an ordinary car feasible.
  4. It’s got to sail like a witch… dogs allowed even if they’re cute !.  Ideally it would also be rowed as a second choice of power but also be able to take a small motor for convenience.
  5. Variable draft is a given to enable me to tow and launch on and off a standard trailer but also to allow me to sneak into my favourite places with the boards up….thus most likely a centerboard or leeboards and a lifting rudder.
  6. Has to be a seaworthy boat that i would contemplate taking across the Engish channel in ideal conditions and could stand a bit of a blow in more sheltered conditions.
  7. Has to have enough form stability to allow me to stand and work without capsizing.
  8. To have the ability to create a dry and comfortable space for 2 people to camp and sleep aboard and carry enough stores to allow me an independent 10 day cruise, just as i did with WABI”’
  9. Has to be a build technique that i can cope with and be do-able within 1 year (ideally 1 summer)
  10. Has to look like the ducks nuts !


The above is all of the essential stuff that i can think of but after that i have a whole load of quirky preferences for instance that i don’t want to end up with a boring boat like a Wayfarer or even a Drastic Drascombe.  Equally i would prefer a double-ender (careful on your internet search there sailors !) bu realise that they don’t always work at very small (dinghy) size and they do sadly waste a lot of space : Ian Outread’s Caledonia Yawl would be lovely but is just a bit too long for the drive so….

One of the big preference categories is and either/or and that between a truly open boat that would need a tent to sleep board, or perhaps a cuddy to duck into out of the weather, the other possibility is a small cabin’d microcruiser which would be a viable boat except that i just don’t like the look of them.

The rig….definitely needs to be a split rig and preferably a yawl configuration with the big stick way up front out of the way and a small mizzen aft mainly to heave-to under.  Iv’e had a cat ketch remember and that partially worked very well because the mainmast was up in the bow and that made for a long-ish cabin without needing a mast bulkhead….the mizzen though was always bloody awkward until i changed it’s boom to a sprit-boom.

In the next post i’ll be taking a look at the study plans of a couple of the contenders and working out the budget.

One of the hot contenders at this stage. (Walkabout….John Welsford)


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