Category Archives: Small boats

Robert Manry and his extraordinary tale of small boat-big ocean survival

Robert Manry’s amazing West-East Atlantic crossing in a heavily overloaded 13ft 6in boat and his subsequent fame was now so long ago, I feel pretty sure even most sailing types have probably forgotten about his remarkable achievement.

So hats off to Steve Wystrach and colleagues for his efforts to produce a crowd-funded film designed to remind the world and to commemorate the event.

Manry was a sub-editor in his working life, so looking at the project website I was tickled to be reminded that the lone sailor had taken a copy of Strunk’s The Elements of Style with him, presumably to keep him on the straight and narrow as he wrote his log. Or was it to keep him company?

I read and was fascinated by Manry’s book a couple of decades ago, after finding a second hand copy in a shop somewhere. If you’re inspired to read it there are various e-book editions available via the Robert Manry Project site.

My thanks to John Simpson for reminding me about this story.

Old fashioned club sailing – in old fashioned dinghies!

ICWDR 2017_LONGPLAY from drift media on Vimeo.

Jeff Cole writes to say that his small yacht club runs a vintage wooden dinghy regatta on the weekend of Australia Day, and gave me a link to a video of this year’s event. There are a few local notices, a few speeches and a lot of sailing and talking, notably from Sailfish co-designer Jack Caroll, who Jeff says is still sailing at 84 (he thinks that’s his age anyhow).

I like this – it’s club sailing stuff that many of us will recognise.

Jeff adds that the Sailfish is enjoying a revival.

The Canoe Yawl, by Richard Powell

The Canoe Yawl: From the Birth of Leisure Sailing to the 21st Century by Richard Powell from publisher Lodestar is great news.

There’s a lot of talk discussion about canoe yawls and a great sense that they are to be admired in the forums and magazines – but why and what’s the story? Probably for a couple of decades I’ve felt that a clear analysis of the type and a description of its history was sorely needed – and now we have it.

Canoe yawls were originally developed from sailing canoes in the late 19th century, in order to allow amateur sailors to sail in the conditions often found on UK’s estuaries and coastline.

Our weather is changeable and, even with modern weather forecasting it is still unpredictable in small boat sailing terms: for example, the wind is often a force stronger than predicted. Many small boat sailors have learned at first hand that shallow estuaries full of channels have strong currents and that as soon as the wind against the tide, the chop may become so fierce that beating to windward becomes nigh-on impossible unless you can creep into shallows. (You need to be an unusual sailor to manage this stuff and it helps to have the time available  to wait for suitable weather – read about Gavin Millar’s sailing canoe round the UK attempt.)

But back to the canoe yawl. What does the type offer? In this book, Albert Strange Association technical secretary Richard argues that the canoe yawl is still the best type for single- or short-handed coastal cruising sailor, and that a revival of interest in recent years underlines his point.

Why? You’ll have to read the chapter ‘Why the canoe yawl‘ for the full story, but in his preface Iain Oughtred says the rig ‘is particularly user friendly; the spars are short, the centre of effort is low, and the rig is quickly and easily shortened down or adjusted according to the conditions. In a sudden hard gust, the boat,  although heeling considerably, will remain balanced on the helm, and will not screw up into the wind in the way a tall bermuda rig is inclined to do… the double-ended hull has a lot to do with its good behaviour… These boats have a comfortable and reassuring quality… ‘

I think most folks would also agree that canoe yawls are usually very attractive little vessels.

For the princely sum of £15, this volume of 160 well illustrated pages is a fascinating read. Read a sample here. Buy it from all good nautical booksellers or directly from publisher Lodestar.