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John Welsford’s Pilgrim – the background and some drawings

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Pilgrim Sheet 1 470

Pilgrim Sheet 2

Pilgrim drawings by John Welsford

Legendary New Zealand boat designer and small boat cruiser and author John Welsford has written to explain the background to his Pilgrim design and project. I think she’s an interesting proposition – a proper pocket sailing beach boat that has quite a lot in common with the tubby traditional fishing beach boats of the English South Coast.

It’s interesting also that she’s closely related to Houdini, another Welsford boat I’ve admired for some time.

This is what he had to say:

Pilgrim, family daysailer or adventure cruiser

Length. 5.00m 16 ft 5in
Beam 2.11m 7 ft
Draft
centerboard up: 0.48m 1ft 7in
centerboard down: 1.17m 3 ft 10in
Sail area 15.1 sq m 162 sq ft
Dry Weight Rigged 480kg 1056 lbs
Ballast 210 kg 462 lbs

In my teenage years I sailed an 18ft gaff rigged centreboard yacht around the Hauraki Gulf near my home just north of Auckland, New Zealand. This is a wonderful area for cruising a small yacht with harbours every few miles, islands and peninsulas to shelter behind and thousands of square miles of beautiful warm blue water.

That was more than 40 years ago, and its been a while since I had a chance to revisit some of those coves and bays. Recently the thought that I should plan a pilgrimage to refresh the memories came to the fore and I began a project that would see me in the same area in a boat of similar character to the one I sailed all those years ago.

I live about 120 miles south of Auckland and my nearest port is Tauranga, which is about the southernmost limit of my cruising in those days, and another 120 miles north of Auckland is the fabled Bay of Islands, which was was about the limit of my cruising as a teenager. My aim was to cover the territory between Tauranga and the Bay to revisit all of my old haunts, a trip that would put about 300 miles under the boats keel.

Sailing from Tauranga north in summertime requires a boat with the ability to sail to windward in open sea against the prevailing nor’easters, and that with a mountainous forest clad lee shore under the port bow. The Hauraki Gulf is not as demanding but then the next leg heading north has a stretch of over 50 miles in open ocean with absolutely no shelter, which requires a really powerful boat capable of coping with serious weather.  Even a good weather forecast can mean a sudden summer gale of up to 40 knots.

With these conditions in mind I sat down at the drawing board to begin the design of my pilgrimage boat. I took the very successful hull shape of the smaller Houdini design, the original design from which the ocean going cruisers Swaggie and Sundowner were developed, and worked it into the right proportions to give me the size and space that I needed for a three-week cruise sleeping on board.

There is space here for up to six adults to go sailing around the bay without feeling cramped, or for two to spend a week on board away from civilisation exploring the interesting places, but she’s still easily singlehanded.

The need for comfortable accommodation was a major driver of the size and layout, and she has two full-sized bunk spaces in which to spread airbeds and sleeping bags, and huge lockers so that when she is sailing all the overnight and cooking gear can be stowed away shipshape and Bristol fashion. She also has enough buoyancy to float her high enough to be self rescuing if the worst should happen when out of sight of rescue.

With the accommodation worked out and the seating and backrests proportioned so I would not get uncomfortable even after weeks on board, I looked very hard at both the keel configuration and the rig.

I wanted to be able to sail into knee-deep water and walk ashore. I wanted to have a fixed rudder, which would be enormously stronger than a kickup one – actually I wanted a hugely strong boat generally! And I wanted a high righting moment and very high stability.

The keel I’ve drawn has a big slug of lead bolted underneath which with the steel plate centreboard gives a boat that several people can stand on the gunwale without capsizing her, which has enough ballast to right her from 90 degrees even with the hull half full of water, and then hold her stable and upright to allow her crew to bail her out.

The fixed rudder has a big end plate, that makes the rudder stronger, improves steering efficiency, provides a step upon which to climb back in after a morning swim or an overboard situation, and importantly it greatly reduces pitching when sailing in short steep waves. All good outcomes.

The easily built plywood hull with its frames and laminated stringers reinforced by the wide side decks and that big full length keel makes for an incredibly strong hull, one well capable of taking the abuse that adventure cruising can inflict upon it.

When considering the rig, I had some spars that I wanted to use, which I have to admit was a consideration, but when I looked at the requirements of the boat I felt that the gaff cutter rig so successfully used on other boats that I’ve drawn had a lot going for it. The mast is relatively short and light so is easy to stand up and rig, the sail area is large but low down so gives good drive for its area, the combination of roller furling jib, a staysail (inner jib) that can be set or taken down as required and a highly efficient full battened mainsail means that there are quite a number of possible combinations of sail to choose from to preserve balance and stability in heavy weather.
Its possible to go from full sail all the way down in five steps to just the little 25 sq ft staysail without having to change a sail or even go up on the foredeck. Safety in heavy weather is a feature of this design.

On top of all that, it’s a very pretty rig that will be a lot more efficient than most modern sailers think, there are some surprises for them in this little boat.

I’m well started on building my own Pilgrim, but at as I write there are at least two people are well ahead of me.
http://www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz/plans/pilgrim/updates.htm Check out my build diary on this link, I am posting pics and commentary not just from my own build but from others as well. Watch this space, better still, join us and live the dream.

I have a vision in my minds eye, the boat thrashing along to windward in the late afternoon, Great Barrier Island just up to windward after the 30-mile open water passage from through the notoriously rough Colville Channel to the Broken Islands. There is the narrow entrance of Man O War Passage just beyond, showing me the way into the perfectly sheltered harbour of Port Fitzroy with its bush-clad shores ringing with birdsong and the surge and snort of the dolphins that seem to live there most of the year round. I hear the clatter of the chain as I anchor the boat and set up my ‘cabin’ for the night.

I imagine waking in the golden dawn light, and sitting up under the boom tent while the kettle boils, wondering at the beauty and peace of the morning, and thinking ahead to the next few days and the challenges that the longer passages ahead of me pose.

I’ve some boatbuilding to do before it becomes reality, but the dream is a vivid and realistic one. I’ll be writing about it – perhaps I’ll read about your adventures sometime?

John Welsford email jwboatdesigns.co.nz, web http://www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz

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John Welsford on choosing a dream boat

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one-of-john-welsfords-rifleman-light-outboard-motor-boats-this-one-was-built-by-a-retired-professioanl-boatbuilder-and-is-the-best-example-the-designer-has-seen

An outstanding example of John Welsfords Rifleman light outboard motor
boat. This one was built by a retired professional boatbuilder and is the
best John has seen

for-leo-21 for-leo-3

One of John’s Navigator open cruising boats

Be rational, says legendary New Zealand small boat designer John Welsford. Think about the water you can get to, the people you have to sail with, the time you have available, the space you have to build in, and the size of your wallet.

He isn’t about to spare your feelings, but he might just save you a lot of money, time and heartache, so do please listen to what he has to say – unless, of course, you’re one of that rare breed of person who really is cut out to look after a special old boat. If that describes you, follow your dream and please send us some photos!

But back to John:

‘You will have some thoughts in your mind as to what would be a nice boat to have, and no doubt some ideas as to what you want to use it for. Some people will have seen something on the water or in print that they have fallen in love with and nothing else will do except one of ‘those’.’There will be those who have a lot of boating experience in one type of craft, and who don’t want to risk a change, and a few who are looking for something different. All of these already existing ideas have a bearing on what you might choose from the range of plans here in this on line catalogue of my work.

‘But here’s a warning: I’m going to lecture you a bit here, if you don’t like lectures, go and have a look at the boats, but otherwise, do please read on.’I have sold something in excess of 4500 sets of plans over the years and more than a few of the owners have ended up with a boat that, while it did what it was designed to do , what it was designed to do was not a good match for the owner’s environment, or was not suited to the usage, or could not be achieved with the time, building space or budget available.

‘There was nothing wrong with the boat, but it was just the wrong one for the place or the job.

‘So here are some suggestions.

‘Have a look at the area where you are going to use the boat: an ocean cruiser is not going to suit daysailing on a small lake, while a boat intended for running a river bar won’t be ideal for fly fishing the upper reaches of that same river. So have a realistic look at the water you have available to you and make some notes.

‘A small boat can be very seaworthy, but each person on board needs about 10 pounds a day of stores, and the trip to Europe from the US west coast needs six weeks worth of stores aboard. If your crew is four people, that’s getting up towards a ton of food and water plus the boat’s needs for the trip. If that’s your purpose, choose a boat that is designed to carry that load.

‘A boat that is intended to do that trip may be mostly cabin, and will have a tiny cockpit to accommodate one or two on watch but if you’re day cruising in a hot climate no one will want to be downstairs in a stuffy cabin so if you’re going to be sailing in  warm part of the world, you’ll need a much bigger cockpit.

‘Type is important too, rowing boats are as long and as narrow on the waterline as the designer thinks they can get away with, while a power boat intended to plane has very straight lines underneath – but these will make it a poor sailor. A sailboat is of a shape that resists the winds efforts to heel her over, and will travel at relatively slow speeds efficiently, but not fast.

‘A heavy motorboat won’t ever achieve planing speeds and the longer it is the faster it will run, ( a bit like the rowing boat) .

‘Meanwhile, a yacht tender is possibly the hardest boat to design of all, as it has to fit into a small space on deck, carry impossible loads, row well, tow at high speeds and be stable enough to allow its occupants to stand up and scramble into the parent vessel without going for an ignominious swim.

‘So think long about your dreamboat, consider where you are going to use it, be realistic about what you are going to do with her, and think over your likes and dislikes in a boat. Even the building space and budget will have a bearing on what is realistic.

‘If your choice is a good match with your dreams, the environment in which she will be used, and the skills and resources available to build her, then the project will be a successful one.’

John Welsford is a highly respected designer of small boats built from plywood, many of which include features from traditional boats. See his website at http://www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz

For more posts relating to John’s work, click here.

John Welsford’s new Pilgrim 16ft open cruising boat design

It’s entirely a matter of coincidence, but John Welsford has also been weblogging the design of boat  – though his could hardly be different from my little skiff.

Pilgrim is a small seaworthy open cruising boat light enough to be managed by one person on the beach, but fitted with removable ballast. It has a rounded and balanced hull form that allows it to heel without wanting to turn – in that way, it’s more like a yacht than modern dinghy, even if it is dinghy-sized.

(For those who don’t immediately understand this last point, I should explain that the now conventional sailing dinghy form that encourages planing when sailing usually also makes a boat that pulls round into the wind when heeled. Yachts however are generally designed to remain easy to steer as they heel, because there’s usually no way of ensuring they can be sailed flat – some obvious exceptions are high-tech boats with moveable ballast and heavy keels that swing sideways such as Mini-Transats and Open 60s.)

John’s project is interesting not least because I can’t recall anything recent that’s quite like it, but also, I think, because its rounded hull bears at least a little resemblance to the beach fishing boats that have been used on the South Coast of England for generations, and I’d guess that at least some of John’s design criteria have something in common with the needs of the crews of those little boats – which one might say was a matter of convergent evolution.  Notice the cute bowsprit designed to maximise the rig area to match the powerful hull, and the long shallow keel that becomes deeper the further aft you go. The rather misleading name for this feature is ‘drag’, by the way, but don’t let that confuse you.

I do hope John himself doesn’t think I’m talking complete nonsense!

I wonder what the members of the Uk’s dinghy cruising movement will think about it? My only concern is that I think rowing it will be hard work – but with a big rig, perhaps that won’t be necessary very often in John’s sailing area.

Click here to follow the Pilgrim project’s progress.