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.

3 thoughts on “John Welsford’s new Pilgrim 16ft open cruising boat design”

  1. Hello,

    I must admit that I hadn't spotted the beach-boat connection before but you are right – much more beamy and it could almost pass for a Brighton Hog Boat!

    Looking at this design and other modern 'Raid' inspired boats with fixed or water ballast makes me think that the DCA Roamer was way ahead of its time. In fact, I think that the Roamer would pretty much fit this design brief – with the possible exception of aesthetic appeal!

    I started a thread on the 'openboat' yahoo to discuss this design but have had zero response, which is something of a surprise to me, I though it would be right up the DCA street!


  2. Hi Chris, I like Roamer and some of the principles of bouyancy distribution in the Roamer design have been incorprated in Pilgrim. This is very important in a cruising dinghy where it may be necessary to right the vessel after a capsize. If it is too stable inverted then it may not be possible to sink one side to rotate it enough to roll her back upright, if it is not stable enough to remain upright when fully swamped than thats an equally parlous state.

    In this case, Pilgrim is about double the internal volume of Roamer, and I've been able to build the bouyancy into the design in such a way as to be much less conspicuous, she has a lot of floatation very high up on her centerline under the foredeck and afterdeck, more in the cockpit coamings, and a huge amount under seats and the sleeping flats. The fixed ballast is enough to roll the boat from inverted once tipped about 20 deg, and the skippers weight on the rail will do that, and once upright the boat will float stable and high enough to enable the crew to board, and bail her out.

    I have worked out the water level inside when swamped, and will have to raise the centerboard pennant opening another 100 mm to avoid water ingress when bailing from fully swamped but this does not impact the accommodations at all so is not an issue.

    Note that the boat s rig has a cutter option. The staysail ( inner jib) is set flying on a roller furler, and can be set at sea when required. The idea being that with two reefs in the main the jib ( outer one ) can be rolled up and the staysail set to balance the boat, then if the elements become even less clement the main can be dropped entirely and the staysail, of heavier material, is enough to provide some control and direction.

    I've done a lot of open boat cruising over the years, and Pilgrim as pretty much all of my wish list incorporated in her.


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