Will Stirling’s latest news – a classic cutter, an Arctic circumnavigation and popular dinghies

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Classic cutter Integrity's hull framing Stirling & Son

Walrus photographed in the Arctic by Will Stirling Stirling & Son General Purpose Dinghy

Cutter Integrity being framed, walrus photographed by Will Stirling in the Arctic, and the bows of a Stirling & Son general purpose dinghy.

The latest Stirling & Son newsletter makes it clear that the yard is as busy as ever.

Will writes that his building shed is dominated by Integrity, a replica 43ft gentleman’s cutter of circa 1880. A cruising racer, she’s a classic English cutter, and here design takes references from Fife’s Bloodhound, Nicholson’s Marigold, Beavor-Webb’s Partridge, Watson’s Vanduara and Dixon Kemp’s Zoraida.

The shape is now defined with all oak the frames up and three planks wrapped around each side. She is a speculative build, so if anyone out there wants to buy a newly built classic, Integrity offers an opportunity that doesn’t come by every day.

The Stirling & Son 9ft general purposes dinghies seem popular – three have been built this year – and the range has been extended with a 12ft version designed and being built to commission.

The company’s range of plans has been significantly expanded this year with six boats now available. Details of each plan pack are on the website.

John Gallagher who built the 12ft sailing dinghy Frolic on our first dinghy building course received an award at the Plymouth Classic Rally for the best new build of 2010.

On their 25th anniversary the South West Maritime History Society awarded four prizes in recognition of significant contribution to maritime history. Will was honoured to be selected for his ‘exceptional research and boatbuilding’ during the Alert and HMS Victory yawl projects.

The National Historic Ships photography competition has shortlisted a Stirling & Son photograph of the interior of the 17ft Tamar salmon boat completed in January of this year. Those shortlisted are to be judged on the 6th of October.

Despite all this activity, Will has also found time to go sailing – and has recently returned from his fourth Arctic voyage. This year, aboard the pilot cutter Dolphin, Roger Capps led a team of three including Will to the far east of Svalbard, making a landing on the particularly remote Storoya, before sailing north west to 80 51N, which is 550 miles from the North Pole. Unlike last year, there was little ice this year. We were able to visit small islands that in 2009 had been visible from a distance of 50 miles, refracted above the pack ice that surrounded them.

The lack of ice may explain the large number of polar bears seen in the area in comparison to the previous year. A circumnavigation was completed by passing through the Hinlopen Straights. We crossed the Barents Sea at an average speed of 3 knts, permanently close hauled, trying to make southing without going too far east, in order to avoid Russia. This resulted in the crew working to windward in F8 winds with waves to suit. They were pleased to reach Hammerfest and the dramatic fjords of the northern coast of Norway.

The next adventure will begin on the 10th of September when Will goes to Galway, Ireland in order to collect a Falmouth quay punt built before the Great War. The boat will receive working repairs before being sailed back to Plymouth where she will be hauled out for a more thorough restoration – she’s destined to become the Stirling family boat for estuary and coastal sailing.

Stirling & Son are based at Tavistock, Cornwall, and can be reached via their website or by phone on 01822 614259.

Three of the NMMC’s exhibits are on the water – and please vote to support the museum

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aileen, pipkin, curlew, nmmc, national maritime museum, cornwall, national maritime museum cornwall, falmouth quay punt, falmouth regatta, catboat, cape cod catboat, yacht racing

Andy Wyke onboard Curlew at the NMMC, aileen, pipkin, curlew, nmmc, national maritime museum, cornwall, national maritime museum cornwall, falmouth quay punt, falmouth regatta, catboat, cape cod catboat, yacht racing aileen, pipkin, curlew, nmmc, national maritime museum, cornwall, national maritime museum cornwall, falmouth quay punt, falmouth regatta, catboat, cape cod catboat, yacht racing

Pipkin, Curlew and Aileen

The pontoon at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall is busy again, now that summer is here: after a winter in the museum workshop Curlew, Aileen and Pipkin are all in the water. All three can be seen sailing up and down the river Fal throughout the summer.

Curlew is the oldest boat returning to the pontoon. A Falmouth quay punt that has travelled the world as a yacht, her career is one of the most varied, as it ranges from fishing boat to leisure cruiser to race winner.

Aileen is the very first St Mawes One Design. She was designed by Frank Peters after he was defeated in races off St Mawes, and was built for speed. She won three Falmouth Town Regatta Class races.

Pipkin is based on the design of the Cape Cod catboats and is used by the volunteers to hone their sailing skills.

On the subject of the NMMC, I’ve been asked to ask a favour of intheboatshed.net readers. It seems that the Our lighthouses: life on the rocks exhibition has made it to the semi-finals in the Best heritage project category of The National Lottery Awards, and needs your votes to make it through to the final.

Just 10 Lottery-funded projects are in contention. Voting is now open now and ends at midday on Friday 18 June.

To vote call 0844 686 7951 (calls cost 5p from a BT landline) or log on to www.lotterygoodcauses.org.uk/awards (which is free).

John Welsford’s Pilgrim – by the man himself

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John Welsford’s Pilgrim takes shape on the drawing board

Inspired by my post yesterday, John Welsford has kindly written a short essay about his Pilgrim project, and about his long-standing admiration for the fishing boats of the English South Coast. It seems my remark about convergent evolution was quite wide of the mark, for John knew what direction he was travelling all along!

Pilgrim, a history and what I am aiming at

For many years I have had a real interest in the small fishing craft of the English South Coast. This area is one where high inshore winds, fast currents and rough seas have bred a type of small craft of exceptional seaworthiness, very smooth motion and surprising speed under sail.

The Falmouth quay punt is one at the larger end of the scale, and smaller boats were beach launched or sailed from the many tiny fishing ports between Falmouth and the Solent. Many of the distinctive types are closely related in hull shape, and I so envied their ability that I took a set of lines from a Falmouth quay punt, drew them up at ¼ scale and set out to reduce the shape to a set of numbers.

On completing that analysis it was evident that the boat fitted right in the middle of all the desirable statistics for comfortable and able cruising yachts plus some interesting characteristics that are not so common in todays production boats. With the design of small serious blue water cruisers in mind I set out to design a boat that would have those characteristics, but which would be easier for an unskilled backyard boatbuilder to produce than the original shape would be.

I drew up a design called Houdini, half the length of what I had in mind, but wider due to the scale effect that reduces stability as a boat gets smaller. This is a plywood boat, quite easy to build, a centreboarder rather than a deep keel boat, and both comfortable and roomy for her size but still right on the “numbers” so a valid vehicle for testing the theory.

I sailed Houdini for three summers, went out in conditions ranging from flat calm to seriously bad and she was wonderful! Just what I’d hoped for, and a real reward for all the figure work and the tow test models that had lead to the design.

Since then I have drawn Swaggie, junk-rigged and just over 18ft long, intended for offshore work and just big enough for a couple to cruise long distances in; Sundowner, which at 21ft 4in on deck is about the size of the smaller Falmouth quay punts; and now Pilgrim, which is for my own use.

Swaggie and Sundowner are interesting boats, much more roomy than you’d expect, better sailers than their considerable beam and weight would suggest, and they both have very comfortable motion in a seaway. More confirmation that the theory is in the right direction.

With that experience in mind, and the prospect of a bigger build ahead of me that will take five years or more to complete, I decided to build myself a cruising open boat so that I’d have a sanity machine to get away in when the combination of a fulltime day job (which I need to pay for the big boat),a design business, and the pressure of building a 12 ton cruiser gets a bit much.

I first set a target of March 2010 for a trip in the new boat. That’s our late summer, and generally a time of settled weather and mild temperatures.

The trip is a bit over 200 miles along a coast where at that time of year there can be strong onshore winds, and where there are long stretches with no harbours, which set the criteria, stable, very able, strong to windward in open sea conditions, and all of the other desireable things for a boat intended for a week on board in near blue water conditions.

Pilgrim is the result, descended from the small fishing boats of the English South Coast, set up for comfortable sleeping on board, with bouyancy enough to enable self-rescuing in the event of a swamping, with about 300 kg of ballast to hold her up in a blow. Some of that weight is lead bolted to the boats keel, some is in the steel centerboard and some is internal water ballast to get the boat back to a weight that I can tow with my 2-litre car.

The structure is as simple as I can make it so that I have a chance of building it in the timeframe allowed. In materials it required about what I had already in my workshop, so she has a rig that was drawn up from spars that I already have, and will use fittings that I’ve collected over the years and have kept for just this sort of project. This is a shoestring, no frills building project!

I have begun a diary on her design build so that people can follow the process of a designer thinking aloud on paper, then drawing the plans, and then the boat growing as she is put together, and at the end I’ll be writing of the adventures we have on the way up the coast.

There are three diary notes there now, and you can read them here: http://www.jwboatdesigns.co.nz.

I’ll be keeping your editor up to date as well, so, watch this space too.

John Welsford. designer

See John’s website or contact him at jwboatdesigns@xtra.co.nz.

(Top) A gaff sloop-rigged Houdini, the first of this style of boat. Even though she’s a sheet plywood amateur built 14 footer she still evokes a sense of her parentage. This one is of builder Herco and friends sailing Kurkprop (think of the sound the cork makes when you open a bottle of champagne) in the South African sun; (Second row, left) Swaggie, sailing near her builder Luis‘ home port in Uruguay, bigger, a lot heavier and rigged very differently. But still the same numbers, and proportions (Second row, right, and bottom) Resolution, built to the Sundowner design, showing her underwater lines, and sitting at her berth waiting to be rigged. Designed to cope with Cape Horn, the first of the Sundowner boats to be launched she sails and handles like a much much bigger boat. She’s based on the same line of thinking, with similar numbers and ratios, and again produced the same result. Pilgrim should be more of the same, says John