Book celebrates John Welsford’s Navigator

An enthusiast’s self-published book about designer John Welsford’s popular Navigator design is out now.

Robert Ditterich is a violin maker among other things, and clearly both a craftsman and a networker, for in addition to John Welsford himself he’s persuaded some well known names in the Navigator world to donate their experiences. Just some of his contributors are Steve Parke, Owen Sinclair, Richard Schmidt, Chuck Leinweber, Kevin Brennan, Martin Welby, Dave Perillo, Dave Johnstone and Barrett Faneuf.

In Something about a Navigator Robert outlines the development of the design and the aspects of the boat that have made it popular, and a bit of an analysis of the aspects of the boat that have made it such a success, some stories by Navigator owners, sailors and builders. There’s also a chapter about building a hull and another detailing fittings and a list of useful resources.

I haven’t seen the book itself, but if the Navigator is on your boat-dreaming list, I’d say Robert’s book is likely to be both informative and inspirational. Here’s what he says about it:

‘It is my sincere hope that this little book will give some pleasure, not only to Navigator enthusiasts, but to dreamers, builders and sailors who just want something simple, real, and creative in their lives and who find that thinking about little boats is helpful and maybe even inspirational in all that.’

Something about a Navigator is available in two editions, a low cost black and white version priced at $20 and a colour version at $42. Both are available from Robert’s weblog The Middle Thing.

Btw, if anyone has already got a copy, I’d be most grateful for a brief review!

Edwin Schoettle on catboats, Gavin Atkin on what’s wrong with yachts and yachties

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Legendary catboat Silent Maid

Edwin Schoettle’s classic Sailing Craft published in 1928 is a fabulous big old book of nearly 800 pages – so I hope no-one will mind me posting a few of them. And perhaps my post will serve to keep the memory alight.

I’d like to explain why I’ve been thinking about the catboat lately.

I’ve complained for years that many yachties  motor or motor sail for much of the time and I’ve often wondered what the reason might be. Well, I’ve come to think that it isn’t laziness or a dislike of sailing. The reason why they’re reluctant to use their full sailplan is that they’re either sailing alone, or effectively doing so, and don’t want the fag of having to manage sails, winches and sheets as well as steer, navigate and keep a look out.  And because they’re not using their full sail plan their boats are slow without the help of its engine – and that’s why most yachties motor for much of the time.

Looked at another way, it’s because we’re using the wrong rigs.  Instead of the Bermudan sloop with a masthead rig, big foresail, winches and the rest, we could be using rigs that reduce the number of essential control lines to very few – the cat and the cat yawl.

Of course there’s a shortage of cat yawls outside of a few designers offering plans for relatively small boats aimed at the amateur builders, so I’ve been considering the experiences people have had with the catboat.

I’ve no experience with these boats and have no firm opinions to offer, but it’s interesting that Schoettle emerges as such a fan of the catboat. I’m inclined to think a modified form of catboat, perhaps one with the kind of capacious hull that’s long been normal in family cruising boats could be seriously useful to yachtsmen in the era of expensive fuel and growing environmental awareness.

Those who find it difficult to swallow the idea of the Bermudan sloop being replaced by a more old fashioned rig might thinking about the argument in a different way – instead of describing the cat or cat yawl rig of the future as being derived from historical yacht types or workboats, just think of them as big Lasers with heavy keels.

Read more about Silent Maid in a recent post at the weblog 70.8%.

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John Welsford on choosing a dream boat

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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

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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

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