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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Spindrift, a Scotish fifer-style boat built in New Zealand

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Spindrift

Phil Smith, who recently sent us a fascinating report of his experiences sailing a converted airborne lifeboat, has written for us again.

This time his story is about Spindrift, a fifer-style boat built from kauri in New Zealand. Phil and partner Susie owned her for a while and, just as he did with airborne lifeboat, Phil makes this boat sound very desirable as well as interesting.

For the record, Spindrift measures 30ft (9.14m) loa including bowsprit, 27ft on deck, 10ft in beam, has a draft of 4ft and displaces 5.3 tons.

‘While wandering the piers at Tauranga Marina, New Zealand, about 20 years ago my attention was drawn to a white motor sailer. At first glance she looked odd: like a 42 footer with 15 feet sawn out of the middle and the ends stuck together. She had very high topsides, and a surprising amount of sheer put the stemhead almost 6ft above the waterline. Continue reading “Spindrift, a Scotish fifer-style boat built in New Zealand”

‘I had a beautiful yacht… ‘

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Photos of Aerial by Phil Smith

Phil Smith has written to show us these photos, and to tell us about his airborne lifeboat Aerial, which he had in the 1980s in New Zealand.

‘In the early eighties I had a beautiful yacht called Aerial. She was 23 feet long, around six foot of beam, floated in ankle deep water, and went like the wind.

‘Her name derived from the fact that she was an airborne lifeboat designed for use in rescuing downed aircrew from the North Sea during World War II.

‘Built of double-diagonal mahogany on dozens of thin oak ribs with epoxy dynel sheathing, she was a strong but slippery boat and surprisingly seaworthy. Stability was provided by a heavy steel quadrant shaped centreplate and on either side of the centrecase were the tangs from which the parachute harness was attached.

‘The airborne lifeboats were designed by British naval architect and maritime legend Uffa Fox to fit under the hull of a medium bomber.Within the hull were numerous watertight lockers which, as well as providing buoyancy, contained food, water, first aid things and sailing equipment.

‘The boat was dropped by parachute to survivors in the sea who would rig the mast and rudder and sail to safety.

‘On my first day out I was apprehensive about going alone. It was 10 knots, gusting to15, and Aerial looked like she could be a bit of a handful.

‘A very experienced yachting friend, just returned from a solo voyage from Tahiti, came and officiated. To my horror and delight he sheeted her hard in and, with four bums on the gunwale and my friend grinning wickedly at the tiller, we took off up the harbour in a cloud of spray.

‘She tacked perfectly, sat nice and straight downwind, didn’t slam into chop and never looked like putting a spreader in the water though we tried hard!

‘Because of the strong tides and sometimes fluky winds in the area I fitted a 4hp Evinrude to a light transom bracket and she became unstoppable under power.

‘A relative of Uffa Fox’s Flying 15, Aerial was rigged like a small trailer-sailer, and while simple to launch she was a swine to retrieve due to her length and lack of any keel.’

Thanks Phil – that’s a super story. I wonder whether any of these conversions are sailing now?

Follow the link for more on airborne lifeboats at intheboatshed.net.

PS I’ve been sent these photos of an airborne lifeboat looking very like Phil’s being carried by a US Coastguard plane. My informant, a kind chap called Eric, has no idea where he found them, so if anyone feels I have infringed their copyright in putting these small images us, please contact me and I will take them down immediately. However I would be grateful to be able to leave them in place – the airborne lifeboat story is an important one and should be remembered. Thanks Eric!

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