Keith Johnston and friend saved from a dunking by a Selway Fisher-designed tender

Selway Fisher designed Skylark dinghy

Many of us become very attached to craft that serve us well – but tenders aren’t usually the object of our deep affections. However, Keith Johnston tells a story about an experience that taught him the value of his tender in a big way.

‘My friend and I have been sailing Devon Yawls for more than twenty five years simply because they are a modern fibreglass moulding of the Salcombe yawl.

‘Salcombe yawls are now hand built in top quality timbers and are £20,000 16’ dinghies that sail like serious deep sea boats and are a fiercely competed class in Salcombe. More importantly for me, they are based upon a very much tried and tested local inshore fishing boat. The locals know when a boat is good, and the Salcombe yawl is the best, so we’ve been sailing the Devon Yawl is an equivalent boat made in GRP from a mould taken off an a Salcombe yawl. (In fact, I have now graduated from the Devon Yawl to the Devon Dayboat, which is a Devon Yawl with a small cuddy) that provides a little shelter in rough weather or a camping shelter for two. Some of the original Devon Dayboats, like mine have a Stuart Turner 5hp inboard, which makes them reall useful all-round cruising boats.)

‘But back to my story. When we first started sailing yawls we moored the boat at various points on the River Tamar on the border between Cornwall and England. To get to her, we used a Fairey Duckling, which is a superb moulded double diagonal ply built dinghy loosely based on the World War II airborne lifeboats. These were made by Fairey Marine and were dropped from search and rescue planes so that ditched air crew in the North Atlantic and North Sea could rescue themselves. (For more on airborne lifeboats, click here; for more on Fairey Ducklings, click here.)

‘Believe me, the little Ducklings take after their big sister airborne lifeboats and are tough little boats, and we could just about carry the Duckling from the car to the tide line, which was sometimes 150 or 200 yards. As time went by, however, the Duckling seemed to get heavier (or had we got older?) and we realised the Duckling had become a collectors boat and was too valuable to be used as a general beach dinghy any longer. So we decided to try and find a cheap dinghy as a replacement.

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