Bergius cruising dinghy Dodo on show at the National Maritime Museum, London

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Dodo – click on the thumbnails for larger photos

Currently on show at the National Maritime Museum, Dodo was built and designed by 19-year old William Bergius and his younger brother Walter in Glasgow, in 1896.

Fitted with a removable keel of 50kg, she was the first of a series of boats by that name belonging to the Bergius’s, and seems to have been built with camp-cruising in mind. In 1897, a very confident young William wrote the the editor of The Yachtsman in the following terms:

‘Sir – I have read with great interest the letters regarding “Multum in Parvo” cruisers, and cannot help thinking that most of your correspondents want far too big a boat. Last year my brother and I built a boat in which, despite the small size, we can easily sleep three.’

Dodo is quite a big boat in a small length: she’s 14ft 6in in length, 5ft 4in in beam and a draft of 2ft 4in with her keel attached, and with a sail area of no less than 150sqft in a low-profile gaff-rigged mainsail and roller-mounted jib; despite her fairly hard bilges amidships (they’re less hard towards the stern) and small keel she will have been an energetic performer. William Bergius deserves our admiration for creating such a useful little boat.

I don’t think anyone would build a small keelboat like this for open-boat cruising now, but looking at Dodo, I kept thinking I’d seen something a little like her more recently, and now I think I’ve worked out what it was. Take a peek at John  Welsford’s Pilgrim drawings, and see what you think – of course much has changed, but some things – including the rig, generous freeboard and use of a sensible half-decked arrangement decks – are not so very different. Of course, if I wanted a boat to go cruising in myself, I’d take the modern conveniences and comforts of John’s boat every time.

Finally just to show the world what fabulous buildings the museum occupies, I’ve added two more shots for readers’ entertainment.

The Royal Observatory from the NMM’s colonnades; the NMM buildings, the Palladian-style Queen’s House and the Old Royal Naval College with the River Thames and the Isle of Dogs beyond

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