A New Adventure Begins

July 17, 2019 0 By Chris

After having Meander up for sale for just a few days shy of a year, she has finally sold and I can now write a blog again without risk of jinxing my attempts at a sale. My apologies for the long hiatus in my writings, but I promise I will try harder from now and make this my primary means of telling the world what I’m up to as I’m finding Facebook less and less enjoyable to use.

The process of selling Meander took some time, but I had a steady trickle of enquiries from the start, and I thought that I had a sale in late January, which would, for several reasons, have turned out to be a highly favourable deal for me. Sadly this fell through due to the buyer’s bank accounts being hit by fraudsters soon after paying me a deposit, and the process started again. I had had a serious enquiry from another party, who blew quite hot and cold about the fact of her ferrocement construction, and that eventually caused the deal to fall through. Whilst those negotiations were going ahead, a third serious competitor came on the scene, and eventually I was in a position to accept his offer shortly before returning from sea in June. A survey soon followed, and this week we finally signed the Bill of Sale to complete the deal.

And so to the big announcement to which I referred obliquely in my post this time last year. It was shortly after I returned from my summer’s cruise and made the decision to sell Meander, that I found an exciting opportunity online. This was an advert (actually expired, but somehow I found it) for an uncompleted steel hull of a Wylo 2, designed by Nick Skeates, a well-known (in some circles, at least) liveaboard cruiser, who originally designed the boat for his own use, but ended up selling plans for others. Many examples have now been built, in all parts of the globe, and the design has now gained a reputation for being a solid, go-anywhere cruising boat: a “Land-Rover of the seas”. The original and most subsequent hulls were built as gaff cutters, but Nick did draw a Chinese Lug (Junk rig) ketch, of which only one example is sailing as far as I know. This one was the second example, but had never been completed, and although construction started in the late 80s, she had never seen the water or indeed been outside for any amount of time. Having been originally built in Portugal by a Swiss gentleman (whose name is Guy, should I ever refer back to him in later blogs), she was sold to a Brit, Charlie, who had her trucked to Devon, and stored her in his substantial farm shed / workshop. He continued work by fitting a new engine, but otherwise she remained as found for a further decade or so. Therefore, what I found when I viewed her was a very well-built (Swiss, remember) and well-preserved steel hull, with a new, substantial engine and sterngear. In short, she was a great opportunity to build a boat but bypass the heavy-industrial (and quite expensive) part of the process.

In April I had scraped together enough to complete a purchase (having first found out that Nick Skeates was spending the winter in Plymouth Sound, and therefore was available to look over her and give her his stamp of approval) and have her transported by road, at some expense, to Seil, and she now rests under an anonymous grey tarpaulin in Balvicar boatyard.

The new acquisition in Balvicar

In the meantime I have been researching the design, joined the Junk Rig Association, and spoken to various members of this erudite community, as well as Nick, about the ketch rig as designed. The consensus amongst the “Junkies” (as we are apparently known within the JRA community) was that a ketch is not the best rig to have with unstayed, Chinese lug sails. This is because you are putting the larger, and therefore the heavier, mast right forward in the eyes of the ship, which can make her trim by the head and make for a larger than normal pitching moment, as well as putting a lot of windage right forward, which can cause uncontrolled yawing at anchor. I then found in the list of JRA boats a Wylo named Bronwen, which was converted a few years ago from the standard gaff cutter to a junk schooner. As such, she used the original mast position, pretty much amidships, for a mainmast position (just forward of the centreboard case), and a much smaller, lighter foremast in the eyes of the ship, which cants forward at about 5 degrees. I contacted the owner (and instigator of the conversion) to ask about her sailing performance, and he seems almost entirely happy with the rig, and has sailed long distances across oceans with few problems.

Therefore, I have decided to follow Bronwen’s example, and have drawn a new rig, based obviously on Bronwen’s, but doing my own calculations and essentially starting from first principals, incorporating the most recent developments in the Chinese lug rig whilst attempting to fulfil the stipulations for good rig design set out in the 60s by Blondie Haslar and Jock McLeod and laid down in their seminal work, the Junk Rig Handbook (JRH). This rig will require the current mast positions to be moved in the new hull, but at this stage of build this should not be too problematic.

My new Chinese lug schooner rig

This project will be started soon, once I have consolidated my finances and got her undercover in a heavy-duty, purpose built tent, with the major steelwork alterations being first on the agenda, followed by the consolidation of the paint scheme and insulating the inside of the hull and deck before the fit-out. The doghouse you see in the photograph does not sit well with her lines, so will be removed, and replaced with a watertight companionway hatch covered with an open-backed, rigid spray screen which will be more in keeping, and also allow control of the boat from a seated position in her main hatchway.

Now every fine seagoing vessel has to have a fitting name. For some time I have had a name in mind for “the next boat”. A while ago I was given a book to review called “North-East Passage to Muscovy”, by Kit Mayers. It covered the establishment of the Honourable Muscovy Company by big-name merchants in Elizabethan England, and their dispatch of ships to explore the waters round the North Cape (of Norway) into the White Sea, to establish trading links with the Grand Duchy of Muscovy (present-day Russia) and to attempt to find a North-East Passage as a rival route to the equally-fabled but more well-know North-West Passage, to link Europe with the Indies. The first voyage in 1553 was not terribly successful, two of the three ships and their crews having perished. A second and much more successful expedition followed in 1556, and one of the vessels of this second fleet, a Pinnace (Pinnesse) of around 20 tons or 44ft length of keel, was named Serchthrift, commanded by a Stephen Borough, a native of the north Devon port of Appledore. The connection with Devon in this case is coincidental, but the name for some reason appealed, as being fairly unique and not having any particular significance besides the historical interest and the connection with the kind of northern waters I too aspire to explore. Therefore, the name of this new boat will be Serchthrift, and you may follow the process of her fit-out and subsequent sailing adventures (I hope) in this blog.

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