March 20th 2013
“Buy the smallest boat possible that will do the job you want”
This is a mantra we preach to buyers time and time again. As long as the money is in the bank, it is easy to go and buy a 50’ yacht which provides all the space required to cruise around the coast and across the channel in comfort. It is more difficult to find that same comfort in a 35’ yacht and have the imagination to be able to use the more limited space in sensible ways. The cost benefits of the smaller boats are considerable and can be seen in yard and mooring fees, maintenance costs and insurance premiums.
The truth is that most people are ‘over-boated’ considering what they actually do with their yachts which is plain to see when we look at all the marinas around the country, stuffed full of yachts that rarely go to sea. Do we really need a 40’ yacht to sail around the bay a few weekends every year?
For many years we have had a 19’ Herreshoff designed dayboat called an Islander. These are gorgeous little boats with a long keel, short counter stern and a couple of berths up forward. Although we have had to do a lot of work on her over the years, including a new rudder post, floors, garboards, keel bolts, quite a lot of new framing and some deck repairs, she has been a huge amount of fun and provided cheap sailing. Because she can be towed behind the car on her 4 wheel trailer there are no winter yard storage fees and at only 19’ her mooring is cheap.
I have grown up with this little boat and spent many weekends aboard going camping and fishing, exploring creeks as well as coastal sailing. It was in this boat that I undertook my first ‘voyage’ without the help of parents, sailing from Plymouth to Salcombe with my brother as young teenager, memories that will never be forgotten! I wouldn’t have been able to do that had she been a big yacht.
The joys and benefits of owning and sailing a day boat should not be underestimated and although it lacks the comforts afforded by a larger boat, the small dayboat is capable of undertaking a large proportion of the sailing that most of us do. We have just been asked to sell a 22’ West Country working boat, built around the turn of the 20th century and typical of the working boats built up and down the coast at the time. Although many would not admit it, this is the type of boat that most yacht owners should be buying.
Although gaff rig is not to everybody’s taste, this boat offers everything in a small inexpensive package. She has a large open cockpit with coamings at chest height which keeps everyone in the boat rather than on it, you would have to try extremely hard to fall out of her even when she is heeling hard. There is small inboard diesel to get you home when the tide turns foul or the wind fails, and the 2 berth cabin under the foredeck gives shelter from the elements and a bit of accommodation when you want to venture further down the coast. It might not have the luxury of a big motor yacht but you will be warm and dry.
For summer family sailing you don’t get much better. I will be eternally grateful for the years I spent sailing small boats like this and our Herreshoff when I was young. These small boats give you an understanding of wind and boat handling that you cannot get from a bigger yacht, and in some ways is not available with dinghies. The hands on sailing of a small boat that reacts when you put the helm over but also has a bit weight behind her is invaluable for kids who are to become good sailors. Skills learned at this age, I believe, become second nature and it is easy to spot someone who has grown up on boats by the way they handle a yacht as they have a feel for a boat which cannot be taught by a sailing instructor later on. And what is more fun as a child growing up than to spin around the bay, catch some mackerel and camp under the boom tent while at anchor up the river. These are the childhood memories that I will never forget.