There are hundreds of boats out there. Sailing boats, rowing boats, power boats. Boats made of wood, fibreglass and steel. There are catamarans and monohulls, open boats, floating palaces, inflatable dinghies and canoes. There are plenty of fishing boats, and plenty of sailing boats suitable for single handed use. So when we first thought of this idea, we looked around to find the right boat for us. Tempting as it was for Si to design a boat for purpose, we didn’t want to spend time and money reinventing the wheel.
She would have to be under ten metres and unpowered. The rig would have to be simple and easy to manage; easy to power and depower. The boat would have to be stable and seaworthy enough to be able to be used in a variety of conditions; at sea and in an estuary. It would have to be a design of boat that allowed a maximum of space to work from; a predominantly open boat without unnecessary fittings and features. On calm days or in tricky conditions the boat would need to be able to be rowed, in order to continue fishing. Tides and drying harbours meant that she would have to be able to safely take the ground; she would either need to be long keeled with legs, or else bilge keeled or shallow draughted with a lifting keel. The particular constraints of Portscatho’s harbour meant that she would realistically need to be a maximum of six metres (20ft) to fit a berth in the porth itself. Most importantly, she would need to be a suitable fishing boat; robust, not fussily finished, with a large working platform able to support the necessary equipment and the eventual catch.
We looked around at existing designs and models of boats, paying particular attention to boats with fishing in their heritage. We decided that the best rigs would be lug, sprit or junk rig, for their simplicity, ease of use and low tech but powerful qualities. We ruled out bermudan and gaff rig; despite being more efficient, they both require headsails to work effectively and are therefore less attractive for a single hander. Bermudan rig is less easily depowered and is not quietly and easily scandalised. While it is easy to do this with gaff rig, as demonstrated by the Falmouth working boats, it’s an unbalanced rig that needs to be stayed for support, leaving the centre of effort of the sail plan further aft. We decided that a yawl rig would be preferable to a cutter as it allows you a relatively large sail plan which is easily balanced by a small mizzen. It’s versatile and easy to rig and derig, plus a modern lug rig can be self-tacking.
Our search narrowed down to a few possible contenders. The suitable end of the market was broadly divided into leisure boats, decommissioned sailing fishing boats and historical replicas. The best examples of leisure boats that we were found were Francois Vivier’s Ebihen 18 and Swallow Boat’s Bay Raider; both of which are suitable for sailing, rowing and beaching. The Ebihen 18 is sloop or cutter rigged, however, and the Bay Raider is a lighter, sportier and more expensive boat than we were looking for. Former fishing boats have the undeniable advantage of being tried and tested, but are generally heavy wooden boats needing high maintenance and repair, as well as often requiring a crew of more than one. Although Simon is not always planning to go fishing alone, it may very well be the case most of the time.
The final category of historical replicas had several very interesting contenders, most notably the Heard Tosher. The mould for this design was taken directly from a Mevagissey Tosher; built and used to fish singlehandedly under sail. This was probably the most tempting boat of all the ones we looked at. The Toshers are readily available locally for a reasonable price and are proven in their abilities as both fishing and sailing boats. What’s more, our beloved Planet was built in the same yard so we know the quality and strength of the boats produced by the Heard family. The only downsides of the Toshers are their weight and their rig. Most Toshers for sale have now been converted to gaff rig for racing, and the lug rigged versions that are available are sloops rather than yawls. We seriously considered buying and modifying one of these, but eventually decided that a displacement of over a tonne would prove difficult for one person to manoeuvre under oar and at sea.
So we came back to the idea of an in-house design; this way we could use Si’s expertise and have a purpose built boat that we knew inside out as our result. In the next few posts we’ll talk more about the design concept and process for our boat.