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Yacht Cruising

The fascination of sailing a private yacht in British, or even in foreign waters is no longer the exclusive privilege of the rich man. This chapter shows how an amateur should set about yacht cruising in an economical and seamanlike manner, and this chapter is full of sound and practical advice

The yacht Dyarchy in the Channel Islands

A SHELTERED ANCHORAGE in the Havre Gosselin, in the island of Sark, one of the smaller of the Channel Islands. In a yacht such as the Dyarchy (illustrated above) it is possible for the amateur yachtsman to reach such pleasant and out-of-the-way places with the minimum of expenditure when he has mastered the elements of seamanship.

IN the old days yachting in all its forms was the exclusive pastime of the rich man. There were, it is true, a few odd amateur Sindbads, who, in small craft which they sailed themselves, went short coastal and Continental cruises ; but these individuals were looked upon as eccentric, if nothing worse. It is only within the last fifty years that the sport of practical yacht cruising by amateurs has grown to its present popularity.

This is chiefly because it has been generally discovered how much more interesting for an owner it is to sail his own small ship than to employ an expensive professional crew. So to-day the number of small yachts has increased to such an extent that there is an acute nautical housing problem in all the yachting ports near London.

Little ships can be bought quite cheaply and run economically by men of moderate means. Time was when the ownership of a yacht was the hallmark of the millionaire. What was once the aristocrat’s luxury can now be also the artisan’s hobby.

It is not generally realized, perhaps, that a small ship, well-found and properly handled, can be as safe at sea as a big one. There are a great many examples of long voyages in little ships which demonstrate this most effectively. Captain Joshua Slocum, for instance, voyaged round the world alone in the 13-tons yawl Spray. Alain Gerbault and Harry Pidgeon are two more circumnavigators who have used yachts of 10 tons or less. Slocum was a professional seaman, but neither of the others had much previous practical experience. Their adventures are told in the relevant chapters of the series “Great Voyages in Little Ships”.

Another example, no less remarkable, was the single-handed voyage across the Atlantic to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and thence to Bermuda and home, with a companion for the last stage, made by Commander R. D. Graham, R.N., in 1934-35. His ship, the Emanuel, was no larger than 7 tons, yet she came safely through some of the worst weather that the North Atlantic can provide.

Few people have such long holidays that they can leave for months on end and voyage to the far places of the earth. But this is not necessary to savour the full joys of small boat cruising. It is astonishing how many attractive ports, quiet anchorages and fascinating rivers are to be found within a short journey of London. Thus, for the week-end sailor, there is a wide choice of possible anchorages from which he can return in time to be in his office on the Monday morning. So he may sail in a series of short “hops” from Lowestoft, say, on the east coast to Poole or even Weymouth on the south.

There is a fascination about sailing one’s own little ship which can, perhaps, be found in no other sport. The nearest approach to it would perhaps be caravanning; but the caravan is sadly limited compared to the little ship whose roads are the open seas, the highways of the world. The yacht provides a home away from home, fully equipped with everything for living and sleeping aboard, all cunningly contrived so that every inch of available space is filled without making the boat seem overcrowded.

The freedom of the seas makes a contrast to the life of an office so great that it must be experienced to be realized. Out of reach of telephones, postmen, newspapers and all the other elements of rush and hustle in the modern civilized life, the yachtsman can pursue his own leisurely way, enjoying to the full the primitive pleasures of exploration. His is the Viking spirit — circumscribed it may be and limited by modern conditions, but the true spirit nevertheless.

The yachtsman is the modern Sindbad. In his week-end sails and in his summer cruise he escapes for a while from the rut of ordinary life. His short week-ends will be spent exploring the smaller anchorages within easy reach of his home, and he may well spend several years before he has exhausted their possibilities. By this time he will be ready to find new pleasure in revisiting old haunts. For his summer holiday, he could go farther afield.

One year he may go down Channel to Dartmouth, to the charm of Cornish rivers, or to the fascinating Scilly Isles. Or he may go farther south, to France and the quaint Breton harbours, with their bright colours. He may go east to quiet Dutch waterways or, if he have three weeks or more to spare, he may even reach the Baltic Fjords. Every summer will see a fresh cruise accomplished, every winter the pleasures brought by memories of his last cruise, and the plans for the next.

In spring he will be busy fitting out his ship. In autumn she must be laid up and put to bed for the winter. In the dark, long evenings is the time to study navigation, to overhaul the boat’s

gear and to prepare for more ambitious cruises to come. Thus all the year the yachtsman is occupied and all his occupation brings him pleasure.

There are many ways of setting forth on a yachting cruise. Of these the best is also the cheapest. No sounder advice can be given to the would-be amateur sailor than to suggest that he should first learn to sail in a small boat. In the first place, it cannot be too strongly emphasized that the man who is able to sail a small boat will quickly learn to handle a big one.

Initial Outlay £5 to £20

The man who has learnt first in large craft will never be able to sail small ones as well as the man who has been brought up in them. There .is this further advantage, that a small boat is cheap to buy and economical to run. So that if disaster should overtake the owner, and his boat be damaged or lost, the cost is not unduly heavy.

My advice would be to buy a small open or half-decked sailing boat of not more than 18 feet in length. Such a craft could be picked up for anything from £5 to £20. The beginner should buy a good small book on dinghy sailing, and for the first year at least confine his endeavours as far as possible to rivers or other sheltered waters. The cost of running such a boat will depend on how

much of the work the amateur is prepared to do for himself. The more he can do with his own hands, the greater will be the experience that he will gain thereby.

The successful skipper of any small craft is a man who knows how to do all the odd jobs which are required on board, and who therefore knows his own boat so well that he is sure of the strength of her hull and gear. In the course of doing his own fitting out, he will have discovered any weakness and this he will have put right. In any craft, large or small, when it comes on to blow, it is a great satisfaction for the owner to know that his gear is sound, because he has seen to it himself. No feeling is more uncomfortable in such circumstances than a doubt that the yard to which the work has been entrusted may have overlooked some possible source of failure.


AN EX-BRISTOL CHANNEL PILOT CUTTER is one of the finest types of boat for yacht cruising. The Cariad (above), is of 26 tons. She was built in 1904 and is a fine sea-boat of a type which, for its size, is scarcely excelled in seaworthiness by any other craft.

This first year of sailing in inland waters should have taught the embryo yachtsman to know his boat and to be able to sail her, so far as the ordinary evolutions of everyday seamanship are concerned — such as sailing to windward, coming alongside a landing stage, running, gybing, setting and stowing sail and reefing. He will then be able in the next year to venture beyond the shelter of the river, and to embark on estuary sailing. There, in addition to the wind, he will learn to contend with tides and with rough water. He should buy a chart of the estuary on which he proposes to sail. During the winter he will derive much profit and enjoyment from studying the chart until he knows the position of every shoal and the characteristics of every light and buoy. He will now probably want to go rather farther afield than ordinary sailing will take him. In a suitable half-decked or even open boat there is no reason why he should not make extensive coastal cruises, provided he does not sail far from a sheltered port which he can enter, or far from an easy beach on which he can land.

His open boat can economically be turned into a cabin cruiser at night by the provision of an awning over the main boom, which is hoisted up the mast at the fore end and supported by a crutch at the after end. The sides of the tent are laced to small hooks or ring-bolts underneath the gunwale outside the boat. In such a boat it is possible to enjoy more than 600 miles of sailing for less than £20, including the original cost of the boat. My own first sailing boat, a halfdecker, which I owned for four years, cost me a total of £8 a year in all, including depreciation.

So much for the ideal beginning to a sailing career. But there are other ways in which it may be done. One method is to hire a small yacht on the Norfolk Broads and to indulge in a fortnight’s cruising. Thus experience can be gained in a short time for small expense. There is this advantage in Broadland sailing as a training: by reason of the narrow rivers and their winding courses, the yachtsman has to perform in quick succession all the many manoeuvres of seamanship.

Thus he may be running dead before the wind at one moment and tacking against it a few minutes later. He may easily do more tacking and gybing in a day’s sailing on the Broads than he does in a six weeks’ passage at sea. He also meets so many other craft in the confined space, that he quickly acquires, and of necessity, a sound knowledge of the Rule of the Road for sailing ships.

The sailing beginner may, on the other hand, have a friend who is already a keen and experienced yachtsman. In that event, if he can persuade his friend to take him as a member of his crew, he will learn much and quickly. A combination of experience as a hand in another man’s boat, with knowledge gained sailing his own really small craft by himself, is the finest possible way to learn to sail. There is no doubt that the amateur learns quickly from his mistakes, if he will but make up his mind never to make the same mistake twice.

Having learnt the elements of sailing in one or other of these ways, the amateur yachtsman will undoubtedly want to acquire a sea-going craft with a proper cabin, which will be always a dry and cosy home waiting at the end of a day’s sail. If his finances be limited, he may be tempted to buy an old ship’s life-boat or navy launch and to convert her himself.

To such a suggestion there can be only one answer — don’t! A good sound hull may, it is true, be bought cheaply, but that is only the beginning. The cost of materials alone for a satisfactory conversion will amount to more than the completed craft is worth, and when the little ship has been decked, ballasted, rigged and provided with sails, the owner will find that he has to launch out in heavy expenditure before she is ready for sea Anchors, cables, lights, compass and the like have all to be bought, and the bare interior has to be equipped with mattresses, cushions, stoves and scores of other fittings before it is habitable.

The 7-tons yacht Emanuel By the time all this has been done the man who has been ill-advised enough to start the work of conversion will find that it has cost him fully twice the sum he had allowed, and more than he would have had to pay for a sound old yacht in good condition and fully equipped. He will not

even have the consolation of feeling that he has a good boat.

A REMARKABLE SINGLE-HANDED VOYAGE in the 7-tons yacht Emanuel was made by Commander R. D. Graham, R.N., in 1934-35. Commander Graham sailed the Emanuel single-handed across the Atlantic Ocean to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and thence to Bermuda. On his return voyage he was accompanied by a friend, and the Emanuel safely came through some of the worst weather that can be experienced in the North Atlantic.

She will be ugly, crank and a bad sailer because she was not originally designed to sail. She will break his heart going to windward, she will be so unhandy as to be unsafe and her second-hand value will be little more than the cost af the original hull. If he have only limited means, he might buy a conversion provided that he can get her cheaply ; but to convert for himself is the most uneconomical method of acquiring a boat that has yet been devised by the wit of man.

For his first sea-going craft he would be well advised to invest in the best second-hand yacht he can afford, of about 5 to 7 tons. For this he may pay anything from about £75 to £500. But whatever he does, if he be a wise man he will have the boat properly surveyed by a competent surveyor. It will be well worth the few pounds expended on the surveyor’s fee to avoid the possibility of buying trouble in an unsound craft.

My own first craft would serve as a good example of the type of yacht in which the advancing amateur might begin his sea-going career. The Lily was an old-fashioned straight-stemmed cutter, of 6 tons, built near Southend, Essex, in 1904. She was 29 ft. 6 in. in overall length, 24 feet on the water-line, 8 feet in beam and drew 4 feet of water. She had a graceful counter stern.

Her accommodation was arranged as follows: Aft was an open well or cockpit, used for steering. From this folding doors gave access to the saloon, where head room of about 4 ft. 9 in. was provided by a raised cabin top, and light by a small skylight in the forward end and a port-hole in the coaming on either side. At the after end were small sideboards, port and starboard. Along either side ran a low seat on which two berths could be made up for sleeping at night. In the middle was a folding table, over which a swing lamp was screwed to the forward bulkhead. A narrow doorway, which recalled the entrance to a rabbit hutch, made it possible to crawl into the foc’s’le, which occupied the whole of the rest of the ship up to the bows.

Here were arranged the galley, the chain locker, racks for side lights and a good deal of storage space for spare gear. A folding canvas cot on the starboard side provided additional accommodation for one person.

A 9-feet dinghy went with the ship, and with all gear she cost a total of £72 10s. She cost another £12 10s. for painting, launching and fitting out. Thus for £85 I had acquired a little ship capable of carrying out long coastal cruises in any reasonable weather.

In the choice of rig, I would strongly advise the amateur to go for the cutter. The gear is less complicated than in a yawl or ketch, and the boat will be better sailing to windward. Although there is something to be said for the simplicity of the sloop, with its single headsail, it is more than counterbalanced by the fact that this one large headsail is more difficult to handle than are the two small ones of the cutter. It is always possible, moreover, for the cutter to be handled with the mainsail and one headsail only, while the other is shifted or reefed.

The amateur in his first sea-going ship should let his first passages be short ones, within easy reach of safe ports that can be entered in any reasonable weather. This should continue until he has got used to the feel and the method of handling a craft larger than the small boat in which he served the early part of his apprenticeship. He should also buy a good small text book on coastal navigation for yachtsmen. He should learn to fix his position by compass bearings, to take a simple four-point bearing, to lay off a course on the chart, and from it be able to determine the course which he must steer, allowing for tide and the error of his own compass. These are simple things, easily learnt; but they must be learnt thoroughly before it is safe to undertake long voyages.

The ex-Bristol Channel pilot cutter Cariad

A GOOD BREEZE off the Breton coast. This photograph shows the ex-Bristol Channel pilot cutter Cariad in the Rade de Brest, on the north-west coast of France. The sturdy lines of the Cariad’s hull emphasize her seaworthiness.

Another thing which the amateur yachtsman will soon discover is the use of the lead line. This is, when navigating in shallow water, one of the most valuable pieces of gear on board. In the underside of the lead itself is a small hollow that can be filled with grease to pick up some of the bottom of the sea. By this means it can be ascertained whether the bottom is mud, or fine sand or small shells.

As the nature of the bottom, as well as the depths of water, is marked on the chart, his lead line, at night or in foggy weather, taken in addition to his compass and his log, will give the owner a good idea of his position, and will warn him if he is getting into shallow water.

The log is a sort of sea cyclometer, which, on long passages, the yachtsman uses to tell him the distance he has sailed. It consists of a rotator with the blades set at an angle so that the log revolves when towed through the water at the end of a line. The other end of the line is attached to the wheel of an instrument, which, as it turns, records on a dial the miles run.

In the library of his small ship the yachtsman will carry his nautical almanac, in which the time of high water at the ports along the coasts will be recorded, and also the character of the various lights and buoys by which he is helped in the navigation of his ship. It will contain also information about the way that the tides run, for he will quickly learn that with a head wind and a contrary tide, he will make no progress, even if he does not lose ground.

A problem that will confront the owner with his first sea-going yacht will be that of where he is going to keep her. This will depend on where he lives, and on the most convenient port for him.

The best way for an owner to set about finding suitable permanent headquarters is to join a local yacht club, and to discover from his fellow members where the best moorings or the best berthing places are to be found. Moorings for a 7-tons yacht should not cost more than about 5s. a week.


THE ACCOMMODATION PLAN OF THE CARIAD shows how a 26-tons cutter can be a comfortable home as well as a fine sailer. Forward are lockers and stores for sails, chains and the like, and also a light engine and a folding berth. In the main cabin arc four berths, a table and a stove, still leaving plenty of room to spare.

An organization called the Cruising Association provides for yachtsmen much the same service as the A.A. or the R.A.C. does for the motorist. The Cruising Association, however, does more. It provides a register of boatmen, with their charges, in nearly every yachting port in the British Isles. It also publishes the most complete book of sailing directions for yachtsmen that has ever been complied, and the club in London has one of the finest yachting libraries in the world.

After a year or two’s experience in a 7-tonner the yachtsman will feel that at last, he is beginning to know something about seamanship. This is the most dangerous stage in his career, for he may be tempted to undertake more elaborate cruises than his experience warrants. He may become careless in his navigation and run unnecessary risks. At this stage, therefore, the yachtsman should try to remember that, at sea of all places, it is better to be safe than to be sorry. He may now begin to feel that he wants a craft rather larger, having accommodation for four or five persons in reasonable comfort and capable of undertaking long cruises and passages of several days out of sight of land. He must make up his mind, therefore, whether he intends to go in for coastal or ocean cruising, for ocean racing or for ordinary match sailing at coastal regattas. His choice of craft will depend entirely on the particular branch of yachting that appeals to him most.

The 6-tons cutter LilyMy own preference is for cruising. Every year I endeavour to make a long passage to some fresh cruising ground, such as the north coast of Spain or the west coast of Norway. I prefer to spend most of my holiday exploring the place to which I have sailed and then to make a long passage straight home.

The craft in which my cruises for the last ten years have been carried out is the ex-Bristol Channel pilot cutter Cariad, of 26 tons. In her I have sailed some 30,000 miles, and I know that if she drowns me it will be my fault, not hers. It is a comforting thing to have confidence in a ship in bad weather, but this is secured only by ensuring, from personal inspection, that ship and gear are above suspicion. The Cariad is a fine able sea boat of a type which, for its size, is not excelled in

seaworthiness by any other craft in the world.

On long passages and with a fair wind I use a square sail which is similar in appearance to those carried by the old revenue cutters of long ago.

A SUITABLE CRAFT FOR THE NOVICE. The 6-tons cutter Lily was wrecked in a North Sea gale in 1924. She had an overall length of 29 ft. 6 in., a length of 24 feet on the waterline and a beam of 8 feet. Her draught was 4 feet. She was built in 1904.

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