A Boat on the Side

The Original Secret

Footnote from the Thirties

It was during the seventies that I first encountered the good ship Secret. She was commissioned by an old friend’s father, Hughes senior, in the thirties. He had Shuttlewoods at Paglesham build him a “sweet little smack yacht” and while she was in build he met his wife to be.

What with war clouds looming and a home to build he feared the loss of his yacht so he kept her quiet – the boat that is, but his wife discovered the other woman in an Essex boatyard - fortunately for all concerned she forgave the unfaithful spouse.

Secret duly became a family Secret and survived the war, children, careers etc but was sold in the sixties, I believe.

The photo was taken in the North Sea, returning from Holland. “They were in a bit of a hurry” relates Hughes the younger. I told them I’d do another one for them and while I’m thirty years late, my Secret 20 and forthcoming 26, at the very least share a little original Secret DNA.

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To Slip, Perchance to Scream

The curious case of the missing testicles.

No matter how well the sailor plans his voyages, no matter how many lists are written, no matter how many items are ticked, there is always the looming, malevolent spectre of Murphy – his black book of Law clutched to his chest. He hovers, ever waiting for the unexpected opportunity, ever ready to put the boot in. Some fifty years ago the callous bastard struck me hard below the belt one freezing January day in the UK.

At Burnham on Crouch, on the East Coast, a yachting race was held every New Year’s Day. It was called, aptly enough, “The Burnham Icicle.” A race pretty much open to all comers. It was a “tradition” of certifiable stupidity, joyfully embraced by scores of brainwashed amateurs, one step away from these madmen who break the ice on Christmas Day in order to go swimming.

As a young lad of thirteen or fourteen and an eager cadet crew, I was proud of my agility and sheet handling prowess. The promise of light airs meant we of slight stature were in demand and there was a chance to crew a competitive boat with a good skipper.

Summer and autumn racing seasons completed – tick.
Wet weather gear, woolies and life jacket – tick.
Non-slip deck shoes – tick.
Ready to win – tick.

So we launched the gleaming 14-footer from the Royal Corinthian’s ramp without touching the water or the ice floes near the shore. My skipper for the day was a fiercely competitive Scotsman who didn’t mince words but did threaten to mince anyone who dared to manhandle his beautiful new boat.


A hopelessly biased view of a racing Gaff Cutter!

Secret racing on Sydney Harbour

There are already reams of written analyses concerning the great Wall Street card houses and their inevitable collapse but to the average sailor it boils down to one question – “How can I keep sailing?”

Downsizing is de rigueur and looks likely to remain that way for some time. For those of us who are getting creakier by the year racing dinghies are out so where are we to go?

In the second half of the 20th century the western world, and in particular the UK where the writer spent most of his life, sailing underwent a major revolution.

In post war Europe the emphasis switched from the Royals and the captains of industry to the captains of dinghies such as the Enterprise, the International 14 and the 505s – all still going strong. In short, sailing and weekends hacking around the cans came within the reach of the common man.

From the horrors of World War II came a longing for not only peace but for fun. My father, fresh from the North Atlantic convoys, bought an Enterprise and the whole family went racing. In the short English summers the bays and estuaries were packed with sails.

Subsequently dinghy sailing fell out of fashion as a new world order embraced compulsory television - flogging sails and freezing spray lost their appeal. Now in the 21st Century the cycle completes another revolution and small day boat numbers are on the rise again, especially on harbours like Sydney – surely one of the world’s finest.

For the boy (or girl) racer in all of us the choices post skiff pre-senility are as limited as the cash available so let me suggest one seriously viable alternative.


Dylan Winter – Secret 20 footage

Dylan Winter from Keep Turning Left took this lovely shot of a Secret 20. As Dylan says -- "Big cockpit, small cabin, plenty of ropes to play with - great looking modern take on a classic."

As the website says

Length on deck 20
Length overall 27
Beam 7
Draft 2 3
Weight 650Kg (approx)
Sail area 260ft2 (24.06m2) plus gennaker
Crew 3 (racing)
Launch Time 30 minutes Race or Cruise in style
Self-righting, but light enough to be unusually fast
Huge self-draining cockpit but good genuine double bunk even in cuddy cabin version
Light; shallow draft and low hull windage stay out of trouble
Quick in a straight line and in stays Secret shares the long, fixed, ballasted, keel, and self-righting characteristics of her sisters, but the subtle cut-away forefoot, low freeboard, big rig, full bow sections and flat run aft means shes half way between Essex Smack and Sydney Harbour 18 footer. Theres nothing else quite like her on the water. Cuddy cabin and cruiser versions are available.

Just look at that bowsed-down bowsprit, plumb stem, counter stern and cutter rig, and try to stop yourself falling in love.


A day on Lake Cootharaba

Here is the Scintilla "Friendship" on a beautiful still day at Lake Cootharaba.

Lake Cootharaba is a lake on the Noosa River. It is the gateway to the Everglades, a popular tourist attraction for Noosa, being 20 km away from Noosa. The lake's major access is the town of Boreen Point, as well as the smaller camping-spot of Elanda Point.

Lake Cootharaba is approximately 10 km long and 5 km wide, at an average depth of 1.5 m.

Lake Cootharaba is a popular spot for sailing and Boreen Point in home to the Lake Cootharaba Sailing Club. A great place to visit and stay, the camping ground at Boreen Point is fitted with great facilities and is right on the water.

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