A Boat on the Side

Bounty Boys, A Pink Lady and Abby’s Road

Congratulations are in order for the crew of the good ship Talisker Bounty. Successfully recreating Captain Bligh’s epic 4,000 + mile sail in an open longboat is no mean feat. Talisker battled through some pretty adverse conditions and frantic bailing was needed after one nasty swamping episode backing up the old saying “There’s no more efficient bilge pump than a frightened man with a bucket.” I wish I’d said that. Instead here’s something I did say:

“Variety is the spice of life – sailing is the sauce of life.” OK, I can hear the groans.

Of course Talisker (rum and boat) was a good choice – not that Mr Bligh had any. Not quite the Bounty’s longboat but close – a nice traditional whaler with plenty of room, watertight compartments and an excellent rig, the lugsail yawl. Now there’s a good idea and one I’m proud to have used these last 15 years or so for our best selling Stornaway 18. As our cadet and outward bounders will testify, it’s a near perfect rig for serious sailors.

Taliska Bounty Boat

Yes, it lacks the glamour of the rakish gaff cutter but out in Force 7 it is snug enough with a storm jib and reefed mizzen. We went out on a demonstration sail a few years back – Force 6 gusting 7, lots of whitecaps, angry grey skies and vicious squalls  . . . . you know what I mean. Customer was apprehensive but my crew, an experienced sailor, and I shrugged it off. When we got back the man said “Yes, I’ll have one!” I asked him out of interest when he had decided. “I’ll tell you the exact moment” he replied. “There we were plunging and heaving along on a close reach when you demonstrated the Stornaway’s ability to sail herself by letting go of the tiller. The boat sailed on quite happily and when we copped a particularly big one over the bow, you carried on chatting regardless. Meanwhile the boat probably would have reached Tasmania all by herself. Now that’s a good sea boat – I’ll have one.”

So with rigid discipline and a damn good boat, the master navigator Bligh made it. Others have completed similar epic voyages in similar boats and we are proud that ours share the well proven advantages of a long keel and lugsail yawl rig. Regrettably we are no longer allowed to flog inefficient crews or feed them weevil infested ship’s biscuit – I can’t speak for the Talisker’s crew of course – but verbal abuse is still permitted when racing.

While the debate about the inability of particular types of boats for ocean voyaging will never be over, it’s worth noting that the success of Australia’s Jessica Watson is also a triumph for the ever reliable modestly canvassed Sparkman & Stephens 34 – a veteran of countless major voyages and a good boat for the job.

S & S 34

On the other hand 16 year old Abby Sunderland’s boat was much more of a racer and while it looked pretty well founded to me, it clearly would have been a bit of a handful in a blow – a fact born out by subsequent events and a long and winding road home.

Abby Sunderland’s Boat

The first man to sail around the world single-handed was Joshua Slocum in the late 19th century. His boat, the legendary “Spray” was a long keeled gaff yawl with a lugsail mizzen. Spray would sail herself – straight and true – for hundreds of sea miles unaided and in perfect safety, this without wind-vanes, autopilots, sat-nav and all other paraphernalia now used. Obviously these things are wonderful and must have saved many lives but you take my point.

Spray Yawl Rigged

Coincidentally, the brand new Stornaway 18 in our yard is almost complete and for sale. Navy blue hull, cream decks and cockpit, cream sails, extra ballast, wired for electric outboard and built by me. Customers wishing to take her to Bora Bora or somewhere equally exotic will need some minor modifications which I will be happy to complete at cost. Sponsorship will also be available. You know the number.

Stornaway Dayboat
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