Painting by Claudia Myatt
There has been another lovely article from my old friend Roger Barnes on his preference for an open sailing boat over cabin yachts. A personal view: Why I sail dinghies. He once had a yacht and sold it before converting to a dinghy, first a twelve footer similar to my Sarum, but traditionally built in wood. Then he acquired his present Ilur designed and built by François Vivier and very similar to the fishing boats of old. I have sailed on a big modern yacht with five others, and it is another experience, but I enjoy my autonomy on a dinghy. I have never owned a yacht.
I sometimes look at boats for sale, particularly the transportable ones with bilge keels and cabins. Perhaps I could one day have one of those and keep my dinghy. I keep an open mind, but many practical things have to be thought about. I like the old gunter, gaff, lug and sprit rigs rather than the more impersonal bermudan rig with the high mast.
Roger contrasts life on board a yacht and spending a week or so on a dinghy. The latter is very much camping in a minimalist spirit. Yachts are more like caravans with dry and comfortable sleeping accommodation and galley facilities. They are the sort of boats that will appeal more to the wife, who might crew but would be more likely to prefer trailing a fishing line!
Roger has a somewhat poetic style of writing, which is very appealing. I tend to be very prosaic and get frustrated in trying to manage so much the small space limited by the length and beam of a twelve-foot dinghy. Another couple of feet might not seem to make much difference, but it does. The beam increases proportionately, and storage is made so much easier. Every year, I try to make improvements to where I put the safety stuff – accessible when the boat is capsized and mast-down (God forbid!). Most of the stuff in the forward compartment is connected with tent, bed and dry clothes in two dry bags. I have compartments for the galley, personal items and tools. I still get my feet encumbered by water and petrol cans. Roger by principle doesn’t use an engine. I do when I really need my old British Seagull, where an opposing wind and tide make rowing too hard going.
In the end, it all depends on how long you want to be out and where you want to go. Dinghies are limited to sheltered waters or the open sea in fair weather. A dinghy can be moored or dried out just about anywhere, as can a bilge keel yacht. I too notice the number of yachts occupying all the places in a marina, and hardly ever put to sea. People find they run out of money and time. Dinghies are much more DIY, and they go on a trailer in your own property, thus saving on mooring fees. I would be less quick to say like Roger that one is better than the other. It depends on what you want and what you can afford.
I would certainly like a larger boat that what I have. Perhaps one day, and that will give time to decide what I want to look for. The Ilur is a lovely boat, as is the Drascombe Lugger. We’ll see. Perhaps the next boat will be called Eboracum or one of the names of Gregorian neumes like Porrectus or Scandicus like monks call their livestock! Perhaps it will be the name of one of the lakes of my native Lake District like Grasmere, Rydal or Windermere. For the time being, it is Sarum.
This makes me think I should review the Ransome books I’ve read so far as to which sorts of boats each features, having so enjoyed all of them… And then there’s The Riddle of the Sands…
“Yachts are more like caravans with dry and comfortable sleeping accommodation and galley facilities. They are the sort of boats that will appeal more to the wife, who might crew but would be more likely to prefer trailing a fishing line!” I think I think more like the wife – though on some level I’d like to get toughened up – and learn things – like “Hump” Van Weyden in The Sea Wolf (or Harvey Cheyne, Jr. in Captains Courageous). But anything lasting longer than a long summer’s day leaves me wanting an enclosed space to sleep in – and cook in (however small). On ferry, party boat, or ocean liner, I went to get on deck (but knowing I can go ‘indoors’ or ‘below’).