Able daysailer and beach cruiser

LOD LWL Beam Draft (cb up) (cb down) Dry weight Ballast Sail area

16' 5" 16' 7' 1' 7" 3' 10" 1,056 lbs 462 lbs 162 sq ft

Design by John Welsford Commentary by Mike O’Brien


his particularly robust and able little boat will daysail a crowd or take a crew of one or two on extended coastwise cruises, and she’ll look ine along the way. John Welsford draws, builds, and sails small boats in New Zealand. He designed the 16' 5" Pilgrim for his own use, and as you read these words, the multichined plywood-epoxy hull goes together in his shop. He plans a voyage best understood by sailors past a certain age, a trip to revisit the favorite sailing waters of his youth: “I intend to cover much old ground…to

see what has changed both in the places and within myself.” Limited time and funds available for the project inluenced Pilgrim’s design, as did the need to sail in rough water along exposed lee shores: “I’ll have to be able to right her myself, in open water at that! That’s not easy to design into a boat big enough to fulill all of the other criteria. She will have to loat very high when swamped,

be stable enough to climb aboard, be easy to bail, and keep my gear safe and dry if the worst happens….” Yet Welsford wants to relax on occasion. He plans to nap, eat, drink, and perhaps read a book for an hour or two at a time. Self-steering, at least on some points, will be desirable. Some years ago the designer studied Falmouth ishing boats, which are highly regarded for their roughwater prowess. He reduced the hullforms and rigs to “a set of numerical statistics” that still guides his design of small craft. In this light, let’s take a look at Pilgrim’s hull. As beits her July/August 2010 • 91


Pilgrim displays a lively sheerline, ample freeboard, buoyant ends, and healthy breadth. She’s intended for rough water. The long, shallow keel, with 462 lbs of lead ballast and a steel centerboard, will help keep her upright and on course.

purpose, she shows healthy breadth, buoyant ends, and ample freeboard. The long keel, with lead ballast and a steel centerboard, results in shoal draft and helps keep the boat to her course. Welsford predicts “immense stability” that will allow us to stand on the gunwale without producing more than a slight list. In place of the expected kick-up rudder, Pilgrim employs a shallow ixed blade itted with a large end plate. The designer cites strength and reduced pitching in head seas as advantages to this coniguration. He adds that the end plate “serendipitously doubles as a foothold when we’re climbing back aboard after the morning swim.” Along our shores, Phil Bolger used similar devices on many boats and seemed to grow more impressed by their performance as each season passed. 92 • WoodenBoat 215

We’ll sheathe Pilgrim’s hull with 9mm (3⁄8") plywood panels over longitudinal stringers on 9mm plywood frames (with 9mm doublers). Attempts to coerce those stiff sheets into taking all that nice shape at the forefoot would result in frustration and possible explosion (as the outer plies fail in tension). To avoid this, the plans specify that we cold-mold that area with double-diagonal planks of 4.5mm (3⁄16" ) plywood. Decks will be of 6mm (1⁄4" ) plywood, backed where needed with 9mm. The structure will prove rigid, strong, and long-lived. But it requires a thorough epoxy coating of individual components to protect and preserve unventilated compartments and chambers. This type of construction has been with us for more than three decades, and we know that it works and it lasts. A 26' wood-epoxy yawl of my

acquaintance (built in 1973) has endured a decade of abandonment along the hot and humid shores of Chesapeake Bay, yet she remains in surprisingly good shape. Pilgrim contains more bits and pieces than some simpler plywood designs, but she’ll go together easily. Welsford supplies spectacularly welldetailed plans—13 sheets of drawings and 16 pages of typed building instructions. A rank beginner will be able to make a good job of building this boat. The designer points out that epoxy and iberglass tape can be incredibly forgiving materials: “While I’m not encouraging deliberately sloppy workmanship, if a top-grade inish is not within your capabilities, don’t sweat over the last tiny bit. Build your boat, paint it, and go sailing.” Pilgrim carries simple but comfortable accommodations. Her designer,


Panels of 3⁄8” plywood, on longitudinal stringers and plywood frames, form a strong and rigid hull. That shapely hollow at the forefoot will require cold-molding. At night we’ll bed down on the sleeping lat (upper right). Under sail the cambered seats (right) offer good comfort. The rail detail (left) shows the ¼” plywood deck landing on “gunwale stringers”; the store-bought hook secures the cockpit canopy.

who suffers chronic back pain, took care to draw the cockpit benches suficiently high above the sole and angled outward. This should ensure relaxed seating on the weather side even when the boat is heeled— no worry that we’re going to slide into the bilge. Flat space amidships offers a good place to sleep a crew of two when the cockpit is tented. Several lockers and bins will hold ample stores for at least two weeks of unsupported cruising. The low and powerful rig will be easily handled. Full-length battens in the gaff-headed mainsail support considerable roach, which allows more sail to be carried for a given length of mast and boom. Silence comes as an added virtue, as this sail won’t log noisily when lufing. If you’ve not previously lived with a fully battened sail, the arrangement might take some getting used to. It

won’t telegraph word of improper trim in the immediate fashion of unsupported Dacron. For the irst season, at least, you might want to stitch on more than a few yarn telltales. Welsford, an experienced sailor, offers advice for handling Pilgrim: The staysail and jib both should be lown in light weather. As the breeze comes on, drop the staysail. The next reduction will be one, and then two, reefs in the main. Then roll up the jib, and again raise the staysail. If the wind increases further, take the third reef in the main. Finally, drop the main into the lazyjacks with the topping lift tight and the mainsheet hauled in and secured to keep the boom under control. That will leave us jogging along nicely under the tiny staysail. In general, we should sail this boat a little free and not pinch

too close to the wind. The designer suggests, “Go for speed rather than height.” With this design, John Welsford set out to draw an “explorationgrade open boat.” He seems to have succeeded happily on that count and to have created a pleasant daysailer as well. We might never take Pilgrim on a tough cruise along exposed shores, but it’s good to know she will be up to the job. Mike O’Brien is boat design editor for WoodenBoat. Plans for Pilgrim can be had from John Welsford, Marine Designer, P.O. Box 24062, Hamilton, New Zealand 3253; www.jwboat In the United States, plans are available from Duckworks Boat Builders Supply, 608 Gammenthaler, Harper, TX 78631;

July/August 2010 • 93

(215) John Welsford-John Welsford Pilgrim Long Distance Sailboat ...

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