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The Drascombe Lugger

Translated from the Russian ....

These open boats can be found in large numbers in almost in any sailing centre around the coast of England and on large lakes and rivers inside the country. Quite often "Drascombes" can be found at sea far from the coast, where they cope well on steep waves, maneuvering under their characteristic low-aspect sails. The firm "McNulty Boats" have produced five models of glass-fibre "Drascombe" boat, differing only slightly from the original "Drascombe Lugger" (1964). The secret of the success and popularity of a boat of this type can be found in a design which ensures a high level of seaworthiness, an attractive appearance, high quality manufacturing, and unpretentiousness in operation: in simplicity of the control of sails and efficiency when navigating under low power engines.

LOA, m 5.7
LWL, m 4.6
Beam max, m 1.91
Beam, laden waterline, m 1.52
Draft, board up, m 0.26
Draft, board down, m 1.2
Dry weight with rigging, kg 380
Waterline displacement, kg 550
Sail Area, m2 12.3
Power of outboard motor, HP. 3-8
Speed with a 5HP motor, km/h 11


The Drascombe Lugger

This boat was developed in 1964 by the former owner of the Totnes shipyard and former Royal Navy officer John Watkinson, when he decided to leave small shipbuilding and study agriculture at his farm on Dartmoor. But John could not completely say goodbye to the sea and soon he began to think about building a boat for himself and his family for day trips and fishing. The future vessel had to be capacious - large enough to carry the whole Watkinson family - stable, seaworthy, easy to control, and to have comparatively low weight so that it would be possible to transport it on a trailer behind a family-sized car. Furthermore, John wanted the boat to be capable of giving an experienced sailor a lively and exciting sail, and to develop sufficient speed with the outboard motor to overcome the flow of the river Dart.

In 1965 the "Drascombe Lugger", as the designer named his creation, was successfully launched in the river Dart and it successfully underwent further trials in the estuary (the mouth of which is subject to strong seas and tidal currents) and in the adjacent coastal waters of Southern England. As Watkinson did not intend to enter into mass production, the hull was of wooden construction, the lines of which were inspired by the coble working boats of England's North-East coast, which themselves can trace an ancestry back to the Vikings.

The boat that John hand-built in a barn on his farm at Drascombe Barton was an immediate success and its obvious commercial potential prompted him to initiate production of the boats in GRP. Other models followed, but all followed the original philosophy of safety, robustness, and fun.

The hull of the first boat had a length of 5.72 m with a beam of 1.9 m and formed from strips of 9 mm waterproof plywood, with 4 planks on each side, so in appearance it resembled the clinker construction of the original working boats. Inside the perimeter of the hull were fixed wide longitudinal bank-seats, imparting extra rigidity in combination with several frames, which are also made from water-resistant plywood. These bank-seats proved to be very convenient for the counterbalancing of the boat when sailing, with crew leaning back against the support of the bulwarks.
The designer has provided opening-scuppers in the boards at seat level for the draining of water. If the "Lugger" should ship a wave or should it become necessary to put the boat on an even keel after capsizing, water above the seats will drain outboard, with the bulwarks remaining above water level. Spaces under the bank-seats were filled with blocks of foam plastic, which ensured unsinkability. This cockpit arrangement provides sufficient accomodation for 4-6 people on a short trip, together with the necessary equipment for a more prolonged journey.

The boat was fitted with a heavy centre-board, cut from 13 mm steel sheet. It weighed 55 kg, and when lowered increased the draft to 1.22 m, noticeably increasing the stability of the vessel. The rudder blade was made from 4 mm steel plate, welded to the rudder head and, as with the centre-board, it descended into it's own well. In shoal waters it was possible to lift the rudder and steer the boat with the aid of a steering oar, for which a special recess was provided in the transom. The draft with the plates lifted did not exceed 0.26 m.

A third well was made in the transom for an outboard engine. The engine sits within that housing and is thus protected from wave damage from over the stern. In the case of a breakdown at sea it is possible to repair the engine without hanging out over the transom., and when sailing the engine can be tilted back with it's propellor clear of the water, so avoiding drag.

The boat was equipped with a triangular foresail, mizzensail and mainsail with a total area of 12.26 m2. The solid section masts were made from glued laths: the mizzen-mast having no standing rigging (the area of the mizzensail being only 2.04 m2 ), but the mainmast is supported by a forestay and a pair of shrouds. This "one-and-a-half- mast" arrangement is very convenient for trolling for fish, as under just foresail (3.34 m2 ) and mizzensail the boat can head into the wind at low speed, or stably drift. The mizzensail also proves to be useful during navigation under engine, or when lying at anchor when it holds the bow into the wind and waves, thus decreasing the rolling motion.

The sails were boom-less, simplifying their control by unskilled crew. It is no longer necessary to fear being struck on the head by the boom during tacking. Likewise, gybing is less dramatic. With a boom, the sail moves sharply across the boat with it's dynamic force being transferred to the mast and rigging, a process which is sometimes accompanied by an overturning of the boat, but the boom-less mainsail will move from board to board without this dynamic force. This is familiar to every yachtsman who has had to change a mainsail or trysail in a storm.

The luffs of the main and mizzensail are laced to, and may be kept furled around their masts. The foresail was also fitted with a roller-furling mechanism to roll the sail around the forestay. In order to get under way using sails, it is sufficient to release the canvas on both masts, and the vessel is ready. Likewise, not more than three minutes are required to douse the sails - it is even possible to remove the masts with the sails still attached to them, which can then lie within the boat. The mizzensail is sheeted via a boomkin.

The Drascombe Lugger has proved to be an ideal family boat - a day sailer for navigation in the rough coastal waters around England. It was very stable, and in response to sudden squalls the "Lugger" heeled only to the level of the scuppers - heeling did not increase even during further strengthening of the wind - thanks to the wide beam, heavy centreboard, and low sail area. With a 6HP outboard engine the boat developed a speed of 5.5 knots (10 km/hr), although being light it is also easy to row, especially with one person on each oar.

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