Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Westerly 22

Don’t know about the rest of the world but this little location is unseasonably wet and cold this year. Last week we had the longest day of the year and apart from a particularly pleasant April the weather so far has failed to deliver anything remotely resembling summer. Are we downhearted? You bet!

Still on the brighter side I managed to crawl onto a Westerly 22 the other day (not the one in the picture). 

Unfortunately she had been converted from Günter rig to that of a standard sloop.

Regular readers will know I am attracted to a Günter rig vessel largely because it makes mast handling very easy and as I am hoping to take whatever boat I purchase via canal from the English Channel to the Atlantic, a Günter seems a sensible solution.

This Westerly in particular was not for sale so the owner was refreshingly candid with me. He told me he had converted to a standard sloop rig several years ago, largely because it improved her sailing performance. According to this guy there are downsides to Günter which to date I have failed to appreciate. The first one is that because the mast is in two sections, the upper section being raised with the sail, you cannot fly a foresail from the top of the mast. At best you get what is called a fractional rig’ with a smaller than average jib. Not only can you not fly a large jib, but for the same reasons, your stays and shrouds cannot be rigged to full mast height either. The lack of height of the ‘permanent’ mast also means that you cannot rig backstays. Finally, I’m told that no matter how hard you pull on the halyard it is difficult to get the sail-carrying spar raised tight against the mast so despite your best efforts the top half of the sail is likely to sag to leeward, thus spoiling performance.

Out of that litany of drawbacks, the one that worries me the most is the absence of backstays. On a lake or river maybe but in any kind of a sea, you’ll have to put a good deal of faith in the rig design to keep the mast upright without backstays.

On the other hand though, I was completely charmed by the interior of the vessel. Its hard to describe, but essentially, because the cabin sides are taken right to the edges of the hull, you have a remarkably large cabin for a relatively small boat. There is even room for a sort of wooden bureau/bookcase with sliding Perspex doors above the cooker and sink – a really homely touch.

From the outside the Westerly 22 definitely looks ‘quirky’, the product of a single mind rather than a committee and certainly nothing like you would get from a designer concerned more about looks than performance.

I guess with a Westerly 22 you either love her or hate her. Susan, took one long look sighed and fell in love with her strange one-off whaleback shape, partly I suspect because the Westerly reminds you somehow of the modern sort of lifeboat carried on cruise ships. The impression I got was that she would be a safe steady but unexciting vessel. Maybe that’s what I need.

Anyway, on to other news. 

  • This morning I read John’s (The Unlikely Boat Builder) latest article on his blog and was completely blown away – he’s a very good writer, extremely knowledgeable, and his latest idea of telling the same story from his, and then his partner’s point of view, is excellent. Too many of us guys get off on the excitement, risk and adventure aspect of sailing that we fail to bring our partners with us. I have to say, I have been there, not with Susan fortunately but when this happens, us guys are the losers. So we can all learn a good deal from what John and his partner have to say.

  • Talking of partners, my  ‘Simple Sailing Low Cost Cruising’ owes a great deal to the time and support Susan give to it. I would love for her to add stuff from time to time but so far I have only mastered the technology enough to give her one page. So, her contribution at the moment cannot be archived – it’s good for one month only. Her current page therefore will stand down sometime next week to be replaced by new material for July – please visit her June page before it disappears, and the come back again next week.

  • Susan, won’t say this herself, so I’ll say it for her, she really is a great shipmate and an excellent sea cook – one of her recipes is to be featured in the Summer issue of Practical Boat Owner

  • Also new for July I’ll be posting a monthly boating quiz (with answers published at the end of each month). What’s that all about? Well, I’m learning about boats and the ways of the sea. Setting a monthly quiz helps me learn, it may be interesting for you – and if I get it wrong I can rely on you guys ( and galls) to draw my attention to it!