Monday, 24 September 2012

Westerly Nomad, Westerly Centaur

Westerly Nomad, Westerly Centaur

New Recipe Page for September - see 'A view from the galley'

So, this weekend we took an expedition to the remote and obscure regions of Normandy to see a guy called Michael, an Englishman who has settled here and who has a Westerly Nomad for sale.

I have been attracted to the Westerly range of Sailing boats for some time but was disappointed recently when I inspected a Westerly Centaur, the most famous of the Westerly range. Let me not be misunderstood here, she was a lovely boat and I can easily appreciate why they sold in such huge numbers in the 1970s and 1980’s – a solid more seaworthy boat you could not hope to encounter – but for me, she was just too large. There is a balance I guess between comfort which frequently comes with size, and easy handling and maintenance which comes with a lack of size. At 26ft the Centaur was just on the wrong side of the equation. With a Centaur, I felt I would need use of a crane every time I wanted to lower the mast (and I do want to lower the mast easily to make use of the canal). I loved the centaur but she was not for me.

Then I heard about the Westerly 22ft, the first boat that the designer Commander Raynor put in production. A strange quirky looking vessel that wouldn’t appeal to many people today, but Susan fell in love with her unusual shape and the heaviness of her build. I liked the Gunter rig and the fact that she had Atlantic crossing under her belt.

But then I heard about the Nomad – varying reports – Michael, another Michael, who often comments on these scribblings told me he’d had one and wouldn’t purchase another – Michael however, likes speed. Another web site is actually dedicated to them and there is a Yahoo group specifically for Nomad owners. They delight in the vessel and wax lyrical about her accommodation, her heavy build and safety record. Elsewhere on the net, someone commented that she was ‘built like a tank – but sails ----- like a tank!’

So, what to make of a Nomad? Well, they have an international following and there are several examples in the USA as well as UK, but in France, she is a rare boat indeed.

But by pure chance I heard of the Englishman trying to sell one in Normandy, a two hour drive from my home in Plouer Sur Rance Brittany. If nothing else, a trip to see her would make for a pleasant day out. So, armed with a good map and a couple of sailing friends (whose role it was to take a dispassionate view and point out the downsides), we set off from Plouer for a somewhat obscure farm in Normandy.

At Avranche just across the border we stopped for lunch at the Restaurant de la Post and the four of us enjoyed a three course lunch with wine and coffee for about 60 euros total (£50ish ?). Normandy is famous for chicken in cream, and apple deserts with wafter thin pastry. Guess what – we had chicken in cream, and apple deserts with wafter thin pastry, a pleasant change from the Sausage pancakes of Brittany.

After lunch we climbed through heavily wooded deep cut valleys until we reached Michael’s place 1,200 above sea level and at least 80 miles from the sea. Strange location for a boat and her skipper. Michael, explained that he’d bought this place after falling in love with it on a holiday. Only when he took the plunge and moved in had he realised the altitude.

So, here was the boat – pretty much as I had expected, sitting on a large road trailer and looking pretty sad. Having crawled all over her however, it became clear that she was sound albeit cosmetically sad. Two things impressed me:

  1. the cabin accommodation is enormous, there are no side decks and the cabin is stretched almost all the way to the bow.

  1. She has a charcoal burning stove inside her – immediate fantasy pictures of late autumn living aboard and cruising the canal in real comfort.

As for Susan, well she was cold – dressed for a lunch in a restaurant rather than clambering about an old wet boat in such an exposed location – but guess what – she loved her. It’s that quirky whaleback shape and turned up nose that did it. So, this Nomad is a serious contender. 


So what did you think of her Jack?      'Rough'!

 Any thoughts anyone .....before I jump?