Monday, 11 November 2013

Sailing a Cornish Shrimper

Regular readers will know that the purpose of these pages is to explore the possibilities of getting on the water for less money. My own endeavours towards this goal have been centred in the renovation of a 1960s GRP sailing cruiser – a Westerly Nomad. Its taking a lot of time, much more than I envisaged, but there again ‘time’ is something I’ve got. Money, I have less of it.

Before I focused on the Westerly Nomad I had been very interested in Cornish Shrimpers. In the end I gave
up the search. Shrimpers are very expensive to purchase new and they keep their second hand prices. They are very attractive boats, tan sails and somewhat ‘retro’ looking, but with a reputation for seaworthiness and a reasonable turn of speed. A friend bought one recently – she had been lying neglected for several years in a local marina and looked pretty bad. He made a reasonable offer based on what a similar boat in good condition could command – minus the costs he might incur in bringing her back to good order. His offer was accepted and he hitched the boat to the car and drove her home. Fortunately it was a short journey.

The following day was spent replacing hub bearings on the trailer and then he began to work through the inventory of fittings, gear and equipment. The more he inspected the happier he became. In fact by the end of the day, despite stains and dirt, the faded colour on the hull and decks and cobwebs on the engine, he decided all her problems were cosmetic. She could be launched and sailed immediately. All this is a rather long-winded way of saying that I spent a couple of days last week, rigging, launching, sailing and recovering a Cornish Shrimper.

Rigging and raising the mast took a morning. Much of the time was spent reading the handbook and finding the relevant parts in the jumble of gear. Next time, we could get that time down to less than one hour. Launching, using the Shrimper’s break-back trailer took ten minutes. The inboard engine fired first time and we were away. The wind on the estuary was light force two at best, but with all sail set the Shrimper performed well, slight heal, hint of weather helm, enough power to tack without effort and a feeling that she was a bigger boat than the mere 19ft hull length. The cockpit was spacious for the two of us (and we aren't small guys!). The angle of heal barely changed with both of us sitting to leeward. She certainly felt like a real boat – not a dinghy.

The following day we set out in a force three which increased to a four that was pushing a five on our return. Under these conditions she behaved as impeccably as before. Across the wind with all sail set she was over-pressed but the angle of heal wasn’t alarming and the weather-helm was handleable. With reef in her, she maintained the same speed and tramped along without a care in the world. Sailing the Shrimper was safe, satisfying and exciting. The downside was the diminutive size of the cabin. A one-burner stove, sleeping accommodation for two, with a centerboard casing between you and not much else – it is possible to purchase a cockpit tent however, and this would make a huge difference to comfort if you wanted to use her as a weekender.

With her lifting centerboard, retractable rudder and shallow draft, recovering the Shrimper was easy and
quick. She sits low on the trailer too so I’d have no worries about taking her on reasonably long trips for a change of cruising scenery now and again. All in all, this boat would fit the bill in most aspects of ‘simple sailing low cost cruising’ except her second hand price which is usually quite high.

The one I sailed was bought for a very low price because of her apparent condition which turned out to be much better than expected. So how much work /money will be required to bring her back to excellent condition? Well, to date, the price of a set of hub bearings for the trailer. Later there will be one or two shackles and bolts to replace. These will cost pence. The Shrimper, despite her high price is fitted with galvanised fittings (in keeping with her traditional looks). Galvanised parts are usually half the price of stainless steel. Finally the mast and bowsprit need stripping cleaning and re-varnishing – the cost of a bottle of Oxalic Acid and a tin of varnish. . It’s comforting to know that cheap boats are there to be found if you look long and hard enough AND sometimes maybe sometimes they won’t need as much restoration as you might imagine.