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Two Small Cruisers
Designs by Jay R. Benford and Iain Oughtred
Commentary by Mike O'Brien
ack in 1976, Jay Benford sat down at his draw-
ing table to design a small cruiser for Dick
Wagner, creator and driving force behind The
Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle. The result of
Benford's labor, a preliminary study for an 18-foot cen-
terboard canoe yawl, was published in the young
designer's catalog. Its evocative sail plan soon was
pinned to the walls of more than one boatshop along
the coast. But, for various reasons, the little packet
never was built.
Fortunately for posterity, the designer himself was
taken with the personality of his proposed double-
ender, and he set to work on plans for a similar boat
drawn to his own parameters. He increased the draft
and the freeboard in an effort to provide sitting
headroom below and to make "a better all-around
Fooling with designs that were right the first time
can be a tricky business, but Benford seasoned the
broth without spoiling the flavor. He kept the house
that he had worked into the staved coaming on the
original drawings. Today we tend to associate this
arrangement with catboats, but the device was alto-
gether common on a variety of types during the last
century. It provides a continuity of line that seems to
permit greater cabin heights without causing visual
offense. Hiding the coaming behind substantial bul-
warks helps — as does keeping the house out of the
bows. (Sleeping crew members don't require full sit-
ting headroom over their feet.) lota's relatively great
beam and bold sheer also allow her to carry the
increased height with dignity.
The first boats built to this design were constructed
of ferrocement. Those of us who have been around the
waterfront for more than a few years can remember
when this late, and unlamented, medium was hailed
by a number of promoters as being something akin to
the Second Coming. Ferrocement boats were said to
require meager skills from their builders, to cost little,
and to be virtually impervious to any harm contem-
plated by man or nature. But usually they didn't, they
didn't, and they weren't. Benford, to his credit, raised
one of the few voices of reason from the "concrete
boat" community. He detailed realistic expenses and
expectations. As a result, his ferrocement canoe yawls
were well faired and fared well.
In 1987, Benford redrew Iota for cold-molded
wood/epoxy construction. The new drawings specify
an inner layer of %-inch by %-inch red cedar strip plank-
ing covered by two layers of diagonally laid Vs-inch
red cedar veneer. In yet another revision, not shown
here, the rudder stock was moved to a vertical posi-
tion just forward of Station 7. This change simplifies
the arrangement of the mizzen maststep.
In addition to these modifications, the designer has
experimented with different sail plans for this hull: a
260-square-foot cat rig (shown with a small headsail,
and sometimes referred to as a "cat-sloop" nowadays);
a gaff cutter (260 square feet); and a ketch boasting 280
square feet of Dacron. That's a lot of horsepower for
a boat only 18 feet on deck, but she's a big 18 feet: 4,200
By the way, the ketch rig is shown atop a short-
keeled version of the hull. The original 233-square-
foot yawl rig would be my choice both aesthetically
and technically, as it offers superior control and ease
Many boats have come from Jay Benford's board
since Iota was conceived, yet she remains one of his
favorites. Considering the love/hate relationship that
most artists have with their early work, her design-
er's loyalty constitutes high praise for this likable yawl.
Two Small Cruisers
hile Iain Oughtred was in residence at
WoodenBoat magazine, discussions devel-
oped about creating plans for an able cruis-
ing boat that would be suitable for trailering and
amateur construction. The transplanted Australian
designer began working up some preliminary stud-
ies. As the sketches evolved, they displayed his admi-
ration for Norwegian small craft. Well aware of the
dangers involved in tampering with respected tradi-
tional types, Oughtred forged ahead, admitting sim-
ply, "I can't help it!"
Gray Seal represents a subtle, and we think suc-
cessful, blend of Scandinavian characteristics. The
designer sees this boat not as a miniature of a larger
yacht, but rather as "what a faering builder might do
if he wanted cruising accommodations." At any rate,
the little cruiser shows a strong sheer and buoyant
hull. She'll not be overwhelmed easily.
The plans call for epoxy-glued plywood lapstrake
construction — a method that Oughtred has specified
for several smaller pulling boats and canoes. Gray
Seal's hull will be light, strong, and handsome, but
only the very highest-quality plywood ought to be
used. Common construction grades should be dis-
missed out of hand, and ordinary fir marine plywood
won't be satisfactory — unless you find panels supe-
rior to any I've seen during the last two decades.
Bruynzeel or an equivalent, if it has an equivalent,
would be the way to go. This method of building
pushes plywood to its limits in terms of potential expo-
sure to damage, and it demands the best.
Having satisfied the original design criteria with a
shoal-draft keel/centerboard hull powered by a snug
gunter rig, Oughtred set out to draw a full-keeled ver-
sion of Gray Seal driven by a fractional marconi rig. 1
The deeper hull will be quite striking. In the design-1
er's words, "She'll look rather like a small, double-!
ended Folkboat; not at all, as I first feared, like a shallow!
hull with a keel stuck on."
The gunter rig can be used with either hull, but the'
designer suggests that the tall marconi rig not be mated
with the keel/centerboard hull. My choice would be
for the simplicity of the full-keeled hull under the secu-
rity (short mast) of the gunter rig. Certainly, the full
keel will render Gray Seal less roadworthy, but I have
difficulty considering any boat of this size (displace-
ment, that is) truly trailerable. As may be, people are
out there on the Interstate every weekend dragging
heavier packages. And the merits of trailering your
boat home for the winter, or on an occasional over-
land sojourn, are pleasant to contemplate.
Oughtred has drawn several interior arrangements
for Gray Seal. Some of the accommodations include
quarter berths, and one arrangement shows an enclosed
head. (I trust nobody expects anything resembling real
privacy aboard a pocket cruiser.) The simple, tradi-
tional two-berth-forward plan will be the easiest to
build, and the friendliest to use. Perhaps that explains
why it is traditional.
Iota's plans are available from Jay R. Benford, P.O. Box
447, St. Michaels, MD 21663.
Gray Seal's plans can be ordered from The WoodenBoat
Store, P.O. Box 78, Brooklin, ME 04616; 800-273-7447.
Iain Oughtred can be contacted at Altyre Stables, Forres,
Moray IV36 OSH, Scotland.
— 60 —
Displ 4,200 lbs
Sail area 233 sq ft
Jay Benford's sail plan
for an 18-foot center-
board canoe (above)
inspired many builders,
but her plans remain
incomplete. The finished
drawings (below) show
the full-keeled lota.
lain Oughtred drew
Gray Seal as a keel/
centerboarder and as a
full-keeled cruiser. The
latter (above) suggests
a small, double-ended
— 62 —
Draft (cb up) 2'3"
Draft (keelboat) 3'5"
Displ (cb boat) 3,800 lbs
Displ (keelboat) 3,900 lbs
(marconi rig) 245 sq ft
(gunter rig) 265 sq ft
Oughtred's drawings for
the keel/centerboard ver-
sion of Gray Seal reveal
her simple lines, simple
epoxy-glued plywood lap-
A Simple Pocket Cruiser
— Design by S.S. Crocker —
Commentary by Joel White
have a theory, difficult to prove but intriguing to
think about, that the best yacht designers are able
to instill some of their character traits into their
designs. Nat Herreshoff, genius designer, workaholic,
a demon for speed, turned out a huge body of work,
meticulously designed and crafted, fast and long-lived.
His son, L. Francis, was inventive, eccentric, a lover
of beauty and simplicity; he produced a number of
beautiful and simple yachts as well as some that were
more inventive than beautiful. John Alden, ardent racer
and deepwater sailor, took the fisherman-type
schooner and modified the design into offshore yachts
that were simple, strong, and economically appealing
to the yachtsmen of the Depression years.
I am sorry that I never knew S.S. (Sam) Crocker, but
over the years I have come to know a number of his
boats. I have built two boats to his design, and have
stored and maintained several others in my boatyard.
If my theory is correct, Sam Crocker must have been
a practical, sensible man, one who enjoyed comfort
and rugged good looks, a man who preferred sim-
plicity to extravagance. He was a cruiser rather than
a racer, a man well versed in practical yacht con-
struction with a good knowledge of what makes a boat
In 1967, I was privileged to build the little sloop
shown here for a rather special client. I had a great
deal of enjoyment with the project, and the client
enjoyed a great little boat for many years.
If you have studied Sam Manning's fine drawings
for the "Anatomy of a Wooden Boat" in the tenth
anniversary issue of WoodenBoat magazine (WB No.
60), you were looking at perspectives of this boat, Sallee
Rover. Crocker designed her as a yawl in 1953; later,
in 1955, a sloop-rigged version was drawn. It was this
sloop-rigged design that I built in 1967.
Perhaps more than any other boat in my harbor, she
is admired for her good looks; people are always inquir-
ing about the origins of this sloop named Martha. I can
see her now out of my drafting-room window, look-
ing extremely jaunty with her dark green topsides, red
bottom, white top strake and cabin sides. Her spars
and deck are painted a fisherman buff, and her trail-
boards have three leaping dolphins picked out in gold
leaf. The only varnished item on the boat is her oak
As you can see from her lines plan, the hull is of
shallow draft and wide beam, sort of a cross between
a catboat and a Muscongus Bay sloop. To me, she is
prettier than either one, more delicate than the chunky
cat, more graceful than the Muscongus sloop. The large
outboard rudder hangs on a well-raked transom, and
the deadwood just forward of the rudder is cut away
for the propeller of the 8-hp single-cylinder Palmer
Baby Husky engine installed under the big hatch in
the cockpit floor. This power plant is perfectly suited
to the character of the boat, driving her easily and eco-
nomically, and producing a wonderful, old-fashioned
"putt-putt" exhaust out the stern. The round-fronted
cabin trunk goes well with the clipper bow profile and
the strong sheerline. The general appearance is of husk-
iness and grace, an eyecatching little boat. Only a naval
architect knows how difficult this is to achieve on such
a small boat. Crocker deserves high marks for this
I might as well confess right away that we made a
few changes when we built her. To give a wider deck
and make it easier to go forward to gaff the mooring
or to furl the jib, the cabin sides were moved inboard
about 3 inches. The top of the stern was given a high
arch above the deck crown, the tiller brought through
it above the deck, and the coamings carried aft to join
A Simple Pocket Cruiser
the stern as in a Herreshoff 12y2-footer. I think this
made her even prettier. A boom gallows was added to
eliminate the need for a boom crutch and to give a
good handhold aft.
Rugged is the best description of her construction.
For example, the keel is 7-inch by 9-inch oak! The stem
is sided 4/4 inches and molded about 8 inches — all
this on a boat only 20 feet overall. What Crocker has
done has been to incorporate much of the ballast
needed into the backbone structure of the boat. A keel
entirely of oak is cheaper than one having a specially
cast chunk of lead or iron ballast attached to it. This
boat has no outside ballast at all, which simplifies the
The heavy construction continues with 1-inch cedar
planking over 1 '/i-inch-square bent-oak frames on 9-
inch centers and 1 /4-inch-thick oak floor timbers. All
of this weight is pretty low in the boat where it will
improve stability as well as strength. The deck, of 1/4-
inch plywood covered with Dynel and epoxy over oak
beams, is of normal weight. She is tremendously strong
and should last a long, long time. About 700 pounds
of lead ballast stored under the floorboards abreast
the centerboard trunk brings her down to her lines,
and together with the heavy backbone and wide beam
makes her a stiff boat in a breeze.
Below, the cabin is split in two by the centerboard
trunk, which runs from the cockpit almost to the mast.
A low seat/bunk on each side allows the boat to he
used for overnight cruising for two. Forward of the
mast, a raised platform permits stowage, both under
it and on top. There are no toilet or galley facilities.
The rig, a low marconi mainsail with self-tending
jib, and a total area of 218 square feet looks a bit stumpy
on paper, but to my eye appears just right on the
actual boat. She is certainly no light-air flyer, but sails
well in moderate and strong winds, giving one the
feeling of being on a boat much longer than 20 feet.
For the owner's convenience, we arranged to lead
the halyards aft so they can be handled from the cock-
pit. Her original sails were tanbarked canvas, which
looked wonderful, but her second suit of white Dacron
proved easier to handle and longer lasting.
I have another theory, one which I think can be
proved, that good-looking boats last longer than plain
ones. The boat that gives one pleasure merely to look
at it is a great joy, evoking favorable comment from
others. This fills the owner with pride, causing him to
take extra care with the boat's appearance. More atten-
tion is paid to a handsome craft by everyone involved
in her care, whether owner or paid professional; her
paint and varnish are better kept, dirt and grime are
washed away, problems are dealt with as soon as they
appear. Such a boat will last much longer than the
homely and less-loved craft on the next mooring. I sus-
pect Mr. Crocker knew this to be true; certainly he
designed attractive boats, and many of them have aged
Plans for the 19-foot 9-inch Sallee/Rover are available from
The WoodenBoat Store, P.O. Box 78, Brooklin, ME 04616;
Particulars, Sallee Rover
Draft (cb up) TO"
Draft (cb down) 3'10"
218 sq ft
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