The bare carved hull of 'Owl' was given to me some 40 years ago. I was told that it had been carved by a boatbuilder in Milford Haven in 1875 and - certainly - that date was pencilled inside. The story goes that several boats like this were actually completed, intended for racing around Milford Dock area. I saw a photograph of a similar craft and made what notes I could at the time. I made some progress with it at the time but it got put to one side and forgotten about under a welter of work on my main interest of railways. But recently I unearthed it and it has now had enough done, and temporarily put together, to get some impression of how it looked.

The hull is 42" long and the appearance is very 'semiscale' It has a very long deep lead keel and there was no indication that a rudder was fitted. I fitted one in keeping with hunch more than science. It has overtones of a Bristol Pilot Cutter and I have tried to stick to that. As it looks such a typical pond yacht, I did wonder if it had been commercially carved. But, so far, I have not been able to find anything similar in Model Dockyard catalogues and the like. .. PJ


Russell Pott's reply: Owl might be built to the '1730' Tonnage Rule.

I have done the sums and she comes out as rating 14.45. This is sufficiently close to the 15 Ton limit (especially bearing in mind that we are using an estimated waterline) for her very probably to have been built as a 15 Tonner to the '1730' Rule. Her weight is in the right ball park for a 15T also. If she is a 15T, her date of 1875 is suspect, because the Rule dates from 1881-87 and was not immediately taken up by modellers. The fact that she appears to fit the Rule does not absolutely rule out an earlier date, but makes it fairly unlikely.

If she is a 15 Tonner she may well date from a good bit later than the brief life of the Rule for full size yachts. See the exposition on the web site. This also gives you some idea of the style of sail plan that she would have carried. The actual sizes in the illustration on the site relate to a 10 Tonner of course.

I think that this is as far as I can go in identifying the boat. Almost certainly she would have had no rudder, or a series of weighted rudders. In any case the style of tiller that you have given her would not have been used on a practical model.

Follow up by Owner

I am pleased to report that the Good Ship Owl has sailed. Perfect conditions in a nearby Haven, combined with an unexpected volunteer to help me, brought the occasion forward.

Conditions were fairly flat but with a very stiff breeze - force 5 I would guess. The sails were still the 'temporary' ones and, as you see, had a fairly horrible set to them. The rudimentary tiller was still in place but the rudder had been removed.

In the conditions, the performance was excellent. Owl is much more tender than I would have imagined - she certainly couldn't have carried a tops'l. If such had been available I would have reefed the mains'l. As it was, I had to leave it fairly slack. Sailed really hard, it becomes a flat plank virtually planing on the water. But I didn't think those light sails would take it so I quickly backed off.

It sails very well without a rudder, the angle across or into the wind was accurately determined by how tightly the boom was sheeted in.

Because the stiff wind was directly offshore, I didn't feel inclined to see how it ran directly before the wind.

My guesstimate of the waterline wasn't far out except that it sits up at the bow a little. I wondered if there might have been something wrong about this.. but when she is moving well, there is a slight tendency to bury the bow. So I would say, overall, the design was well thought out.

I confess I feel more inclined now to find some suitable traditional but tough material and then try and find someone to make a proper suit of sails... and -erhm.. well.. yes... perhaps I might sail it occasionally after all.

But I shall need to make a wheeled trolley. It sure is a backbreaker to carry down the sand and then wade into the water


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