Embarking On Big Adventures On Small Boats !

Credit: Discover Boating
  • What are the smallest boats sailors consider for crossing an ocean?
  • For ‘micro yacht’ voyagers, there’s no limit.
  • Let’s find out about the tiny vessels at sea.

Often the smallest boats to cross oceans look much like a child’s crayon picture of a little boat on a big sea, certainly Yann Quenet’s Baluchon does. Baluchon is only 13ft 1in (4m long), with one simple sail and a stubby, blunt-nosed hull painted cherry red and ice cream white.

Getting Even Smaller

The history of sailing across oceans in the smallest boats is a surprisingly long one. With a few exceptions (of which more later), it is not about breaking records. This is about stripping away everything complex and extraneous – including other people. One of the most famous small boat voyages was nearly 70 years ago when Patrick Elam and Colin Mudie made several ocean passages in Sopranino, which was only 17ft 9in (5.4m) on the waterline. Elam observed: “I would not pretend that Sopranino is the optimum size. At sea she is near perfect, but could with advantage be a few inches longer…” 

Also in the 1950s, John Guzzwell consulted Jack Giles about the smallest boat practical to sail around the world and Giles drew the 20ft 6in (6.2m) Trekka, which Guzzwell built and circumnavigated in twice. In 1987, Serge Testa beat that by sailing round the world in his self-designed 11ft 10in (3.6m) aluminum sloop, Acrohc Australis. He broke the record for the smallest yacht to be sailed round the world, one that is still standing 35 years later.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the small boat community attracts a mixture of adventurers, inventors, idealists and eccentrics. One of the less successful was the self-styled ‘Admiral Dinghy’, a former Hollywood B-movie star and retired dance teacher from the US whose longtime aim was to sail round the world in a 9ft 11in (3m) boat. 

Living Legend

Someone who has, numerous times, is Sven Yrvind. A Swedish sailor and boatbuilder, now aged 83, he has been designing and sailing tiny yachts for more than 60 years. He built his first tiny open boat in 1962, and decades of experimentation and voyaging followed. In 1969, he built a 15ft 7in (4.2m) boat and sailed to Ireland. In 1971, he built his first Bris (or Breeze) in his mother’s basement, its size dictated by the dimensions of the cellar and the door it would have to be taken out through. He sailed this 19ft 8in (6m) cold moulded epoxy double-ender across the Atlantic seven times in four years and went as far as Argentina and Tristan da Cunha.

Over the decades, Yrvind (his birth surname was Lundin but he changed it to the Swedish term for a turbulent wind) has continually experimented with tiny yachts. In 1986, he built a 15ft 8in (5.76m) double-ender and sailed it to Newfoundland. Right now, he is working on Exlex Minor, a glass fibre sailing canoe design of 20ft 4in (6.2m) which he intends to sail around Cape Horn to Valdivia in Chile. 

Yrvind’s way of life divides opinion. Many casual followers think his choice of yacht slightly mad, but the tiny boat community reveres him as a living legend. To him, it just makes plain sense. 

Small Boats, Small Problems

The micro-voyagers seem to share a different way of looking at the world, a can-do attitude galvanized by their repudiations. “Human beings are very adaptable,” says Sven Yrvind. “Lawrence of Arabia lived simply in the desert and said wine takes away the taste of water. It is the same with comfort…” 

Returning after 31,000 miles and 360 days under sail in his little yacht, Yann Quenet insists that a small boat is the best. “Small boats equals small problems. When there is no engine, there is nothing to go wrong, just a simple boat that is simple to sail.” Andrew Bedwell explains how he gradually dismissed fripperies. “I’d had plusher boats, but hated it – all the cushions and wiring hidden behind panels. It’s just not me. I kept coming back to the simple things.” 

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Source: Yatchingworld



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