Our blogger Jonty Pearce explains how he found Aurial, the boat of his dreams


I was amused to read an advert by Berthon for a Southerly 110 which suggested that the yacht came ‘from the wizards of variable draft, with a Tardis like interior, the Swiss army knife of boats’. Although first amused by this journalistic flight of fancy that stood out from the usual dry brokers description, I mused that in fact these were the very attributes of the Southerly line that caught our own attention to the extent that a purchase ensued.

Our ‘starter boat’ was a 1979 E-boat – a 22′ pocket rocket with flat decks, no headroom, and an inaccessible chemical toilet under the fore cabin double berth. However, with a lifting keel, she could explore shallow water and was trailable. Forget, however, the advertising brochures suggesting that you could tow this 1 ton boat with a car the size of a mini to the slipway and have her launched and rigged within an hour. No, including the rigging it took us half a day to either launch or retrieve her, and I was glad to be strong and healthy in order to do so. She therefore stayed in the water all season, initially living on a mud berth at Neyland Marina before we were allocated a permanent berth – pretending to be a ‘proper yacht’.

We loved her – it gave us a chance to ensure that we enjoyed sailing together and were compatible afloat. Carol had wanted to learn to sail and make her initial mistakes on her own boat, and the E-boat’s ease of handling and responsiveness was a boon. She was also no slouch, and we regularly embarrassed yachts half our length again. She endeared herself to us with her ability to creek crawl with the keel raised, drawing only 10″ of water before drying out flat in our West Wales harbours.

But, she was small, and I am large. The rot set in on a pontoon in the Teifi estuary when we got talking to the owner of a Macwester Malin moored behind us. The weather was foul and the forecast worse, and we were penned up in our tiny cabin with the perspex washboard window misting up. Bryon took pity on us, and before we knew it we were sipping coffee in the sheltered comfort of his deckhouse, looking out at the view of the pouring rain – and he had even been able to stand up while boiling the kettle!

I think that many of us, as we get older, sell the small bivouac tents that we snuggled into after scrambling up Snowdon, and end up buying a Volkswagen Camper for the space and comfort. It is no joy to spend a wet Welsh weekend cooped up in a small area, and this demonstration of ‘glamping’ afloat on that Cardigan pontoon drew us to the idea of perusing yachting adverts for a larger boat.

And so, in the end, we found Aurial, a 35′ Southerly 105 ketch just within our limited budget. Carol always wanted light and big windows – tick. Deck Saloon – tick, sort of. Comfort and space – tick. Lifting keel – tick. Ketch – wonderful, tick. Headroom – tick. Proper heads and galley – tick. Floating caravan – tick. Sailing ability – at that time, unknown, but presumed adequate. She needed a moderate amount of rejuvenation and upgrading to our specifications, but on our first sail she sparkled and impressed us with her performance. Just as well, really – we had never sailed a Southerly before and had relied solely on reports.

And gladly, she meets our every dream. While I am under no illusions that there are other yachts that are faster, more seaworthy, or better able to cut through a choppy sea to windward, Aurial’s versatility and comfort delights us. There are only a handful of yachts that can float in 2’4″ yet boast a full draught of 6’8″ with the ability to dry out flat whilst accommodating six in spacious comfort, and have the benefits of a ketch rig and a good sailing manners. And I’m afraid it does sometimes amuse us to enter a haven over a shallow bar with our keel raised before watching a yacht who, not having properly calculated the depth, assumes that it is safe to follow the large ketch ahead of them.

The puzzled looks from fellow water users who know the shallow depth yet see our sizeable yacht manoeuvring where they think we should be aground is a common sight to us. But Aurial is no mere creek crawler – we have cruised the whole wild west coast of Wales through boisterous conditions with a feeling of total safety. A Swiss army knife of yachts? Definitely.

– Jonty Pearce