Former BA pilot Paul Jefferies swapped joystick for tiller to navigate the world at sea level, choosing a cutter built like a Panzer tank for the job...
What’s she like to sail?
Short-tacking Damarri down the Orwell felt as though I was at the helm of a cutter-rigged tug. Her long-keeled hull will not be thrown around easily. You do need to be thinking ahead to your next manoeuvre. It’s unusual to find a tiller on a boat of this size, but it’s a simple, robust and effective arrangement that gives more feedback through the helm than a wheel. She has eight berths, but you’d struggle to fit that many crew in the cockpit on passage.
Her high-cut Yankee jib and staysail don’t stop the helmsman from seeing what’s in front and the permanently rigged preventer is on hand to set up for long downwind passages.
‘She never buries her bow in a seaway,’ said Paul, and after 30,000 miles he should know. Her heavy displacement gives her a slow, easy motion in a swell, but the hull’s relatively low form stability can make her rolly downwind.
Her deck-stepped mast has steps: useful for eyeballing shoal patches in clear water, not to mention servicing the rig. The mast has two pairs of spreaders and one set of jumper struts, a fairly straightforward arrangement, in an effort to reduce windage. She has two-line mainsail reefing: ‘Single-line reefing creates too much drag,’ said Paul. ‘There is still some friction even with this system.’
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
There’s ample space and stowage in her deep, capacious hull for a cruising couple to live aboard long-term, in comfort. The accommodation is devised by a mariner, not a design guru, and will still look classic in 10 years’ time when today’s trendy yacht interiors seem dated.
A full long keel is never easy to manoeuvre in marinas. She’s no exception, although she carries enough way for a skilled skipper to get into most berths. It wouldn’t be hard to fit a bow thruster
in her immersed forefoot.
By contrast, she’s very well set up for anchoring and swinging moorings. There’s no bathing platform or sun-lounger, but the pilothouse gives a front row seat on the world, sheltered from the elements. The long, boxy coachroof has its advantages, too. An inflated RIB, stowed upside-down, fits snugly on its forward end.
Would she suit you and your crew?
This is the proverbial ‘bulletproof’ boat that can go anywhere, and has been almost everywhere. She’s comfortable at sea, easily crewed by a couple and can be relied upon to keep an adventurous family safe and secure when it cuts up rough. Damarri is over-engineered, even by Ebbtide standards: her transom-hung rudder, is designed to be hung off four straps, but Paul fitted five.
She’s great for slamming through North Sea chop in mid-winter, but a boat like this is overkill for pottering along the coast in fair weather. On passage, she can notch up a good day’s run under sail, but you wouldn’t buy her for boatspeed or pure sailing sensations. She needs a breeze to pick up her skirts and her wide tacking angle would be frustrating for tacking your way down-Channel against a fresh westerly. That said, there are few better boats in which to be caught out in a gale, or facing a nasty patch of overfalls.
Six feet of draught is moderate for a purpose-built 40ft ocean rover, but deep enough for most people to rule her out as a creek-crawler. On the plus side, her long keel provides a good, robust base on which to dry her out alongside a quay.