Graham Reed takes Dick Durham on an inland sea cruise from ancient Wareham through Poole Harbour
What’s she like to sail?
It’s a bit like sailing a flat iron, although she is tenderish and quick to dip over. Being tiller steered with an extension she has a dinghy-like feel. Her mainsheet is anchored in the centre of the cockpit sole with a four-part block system attached to a stainless steel horse over the companionway. All setting sail and trimming can be handled from helm. You raise the centreboard as you would in a dinghy. There’s a limit to her performance in shallows as the rudder has to lift up eventually, and when the blade becomes as long as the tiller the helm gets heavy. Graham carries a spare tiller in case his original breaks, being mindful of a Parker 27 that broke her rudder when there was too much leverage for the conditions.
The Super Seal 26 is a 7/8 fractional sloop rig on a deck stepped, single-spreader mast with the cap shroud ending at the top of the forestay with an adjustable backstay.
‘I’ve never felt unsafe except in a short, sharp steep sea when she takes off from a wave and slams,’ said Graham.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
The beauty of this boat is that when the going gets tough you can beach her – and that’s exactly what Graham does if he has to. ‘If heavy weather sets in I can take her into the shallows, where there is precious little sea, and dry her out. I did just that in Tresco and Bryher when I was cruising the Isles of Scilly – while other boats were bouncing like mad on their moorings.’ When he sailed into Carteret a crewman said: ‘The chart says it’s grass in there.’ To which Graham replied: ‘That’s fine, she’ll sail on grass.’
The accommodation is tight and would only suit a family while the children are young, before they demand their own space. Some sailors, no doubt, will find her claustrophobic.
She has no dedicated space for navigation, so preparation is the key for passage planning. It pays the offshore sailor of the Super Seal 26 to lay charts out at home or in the pub and draw off course lines before setting sail.
Would she suit you and your crew?
Because of her shallow draught she can be moored on the cheaper swinging moorings of any harbour and therefore save cash.
A better colour for the decks would be duck egg blue, as I found the glare from white decks too much to handle.
Following a collision with a speedboat that rammed the stern of a Sadler 25 Graham was sailing, he realised how easy it would have been for her to sink. So in his Super Seal 26 he has built a water-tight bulkhead 18 inches from the transom. ‘It will give me a bit more time to beach her should disaster strike.’ A sensible option. Pity Graham wasn’t there when the boat was being drawn.
Original Super Seal 26s are fitted with a 9.9hp outboard on rails so it can be lifted out of the water when sailing. A fairing plug was then fitted in the hole to smooth the water flow. ‘After about 20 years the engine had become a nuisance,’ says Graham. ‘It was, noisy in the cockpit and choked itself to death if left running while not moving. It would need a minimum 15 gallons of petrol to motor across the Channel. On the plus side, if you ever got something wrapped around the prop you could simply pull it up, clear the prop and be on your way again in minutes!
‘I have sailed 26,000 miles in this little boat in 25 years and – on the whole – it’s been good fun,’ says a delighted Graham.