Dale Davenport buys a Geoff Kerr Caledonia Yawl hull and tells how
he then fitted her out and rigged her. Click on the photos to enlarge
interest in both boats and woodworking led me years ago to subscribe
to WoodenBoat magazine. The "Designs" article on the Caledonia
Yawl (CY) around 1992 caught my eye. A few years later a photograph
in the magazine of Oughtred's MacGregor sailing canoe captivated me
so much that I ordered plans and built the decked, single-masted version
for one of my children. Then I built a CLC Chesapeake kayak with the
trimaran sail rig for my other child.
mid-1999 I saw in an ad for that year's WoodenBoat show that builder
Geoff Kerr of upstate Vermont would be exhibiting his CY. I couldn't
attend the show, but later that summer I got the chance to visit Geoff's
2 Daughters Boatworks shop in Westford and see a Caledonia Yawl for
myself. Then in the fall of that year I took a ride in Geoff's own CY
during the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival at St. Michaels, Maryland.
Geoff and I discussed that day the possibility of him building a hull
for me to complete.
By the spring of 2001, it was time to get my own boat and the choice
of design was easy. The Caledonia Yawl had no single characteristic
that wasn't bettered in some other design I had seen. But no other craft
I had come across had a combination of features better suited to my
type of sailing. I liked the fact that it is tough, beachable, light
for transport, can be slept on, carries a lot of stuff, will take an
outboard motor, and sails well.
Geoff and I struck a deal. He would build a hull of half-inch material
including stems and keel, centerboard trunk and floors. I would take
delivery in Vermont in October and bring it back to my home in Virginia
on a trailer he would provide. He would assist me with email and telephone
support while I completed the hull.
out a purchased hull appealed to me for several reasons. First was the
time\money ratio. I didn't have enough time to build the whole thing,
and I didn't have enough money to buy it. Plus, buying a hull was more
efficient and I simply felt it made sense. After all, Geoff already
had the building jig, and I knew from my MacGregor experience that the
jig alone would require at least fifty hours of my time. He could make
some profit spending far fewer hours than it would take me. I could
use the limited hours available to me shaping pieces of wood that would
actually be part of the finished product. Further, I don't even have
the space to build a CY hull. Lastly, I really didn't want to repeat
the jig and hull building experience of the MacGregor on an eight-fold
On the other hand, figuring out the myriad details of the interior,
rig and steering of the open two-master did interest me a great deal.
Knowing I would have the hull in my garage around Halloween, I started
in May building the rest of the parts, beginning with the rudder. I
had promised myself I wouldn't succumb to paying for the best in materials
and fittings. To economize I used up small pieces of 3 and 4 mm Bruynzeel
left from my earlier projects for the inside of the rudder case and
my larger leftovers of the same thicknesses for the blade. I had a huge
piece of solid mahogany on hand, so when my small marine plywood supply
was exhausted, I sliced up the real stuff to ensure stability and glued
together a mosaic. I counted seventy pieces of wood in the finished
rudder. I took the advice of the design reviewer in the old magazine
article and beefed up the rudder case in terms of thickness.
sewn camping gear since my college days, I turned to Sailrite for my
sails, as I had done on my earlier boats. Their CAD kits provide pre-cut
panels and all other items together with good instructions at a price
that is little more than the cost of materials. The use of Mylar double-sided
basting tape makes these projects much less tedious.
Next, bursting with enthusiasm, I made my five main spars using the
hollow birdsmouth (Noble} method. I would recommend this over solid
construction for stiffness and the weight and material savings, although
making the sprit spar hollow was a little silly. As someone pointed
out, the epoxy weight probably exceeds the weight of the thumb-thickness
hollow in the center of the finished spar.
addition to choosing the lug rig, I opted for the basic, open interior.
By the time the hull was ready in late October - exactly as promised
with no builder issues whatsoever - I had most of the parts pre-cut;
and to the extent feasible, finished shaped and ready to install. Cold
weather in an unheated garage, and then work and family obligations
resulted in eventual completion in June.
It may be helpful to others for me to mention several building variations
chosen for Rebecca Ann. The major one is the motor well, built mostly
according to the plans. I bought a 3.3 hp Mercury two-stroke motor and
carefully mocked up and puzzled out the hole for it, which I made round
and ten inches in diameter. Poring over the plans, I never could understand
the proposed manner of hanging the motor from the front of the well.
Mine hangs on the starboard side and the top of the well is flush with
the top of the aft bench.
I made two more changes from the plans, following Geoff's advice.
My inwales are a singlestrip and my outwales are made of three strips
like Oughtred's first generation plans specified. The current plans
reverse those. Also, my gunwales as a whole are more like you find on
an American canoe, rather than angled as some have done. That's just
how they turned out. My bench knees are steel strap, which take less
space. I lined up the center and aft benches in anticipation of later
making a level sleeping platform.
area where I parted ways from Geoff was in the rigging. With my neophyte
sailing experience and skills, so different to his, and with most of
my sailing involving trying to keep a tender canoe upright, I was extremely
receptive to Oughtred's warning in his book that the capability of fast
reefing is important. Therefore, I installed reefing hooks for the main,
along with jamb cleats for the reefing lines. The mizzen has the single-line
reefing system shown on the plans, which seems to work well.
made a padded canvas case to house the motor under the aft bench. A
plug faired to the planking fills the well hole in the hull. It fits
closely enough to minimize drag, but is not watertight.
I have run only about ten miles so far under power. The motor easily
drove the boat to 6.3 knots by GPS at three-fourth's throttle with both
masts dropped. A slightly reduced speed was less buzzy. I had no problem
with exhaust fumes choking out the motor or with splash coming up through
the hole, both apparently chronic deficiencies of wells. However, I
was running in only one foot waves, so time will tell if splash is an
issue. I have made, but not yet tested, a splash baffle.
amateur boat builders some parts are easier to make and some are harder
than expected. For me the spars and rudder were easier to get together,
while the gunwales and motor well were harder, particularly the well.
Making the well splash baffle was much harder than I would have thought.
I finally settled for harness leather for the flexible portion.
my CY I installed an 18-gpm Edson manual pump, the vertical model, on
the aft edge of the forward bench. The pump handle at the bottom of
its stroke just touches the front of the centerboard trunk. Eventually,
I want to remount the pump on sliders running in tracks to allow the
whole pump to be raised at will so the intake can clear the floorboards
by eight inches or so. This would permit a hose to be quickly attached
to the intake, giving the capability to use the pump other than for
the bilge. I have my eyes open for the right hardware.
As soon as the boat was in the water at her launching on June 8, 2002
it became quite clear we had a big leak. Beaching eight miles later
and removing floorboards revealed two half-inch holes in the lower trunk-
a misaimed bolt location I forgot to patch. The Edson kept up with the
leak until we plugged the holes with sticks from the beach.
few sailing hours so far in Rebecca Ann, as well as my limited frame
of reference as a sailor, keep me from providing any useful review of
the boat's performance. However, I did on my second voyage sail the
day in the company of Sarah, a lithe, Kerr-built Ness Yawl. Many of
you are familiar with this design, which has the extreme extension of
the design characteristics of the Caledonia Yawl. Oughtred's personal
boat is a Ness Yawl and the design is meant to go fast. A comparison
may be of interest. Side by side the Ness is noticeably smaller in all
dimensions and much more tender. Hauling capacity must be much less.
To my eye she is considerably prettier than a Caledonia Yawl. In very
light wind the Caledonia Yawl moved faster and pointed higher, but above
perhaps six knots of wind the Ness reversed the situation on both scores.
The Ness is a Porsche; the Caledonia Yawl is a Ford F-250. I know that's
a pedantic analogy, but it really is apt. You can fall in love with
either one, and in a perfect world we would own one of each. All in
all, I was surprised with how well the Caledonia Yawl performed alongside
the Ness Yawl.
plans for future enhancements fall into two categories. First, I need
a place for all the gear. I expect to stow most of it secured under
benches and side seats, in leather holders, dry bags and Rubbermaid
Secondly, I have big ideas for camp cruising. I plan to try constructing
a sleeping platform of foam sandwiched plywood, full sheet size sliced
into six-inch wide strips, to lay athwartships, filling the space from
center to aft benches. With a longitudinal center support extending
over and past the trunk to the aft bench, I think the strips can be
short enough to stow in two manageable stacks. I plan a tent zippering
to canvas fore and aft decks, along the lines of the one described in
the WoodenBoat article of a few issues ago on the camp cruising surf
dory. I am thinking about the 7' x 10' sun and rain shelter from LL
Bean as the starting point for a freestanding fly.
look forward to many years with Rebecca Ann on the Chesapeake, and perhaps
the Florida Keys in winter and the Penobscot Bay in Maine in summer.
Thanks Dale - Great story and lots of useful information.
Dale is a lawyer and lives in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.
More Caledonia Yawl stories and pictures anyone? Contact me via the
Discussion Forum and I'll create a page for you. Nick Grainger