Scaffie - An Owner's View


I always enjoy reading in issues of D.A.N. the practical articles and details of modifications. There have been a lot of articles relating to Luggers, Coasters and Drifters and a few relating to Dabbers but not many about Scaffies (although there were good articles by Stuart Roy and Robin Baird in May '90 and details of some modifications by Richard Stroud and Jim Kidd in summer '98). So here goes, and maybe other Scaffie owners will write in with other ideas.

In 1983 I had photographed Drascombes in the Lake District. Ten years later I was ready to buy a boat of my own. The remit was a pretty impossible one. The boat had to be light enough to be easily manhandled, launched, recovered and sailed single handed, large enough to sail with two adults and two children, robust enough to handle rough treatment and seaworthy enough to sail in the North Sea off the east coast of Scotland. Copies of a Yachting World article on dayboats in May '79 and a Practical Boat Owner article on the Scaffie in June '83 helped me decide on a Scaffie. I was lucky. An advert in the local paper resulted in a call from a village 20 minutes by car from Aberdeen and I was soon the owner of Scaffie number 117 ("Munsieweet") with a Snipe trailer and a 2 HP Yamaha engine. (Can anyone help with information about the history of this boat from 1979 to 1993?)


Chamois leather round yard and parrell beads with snap shackle onto halyard [pic 1]. Two linked carbine clips (helpful when reefing in strong winds)[pic 2]


Bowsprit and jib (not standard)[pic 3]. I know that many would not recommend fitting a jib on a Scaffie and I would not use it in strong winds (a reefed mainsail can be more than enough!) but it does make it possible to enjoy good sailing on those days when there is not quite enough wind without it. Surprisingly, the boat has retained some weather helm. Thank you to Dr. Edmund Taylor from Fitchburg, Massachusetts (he fitted a jib to his Scaffie) for all the advice and help.

Aft locker lid with the front ends of the teak slats cut off and replaced (by Jeremy Churchouse) with an iroko rail running from side to side. This stops the mainsheet catching in the gaps at the end of the original teak slats. [pic 4]

Shockcord link to rudder. Prevents rudder flopping over to "full lock". A novel feature of this is that when using the engine the boat can be steered without touching the tiller, simply by the skipper moving towards starboard to go to port and vice versa. [pic 4]

Tiller extension - hinged about 4 inches from end of tiller. [pic 4]

Bronze fairleads. Aft mooring cleat. [pic 4]

Buoyancy [pics 5 & 6]

A swamping in the North Sea would bring on hypothermia within minutes and put lives at risk very quickly. Despite doing just about everything wrong in the early days and sailing in fairly testing conditions, I have not yet managed to swamp Munsieweet. Still, it would be daft to think it couldn't happen, and it made sense to test the buoyancy. So, on a cold dark night, aided and abetted by fellow member and Dabber owner, Trevor Harvey, Munsieweet was scuttled in Stonehaven harbour. This was only one of a number of occasions she sailed into Stonehaven harbour with the bung out, but this time it was deliberate! As the first photo shows, she floated, but with two adults aboard, freeboard was reduced to nil! We cut two additional hatches on each side of the boat (matching the existing hatches near the bow) and installed two-part expanding polyurethane foam in place of the polystyrene chips. Then, back to Stonehaven harbour for another sinking. Much better! -with two adults on board, freeboard now has increased from nil to around 12". Recovering the boat by bailing or pumping might now be possible depending on the sea state and I am now happy that the crew will be much safer.

Launching and recovering [pics 8 & 9]

I reverse the trailer until the hubs are in the water and click off the ratchet on the winch. One easy push and the boat runs off into the water. The additional guide rollers (supplied by Snipe) make a huge difference to the ease of launching and recovery. I have also fitted longer spindles and wheels on either side of the bilge keel rollers for lateral stability when towing over rough ground. I know that I am expecting a lot from the bearings, immersing them in sea water, but keeping them topped up with grease has worked well so far. Extras for more problematic recovery sites include two double barton blocks, a long rope, a metal jockey wheel skid (only effective over rounded boulders) and a pair of (caravan) wheel chocks.

Sailing [pics 11 & 12]

As Stuart Roy recommended in his article, reef early to avoid sailing over canvassed and keep the tack rope (downhaul) tight when going to windward. Tacking single handed in strong winds is much easier if there is a tiller extension fitted. When tacking without a tiller extension, putting the tiller hard over involves moving across the boat. This puts weight on the leeward side, heels the boat and discourages the yard from swinging across at the crucial point as the boat goes into the wind. With a tiller extension, tacking is easy, even in strong winds. (Ensure the downhaul is tight, that there are no twists between the mainsheet block on the sail and the one on the rudder and that there are no tangles in the mainsheet). Remaining on the windward side, unclip the tiller extension and push the tiller hard over. Sheet in fully (both hands can be used - the hand on the tiller extension holding the mainsheet between pulls). The combination of full lock, tight mainsheet and helmsman's weight on the windward side makes the Scaffie tack easily. Once through the wind, change sides, sheet out and clip up the tiller extension.

Small is beautiful! [pic 13]

Stonehaven, 15 miles south of Aberdeen, is where we sail most often. Within minutes, kit is gathered, trailer hitched and we're on our way. Rigging couldn't be simpler- with the single unstayed mast there are no shrouds to worry about. Launching is quick and easy and we can have a reasonable length of sail and be back home 3 hours after setting out. This means that sailing is possible whenever there is a spare morning, afternoon or evening. Munsieweet is also easily towed at the weekends or on holiday and this has made for varied sailing over the last four years - in Wales, many parts of Scotland including the Summer Isles, Loch Sunart and Loch Hourn and from the fishing villages along the north-east coast including Stonehaven, Collieston, Pennan and Portsoy.

The Scaffie is an impressively competent, seaworthy boat, light and easy to handle, quick and easy to rig, launch and recover. It is robust (although it is worth fitting keelbands to the centre and bilge keels for repeated use on stony or rocky shores). Under sail, it heels fairly easily at first, but once under way with the right amount of sail it stiffens and handles well. It is amazingly dry for its size, safe and forgiving, yet lively and fun to sail. Like the other Drascombes, it's a real tribute to the practical skills of the designer, John Watkinson.

Alastair Duthie

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