Dabber - An Owner's View


A wonderful boat is the Dabber,
If you find one for sale Grab 'er,
But don't get confused with the Lugger,
That's an altogether bigger
Boat designed by John Watkinson.

In the Autumn '97 edition of Drascombe Association News John Hubbard wrote about his Dabber Nancy. We are equally fond of our Brown Betty. She's an early model, with an unusual red-brown gel coat colour (we discovered she was unique at the 10th anniversary rally from Calshot to the Isle of Wight) and an optional boom that we've never needed to use.

We find her surprisingly fast, especially in a following breeze, and with my supposedly inexperienced wife at the helm. Her comparative lightness makes man-handling and launching a simple and unstrenuous exercise.The rudder arrangement is straightforward- in shallow water it carries on steering the boat until you've nearly grounded. At this point it's inclined to lift off and float away, leaving the helmsman clutching a tiller with an empty slot at the end. Time for Hunt the Rudder - a game for all the family - hopefully played in water only inches deep.

Living near the Thames we've enjoyed many a warm weekend messing about on the river.In these conditions we've found that a party of up to eight plus essential paraphernalia can be accommodated - more comfortably since we realised that the belaying pins can be pulled out when not required! We set the mizzen to make us more visible to passing 'gin palaces' and to add a little visual charm that seems to be appreciated by strolling landlubbers. "That's nice, what sort of boat is it?" will, no doubt, be a question familiar to fellow Drascombe owners.

The drainage plug is a handy device. Betty has no bilge pump, poor dear, but we soon have her dry again when we get her back on the trailer and simply unscrew her plug. How long before we forget to put it back in before launching? Could the plug be screwed back in its hole with water gushing in fast? Is soaking the wife and children reasonable grounds for divorce? Worrying thoughts indeed.

Life under power has been much more civilised since we acquired a four-stroke. two-horsepower Honda. Like the ideal dinner party guest it drinks very little. smokes not at all and doesn't interrupt your conversation. It's predecessor was a four-horsepower Johnson. with at least three of the horses lame judging by the extra power we seem to get now. When sailing, we never really liked the arrangement of the main sheet feeding through a block mounted at the aft end of the tiller. Recently the block pulled off and we have replaced it with a double block on the sheet horse - a simpler configuration that suits us well. Otherwise Betty remains virtually as designed and strongly built more than 20 years ago. It's hard to improve on what is, for us, the perfect small boat.

Dominic Jarman

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