This site is an ongoing account of the renovation and remodeling of an American built sailboat, (now registered as BRITANNIA, a British vessel), as she changes from a neglected ketch, into a unique purposeful Brigantine.
Brigantine did not originally apply to a rig or ship. It comes from Italian Brigantino, meaning brigand or pirate, and applied to the Brigands who roamed the Barbary Coast in the 13th century. They used galleys with a Lateen sail on two masts and the term evolved from there. It now means a twin masted schooner rigged vessel, having at least one square sail on the fore mast.
I’m Roger Hughes, an Englishman living in Orlando, Florida, USA. I bought the boat in November 2010. She is forty five feet on deck, but has a five foot bowsprit and a dinghy overhanging the transom, which makes her 54 feet overall. Some marinas count this as the length - but I prefer 45 feet.
She was built at The Down East Boatyard in San Diego, California in 1977, and in those days they made them strong and to last. She was a cutter rigged cruising ketch of fourteen foot beam, with a full length keel drawing about six feet and displacing some twenty tons. The fiberglass hull also has simulated planking, (lapstrakes), causing some to ask if she is made of wood.
I had searched a long time for a schooner; and the reason I wanted a schooner was because I really wanted a Brigantine.
To me, a Brigantine is the ideal cruising rig, being capable of hauling tolerably close to the wind, (although not as high as with an 85hp engine), having fast reaching capabilities and unbelievable down wind stability using the square sail(s). Also, like a ketch, the sails are divided into smaller, manageable sizes.
I have sailed with square sails and aware of their advantages and disadvantages. They really come into their own when the wind is dead astern or from either quarter.
Anyone with a Bermudan rig, or even a gaffer for that matter, knows how tricky it is to hold a steady course when running before the wind, especially if a big sea is also coming up astern. With square sails correctly braced on the foremast a Brigantine becomes very stable and there is absolutely no fear of gybing or broaching. Indeed the course can vary by as much as 30 degrees and an autopilot or even a novice helmsman will have little difficulty in keeping the boat on a steady downwind run.
However, there is also a significant problem having a conventional square sail set on a yard high up a mast: That is, furling and unfurling the darn thing! This single issue precludes their use on all but large crewed vessels, like sail training ships, with lots of young people willing to scale the ratlines and edge out along the swaying footropes to claw the canvas onto the yard. It is a very dangerous operation - and I know from where I speak. But what if you could easily furl and unfurl the square sail from the safety of the cockpit, without a single person having to go aloft? I solved this problem and it will be an article in “Good Old Boat” magazine in June 2015. If you are really interested in the solution, e-mail me privately.
All boats are compromises, and there were things I did not like about this one. There were aspects of the internal layout, like the wash basin in the aft bedroom instead of the bathroom; the large lazarette lockers considerably restricting space in the aft cabin bed; the 3/4 size bathtub neither one thing nor the other; only one shower and the scruffy little toilets. The boat had also been neglected and many pieces of equipment didn't work for one reason or another.
I knew all these things could be changed over time and the biggest change is now complete - converting the rig from a ketch to a Brigantine Schooner, see re-rigging.
Before you delve into the depths of this sometimes quite technical sailing site, I want to say I have tried to make it readable by yachtsmen and non-yachtsmen alike. Yachtsmen will have little difficulty with the terminology, (although I have met many who don’t know what a Fore Course is), but for new sailors or landlubbers, I have sometimes explained terms in a way which might make a yachtsman wince. Perhaps you will forgive me for this.
So here is the ongoing saga of the transformation of an oldish ketch into a modern comfortable cruising Brigantine.
Additions and remodeling projects:
Installation of two 16,500 BTU reverse cycle air conditioning units.
Installation of a full size hot-tub bath in the aft bathroom.
Remodeling the aft cabin and bathroom.
Remodeling the forward bathroom.
Redesigning the internal layout.
Rerigging from Ketch to Schooner
Click here for the maiden voyage story.
Rebuilding the generator.
Making your own Over-the-top-blocks
Items for sale
© ROGER HUGHES