Welcome to the website for the Brigantine schooner “BRITANNIA.” This site is an ongoing account of the renovation and remodeling of the boat over a four year period. I’m Roger Hughes, an Englishman in Orlando, Florida, USA.
BRITANNIA was the Roman name for Britain and also a mythical war godess. It has also been the name of a British ship for centuries. Britannia was a 100 gun ship of the line in Victory’s column at Trafalgar in 1805. It has also been the name of The Royal Yacht and a number of famous racing yachts. I was actually quite surprised to find the name still available in the Isle Of Man (UK). So I grabbed it and am very proud to have it.
The Isle of Man also has a unique civil ensign. The Union Jack is defaced with the triskelion, three armoured legs with golden spurs, based on the Manx Coat of Arms, from the 13th century.
My BRITANNIA is forty five feet on deck, with a six foot bowsprit. 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.
I had searched a long time for a schooner; and the reason I wanted a schooner was because I really wanted a Brigantine.
The term Brigantine did not originally apply to a rig or ship. It applied to the actual 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 two masted schooner, having at least one square sail on the fore mast. This sail is called the Fore Course.
BRITANNIA is a proper cruising boat of fourteen foot beam, with a full length keel drawing six feet six and displacing some twenty two tons. The heavily built fiberglass hull also has simulated planking, (lapstrakes), causing some to ask if she is made of wood.
To me, a Brigantine is the ideal cruising rig, being capable of hauling tolerably close to the wind with four fore and aft sails, (although not as high as with an 85hp engine), having fast reaching capabilities and unbelievable down wind stability using the square sail(s). Also, unlike a sloop the sails are divided into smaller, manageable sizes.
I have sailed boats with square sails and I’m aware of their advantages and disadvantages. They really come into their own when the wind is from dead astern or 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 precluded 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 designed and built such a system which will be an article in magazine in November 2015. If you are really interested in the solution, e-mail me privately.
BRITANNIA is extremely heavily built, which is good for an ocean cruising yacht. But there were some things I didn’t like about the inside layout, like the wash basin in the aft cabin 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.
There were many instances of design and construction, which, given a little more thought would have made the layout more workable. It was almost as though the designer and builders were not very practical sailors.
I knew all these things could be changed over time, and most of them are now complete and we are ready to sail.
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. Some thought it was a golfing term). Therefore, for new sailors or landlubbers I have sometimes explained terms in a way which might make an experienced yachtsman wince. Perhaps they will forgive me for this.
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.
Rebuilding the generator.
Making your own over-the-top-blocks
Items for sale
© ROGER HUGHES