Welcome to the Brigantine schooner “BRITANNIA.” This is an ongoing account of the renovation and remodeling of a 1977 Down East sailboat. I’m Roger Hughes, an Englishman living near Orlando, Florida USA. Most of the articles here have been published in leading boating magasines in The US, UK, and Australia. Stories not just about Britannia can be found in the “Other Articles” navigation button.
BRITANNIA is a proper ocean cruising yacht, forty five feet on deck, a six foot bowsprit and fourteen foot beam. She has a full length keel drawing six feet six and displacing some twenty three tons. She was built in 1978 at Santa Anna, California and in those days they made them strong.
I 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, 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, like a ketch, the sails are divided into smaller, manageable sizes.
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 release or claw the canvas onto the yard. It is a very dangerous operation, and men have fallen to their deaths from up there. But what if you could easily furl and unfurl a square sail from the safety of the cockpit, without a single person having to go aloft? I designed and built such a system After designing this system the next problem actually proved more difficult. I couldn't find a schooner the right size and price to mount the yard on. So I bought a ketch and converted it first to a schooner, then a brigantine.
People have expressed amazement at some of the alterations I have made to Britannia. The fact is though, I enjoy woodwork and seeing my modifications improve the boat overall. I have the skill and the tools, and also the time. As ratty said to mole, “Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats. Simply messing about in boats, or with boats, in or out of em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's the charm of it.” Kenneth Grahame Wind in the Willows.
© ROGER HUGHES