This was a feature article on BRITANNIA. It gives an overview of all the alterations and renovations which had been effected up to that time. Since then there have been significant new alterations which have been added  Underlined links will take you to the page dealing with the subject in detail.


  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 surprised to find the name still available in the Isle Of Man (UK) ship registry. So I grabbed it and am very proud to have it.

   There is however a significant problem swinging a square sail on a yard high up a mast: that is, furling and unfurling the sail. The age-old technique, which is still employed on sail training ships today, is to order hands aloft up the ratlines and out on the swaying yard to stow the sail. Men frequently fell to their deaths in this operation

   I don’t have a crew of thirty—just the wife—but I still wanted a square rigger. I therefore designed and built a system where the sail rolls up inside the yard, like in-mast furling, except horizontal. It works beautifully, and when the wind is from anywhere astern, or even 40 degrees either side, we unfurl the sail and away we go!  There is hardly any roll because the boat is being pushed along evenly, unlike with a triangular sail. My square-sail can also be easily reefed, by simply winding up as much as required back inside the yard. When all the sail is furled it is completely protected from the elements.


    There is something romantic about the word ‘Brigantine’, although its origin is anything but romantic. It derives from the Brigands who pillaged the Barbary Coast in the 13th century. They used two masted galleys with lateen sails and oars, but it has now evolved to mean a two masted sailboat, principally a schooner, with at least one square sail on the fore mast, this is called the Fore Course.

    I have such a rig on my 45 foot (13.7m) 1977 Down East staysail schooner  BRITANNIA. She has a rakish clipper bow and roomy 14 foot beam. .For me it is the ideal cruising rig, capable of hauling acceptably close to the wind with four fore-and-aft sails, although not as high as with an 85hp engine, She is fast on a reach and has unbelievable down-wind stability using the square-sail, with none of the worry about gybing associated with Bermudian sails. 


   Britannia’s beam allows for plenty of room below, with three double cabins, all with individual access to the bathroom and saloon. .

   The galley has been completely renovated and extended into the passageway to the aft cabin. A washing machine and freezer have been incorporated. The work tops are corrian and a new double sink was installed.


   The aft cabin is spacious and has a queen size bed with individual commercial air mattresses—the type used in hospitals with a button to control individual pressure. These are much more comfortable than foam and do not suffer from absorption. 

    The other two double cabins are forward of the saloon, one on the port side and one in the forepeak. Both are air conditioned and have hanging lockers.


   My pièce de résistance is in the aft bathroom, adjoining the cabin. It is not the beautiful tempered glass vanity bowl, or its gold plated faucets on the marble countertop. It is the full size bath, with ten adjustable pressure jets and a heater. Yes! a hot-tub in a small sailboat, and it’s just fabulous after a good days sail, or a hard day of boat work,


   The original saloon table was positioned next to the port side setee, so it could not be reached from the Starboard side seats. I built a new table which has leafes which extend the use to both sides of the saloon.

   When in the folded position the table is in the center of the saloon and can be passed on either side.


The original chart table occupied 42% of the length of the port side saloon. It was totally removed and a new “office” desk with drawers installed. The drop down leaf is the same size as the original table. At the same time the electrical distribution board was relocated, along with an antique globe drinks holder. The modification resulted in a much more ergonomic layout, more in keeping with the remainder of the boat.


   A 3.5 cu ft freezer was incorporated in the galley renovation. This uses the latest low amperage compressor and freezes down to -10 degrees F.


The forward bathroom was very small without a shower. I has now been completely remodeled, with new faucets, vanity bowl, an electric toilet and a shower.


    Both electric toilets are fresh water flush, with separate Coast Guard approved waste processing systems, eliminating the need for a holding tank, which also eliminates the nasty job of having to empty them

showing the original layout when we bought the boat.






   All sails are roller furled, with all lines coming back to the center cockpit, so sail handling can be done in comparative safety. There are a total of twelve lines passing through running blocks and special ‘over the top blocks,’ allowing them to go over the top of the coachroofs. The lines then lead through two banks of rope clutches either side of the companionway, to a couple of self-tailing winches and then kept tidy on belaying pins. 

       We operate all our self-tailing winches with a “Winchrite,” a specially designed electric winch winding handle which fits in the top of any winch and turns it much faster than by hand—in either direction. Four pin-rails are attached to the shrouds, carrying twenty belaying pins, used to keep lines tidy and lay-off the ropes from the mast to prevent mast clatter at night.


   The original washboards were solid teak and very heavy to handle, with nowhere to stow them.

   These were sawn up and converted to double doors with ornamental leaded light insets of Florida lighthouses.


All the old water pipes were completely  stripped out and a new system was installed, using new pipes and modern connectors. A larger water pump was also installed

   The original wheel was a modern destroyer type, which was changed for this traditional six spoke wooden wheel. The table hinges and opens up to accommodate four diners.

   A fail-save solenoid has been installed in the shore water line to close automatically if there is any leak in the boats water pipes.


   The cabin sole was completely stripped of all old varnish and oil, and thoroughly cleaned. Then all damaged areas were renovated. New varnish was applied in such a way that the floors are now shiny, but also non-slip.

  New custom calibrated water gage sensors have been fitted. These accurately read the acutall capacity of water in both tanks, not just the water level


    On such a yacht you would expect air conditioning and there are two 16,000 BTU reverse cycle units keeping the inside at 75 Fahrenheit, (24C), even when 95 degrees outside. Cool or warm air is evenly distributed throughout the boat. In a marina we run these off the shore power hook-up, but they can also be enjoyed while at anchor, using the 6.5Kw diesel generator.

    The floors are insulated, so very little noise is heard from the generator or the main engine.

     With all this electric demand it is imperative to maintain sound batteries. The boat has a bank of eight 6 volt batteries supplying the house side. A 12 volt battery is dedicated to engine start and another to the windlass and a 6.5kw generator.

All can be interconnected and charged from the main engine, the generator, and a wind generator.


   It is eight feet from the water to our davits and the boat had tackles which were very slow, and hurt our hands pulling the dinghy up. I built an electric hoist and now one person can effortlessly raise the dinghy—even with the outboard attached—in thirty seconds. We do this every night at anchor, mainly to prevent easy theft. 


    I had the foot of the tween’mast staysail made eight feet longer than its boom. When the wind is right the clew can be disconnected from the end of the boom and led aft to form a beautiful reaching sail, much like a mizzen staysail on a ketch. When on the wind the sail is re-attached to the boom and becomes a self tacking staysail.

   Serious wood rot was found in the bowsprit, so a new one was fabricated out of structural aluminum, then powder coated.

   This new ‘sprit is estimated to be five times stronger and 30 Lbs lighter than the old wooden one.


When I bought her, Britannia did not have any trailboards, like all the other Down Easters I had looked at. So I made my own from PVC board and cut the scroll-work out with a router.

BRITANNIA is indeed a proper yacht.

Articles by Roger appear regularly in these boating magazines, about improvements to Britannia and other nautical matters

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