Designs by Jay R Benford and Iain Oughtred Commentary by Mike OBrien

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Back in 1976, Jay Benford sat down at his drawing table to design a small cruiser for Dick Wagner, creator and driving force behind The Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle. The result of Benford's labor, a preliminary study for an 18-foot centerboard canoe yawl, was published in the young designer's catalog. Its evocative sail plan soon was pinned to the walls of more than one boatshop along the coast. But, for various reasons, the little packet never was built.

Fortunately for posterity, the designer himself was taken with the personality of his proposed double-ender, and he set to work on plans for a similar boat drawn to his own parameters. He increased the draft and the freeboard in an effort to provide sitting headroom below and to make "a better all-around cruiser."

Fooling with designs that were right the first time can be a tricky business, but Benford seasoned the broth without spoiling the flavor. He kept the house that he had worked into the staved coaming on the original drawings. Today we tend to associate this arrangement with catboats, but the device was altogether common on a variety of types during the last century. It provides a continuity of line that seems to permit greater cabin heights without causing visual offense. Hiding the coaming behind substantial bulwarks helps — as does keeping the house out of the bows. (Sleeping crew members don't require full sitting headroom over their feet.) lota's relatively great beam and bold sheer also allow her to carry the increased height with dignity.

The first boats built to this design were constructed of ferrocement. Those of us who have been around the waterfront for more than a few years can remember when this late, and unlamented, medium was hailed by a number of promoters as being something akin to the Second Coming. Ferrocement boats were said to require meager skills from their builders, to cost little, and to be virtually impervious to any harm contemplated by man or nature. But usually they didn't, they didn't, and they weren't. Benford, to his credit, raised one of the few voices of reason from the "concrete boat" community. He detailed realistic expenses and expectations. As a result, his ferrocement canoe yawls were well faired and fared well.

In 1987, Benford redrew Iota for cold-molded wood/epoxy construction. The new drawings specify an inner layer of %-inch by %-inch red cedar strip planking covered by two layers of diagonally laid Vs-inch red cedar veneer. In yet another revision, not shown here, the rudder stock was moved to a vertical position just forward of Station 7. This change simplifies the arrangement of the mizzen maststep.

In addition to these modifications, the designer has experimented with different sail plans for this hull: a 260-square-foot cat rig (shown with a small headsail, and sometimes referred to as a "cat-sloop" nowadays); a gaff cutter (260 square feet); and a ketch boasting 280 square feet of Dacron. That's a lot of horsepower for a boat only 18 feet on deck, but she's a big 18 feet: 4,200 pounds big.

By the way, the ketch rig is shown atop a short-keeled version of the hull. The original 233-square-foot yawl rig would be my choice both aesthetically and technically, as it offers superior control and ease of handling.

Many boats have come from Jay Benford's board since Iota was conceived, yet she remains one of his favorites. Considering the love/hate relationship that most artists have with their early work, her designer's loyalty constitutes high praise for this likable yawl. 59 —

Two Small Cruisers

While Iain Oughtred was in residence at WoodenBoat magazine, discussions developed about creating plans for an able cruising boat that would be suitable for trailering and amateur construction. The transplanted Australian designer began working up some preliminary studies. As the sketches evolved, they displayed his admiration for Norwegian small craft. Well aware of the dangers involved in tampering with respected traditional types, Oughtred forged ahead, admitting simply, "I can't help it!"

Gray Seal represents a subtle, and we think successful, blend of Scandinavian characteristics. The designer sees this boat not as a miniature of a larger yacht, but rather as "what a faering builder might do if he wanted cruising accommodations." At any rate, the little cruiser shows a strong sheer and buoyant hull. She'll not be overwhelmed easily.

The plans call for epoxy-glued plywood lapstrake construction — a method that Oughtred has specified for several smaller pulling boats and canoes. Gray Seal's hull will be light, strong, and handsome, but only the very highest-quality plywood ought to be used. Common construction grades should be dismissed out of hand, and ordinary fir marine plywood won't be satisfactory — unless you find panels superior to any I've seen during the last two decades. Bruynzeel or an equivalent, if it has an equivalent, would be the way to go. This method of building pushes plywood to its limits in terms of potential exposure to damage, and it demands the best.

Having satisfied the original design criteria with a shoal-draft keel/centerboard hull powered by a snug gunter rig, Oughtred set out to draw a full-keeled ver sion of Gray Seal driven by a fractional marconi rig. 1 The deeper hull will be quite striking. In the design-1 er's words, "She'll look rather like a small, double-! ended Folkboat; not at all, as I first feared, like a shallow! hull with a keel stuck on."

The gunter rig can be used with either hull, but the' designer suggests that the tall marconi rig not be mated with the keel/centerboard hull. My choice would be for the simplicity of the full-keeled hull under the security (short mast) of the gunter rig. Certainly, the full keel will render Gray Seal less roadworthy, but I have difficulty considering any boat of this size (displacement, that is) truly trailerable. As may be, people are out there on the Interstate every weekend dragging heavier packages. And the merits of trailering your boat home for the winter, or on an occasional overland sojourn, are pleasant to contemplate.

Oughtred has drawn several interior arrangements for Gray Seal. Some of the accommodations include quarter berths, and one arrangement shows an enclosed head. (I trust nobody expects anything resembling real privacy aboard a pocket cruiser.) The simple, traditional two-berth-forward plan will be the easiest to build, and the friendliest to use. Perhaps that explains why it is traditional.

Iota's plans are available from Jay R. Benford, P.O. Box 447, St. Michaels, MD 21663.

Gray Seal's plans can be ordered from The WoodenBoat Store, P.O. Box 78, Brooklin, ME 04616; 800-273-7447.

Iain Oughtred can be contacted at Altyre Stables, Forres, Moray IV36 OSH, Scotland.

Particular«

LOD 18'0" LWL 16'0" Beam TO" Draft 3'0" Displ 4,200 lbs Sail area 233 sq ft

Benford Boats

L3JN

Benford Boats

Jay Benford's sail plan for an 18-foot centerboard canoe (above) inspired many builders, but her plans remain incomplete. The finished drawings (below) show the full-keeled lota.

L3JN

Pocket Cruiser Rig

Two Small

Cruisers

Particulars Gray Seal

7'10"

LOD LWL Beam

Draft (cb up) Draft (cb) Draft (keelboat) 3'5" Displ (cb boat) 3,800 lbs Displ (keelboat) 3,900 lbs Sail area

(marconi rig) 245 sq ft Sail area

(gunter rig) 265 sq ft

Particulars Gray Seal

7'10"

Sailboat Rigs BolgerSailboat Rigs Bolger
lain Oughtred drew Gray Seal as a keel/ centerboarder and as a full-keeled cruiser. The latter (above) suggests a small, double-ended Folkboat.
Benford BoatsFolkboat Plans

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  • Laura
    How good are jay benford?
    6 years ago

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