Dick Harrington of Blue Mist (W887) talks
Dinghy Cruising in a Wayfarer

Most boating people agree that going places in a boat can be enjoyable and fun. Despite disruptive PWC's, high-powered speedboats and loud intimidating cigarette boats, we in North America enjoy endless opportunities to engage in leisurely and scenic sailing.  In the realm of sailing, any trip made for the sake of relaxation and pleasure can be considered as cruising.  This definition applies to dinghies as well as yachts.

Dinghy cruising has been around since the evolution of small sailboats and adventuresome people.  It would be an impossible task, and beyond this writer, to list all the dinghy designs and classes that have been employed for cruising.  However, of the many contemporary dinghy classes which at one time or another have been used for this purpose, the 16-foot Wayfarer embodies many worthy features. The Wayfarer is also the world's most popular cruising dinghy with a large following in both the UK and Scandinavia.  Here in the US and Canada, we too have a number of Wayfarer skippers and crew with extensive cruising credentials.

Why a Wayfarer?

Weighing a mere 365 pounds (before the addition of cruising gear, that is), the Wayfarer is easily transported on a lightweight trailer to anywhere that is reachable by automobile. Besides the ability to easily access remote and attractive cruising waters, what is it that makes this relatively small sailboat so exceptional?  The answer lies in its seaworthiness, outstanding handling ability and unique design features that accommodate camping/cruising.

When Englishman, Ian Proctor, initially set about drafting the lines of the Wayfarer his objectives were threefold.  First, he wanted to come up with a boat that performed well enough to be suitable for competitive class racing.  Secondly, the boat needed to be roomy and stable to make it an attractive family boat.  Lastly, it was to be endowed with features such as large stowage compartments and other cockpit amenities, which would enhance its utility as a camping/cruising boat.  All of this was with the view that the dinghy would be sailed for the most part in the rough, turbulent, coastal waters of the British Isles.  Ian Proctor succeeded with remarkable genius in achieving all three of his goals.

A Capable Boat that Behaves Well Under a Variety of Conditions.

With a 6-foot beam and generous freeboard the Wayfarer feels and acts much larger than a typical 16-foot present day sailboat.  When it comes to performance it is lively and will come up
on a fast plane when conditions are right.  The combination of the forward and aft watertight compartments provides positive buoyancy as well as loads of stowage space--enough to hold clothing, camping gear and food for a two to three week cruise.

The two aft side seat benches are easily lifted out (by undoing a couple of wing nuts) and can be placed cross-ways upon the forward seats.  This makes a roomy aft cockpit for sleeping (on the floor) and more space for preparing meals on board if anchored away from shore, or in the event of rainy weather.  In this configuration the aft seats become a temporary shelf for getting bulky items out of the way.  On day excursions the Wayfarer will hold four adults safely and comfortably.  For long distance cruising it is a superb boat for the single handed sailor, as well as for two people.  As always, whether day sailing or cruising, the helmsman and crew need to possess the skills and experience necessary for the degree of difficulty that may be encountered.  Gain experience and skill gradually through progressively more difficult steps.

Land Tenting or Camping on Board.

The Wayfarer can be cruised in the same fashion as that of a small yacht--that is to say living on board.  Many single handed sailors will cruise this way for convenience and to avoid the effort of hauling out upon a beach.  This is especially true when the shore is rocky or marshy, or where tides are a factor.  When the boom is raised and a boom tent erected a small but comfortable cabin is created.  Well constructed canvass boom tents are available that are insect proof, weather-tight and offer amenities such as windows, zippered doors, etc.  These also come in various design configurations from a simple "A" shape to more spacious and elaborate shapes.  A small backpacker's Coleman gas lantern hung from the boom will provide plenty of light as well as warmth on a cold damp day.  Since the Wayfarer has flat floorboards with a bilge beneath, water doesn't collect making sleeping comfortable on the floor (alongside the centerboard trunk).  Some people, particularly if they are larger, feel constricted by the narrow space underneath the center thwart and don't like sleeping on the floor.  Usually these people place a platform on top of the seats as an alternative sleeping arrangement. Other kinds of creative sleeping arrangements have also been devised, including slinging a hammock beneath the boom.

When four of us cruised the Eastern Shore of Nova Scotia for two weeks in two Wayfarers last summer we did quite a bit of land tenting.  This section of Nova Scotia's seacoast is a very spectacular island choked area that is practically uninhabited.  Even though it is a rocky coast with 6-foot tides, there are boundless opportunities to go ashore and enjoy wonderful camping on these essentially pristine islands.  On most occasions we were able to pick well protected coves and anchored the boats near shore.  The boats dried out and re-floated with the rise and fall of the tide; and of course this meant some wading through icy cold water when something was needed from the boat.  In addition to a boat tent each boat carried a small two-man land tent.  Both boats were the heaviest laden I've ever seen, but even in Nova Scotia's big North Atlantic swells we did just fine. When cruising many of the northern parts of the Great Lakes, such as the North Channel and Lake Superior, similar land tenting is likewise feasible.

Frank, the Renowned Sailor

Ask practically any Wayfarer sailor and they will be able to recite the remarkable adventures of Frank Dye.  Frank Dye is the legendary Englishman famous for sailing his Wayfarer, Wanderer W48, over numerous unbelievably difficult open sea passages.  The British Wayfarers have even written a ballad about Frank's exploits, which they sing with great gusto at evening gatherings after a few pints of good stout.

In the early 1960's Frank made his two most renowned voyages.  The first was an 11-day, 650 mile North Atlantic crossing from Scotland to Iceland.  This feat brought fame to both Frank Dye and the Wayfarer class.  On his second major sea passage, a Norwegian Sea crossing from Scotland to Aalesund, Norway, Frank and his crew, Bill Brockbank, survived four capsizes and a broken mast during a Force 9 storm.  In more recent times Frank departed Miami, Florida headed northward in the early spring of 1988.  This marked the beginning a six-year odyssey of navigating the eastern coast of North America and then into the Great Lakes.  Accompanying him on the initial leg of this journey was his wife, Margaret, his long-time cruising companion.  Now on his third Wayfarer (all three named Wanderer), Frank continues to come to North America each summer for a cruise.

Presently Wanderer is resting under winter cover somewhere in the province of Ontario. The chronicles of Frank and Margaret Dye's exploits, along with much useful information about cruising the Wayfarer, can be found in Frank and Margaret's three books:

  • Ocean Crossing Wayfarer, by Frank & Margaret Dye - 1977, David & Charles Inc.
  • Dinghy Cruising, The Enjoyment of Wandering Afloat, by Margaret Dye - 1992, Adlard Coles Nautical
  • Sailing to the Edge of Fear, by Frank Dye - 1999, Nimbus--the story of Frank's adventures sailing the coast of North America and the Great Lakes.


Alternative Cruising

For the several years now since retiring, I've been living out my fondest fantasies.  Many people, including my wife, Margie, view my life with considerable envy.  With the arrival of each succeeding summer there has been some new, exciting Wayfarer adventure planned.  Last summer it was the four of us, Jim Fraser from Nova Scotia, Mike Johnson and Ralph Roberts from England, and myself sailing two Wayfarers along Nova Scotia's beautiful, remote and rugged Eastern Shore.  This was an experience that will forever remain indelibly imprinted within my memories.

The frosting on the cake though, has been the other opportunities to participate in Wayfarer cruising activities, such as the yearly Wayfarer International Cruising Rally.  Cruising the shores of Nova Scotia, Maine, or Lake Superior are not for the timid, nor inexperienced.  However, when it comes to less rugged and more civilized cruising, the annual international get together has been great fun.  The past several years Margie and I have attended Rallies in Ireland, Denmark and England, and enjoyed every minute of it. To have her as my sailing companion, share in the fun and even look forward to these joint sailing adventures, has made life richer for both of us.

Margie doesn't like the bruises and aches that come from racing, and when it comes to racing I'm not a very good helmsman, nor tactician.  When the two of us are engaged in racing our nerves get raw and tempers flare.  Neither of us gets the enjoyment from racing that we get from a relaxing cruising sail, even if it's a thrashing beat to windward putting spray in our face and straining unused muscles.  Interpreting racing rules and rounding buoys on a race course don't provide the same satisfaction as a successful bit of tricky navigation.  Having my wife on board Blue Mist has made for many more funloving days together.

This summer we are planning to sponsor a rally of our own, this side of the Atlantic.  It is

What is a Rally?

If you haven't already gathered, cruising rallies are intended to be less stressful, fun and family (spouse) friendly.  However, all mixes of individuals and crew are welcome. Organized racing is forbidden, but who's to say that when two boats meet on the water a certain degree of competition is not unknown to evolve.  Rallies are usually a weekend gathering where camping, or a motel, are the accommodations.  There are alternative activities planned for those who don't wish to sail or in the case of inclement weather.

Bar-B-Q's, campfires and songfests seem to evolve automatically.  More experienced cruising folks happily share their knowledge and advice with newcomers.  Day trips, typically no more than a 3 to 4 hour sail, are planned for destinations that are scenic and interesting.  Sailing is geared to the level of the lesser experienced sailors.  Camping equipment and certain basic boat gear, such as an anchor, extra lines, compass, paddles/oars, etc., as well as required Coast Guard safety equipment, is necessary.

What are the details?

The North American Wayfarer Cruising Rally is planned to encompass a 3 to 4 day extended weekend, sometime between mid-June to mid-July (see Coming Up).  We are blessed to have a large number good potential rally locations in the eastern U.S. and Canada, of which we are knowledgeable and where this rally can be held.  Ideally, the location will be central and within easy reach of all wishing to attend.  The final dates and location will be selected based upon the responses we receive from interested participants.

Two potential sites under consideration for the rally are Chesapeake Bay and Lake Champlain.  (Webmaster's note: Lake Champlain has been chosen for this year's Rally) The southern end of Lake Champlain offers good camping, interesting sightseeing and scenic well protected sailing.  The Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake, the St. Michael's/Oxford area, is protected and beautiful.  Likewise, the southwestern side, or more exactly the Potomac River near St. Mary's City, is pretty, protected and interesting. These are offered as teasers--the list of possibilities is much greater.

For Those Interested in Attending

If you would like more information, you can contact us at rmharrington@sbcglobal.net