I had the most amazing stroke of luck today, that of finding a dinghy hull for only fifty euros – and close to my home. It and several others are being sold by an association specialising in helping young people through sports, activities and constructive work. There were some six boats in this pitiful state, left out in a field and deprived of their rigs through a fire in the club house where the masts, booms, sails, rudders, ropes, etc. were kept. Only the hulls survived because they were outside.
I went to fetch the hull this morning. The boat is a Zef dinghy, a popular make in France that democratised sailing in the same way as the Mirror did in England. Some French enthusiasts have a site on Dériveur Zef. Designed by Michel Nivelt and made of fibreglass, it has a hinged centreboard, which is much better for if I touch bottom. The centreboard hinges back instead of breaking off as can happen with a daggerboard. On Sophia, my old boat, I have had a few near misses and low-speed scrapes – but no damage. The length is twelve feet and the beam is generous at five feet, making for a very stable boat. There is lots of room for stowing gear, making this a better cruising boat than my Tabur 320. The freeboard is generous and the bow rides high in the chop. Some fifteen thousand of these boats were built from 1960 until the 1980’s. There were three versions of which mine is the most recent, numbered 17903 and built in 1976.
All I have is the hull and the centreboard. The hull is in good condition, with two professional repairs. The original rudder perished in the fire, so I will have to find a replacement. I intend to rig Sarum, as I have decided to name her, with the Mirror rig of Sophia, and I have a spare set of rigging for the old boat. I will be keeping both boats, since Sophia is much lighter and more appropriate for certain conditions. She will be kept as a light weather boat, whereas Sarum will be more seaworthy in a swell and chop and will have less sail than what she was originally designed for. It suits me, as a cruising boat needs to be capable of being safely handled in a stiff breeze and reefed as necessary.
There is plenty of work for the rest of autumn and this winter. The mast step needs to be adapted, the attaching points for the standing rigging need a good look. The transom needs rebuilding with marine plywood plate and the pintles put in the right places for the future rudder. This boat is designed to take a very small outboard engine (2hp). The Seagull is said to be very reliable even though the design is old. I don’t expect her to be a fast or sporty boat? The Zef is a plodder, a cruising boat. I intend to give Sarum a good lick of paint next spring. The obvious colour is Sarum blue (hull above the waterline, white for below the waterline the decks and inside the cockpit. I hope to find a flag of Our Lady of Salisbury Cathedral to run up to the masthead with the French flag and the Red Ensign of my own country.
I will take Sarum to the Semaine du Golfe instead of Sophia, though I might take both boats if a friend would like to come and sail with us. Sarum needs a lot of work, and I am sure she will be a proud little vessel when I bless her just before launching at the beginning of next season.