The 14′ Lune Pilot

Extracted from and by courtesy of Classic Boat magazine and Jenny Bennett (1988)

Jenny Bennett looks at one of Bill Bailiff’s Character Boats.

“If a boat was no good, the fishermen would let it go and build another one. The boats that survived were the good ones,” says Bill Bailiff whose boats are all taken from original craft from the last days of traditional working sail. Today his boats are still used as working boats by fishermen in the Morecambe area of north-west England. Bill’s emphasis on tradition is practical rather than emotional – if there is a simple traditional idea that works and has done so for decades, why change it now? As a result, much of the gear on his boats may seem a bit strange and bewildering to those of us used to modern day techniques  but you only have to try them once to find that they really do work.

When I was first invited to sail the 14′ Lune Pilot I had my reservations. A 14ft (4.27m) boat with no centreboard? Surely it would just slide to leeward? As a child brought up with small dinghies and dayboats, the idea was bizarre to say the least. I had much to learn.

The 14′ Lune Pilot is a design that evolved to sail to windward in fairly rough conditions on shallow broken water. She has a long shallow keel and a sloping wine glass transom. Bill told me that it is this slope that helps bring her tidily through surf – bigger boats, like the 17’8″ (5.38m) Lune Longboat, are double-ended for the same reason. She has a slight hollow in the forward water line which gives a clean entry and at the stern, the water line comes to a point, making her technically double ended below the waterline. From the bilges down to the keel, the hull shape is concave and apparently, it is these hollow garboards that make the shallow keel so much more efficient. She is quite deep at the heel where she draws about 2ft (0.61m) and this too enhances her performance to windward. And it works! When I went out with Bill in Douarnenez, it was blowing about Force 5 and even with a reef in the mailsail, we were managing to point higher than many of the boats around us. Although she does have shallow bilge keels, Bill tells me that they are primarily to protect the grp hull when grounded.

The grp construction of the 14′ Lune Pilot is robust with an 8oz (227g) lay-up below the waterline and 6oz (170g) above. However, the strength is not limited to the hull structure: each of the thwarts is supported on a buoyancy tank which in turn creates a double bulkhead that is bonded to the outside skin. Another stiffening element is the 1.5cwt (76.2kg) of ballast. The orginial timber boat from which Bill took his mould weighed 5cwt (254kg) when dry, so he added the ballast to compensate for the lower weight (3.5cwt (178kg)) of the grp hull. The ballast is in the form of bagged sand which lies beneath the floorboards. Being sand, it moulds itself to the shape of the boat, is removable for trailing and easily replaceable.

Bill does not use an interior moulding on any of his boats. He does agree that when the boat is brand new, it may give a glossier appearance but points out that an interior moulding does not strengthen the boat and also pushes the price up. Another advantage is that a new owner can have any interior arrangement and Bill can virtually custom build the boats at very little extra cost. The timber throughout the boat is chosen for both durability and value: the seats and samson post are in iroko, the gunwhales are keruing and the spars either hemlock, douglas fir or spruce. Bill opts for low-maintenance finishes wherever possible and has chosen to coat the seats in a microporous wood finish which is less glossy than varnish but allows water to permeate and so does not bubble and lift. The spars too are covered in microporous paint. However, as with the interior layout, the customer may choose his own particular finish although prices will differ.

Sailing the 14′ Lune Pilot highlights the simplicity of the design. The mast is light and with no stays is easily stepped. The mast gate is based on an old Scottish idea: it employs a stainless steel band on either side of the mast through which a wooden wedge is placed to keep the mast in position. For the standing lugsail there is a single halyard with a sliding ring on the mast which hooks on to a single strop on the yard; no clips or shackles for cold hands to deal with.

Several of Bill’s boats go to local fishermen who, he says, are finally coming round to the idea of grp as a working material but many are going to young families. Despite being only 14ft (4.27m) long, the Lune Pilot has plenty of space: we sailed her with three adults and would have had ample room for one more. She is a very stable boat (although wet in rough conditions) and sails beautifully with either full or reefed sail. One of the things I particularly liked was the unstayed mast which offers the novice a release when going down wind: get into trouble and you simply let go of the sail and allow it to fly around the front of the mast like a flag.

The 14′ Lune Pilot can be sailed, rowed, trailed and has an outboard motor well. It can be supplied at any stage of construction.

Lune Pilot Thumb

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