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BETTY smacks cruising the Estuary janholthusen




4 phases in the development of cruising over two centuries

Conditions for progress in the development of the working boat to the design of sailing boats



- the early years (ca 1860 - 1900) Cruising local & coastal from the Thames Estuary, the Solent, the Irish Sea maybe to the Netherlands. By train to the boat and after sailing with a paid hand or two returning to work - from another berth in a different harbour - again by train. Most cruisers are ex-working boats from wood with almost no creature comforts, navigational aids, charts or pilot books. Serious seamanship is therefore needed and introduced to non-professionals, charts and harbour maps are drawn, many popular pilot books are written and illustrated. All of this is building a strong foundation for the developments to come.

early crusiser at Greenhithe on Thames
a yacht cruising
A boat for cruisers, not employing it to earn a living or using it purely for racing did not materialize out of nowhere or by chance. It was a step in the emancipation of the masses that had started with the European revolutions of the 18th century and the industrial revolution of the 19th leading to a new empowered class of citizens who wanted and gained access to privileges previously reserved for the elite. The breaking down of the barriers to education, political and economic power led to the creation of a middle-class, the most dominant demographic that has been driving the evolution of leisure industries in general, and sailing as a popular sport in particular.
Another symptom of this emancipation was the growing mobility, first by bicycle and rail, later by car. The key to this growth was cheap industrial production in early capitalist economies and the developed trade and banking systems
'Orion' under full sails
- the formative years (1900 - 1914) Cruising distances grow significantly: early on Captain Joshua Slocum sets the bar very high by circumnavigating single-handed in his self-built Spray in 1898. His exploits of this journey soon have bestseller status and many more will follow his example. Prosperity and rising incomes of citizens from middle class backgrounds allow more yachts to be ordered and built than ever before. The first yachting magazines find their readers in Great Britain, the US, the Netherlands and Germany. More spare time and even vacations for some make longer journeys possible and cruising becomes a popular pastime. But then the world war stops the good times cold.
- serious times (1920 - 1939) New prosperity after the war and developments in boat building, like new water-resistant glues for instance - the majority of boats is still made from wood - or the success of the straightforward bermudan rig, make owning and maintaining a cruiser easier than ever before. Less working hours and longer vacations for the average working man give him more free time to spend with his boat. An ever increasing number of sailors from the developed nations go cruising, either in coastal waters or across oceans. In Europe all this ends abruptly with the beginning of World War Two in 1939 and two years later in the US.
  on the river Deben
- really growing strong (1948 - 1970) It takes a couple of years for cruising to pick up again after the war. Now the technologies of mass-production of vessels for the navy spill over into the manufacturing of pleasure boats. The result is series production of identical, more affordable boats for the masses. A former pastime for the privileged few or some dedicated fanatics becomes the popular hobby for countless men and woman. With rising numbers of boat owners the amount of ocean crossings and the distances sailed by cruisers also rises dramatically.
It is not generally realized how many different types of sailing yachts the naval architect is called upon to design. They range from the short-ended light displacement yacht to the long-ended heavy displacement boat (such as the normal thirty-five-foot W.L. ocean racers), and from the long-ended light displacement boat (thirty square metres) to the short-ended heavy displacement (Vertue XXXV), with, of course, an infinite variety of intermediate types. It is a common mistake to think that all modern yachts, with their greatly improved performance, are as a matter of course of light displacement. Vertue XXXV has a displacement relative to her length which is, in fact, greater than that of the famous old French pilot cutter Jolie Brise and almost as great as a Bristol Channel pilot cutter. For cruising I believe that the medium or big displacement boat with moderate overhangs is probably the most suitable. She can be loaded down fairly deeply with stores and water without seriously impairing her performance. She should have plenty of freeboard and all her ballast should be outside, but it does not matter greatly whether it is lead or iron. Sail area should be normal for a boat of her size and type. It is a mistake to have a cut down rig, as such a large proportion of one's sailing is done in light or moderate winds.
Humphrey Barton on the ideal cruiser
- serial-plastic-production age (1970 - ) With the invention of GRP in the Fifties the practice of taking the moulds of successful cruisers as basis for yachts built in series production in GRP becomes popular in the sixties. The results are more and more affordable boats, that are easier to maintain. Rising incomes in the European nations, the USA and Canada coupled with increases in free time for the average worker make the owning of a yacht possible for almost everyone. What was a trickle at first becomes a flood...
modern yacht

This page is dedicated to the many cruisers who have inspired me and who have given me confidence to be building this chapter on cruising. Trusting their advice i am going on cruises aboard my little ship again and again. Thanks goes to everyone who sent me pictures and information.  Without your help this site would not have been possible!  Please keep sending your material, and i will keep improving the pages!

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