2018 July 1

A seaworthy pocket-cruiser that is a perfect project for the home builder

I have been following the design work of John Welsford for some time now. His SCAMP design caught my attention and it has become quite a popular class in the Pacific Northwest. It’s hard not to like pocket-cruisers but so many of them appear to me to be “toy boats” and not the kind of boat I would want to sail. John’s designs escape this type and are capable little vessels that perform well and are aesthetically very satisfying. I pestered John for one of his designs to review and he finally broke down and sent me the drawings for his Pelegrin 17-footer. John’s designs are aimed at the home builder so design details are simple but effective.


This design is based on the working sailboats of the English South Coast circa 1880. John uses a multichine hull form with three chines per side to get a shapely hull with a relatively narrow BWL and flare to the topsides. The upper chine turns the topsides to develop some tumblehome aft. All in all it’s a shapely hull with a nice spring to the sheer and good form stability. 

For a boat this size it’s best to add some crew weight to the designed displacement for my D/L, and with 300 pounds of crew weight (me plus my two dogs) added, I get a D/L of 196. Ballast is 540 pounds stretched along the bottom of the long keel. Draft is only 2 feet so I can’t imagine upwind boat speed will be this boat’s forte. But if you live where the water is thin, a 2-foot draft will be very convenient. The L/B is 2.36, indicating a relatively beamy boat, but with this LOA you need beam for accommodations.

Given the 17-foot LOA you can’t expect much in the way of “accommodations” but the Pelegrin has room for two berths and a spot for a small stove, such as a two burner Origo. That would be my choice. You could do a small dining table and I have the perfect design for one that is very versatile. Not sure where you would stow the porta potty, maybe aft of the companionway. The fo’c’sle is generous with more than enough room for a cruising chute and a couple of sea bags. 

When I look at a diminutive layout like this I ask myself, could I be comfortable stuck below for the day while the Pacific Northwest rain came down? Origo also makes a very effective small alcohol heater that I used on my last boat so that would take care of keeping warm. There is more than enough sitting headroom. So, yes. I do think I could hunker down for a day or two on this boat. A boom tent would make life aboard in the rain a lot more comfortable. You could leave the companionway open.

The rig is a traditional gaff type with the mainsail lashed to the mast and boom. Don’t write off the gaff rig for efficiency. If you look at the modern race boat rig with a square-top mainsail it approaches the geometry of the old gaff rig. Once you bear off a bit the gaff rig is very effective. And face it, the gaff rig suits this type of design perfectly. It makes for a short mast that is easy, with a tabernacle step, to raise and lower for trailering and stowing. I would imagine this design would live on a trailer much of the time. Peak and throat halyards are combined into a single halyard system with a bridle on the gaff. The SA/D is 17.94.

John’s design eye is very good. His drafting is utilitarian. But his plans are very well drawn to illustrate the details of the build so a non boatbuilder type can build his boats. John calls out every detail leaving almost nothing to the builder’s imagination. You only get these kind of plans when the designer is also a builder. 

Take the time to check out John’s website. He has a full range of boats to choose from for your next winter’s project. It would be a most satisfying endeavor.

I really like simple boats.

LOA 17’; DWL’; Beam 7’2”; Draft 2’; Displ. 1,800 lbs.; Ballast 540 lbs.; Sail area 166 sq. ft.; D/L 196; L/B 2.36; SA/D 17.94; Auxiliary 2- to 6-hp outboard

Our best estimate of the sailaway price : $15,398

John Welsford 

Small Craft Designs

P.O. Box 314 

Ngongotaha, New Zealand

64  027 929 5900