by Churchouse Boats
STEWART'S DRASCOMBE QUIRKY PAGE
This is my personal page where I indulge myself, reminisce over past Drascombe moments and pass on idiosyncratic snippets of information - most definitely on a without prejudice basis!!!!
I originally bought a Drascombe, from a non-sailing tradition, because I wanted to learn to sail and indulge in the Swallows & Amazons type of sailing and perhaps even a Toad element of messing about in boats.
This was a second-hand Lugger - a very early Mark 1. I pottered around the Solent and, with the guidance of a friend, taught myself to sail.
It fulfilled every one of my expectations and a few that I hadnt even thought of. Not least of the ones I hadnt thought about has been the Drascombe Association. Through it, I have been encouraged to use my boat far more than I would have thought. I have travelled to sailing waters I would not otherwise have ventured upon and I have met a wide number of people that I now count as close friends. This has even influenced my career. I quit construction from a senior position to acquire & grow Churchouse Boats & now I also have the sole licence to build new Drascombe boats - it sure puts the Smirnoff advert in the shade!!
As soon as the Drascombe Association was formed, I signed up. This led to The Rally - a weekend of Drascombing and the need to sleep somewhere. The B&B option did not appeal, camping on the beach was fun, at times, but the real way was to sleep on the boat. I soon designed and home-made a boom-tent (yes, a boom - but thats another story). I did it on the cheap. Saved £100, used my wifes sewing machine, buggered it up big time and had to buy her a new one for £250!! Just because you chose a Drascombe doesnt mean you get it right every time! Ten years of enormous fun followed. Two of us slept on the floor boards of the Lugger. Many wonderful nights of beach barbecues, star-lit evenings, good friends & good crack fill the memory and nights under the stars are unbeatable.
Eventually, of course, the desire for a more comfortable berth, dry clothes & sleeping bags, and additional facilities meant an up-grade to a Coaster - sound move.
The Coaster does not have the cockpit space of the others in the range, the side-decks abeam of the cabin are rather narrow, and the forward visibility is not as good. Nevertheless it has been a superb boat to own. It has all the shallow water versatility of the Lugger, is perfectly safe in a strong blow off-shore, and has the wonderful protection of the cabin and its associated spray-hood to minimise the effect of the green ones coming over the bow.
On several occasions, in company with Drascombe friends, we have been rafted up or on a beach, having a beer or two and a BBQ, and been approached by envious owners of otherwise desirable large craft, such as the Freedom 40, who recognize the Drascombe way as a high-pleasure, low-stress way of sailing. They are not wrong! I love it!!
There really is nothing to beat a good sail in a Drascombe and, at the end of the day, to nose into a creek or backwater inaccessible to 90% of other craft (& the Harbour Master seeking dues!), break out the beer and the grub, and watch the sun go down while the sea-birds and waders eat their fill, comfortable with your non-threatening company.
It has been said (by me, at least, on many occasions) that sailing is the ultimate environment-friendly activity. We are powered by the wind, consume nothing and, five minutes after we have passed, there is no evidence that we have ever been there. If you want to live in harmony with nature, enjoy life but harm neither sacred planet nor person, buy a Drascombe.
Dawn on quiet waters is one of lifes ecstatic pleasures second only to the smell of bacon being cooked in the open air. The full English is another feature of my personal sailing ethos.
On one occasion, I was sailing with the then Chairman of the Drascombe Association, Jim Hopwood, in his well-used Longboat Cruiser on the Dart. We had over-nighted up Dittisham Mill Creek at the mouth of which was an absolutely superb thatched cottage. Real chocolate box material & worth an absolute mint - we had met the wealthy owner on the previous evening. After bacon & eggs at 6.00am, the morning was too quiet and magical to shatter with an outboard motor so we hoisted the jib & ghosted down the creek. As we passed the photogenic cottage, the inhabitants rushed out with cameras - and took pictures of us! Tells you something, doesnt it?
There really is something special about Drascombe owners. As a breed, they are comfortable, independent people, self confident & with nothing to prove. The French have a saying that someone is 'comfortable in their skin' & that sums up the Drascombe person. As a result, they are generally easy going, gregarious and damned good company. We had a monster 10/30 Rally at Calshot, in the Solent, in July 1997 to celebrate 10 years of the Association and 30 years of the production of Drascombes. Some 90 boats attended including a major Dutch contingent & another from Ireland. The comment of the weekend was from the Manager of the Calshot Centre who, as a keen observer of events and get-togethers, said that he was amazed how smoothly things had gone. "As soon as any incident began, the Drascombe people gathered round and helped sort it out. No fuss, no gloating, no egos. Just great." And it was.
In 2007, we did it all again as the 20/40/80 Rally. 20 years of the Association, 40 years of the production of Drascombes, to which we added 80 to mark Luke Churchouse's 80th birthday.
The boats are fantastic. John Watkinson started it all with a very personal mission to produce a boat that would keep his wife, Kate, sailing with him. The Lugger that he produced met his personal need and went on to meet the same needs of thousands of others. The evolution of the other designs has, each in its own way, filled a void in the market need. It is now the most comprehensive range of low-stress, high fulfillment sailing boats available.
THE BARBECUE. This small piece of essential kit features large in the Drascombe weekend. The conventional items from your B&Q are not compatible with a BBQ afloat. The cool art of effective BBQ afloat evolved through the following DIY application:
1. For simplicity of use and no cleaning afterwards, the disposable BBQ is the business. Packs of 3 or 5 from Tesco - cheap & convenient.
2. The holder. Your average kitchen shop (or Wilkinsons) will sell you a turkey tin for about £6. A foil contained disposable BBQ fits a treat. Buy one.
3. Cut two plywood brackets to bolt to the sides of said turkey tin, shape the ends to clip over the gunwhale capping.
4. Cut some aluminium plate (or whatever comes to hand) and make a wind shield. This is essential. You expect wind to go sailing - it will still be there when you stop for food.
5. Hang the BBQ tray over gunwhale. Erect the windshield. Install a disposable BBQ. Light & bask in smug self satisfaction while you imbibe the beer and cook the pork chops & vegetable kebabs to perfection.
Many a pleasant evening has been spent BBQing with Drascombe friends - absolutely marvellous.
Eventually, of course, I found the single disposable BBQ too limiting for the full meal for self & friends. This lead to a purpose built, stainless steel fabrication that takes two disposables at a time - the Party Animal model! We can now cope, simultaneously, with the prawn kebab starters, meats, vegetable kebabs, corn cobs, naan bread (with garlic, of course) & large, flat mushrooms with Stilton in them. This still leaves enough heat for the Banana with coffee liqueur puds!
On the Home Page, I have a paragraph about fishing from your Drascombe. One day during 2011, out in the Solent on a sunny afternoon, the wind went from F3-4 to F-rustrating as it died away to not a lot. The Mackerel paravane went over the side & I hauled in 6 of them. Back in the creek, the fillets went into a hot frying pan with plenty of Olive Oil & some black pepper. Served on wholemeal bread with Olive spread & a glass of red - mouth watering! Rick Stein, eat your heart out.
Buy a Drascombe and it will happen!
Now that it is my business as well as my hobby, I am forced to devote many hours to product testing. For example, testing Drifter sidebenches:
Size & fit 100%, comfort 70%! (Courtesy of Des Bennett, Drifter Intrepid.) The Drifter 22 is more comfortable!
As it is my business, I have also had the opportunity for a massive self-indulgence - the Drascombe Drifter 22! Whilst sailing & enjoying my Coasters, I kept thinking of the boat I really wanted. The idea germinated, was cultivated & grew. Once I had joined McNulty Boats & convinced David McNulty that the Drascombe range needed a new boat at its top end, the idea ripened. When I took over the building of new Drascombes in 2002, I naturally took over my pet project as well. It took a while to bring it to fruition, but we did it.
We completed the wood-epoxy prototype, which was Bolitho 7 & I sailed it for the 2006 season to make sure it was what I really wanted & what it should be; & it was.
We turned her into a GRP production boat & launched her commercially at the London Boat Show in 2007.
She has exceeded my expectations & is a really beautiful boat to sail & enjoy. Fortunately, a lot of other people also think it is their ideal boat!
After more than twenty years as South Coast Representative & Committee Member of the Drascombe Association, I decided to slough off the skin of responsibility & retire from the Committee, a decision made easier by another enthusiastic Drascomber willing to take over from me.
At one of our regular Chichester Dinners, I formally announced my retirement & we appointed my successor.
My friends presented me with a superb weathervane which depicts the Drascombe Drifter 22, with me on the helm, accurate right down to my peaked sailing hat!
For more pictures, look at Andy Cooper's album: View Album
The following Sunday morning, I was up the ladder to one of our chimney stacks, boldly going where the Sky Dish man refused to go on the grounds of Elf & Safety. Weather vane duly installed & looking good.
Held close up, indoors, I wondered about a few of the cuts & sipes that made up the design, which had been produced from photographs. Outdoors & in place, it all gels beautifully. Graham Smith at Dorset Weathervanes, clearly knows exactly what he is at. (Click on the image & it will take you to his website.)
Certainly not the end of Drascombe sailing for me, I remain an active participant in the Solent Group, along with many an old friend & quite a number of new ones. The cockpit of Bolitho is still the hotspot of bonhomie that it has always been.
FUNNY OLD WEATHER!
The sailing weather in 2012 was unpredictable & generally awful. On the South Coast, we had a Poole Rally that didn't get to Poole & a Solent Cruise that went to Poole! However, I think some of us have found that we can take our Drascombes out in heavier weather than we were previously comfortable with.
Only a few years ago, as soon as F5 was mentioned in the forecast, we didn't go out. My response to the inevitable question of 'How safe is a Drascombe?' was to say, 'Go out in F3-F4, stay out in F5, come home in F6. This year, we have had 'Gusting 30kts' & said, let's go, it will be OK - & it was! Challenging, not always a pleasure but safe. This was sometimes rewarded by a great sail the next day.
As everywhere but particularly relevant to Solent sailing is the interface of wind & tide. Wind over tide generates a steep, short wave pattern that can be very uncomfortable & make for long hard beats. Wind with tide in F5 running before it can be glorious (& too fast to catch Mackerel!)
Thinking of wind strengths, here is my consolidation of the Beaufort Scale. You will probably already know the numbers but some of the descriptions are interesting. I can't remember where I first found those but thank you to whoever created them.
FEBRUARY 28, 2013
It was time for a change. Having formed Churchouse Boats Ltd in March 1998, I decided that the time had come to hand over the responsibilty for running it to the next generation. Simon Harwood, my eldest stepson, joined CBL around 10 years ago & for the last 6 has been Production Manager. His wife, Sharon, has been helping out with admin on a part time basis since 2010, so they both know the business, its customers & its quirks pretty well so Simon has taken over as Director & Sharon's admin role has expanded.
I will still be around on an ad-hoc basis.
Over the years, I have accumulated several boats of my own & some other nautical toys. The pipe & slippers don't beckon yet but the varnish brush & the chance to try out un-fulfilled tweaks is still beckoning!
I am only a limited wordsmith and cannot properly convey the elation & pleasure that Drascombe sailing has brought to my life. Within this web-site I have quoted, frequently, from the Drascombe sticker:
The Sail that becomes a way of life!
It certainly did!
The Sail that becomes a Way of Life!