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Wild Honey - The 'Ideal Little Yacht' for Unstressed Solo Sailing

23rd September 2020
Wild Honey sailing in Cork Harbour Wild Honey sailing in Cork Harbour Photo: Bob Bateman

Approaching his 60th birthday, Cork Harbour sailor Peter Murray was looking for a boat he could easily sail single-handed when he came across the eight-metre sportsboat' Wild Honey' in County Wicklow

My first sight of Wild Honey was on her road-trailer in a little boatyard at the bottom of a leafy boreen in County Wicklow. Designed as an out-and-out sports-boat by her owner Simon Greenwood of Wicklow, she was for sale while he concentrated on other projects. Surveys were arranged and a deal was done, and I found I had become the new owner of an uncompromising 8-metre sportsboat constructed in strip-cedar and weighing less than a ton fully rigged.

Wild Honey - an 8-metre sportsboat constructed in strip-cedarWild Honey - an 8-metre sportsboat constructed in strip-cedar

Having previously owned a series of small racing yachts, I had taken a break from sailing for several years after I became self-employed. Now, with my 60th birthday approaching, and with it the prospect of having a bit more time on my hands, I was looking for a small yacht for leisure sailing on those fine summer evenings when all sailors fret at being ashore. I didn’t wish to be dependent on crew and one of my foremost requirements was for a boat I could easily sail single-handed. Because she would be kept on the marina, the boat would need to have auxiliary-power - but it had to be an arrangement that didn’t involve wrestling with an outboard motor over the transom.

Because Wild Honey was kept on the marina, the boat would need to have auxiliary-power Because Wild Honey was kept on the marina, the boat would need to have auxiliary-power

I was originally attracted by the new-generation of small day-sailers that had just begun to appear in the Mediterranean and on the lakes of Central Europe. These little yachts, sleek and elegant, and influenced by Italian yacht-designers Luca Benta and Luca Bassani (of ‘Wally’ fame), were frequently described as small “gentleman’s (or gentlewoman’s) day-sailers”, designed for pure sailing pleasure. The only glitch, I soon found out, was that these small sailing Ferraris came with Ferrari-like prices - so the idea of a “project” began to form. My first plan was to pick up an old 1720 sportsboat and convert it to what I had in mind. Then I heard of a little yacht ashore on the East Coast which might prove an even better starting point.

And that’s how I found myself, one October day in 2012, in a boatyard at the bottom of that leafy boreen in County Wicklow.

After Simon delivered Wild Honey to Cork, the serious planning and sourcing of equipment and materials began, and work was immediately started on removing all the deck-equipment and carrying out the alterations to the coachroof and down below needed to accommodate the rerouting and concealment of the sail-controls.

I had decided that the deck was to be clean and kept clear of all the control lines, and that these would be carried beneath the coachroof along two new watertight channels before emerging just ahead of the two sheet winches. A single-sheet self-tacking system was devised for the jib with a below-deck ‘Facnor’ furler mated to a ‘Bartels’ aluminium head-foil. To accommodate the furler and furler-lines below deck it was necessary to fix the original retractable articulating bowsprit laterally and to reduce its length slightly. This entailed redesigning the bow area, changing the forward chainplate arrangement, and straightening the bow-profile. The re-profiled bow had the added aesthetic benefit of giving Wild Honey a more modern looking plumb-bow. The shorter bow-sprit would still retract, but would now be fitted with a furler and torque-line for ‘top-down’ furling an asymmetric spinnaker or code ’0’ foresail. Like all the sail controls, the furler lines would be led below deck and out of sight.

A teak-laid deck was always an integral part of the plan to give the boat a “Wally”-like appearance. However, the time involved in preparing and shaping teak strips led me to look at alternatives. Eventually, I discovered an imitation teak product made in Sweden by “Flexiteek” whose appearance and texture make it virtually indistinguishable from the real thing - even at close inspection. I selected the colour-option that had the silver-grey look teak gets after exposure to the elements. One of the most exacting jobs in the entire operation was making the templates to enable the Flexiteek agent to fabricate the traditional herring-bone patterned decking. For this job, I had the indispensable assistance of an artist friend who showed me how to cut and shape the cardboard templates that would go to the Flexiteek agent. The time spent on getting it right was well worth it because when the decking came back it fitted perfectly, and it was a relatively easy - if rather messy - job to fit. However, when laid and cured, it was possible, just like real teak, to clean off the excess caulking with a power-sander.

Once the coachroof and bow alterations had been completed, and all the holes and hollows faired, and before the teak-decking was laid, Wild Honey was sent to the paint-shop for a complete re-spray. The original light blue paint-job had faded badly and the boat needed smartening-up. I decided to paint the hull and spars a very dark navy-blue which I hoped would best complement the new teak decking.

When the boat returned from the paint-shop all shiny and elegant, we laid the decking using synthetic black caulking supplied by the agent. We then began the work in planning the sail-control systems and placing and securing the deck-fittings. We were concerned about the compressibility of the Flexiteek under load, so the decking had to be cut out directly underneath all the deck fittings, and hard pads fabricated to match the cut-outs before we secured the sheet-winches, pad-eyes, mainsheet track, and stanchions.

I had originally intended to construct a well in the aft-deck for the small outboard motor. However, early in the project, I decided on a more ambitious solution to the auxiliary power question and one more in keeping with the character of the project by installing electric inboard propulsion. Research on the web led me to the Lynch Motor Company in Devon who make a series of small and powerful electric ‘pancake’ motors and control-systems suitable for marine applications. Further enquiries established that the marine-equipment company, Silettes, could supply a suitable sail-drive leg and a mating-flange. The motor I fitted is rated at about 4 HP, driving a 35mm’ ‘Gori’ folding prop, all of which is more than adequate to drive a small light-displacement yacht. Two deep-cycle AGM batteries, arranged ‘in series’, supply the required 24 volts.

Wild Honey's battery and engine arrangement

The motor is capable of driving the boat at up to 5 kts depending on sea-conditions and has an endurance at 2/3rds power of about an hour and a half. Endurance isn’t an issue anyhow because the motor is normally only needed to get on and off the marina. The engine, batteries, control-system, saildrive and prop, weigh under 90 kg - far less than a small diesel and its ancillaries. One advantage of an electric motor in addition to silent operation is that it is completely vibration-free, which means the sail-drive unit on which the engine sits can be bolted directly to the hull without the necessity of the elaborate vibration-damping system required with diesel propulsion.

Wild Honey has a flexible, ‘walk-on’ solar cell array on the coachroof between the hatch and the mast. This is perfectly adequate for charge-maintenance and to recharge the batteries after a brief use of the motor. But after any prolonged use, the built-in shore-charger is needed to restore the batteries to full charge.

The final job was to reprofile the very narrow keel and increase the chord by about 30% to make the boat more forgiving to steer in very light conditions without significantly affecting her all-around performance.

The work to convert a very extreme racing sports-boat into an elegant day-sailer was carried out during the spring and summer of 2014, and Wild Honey in her new incarnation was launched at Crosshaven Boatyard in September of the same year. She immediately proved to be a joy to sail, requiring only the gentlest of breeze to get her moving, yet she is equally well able to stand up to her full sail in a stiff breeze. Like a traditional yacht, she depends on her very high ballast-ratio for stability, rather than beam and bodies on the rail. Her narrow hull also gives her an easy motion in a sea, and the lightness of a racing-dinghy on the helm - even when well-heeled. She is also as pretty as anything, drawing admiring comment, and has become a bit of a conversation-piece on the marina.

 All sail-controls led close to the helmsperson’s hand All sail-controls led close to the helmsperson’s hand

With all sail-controls led close to the helmsperson’s hand, a furling self-tacking-jib, fully-battened mainsail with boom-strut and lazy-guys to make sail hoisting and handling simple, and an electric motor for getting on and off the marina, Wild Honey has proved the ideal little yacht for unstressed single-handed sailing in any conditions a “gentleperson” might wish to be out on the water in. She has been the perfect excuse to escape a little early from the office on those balmy summer evenings. I admit I’ve even done the odd race!

Wild Honey - SpecificationsWild Honey - Specifications

Published in Cork Harbour
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Cork Harbour Information

It’s one of the largest natural harbours in the world – and those living near Cork Harbour insist that it’s also one of the most interesting.

This was the last port of call for the most famous liner in history, the Titanic, but it has been transformed into a centre for the chemical and pharmaceutical industry.

The harbour has been a working port and a strategic defensive hub for centuries, and it has been one of Ireland's major employment hubs since the early 1900s. Traditional heavy industries have waned since the late 20th century, with the likes of the closure of Irish Steel in Haulbowline and shipbuilding at Verolme. It still has major and strategic significance in energy generation, shipping and refining.

Giraffe wander along its shores, from which tens of thousands of men and women left Ireland, most of them never to return. The harbour is home to the oldest yacht club in the world, and to the Irish Navy. 

This deep waterway has also become a vital cog in the Irish economy.

‘Afloat.ie's Cork Harbour page’ is not a history page, nor is it a news focus. It’s simply an exploration of this famous waterway, its colour and its characters.

Cork Harbour Festival

Ocean to City – An Rás Mór and Cork Harbour Open Day formerly existed as two popular one-day events located at different points on Cork’s annual maritime calendar. Both event committees recognised the synergy between the two events and began to work together and share resources. In 2015, Cork Harbour Festival was launched. The festival was shaped on the open day principle, with Ocean to City – An Ras Mór as the flagship event.

Now in its sixth year, the festival has grown from strength to strength. Although the physical 2020 festival was cancelled due to Covid-19, the event normally features nine festival days starting on the first week of June. It is packed full of events; all made possible through collaboration with over 50 different event partners in Cork City, as well as 15 towns and villages along Cork Harbour. The programme grows year by year and highlights Ireland’s rich maritime heritage and culture as well as water and shore-based activities, with Ocean to City – An Rás Mór at the heart of the festival.

Taking place at the centre of Ireland’s maritime paradise, and at the gateway to Ireland’s Ancient East and the Wild Atlantic Way, Cork is perfectly positioned to deliver the largest and most engaging harbour festival in Ireland.

The Cork Harbour Festival Committee includes representatives from Cork City Council, Cork County Council, Port of Cork, UCC MaREI, RCYC, Cobh & Harbour Chamber and Meitheal Mara.

Marinas in Cork Harbour

There are six marinas in Cork Harbour. Three in Crosshaven, one in East Ferry, one in Monkstown Bay and a new facility is opening in 2020 at Cobh. Details below

Port of Cork City Marina

Location – Cork City
Contact – Harbour Masters Dept., Port of Cork Tel: +353 (0)21 4273125 or +353 (0)21 4530466 (out of office hours)

Royal Cork Yacht Club Marina

Location: Crosshaven, Co. Cork
Contact: +353 (0) 21 4831023

Crosshaven Boatyard Marina

Location: Crosshaven, Co. Cork
Contact: +353 (0)21 4831161

Salve Marina Ltd

Location: Crosshaven, Co. Cork
Contact: +353 (0) 21 4831145

Cork Harbour Marina

Location: Monkstown, Co. Cork
Contact: +353 (0)87 3669009

East Ferry Marina

Location: East Ferry, Co. Cork
Contact: +353 (0)21 4813390

New Cove Sailing Club Marina

(to be opened in 2020)

Location: Cobh, Co. Cork
Contact: 087 1178363

Cork Harbour pontoons, slipways and ramps

Cork City Boardwalk Existing pontoon

Port of Cork 100m. pontoon

Cork city – End of Cornmarket St. steps and slip;

Cork city - Proby’s Qy. Existing limited access slip

Quays Bar & Restaurant, Private pontoon and ramp for patrons, suitable for yachts, small craft town and amenities

Cobh harbour [camber] Slip and steps inside quay wall pontoon

Fota (zoo, house, gardens) Derelict pontoon and steps

Haulbowline naval basin; restricted space Naval base; restricted access;

Spike Island pier, steps; slip, pontoon and ramp

Monkstown wooden pier and steps;

Crosshaven town pier, with pontoon & steps

East Ferry Marlogue marina, Slip (Great Island side) visitors’ berths

East Ferry Existing pier and slip; restricted space East Ferry Inn (pub)
(Mainland side)

Blackrock pier and slips

Ballinacurra Quay walls (private)

Aghada pier and slip, pontoon & steps public transport links

Whitegate Slip

Passage West Pontoon

Glenbrook Cross-river ferry

Ringaskiddy Parking with slip and pontoon Ferry terminal; village 1km.

Carrigaloe pier and slip; restricted space; Cross-river ferry;

Fountainstown Slip

White’s Bay beach

Ringabella beach

Glanmire Bridge and tide restrictions

Old Glanmire - Quay

Cork Harbour Festival & Ocean to City Race

Following the cancellation of the 2020 event, Cork Harbour Festival will now take place 5 – 13 June 2021, with the Flagship Ocean to City An Rás Mór on 5 June.

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