Dominic Buckley who we met at the London Boat Show, is the owner of ‘Frangipani’ a Waterbug One Design noticed the similarity to Night Wind. After some considerable research he has come to the conclusion that Night Wind is the pre-War prototype of the Waterbug one design credited to Kim Holman and built at Uphams after the War. Following is his letter to us detailing his research.
I have managed to do some research, and found that in Lloyd’s Register of Yachts during the 60s, she had the following details:
Official Number 166918
Length overall (excl bowsprit) 24ft 8in
Length TM (from stemhead to rudder post) 24ft 8in
Waterline Length 21ft 9in
Beam 8ft 5in
Draft 4ft 8in
Depth (internal height from sheerline to top of keel) 5ft 6in
Gross Reg. Tonnage 5.53
Builder J W &A Upham, 1939
Designer T Harrison Butler
Engine Stuart Turner 2cyl 8bhp
Sail area 330ft
To deal with the Waterbug question first, the dimensions for the Waterbug are exactly the same as Night Wind, including the gross tonnage - so the class has the same length, beam, draft and volume, even the same type of engine. I firmly believe that Night Wind must be the prototype for the Waterbug: I have included some pictures of my own, Frangipani, so that you can compare them. I think you will agree that they are remarkably similar: the hull shape appears identical, with only minor differences in the rig and layout.
Re-launching, Apr 04
It was Night Wind’s stern that first caught my eye – that shape is very distinctive, with the tumblehome starting very low down, and not at all like the usual 1930s yacht.
The Waterbug chainplates are internal rather than external, and the forward lower shrouds were been replaced in the later Waterbugs by a single babystay to the forward end of the coachroof. The coachroof itself has been given more camber, to give a little more headroom (5ft 10in), and the oblong window is aft rather than halfway along. This may well have something to do with the original position of the galley, as galleys and chart tables were often at the forward end of the saloon in the 30s, so that the companionway wasn’t blocked by the cook or navigator. By the time that the Waterbugs were being built, ideas had changed: galleys were put aft, so that the cook had some fresh air to breath.
It appears that Night Wind’s interior got a “make-over” in the 60s or 70s, hence the dinette in the saloon with the galley moved aft. Ironically, when Frangipani underwent a similar refit in the 80s, her galley was moved forward, under the mast. (I think her erstwhile owner must have read Lin and Larry Pardy’s books, and decided he wanted something just like Serrafyn!)
As for the Harrison Butler link – Night Wind is certainly not a pedigree THB design, however her first owner (who registered her as such) must have had some reason for thinking she was. This could have arisen in two ways:
i. He had something like a Z4 tonner (21ft overall), liked it, but needed something bigger, with berths for 4. Stuart Upham, designer for Uphams yard before WW2, could have taken the lines of the Z4 and stretched them by 2 inches for every foot, which gives just about the right dimensions. To cope with the extra weight in the cockpit, she could have been given greater beam aft, giving her the very un-Harrison Butler-like stern. I’ve recently taken the lines off Frangipani, and superimposed them on the lines of the Z4 in THB’s “Cruising Yachts”. As you see, aside from the flatter sheer, she is near-as-dammit the same until about Station 7: the bow profile, angle of the transom and midships section are spot-on, and the difference in the underwater profile can be accounted for by the need to design more rocker in the keel to accommodate the extra ballast required (red line shows Waterbug profile, superimposed on the Z4 lines in black). She even retains the Z4’s very broad keel (17inches at its widest), that builders complained about because of the waste in shaping the keelson.
ii. Uphams built 2 genuine Harrison Butler yachts during 1939, immediately before Night Wind: Grakle (official no 166909) and Veritia (official no. 166917, now Barbara of Polvarth). They are both very close to Night Wind in all their dimensions, aside from the overall length and waterline length (presumably courtesy of canoe sterns), and were completed before her. Night Wind’s owner may well have seen them being built, and said “I want one just like that, but I don’t like canoe sterns – can I have a transom instead?” Again, Stuart Upham could have altered the lines in order to compensate for the loss of the buoyancy of the canoe stern, increasing the beam at the transom, leading to a boat which looks very Harrison Butler from ahead, but more like a fishing boat from astern!
Either way, Dr Harrison Butler hated people altering his designs, so Uphams didn’t want to tell him. Perhaps, given that more Waterbugs were built than any of THB’s pedigree designs (aside from the Z4), it may have been nice for the Harrison Butler Association to acknowledge the link, but I know that they have a very purist approach.
Overall, this is what I believe happened: Stuart Upham took one of THB’s designs as a starting-off point. Night Wind’s owner believed she was still close enough to the original design to register her as a Harrison Butler (which, even in the 1930s, was a name with a certain caché). She was, however, far enough altered that THB would deny her as one of his designs. In 1950, Uphams wanted to build a class of small sloops, to take advantage of the post-war upsurge in sailing. Jack Holman selected Night Wind’s design for the Waterbug class, installing a much taller mast, to carry a fractional sloop rig of 350 sq ft (20sq ft larger than Night Wind’s masthead cutterrig), reminiscent of that of Frangipani in 1961 (River Tamar) the Folkboats then becoming
popular. At least 20 or so Waterbugs were built up until 1960, when Uphams became the builder of the Twister class.
Despite their old-fashioned looks, sturdy build and bowsprit, the Waterbugs were originally built as a One Design cruiser-racer class, and many of them raced under RORC rules – though they must have needed a capful of wind to compete against the more modern designs.
Over the years, changes have been made to those boats still in existence. The original knock-about fractional sloop rig with a (for then) quite high aspect mainsail and very short bowsprit still can be found on several examples. At least one (Caprice
II – now Sionnachan) was converted to a gaff cutter rig, but others (Frangipani among them) were converted to bermudian cutters, by being given a masthead jib, longer bowsprit and standing backstay: with a clean bottom, the extra 120 sq ft of sail makes her quite a “flyer” even in light winds, often keeping up with Dragons (except on a beat to windward, of course).
Frangipani in 2005 (River Crouch)
Including Night Wind, there are at least 6 still sailing. Unfortunately, they are quite spread out (3 on the East coast, one in the West Country, one in Northern Ireland and one in Germany), so getting them all together would be a challenge. But even 50-60 years on, they are still tough little cruising boats: as recently as 2002- 2003, one made a successful cruise to the Mediterranean and back.
Unfortunately, my plans to include Pin Mill in Frangipani’s cruising this year have fallen by the wayside. After a winter not conducive to painting, she will be laid up for most, if not all, this year as she undergoes a full strip back to bare wood, repainting and varnishing. But it means that I shall be able to concentrate on fully refurbishing her and get her looking good for her half-century next year. By then, I shall need my “sailing fix” quite badly!
I wish you the best of luck with the Classic Sailing Club – it’s a terrific idea that deserves to do well. Should the pressures of family ever mean that I need to say farewell to Frangipani, I would be very interested in becoming a member. But, until then, I look forward to getting Frangipani alongside Night Wind in 2007.