Ocean Voyaging in a Roberts 18

Genevieve Desjardins
Yacht "Pere Peinard"
Brisbane, QLD 4000

 From Montreal, Canada to Brisbane, Australia 18 "Pere Peinard" has failed miserably to live up to it’s designation as a trailer-sailor. But in order to complete the circumnavigation, we will have to fulfil our promise to the Lock-Keeper in Montreal, and trailer the length of the lock since our boat is Officially Undersize by strict regulations governing safe passage through the lock. He let us through the first time, but only because Claude’s father kept hissing to Claude to "sit down! Stay low! When you stand up you make the boat look small!" Fortunately, we had no such restrictions in passing the Panama Canal.

Since most would say the main advantage to mini boats is their trailerability, it is perhaps strange to have chosen to build such a boat for offshore cruising over long distances rather than highway mileage. But Claude, at the age of 18, wanted a boat capable of sailing anywhere despite the limitations of budget, so he decided that he could make up for size in sheer quality. This explanation satisfied me until I saw the worksite, his father’s garage – the glue droppings left from the cold-moulded construction make a perfect outline on the floor with a few inches to spare… "Pere Peinard was the absolute maximum size permitted by the available space. Still building at home enabled him to continue a carpentry job and college as well as working on the boat for the two years it took till launching.

Guided by the principle "Trop fort, na jamais manquer" (too strong, never miss) and doubtless influenced by the screaming winter winds of Quebec, Claude now feels he overbuilt. Be that as it may, it is undoubtedly the one vessel best able to withstand capsize, pitchpole, dropping off waves or other such untried calamities, with flotation built in watertight bulkheads and blown ( in the form of insulating foam) floatation coating the inside of the hull. No thru-hull fittings, a hollow skeg and a watertight deck keep the integrity of the whole. And then, besides security, comfort was a primary concern. This is simply a "question of organisation" which means that with thoughtful effort, it is possible to be as well, if not better, equipped than many a bigger boat. It also needs a rather ruthless elimination of "stuff", after which you can still carry a full set of power tools, generator, typewriter, library, files, sewing machine, and whatever projects especially amuse you. With nine sails aboard, three anchors/chain/line, two sextants, two SW radios, a UHF radio, a spare windvane, etc. we don’t feel that the problem is space at all – our worry is weight rather than room. Being a buoyant stable design, with a fairly flat bottom and twin keels as well as broad beam, the boat sails best with plenty of wind and is not bothered overmuch by sea conditions.

Given a long-term passage, "Pere Peinard" keeps pace with the 25’ cruising set with astonishing ease. This may be due to factors obviously other than the ‘waterline formula’ for speed under sail. Because the rig is comparatively strong, we push the boat to an extreme. Because we are as lazy as the next crew, we get a lot more result out of the same effort spent on sail change aboard a larger boat when more sail is needed… but we are even lazier than the average when it comes to reducing sail. We get a genuine thrill out of surfing at ± 7 knots, and have on occasion been so excessively carried away that the speedometer’s stuck at 10 knots. By way of illustration, we made the 900-mile doldrum leg between Panama and the Galapagos in 21 days; bigger boats took longer still during the same period unless using diesel power. But the 3000 miles from the Galapagos to the Marquesas sped by in 26 days – 115 miles a day average. For three consecutive days during the run we averaged 143 miles… we arrived in the Marquesas only two days after our fleet of big-boat friends. So, although we sometimes have the discouraged urge to go Faster, this handicap of slowness has never jeopardized our safety, nor has it slowed us down in the long run.

Nevertheless we continue to lighten the boat as much as possible. In all, there’s not much more we could ask of any boat than we are not already given by "Pere "Peinard". Maybe it hasn’t been much of a trailer sailer, but as home to us and our cats, it has given us all kinds of different scenery out the windows.


Genevieve Desjardins