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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Jay Benford Cruising Dory, Badger

In 1978, Jay Benford expanded on his cruising experience in the 34 foot topsail ketch, Sunrise, to create a dory hulled cruising boat. There were naysayers then, as now, about the capacity of a sailing dory to weather off-shore conditions.

 Annie and Pete Hill made the Badger famous and proved Mr Benford's design by sailing their dory over 100,000 nautical miles. Since then, we find Benford Badgers being built everywhere. It is a cruising yacht designed for the home builder.

Annie, of course, loved her plywood dory and had this to say in her book Voyaging on a Small Income:
"Badger can be built simply and for very little money. Sheathed in cloth and epoxy, she is easy to maintain and can be kept up to standard at very little expense - an essential prerequisite for a boat that is sailed on a small income." 
The Badger was originally designed with a cutter sail rig, but most builders prefer a fully battened schooner junk configuration, which has been touted as possibly the best short-handed cruising rig ever devised.

In Ullapool, Scotland we find a recently launched Badger setting out for it's first cruise. Dan Johnson is the happy builder of Hester. He and his wife Charlotte Watters have spent several years exploring northern Atlantic venues, so for their first cruise on Hester, will be heading south.

Dan, with occasional help from friends, built Hester in two years. An impressive schedule for readying an open-ocean cruiser and a testament to Annie's claim about simplicity of build, also to the commitment of the builder.

Dan and Charlotte have been impressed with the boat's handling, as documented in Dan's log:

"...we had made it down to Oban where we left Hestur for a week. After that, Charlotte and I returned to sail north again back to Ullapool. Of course we were hit by five days of northeast winds (absolutely our direction of travel) This would really show us how Junks go to windward - they do."

"Heading north we decided to go inside Mull then outside Skye taking in the Outer Hebridies. This proved to be a good plan as the Minch provides a great seaway for tacking against northerly winds! Heading west across the Minch towards Barra we experienced our first largish sea and strongish wind aboard Hestur - F6 with 10 foot crashers. She performed perfectly with nothing unexpected and we were broad reaching at 6+ knots with two panels up on the foresail and three in the main. Very easy sailing with no deck work - all reefing done from cockpit"

"When sailing on the wind she will sail herself if you balance the sails - we often leave the helm quite literally for hours and hours, not even lashed. This surprises me as she is a fin keeler - I think it must be the substantial skeg arrangement."

Being a dory sailor myself, I find this account impressive and would like to offer congratulations to Dan and Charlotte. May they find many happy miles at sea!

Thank you, John McIntyre and Chris Perkins of Ullapool for the photos of Hester.



  1. Nice post - when Erica and I went cruising Voyaging on a small income was the handbook for common sense. Junk rig can look a little awkward but on Badger Jay Benford really has designed a boat that that looks just right - boat and rig work together in an uncommonly integrated whole.

  2. Annie is now sailing in new Zealand and has converted her Raven 26, "Fantail", to a junk rig. She describes herself and other junkers as "junkies", which speaks volumes.

    I have never liked a forward coaming, though the advantages are apparent, the design seems like a wave/rain catcher to me. On this design, the boat doesn't look complete until a pram is tied down forward.

    Jay seems to have hit a sweet spot with this boat. Well, in fact, all his designs are superior.

  3. Love this boat.

    My Blue Moon has a raised deck and an anchor well in the bow. I love both. The anchor well, in particular, gives you an amazing sense of security when you are in the bow working on the headsails or getting the anchor in. In fact, my wife likes to take a few cushions and cozy down in the well, on nice sunny days. It's the place she feels the safest.

    The Blue Moon does, however, have large scuppers in the anchor well and cockpit, to drain water. Badger must have something similar, in fact, I see two small holes in the corners of the anchor well and cockpit. Those are probably drains?

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