img7514While waiting for my permanent 30-foot slip to become available, I occupied a client's slip on a 50-foot-slip dock. My little 27-footer looked funny sitting between the towering, live-aboard "freeboard 50s." I sensed that the owners of the bigger boats looked down their noses at me, but that's OK. I looked up their noses at them. The standard dock joke became, "Hey, your boat shrunk."

These 50-footers have at least one thing in common. They seldom leave the dock. In fact, during my stay on the 50-footer dock, none of my neighbors ever went out for a sail. Having finished my weekly deck scrub, I sat and had a pipe while pondering what to do with a beautiful, sunny and absolutely windless fall afternoon. Then I fired up my stalwart little single-cylinder diesel and put-putted out of my long slip.

img7512I spent the next hour just cruising around the big marina checking out the different boats and gamming with my friends. My neighbor asked if I wanted help as I came back to my dock. Hardly, I thought to myself. "No thanks," I said to my neighbor as I backed the little boat in and stepped to the dock.

The British have a tradition of sailing pocket cruisers. Cynics would probably attribute this to economics; I can relate to that and they would be partially correct. But I like to think that there is a breed of sailor who prefers the joys of small but self-sufficient cruising boats. Growing up, I dreamed of cruising in a 25-foot Laurent Giles Cardinal Virtue-class sloop. These are strong boats designed to go offshore safely.

Today, this tradition is kept alive by the Cornish Crabber line of small cruising boats, built in Cornwall, England. We are going to look at the 17-foot Crabber. This boat is quaint as hell — maybe a little too quaint for mainstream American taste. So grab your old Harris Tweed jacket, put on a tattersall checked shirt, choose a tie that clashes with everything and get in the mood for a Cornish Crabber. There is a world of difference between the aesthetics of this boat and the latest Hunter model.

img7511The 17-footer is truly a camping-style cruiser. You will need a Porta Potty with this one. Shelter is only partially provided by the dodger. There are two berths that extend under the foredeck. The cockpit is long and spacious. There is a hidden well aft for the outboard motor, either a 2.5- or a 5-horsepower model.

While these boats are attractive, it is difficult to do them justice in a review. Plus, although the booklets go into great detail with beautiful freehand detail drawings, we have no lines drawings.

The 17 is a gaff-rigged sloop. Cornish Crabber owners seem to favor tanbark sails. I favor white sails. A small spinnaker is shown. The SA/D is a surprising 22.2. This should move the little hooker along quite well. Draft with the flat plate centerboard down is 4 feet; board-up draft is 1 foot, 7 inches. There is 217 pounds of ballast in the bilge. This is an ideal trailerable boat for a sailor looking for something a little different and is guaranteed to turn heads.

Strong, pretty weekender for camping-style cruising.

Draftboard down 4', board up 1'7"
Displacement1,450 lbs.
Ballast217 lbs.
Sail Area178 sq. ft.
Auxiliary2.5- or 5-horsepower outboard.

Available in the US from:

Britannia Boats
PO Box 5033
7310 Edgewood Road
Annapolis MD ?21403
Phone (410) 267-5922
Fax: (410) 267-6442

In Europe from:

Cornish Crabbers Ltd.
Rock, Wadebridge,
Cornwall PL27 6PH, England
Phone +44 (0)1208 862666
Fax +44 (0)1208 862 375


SAILINGlogo-115This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.