A gaff cutter is a fore and aft sailing vessel that has one mast, and a gaff that supports the mainsail. She has two or more foresails: typically a staysail, jib and perhaps a flying jib. A good many gaff cutters have bowsprits, particularly older classic yachts.
The photos here are of gaff cutters that I’ve featured in five previous postings. (See links below.) Four more links take you to brokers’ web sites where gaff cutters are for sale.
The main advantage of a gaff cutter is the ease with which she can be made to sail herself, especially to windward. The natural tendency for a boat when sailing to windward is to luff into the wind. By slightly backing the jib and easing the mainsail, the helm can be neutralized so that the boat will steer herself, but it’s a good idea to attach bungees to the tiller to help maintain a course. If she bears off, increased wind pressure on the mainsail will push her stern to leeward, bringing the boat back on course; if she edges too far into the wind, the backed jib will push the bow to leeward; thus the boat will weave to windward. Obviously, this is not the most efficient way to sail, but it does give the helmsman a break. In fact, if the wind is steady and the sea state doesn’t unduly change, the yacht will sail for hundreds of miles in this fashion.
Gaff Cutter seen at Walton
Cape Cutter 19
Maritime Ipswich Festival, part 3
Leigh-on-Sea Bank Holiday Amble Part 3
Micro's' Cruises No 7 Chance Made Good Part 2
Gaff Cutter Boats for Sale & Charter
William Fife 111 Gaff Cutter - Sold
Classic Gaff Cutter