Saturday, January 16, 2010
Caprice, a Robert Tucker bilge keel yacht
Last December I posted an article* to this Blog about Shane Acton who sailed around the world in an 18’ 4” plywood, bilge keel yacht. She was a Mk 1 Caprice, designed by Robert Tucker, built by C.E. Clark Limited of Hayling Island. A few of these 1960s classic boats are still around, which is a testament to the quality of their build, and the care given to them by numerous owners. As far as I can ascertain, there is no Caprice Owners’ Association**, and that’s a shame because there doesn’t appear to be a source where information can be found about the five different versions, from Mk 1 to Mk 5. I believe the Mk 2 was a composite boat, identical to the Mk1, except she had a fibreglass hull. I also believe the Mk 3 and Mk 4 had the same shaped hull with a chine as the original Mk 1, but they were made of fibreglass. I don’t know what the differences were between Mk 3 and Mk 4, but I think the deck moulding of the Mk 4 had fibreglass combings, instead of wooden ones. Finally, I think the Mk 5 was a round bilge boat moulded entirely in fibreglass. She was longer than the original Mk 1. I feel certain the builders of this larger 19’ 10” version offered a fin keel option. Now, I could be wrong about MUCH of the above, and if I am, please get back to me via the comments section. I’m sure there are a several people who really know what the differences are between the versions.
I remember responding to an advert for the sale of an Mk 1 model. I was impressed by the ‘solidity’ of everything. The construction, in choice wood, was well done, and the rigging was most impressive with twin backstays, double side stays and two forestays. I’m not sure if that was normal for the Mk 1, but everything I looked at was put together to last and to withstand hard use. Inside the cabin there was a satisfying, snugness; a warm homely feeling, and yet the ergonomics were just right for the practical working of the boat. As Shane Acton remarked in his book, ‘Shrimpy’, all things were within his reach when he was sitting or lying on his bunk. Without a doubt, Robert Tucker designed a boat that was a ‘peoples’ boat, affordable, yet seaworthy, and not lacking in performance. The original twin keel version could happily occupy a mud berth, because she was well-supported by her twin keels and skeg. Her transom was strong enough to take a substantial outboard motor and storage space within her cabin under the berths and in the lazarette was more than sufficient for a crew of two. I did not buy the boat because the owner would not budge on the price, which I thought was too high. Today, the Mark 1 can be obtained for as little as £500 to £700, but do have the plywood thoroughly checked for delaminating areas. After all, she will be four decades or more old. A well made, traditionally planked wooden yacht was expected to last for forty years, but plywood boats for no more than twenty years. Therefore, take a good, hard look before parting with your money.
** This is a single page web site, ‘Caprice Owners Club’ with very nice photos
Mk 1 Details
Length: 18 feet 4 inches.
Bream: 6 feet 2 inches.
Draught: 1 foot 8 inches.
Ballast: 250 lb in each keel.
The Book ‘Shrimpy : A Record Around the World Voyage in an 18 Foot Yacht by Shane Acton, was published in 1981 by Patrick Stephens Ltd., Bar Hill, Cambridge, UK.
PDF Download of ‘Shrimpy’ by Shane Acton
A short YouTube Video of a Caprice Sailing the Solent (not a Mk1)