Sunday, January 17, 2010

Silhouette, a Robert Tucker small sailing cruiser

Mk 2
Mk 3
Mk 5 Sailing
Mk 5
Unusual fin keel version

The Silhouette Mk 1 was a Robert Tucker design with some of the characteristics of the larger Caprice, although I believe lines for the Silhouette were drawn before those of the Caprice. She had long bilge keels, and a big skeg to which the rudder was attached. Made of marine plywood, this 17’ 3” by 6’ 9” single chine, two berth sailing cruiser, was uniquely distinguished by her double-curved sheer line. To my eyes, the bendy line was an aesthetically attractive feature that enhanced her appearance. The increased height of her topsides, forward of amidships, was a practical solution to providing more interior space than would otherwise have been possible for such a small boat. The Mk 1 had a solid, 20 foot wooden mast mounted in a substantial, galvanized tabernacle. Modestly rigged with a 45 square-foot jib and a 65 square foot mainsail, her forestay came short of the mast top by a few inches, and her side cap shrouds were attached to chainplates mounted abaft those for the lower side shrouds. She had fixed, swept-back spreaders clipped to the cap shrouds, and a standing backstay. In the late 1950s when the Mk 1 Silhouettes were being built, most of them would have relied on Seagull outboards for their auxiliary power. A few Mk 1 boats were fitted with Stuart Turner inboard engines located under the bridge deck. These early boats were mostly built from plans by amateurs, but in 1960 Hurleys of Plymouth supplied kits for the Mk 2 version. Incredibly, by the end of 1961 there were over 1,000 UK Silhouettes and others in various parts of the world.

These classic craft evolved over the years from the Mk I chine version to the Mk 5 round bilge boat. For a detailed account of the changes that took place between 1954, when the first Silhouette was launched, to the late 70s, when the last boat was produced by Beresford Marine, have a look at the web site of the Silhouette Owners International Association.*Only 25 Mk 4 boats were built, and they can be distinguished from other versions by their lack of forward-facing cabin windows. Made of GRP, the Mk 5 boat was considerably different to the original plywood Mk 1. The Mk 5 had round bilges, higher topsides, more spacious accommodation, more sail area, and she had metal spars. All versions of Silhouettes are popular today, despite the fact that none have been manufactured in recent years. Plans for building the wooden Mk 2 can be obtained from Tucker Designs, and the Honorary Secretary of the Silhouette Owners International Association will, for a nominal fee, forward A4 mini plans to you. (I think this applies to both members of the Association and non members.)

*Silhouette Owners International Association

Other Links

Hurley Owners Association

Hurley Silhouette Brochure

Tucker Designs


timmynocky said...

My first ever cruiser of my very own was a plywood Silhouette.

I had visions back then of following Shane Acton’s example and sailing her around the world.

Never got further than Brittany but I did have many, many happy, scary, peaceful, exciting hours on her.

She looked after me for several years and taught me a lot.

I originally bought her simply because she was available at the right price.

But she turned out to be the ideal first cruiser.


William Serjeant said...

Thanks Mike,

A chap at my local sailing club used to race a Mk2, doing very well, by winning most of the races on handicatp. There were times he beat me in my shallow keel Hunter Europa 19. He was a skilled sailor, but the boat was pretty good too!

BrianT said...

Hi William, you have a picture of my Mk 5 Silhouette when she was in Blagdons boatyard ,she is now down at Teignmouth so she hasn't moved all that far.

Just a little more info on her she was rigged for racing and I bought her complete with new spinnaker and new main sail, I've done a few minor jobs to her and sailed her a couple of times since I got her and she is lovely to sail.


William Serjeant said...

Good for you Brian. She looks lovely, and I'm sure she's a joy to sail. I have a Seawych 19, but I doubt she sails as well as your Mk 5. I'm hoping I'll be able to sail her during June and July to the West Country and back to the River Crouch. If I call into Teignmouth I'll look out for your boat.

BrianT said...

Hi Bill, what a coincidence I was about to buy a Seawych just before I got my Mk 5, and had even joined the Seawych association ! If you make it to Teignmouth she is easy to find ,6 moorings out from Clipper quay on the salty,Shaldon side . Let me have your e-mail address and i'll give you my mobile number, I only live 20 minutes away and we could meet up for a cuppa,compare notes.

William Serjeant said...

Thanks Brian,

I just hope things go well this summer and that I'll make it to Teignmouth. Here's my email address:


Barry said...

I bought a MKII silhouette with the thought of rebuilding it. After starting the project I found that there was too much rot to save it. I now have the following items in my possession.
Mast,boom,sails,bilge keels,center keel,rudder hardware,standing riggging, running rigging, all metal hardware.
If anyone has built a "Silhouette" from available plans, I would like to know the cost in the build. I live in Nevada retired have a complete wood working shop. I would like to know the time involved.
If time and cost are prohibitive I will sell the above items. or