Reflections on the Shrimper Years

With a heavy heart we sold our beloved Cornish Shrimper Daisy last autumn. We have owned Daisy since 2012 and during those 8 years we had many adventures in her. Some of the more fitting tails have been published here on the blog, others remain best untold. She has delivered just what we wanted and more. So how did we come to buy a Cornish Shrimper in the first place and then get so lucky?

A very cold wet wind over tide passage through the Menai Straits in Gordon’s Drascombe Lugger convinced us that at our age we were ready for a boat with a small cabin, somewhere to get out of the weather and keep warm. The requirements agreed for the new boat were: –

  • Good looking, trailable boat, capable of coastal sailing and fun.
  • Small cabin, with cooking space to brew up and get out of the weather.
  • Not excessively expensive to buy but would hold value.
  • Inexpensive to run. Swing half tide mooring rather than expensive marina.
  • Easy to store at minimum cost

Sam Llewellyn’s Minimum Boat series in PBO struck a chord with our thinking.

Many of the 1960s and 70s trailer sailers by this stage were little more than mouldy money pits and easy to dismiss. The Drascombe Coaster and Cruiser were considered but did not quite hit the mark. The Cape Cutter 19 was very new and expensive but had a lot of desirable features. We kept coming back to the Mark 1 Shrimpers. For about a year I had tracked the Shrimper Ownere Association web site ( https://www.shrimperowners.org/ ) For Sale pages comparing; age, condition, inventory and asking price. Our wish-list refined, and a curve emerged. Going through Ken’s Technical pages, the common faults gave me a great checklist for when the search started in earnest. In early 2012 Sam’s Shrimper, the eponymous Daisy, came on the market. Being closer than the next nearest candidate in Perthshire, we arranged a viewing.   

Even as Shrimpers go, Daisy is a bit special. She was fitted out in Germany to a very high standard by her Engineer first owner Axel. Teak cockpit, foredeck and main hatch, numerous fixtures and fittings, mahogany shelves abounded, and a custom-built toolbox formed a step into the cabin. The hull and rig were well maintained with none of the regular problems. The engine was a beast of an 8HP Mariner with a cowling modified to not quite fit under the tiller. The inventory included spare sails, a cruising shute, 2 cockpit tents, a meths stove, fold down chart table and a host of other goodies.  The piggyback trailer included guide poles and a widow-maker winch. A deal was reached, funds transferred, and Daisy came into our care.

South Stack astern

Our first season was spent on the Menai Straits, day and weekend sailing getting to know Daisy and the tides and shallows of her new home. Our second season was more adventurous from the start. Launching in a snowstorm, then sailing round Anglesey for the first time. Also, I had a weekend trip with my 10-year-old daughter Elin along the North Coast, she loved it. The Beast started to give problems but nothing serious.

2014 was a big year. Our first major trip was an attempt to sail across the Irish Sea to Dublin, however foul weather forced a change of destination to join other club boats sailing down the Llyn Peninsular. The club race back from Porth Dinllaen astounded all of the bigger boats as Daisy romped in ahead of boats nearly half as long again and took the race on handicap by a considerable margin. Off the wind under full sail and working the tide Daisy flew over Caernarfon Bar, Gordon crawling along the bowsprit untangling the furling line. The competitive Sigma 33 owner was even more grumpy than usual that night.

Next destination was Scotland. Those thieves of time; bad weather, wrong tides, family and work commitments meant we had to abandon our original plan of sailing North via the Isle of Man. Back on the trailer, home for a quick refit, then the long trail north to Largs. Elin and I then had a week sailing around Bute and the Clyde before Gordon and family joined us for the Commonwealth Games Flotilla into the middle of Glasgow with hundreds of other boats.  

Gordon and family kept Daisy in Port Bannatyne on Bute for the remainder of the season with family trips around the Clyde and a solo trip up Loch Fyne for the Inveraray Music Festival. We towed Dasiy back to Wales for her winter refit on my drive.

In 2015 I set myself the target of going for my Yachtmaster certificate. The mutinous Beast was finally left ashore being replaced with a Seagull Silver Century . This all brought a new dimension to Daisy sailing; improving seamanship, boat handling under sail, precise navigation through the invisible channels over the Menai mud flats and reducing reliance on the brute power of the Beast. All good practice for the September Yachtmaster exam. Yes a Shrimper owner can become a Yachtmaster

Sailing with a Seagull,

Disaster struck at the end of the season when Daisy’s mooring broke in a North East gale. Gary “The Glass” repaired the damage to the hull and brought her back to life over the winter. Repairing Cornish Shrimpers is relatively straight forward with their solid GRP lay-up, easy lines to follow and an excellent original build quality. With her new Awgrip black paint and white boot line Daisy was back “Better than new”. We only just resisted Gary’s suggestion of adding a gold cove line.

2016 had us back on the Menai Straits, but with my daughter’s dinghy sailing campaigns starting to take off, we only managed a few day sails. Late in the season Gordon traded the undependable Beast and a restored Seagull for a more appropriate Tohatsu 6hp sail drive outboard.  I spent much of 2017 as a Topper Roady, only using Daisy as a floating base for the Topper Nationals in Pwllheli. This was not a roaring success as the weather was foul nearly all week and I was fighting a sever cough.  Sharing a cramped damp boat with an exhausted but elated teen racer and her wet sailing gear was not the best environment under the circumstances, even if Daisy was “cooler than a tent”.

Gordon was by this time starting to relocate back to Scotland and took Daisy to her new base on Holy Loch while Elin worked through GBR squads and National events to the Topper World Championships in China. With our children becoming independent, Jan and I can sail together again.  Jan never really took to the bucket and crouching to cook, so her requirements for standing headroom, “proper heads” and a “proper cooker” have now been met in an old Contessa 32 which we are gradually sailing around Britain.

Would I have another Shrimper? Yes. Everywhere we went with Daisy she was admired as a beautiful boat. Even broken on the beach the love shone through. Even the grumpy Sigma racer admitted (through gritted teeth) that she had style. We could sail her like a large dinghy or as a little ship, across seas or up muddy creeks. Minimal running costs meant that even in the fallow years she was never a drain sitting wrapped up in the barn. One spar per winter was the major maintenance programme. Her diminutive size meant re-commissioning was a quick job; a wipe over with a damp rag, a coat or two of teak oil, a touch up of varnish and a bit of beeswax polish around the cabin. One tin of antifouling took a few minutes to apply.  With a Shrimper the fun quotient is very high.

My next Shrimper will probably be a retirement refurbishment project, but that is a few years away yet.

Daisy on her mooring near Beaumaris Photo by Gordon MacKellar