The Wayfarer Sailing Dinghy


Wayfarer sailing dinghy 'Meander'

The Hostellers Sailing Club owns two Wayfarer sailing dinghies. They are named 'Merganser' (blue and white boat) and 'Meander' (Yellow and green boat).. The Wayfarer was designed in 1957 by Ian Proctor as a robust dinghy suitable for racing and general purpose sailing, including sailing on fairly exposed waters such as open estuaries. The Wayfarer has now become the dinghy most used for dinghy cruising, in the UK anyway. The popularity of the Wayfarer for this particular kind of sailing was established back in the '60s  when the late Frank Dye made ledgendary dinghy cruises from Scotland to Iceland and Norway in the Wayfarer dinghy 'Wanderer'. His accounts of these expeditions include surviving force 9 gales which capsized the boat several times somewhere North of Scotland. Some of these voyages took over a week at sea with no real chance to sleep and constant cold and wetness. Franks wife Margaret became an accomplished sailor in her own right, making some long singlehanded trips in India in a slightly smaller dinghy than the Wayfarer.

The Hostellers Sailing Club has no intention to imitate  the feats of the Dyes. However we do some quite adventurous cruising along the coasts and estuaries of Essex, Sulfolk and Kent. We usually sail as a fleet in company which, as anyone who as tried it will confirm, takes more planning and cooperation between participants than does a single boat cruise.

Wayfarer dinghy is 15'10" overall length, 6'3" in beam (width) and has a minimum permissible hull weight of 372lbs. Rigged and with full payload it could weigh two to three times that much. The original design was built in wood and this was followed by a number of fibre glass versions. All the boats have the same external shape and rig but the internal details vary according to the particular version of the design. The older of our two Wayfarers has two dry stowage compartments for camping gear, one forward and one aft under the tiller. Our newer boat has one dry compartment aft and a sheltered but not closed off stowage area forward. When cruising we supplement the built in stowage compartments by lashing fresh water containers and bags for camping equipment under the wooden seats on each side of the cockpit.

For racing purposes the Wayfarer is sailed with a crew of two persons but for general purpose sailing the boat can carry more people, up to a maximum of about five if you really squeeze in. For  cruising we normally have two or three persons in our Wayfarer, more than this is not really feasible when much of the space in the boat is taken up with baggage.

The Wayfarer is not very suitable for single handed  sailing. Obviously it is possible for one person to sail a Wayfarer in light winds but with the fairly large sail area and the difficulty of reaching from the helm position up to the sail adjustments at the mast, you could get into difficulty if the wind gets up unexpectedly, especially if you need to reef or pick up a mooring. For this reason our club boats are normally sailed with at least two on board.

Something like 10,000 (I think) Wayfarer dinghies have  now rolled off the production line and many owners have joined the Wayfarer Class Association, hence this association is much bigger in membership than most sailing clubs. The  WAYFARER CLASS ASSOCIATION organises racng and cruiising events worldwide.