The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

Two Footitis

Bill Norrie

Bristol Channel Cutter
April 4th, 2018

Two footitis. Yes, a nasty condition, and we succumbed to it despite the spectacular performance of  Terrwyn, our 37 Pacific Seacraft, throughout her circumnavigation.

Terrwyn had no major breakdowns, no waiting in any port for repairs or equipment to arrive. We all have life expectancies and eventually wear out; boats and crews alike, so we set out on our circumnavigation with new sails, new rigging, new Monitor Windvane, new batteries and kept moving. Teased by our contemporaries for missing ‘wherever’ as we kept moving onwards, we would reply “It’s a quick 3 year survey sail.”

Terrwyn in New Zealand

Terrwyn has been sold and replaced by Pixie (Bristol Channel Cutter 28). Pixie’s waterline length is 26 ft vs Terrwyn’s 28 ft. Yes, two feet down, not up – two footitis. Both vessels are 37 ft LOA, but Pixie has a lower aspect, classic cutter rig vs Terrwyn‘s higher, yet true, cutter sail plan. No one owns a truly “classic” vessel, we are merely their custodians (but perhaps that is a discussion for another day!).

Why a smaller boat? We are a crew of two. Two co-skippers. Both crew over 60 years of age. Pixie is more similar than different from Terrwyn, yet more suited for our purpose. Simply put, being that much smaller, all distances, weights and forces are therefore reduced, but she has a longer keel and deeper bilges.

Pixie half hull model

Both vessels have tillers, which bring the helmsman forward under the dodger and closer to his/her shipmate in fair and foul weather. Tiller communication is increased and hierarchy abolished. No need for a bimini or, heaven forbid, a “Florida room” (a canvas enclosed cockpit).

The steering is 99.9% by windvane; simple, direct, and robust. It never failed. A full keel facilitates a trim tab or servo-pendulum windvane. No autopilot electrical consumption and more responsive to sailing conditions, so that we actually need to sail her in balance and efficiently. “Monti” (our windvane) is the third crew member and the sail trim instructor, yet totally silent. Both boats are small enough to manage a tiller with no moving parts and no wheel to negotiate around. The exposed cockpit, aft, is reserved for anchorage parties.

Being under 14,000 lbs of displacement, Pixie’s largest sail is 300 sq ft and that translates to a laundry bag. Her headsails are all with roller furling and her light air sail, a “Hasse Drifter,” also on a roller furler, is so much smaller than either of Terrwyn‘s two spinnakers with ATN socks which took up nearly twice the turtle (sailbag) volume.

Under 14,000 lbs equates to a 35 lb bow anchor, which is manageable by hand or mechanical windlass if required to break out. No switches, no motors, no extra batteries or large cables for power and failure. Under 14,000 lbs with a 20 ft cockpit-to-bow distance equates to hand and spoken communications; no gadgets to speak through and generally no motor to be heard over, as she handles well cruising the anchorages under stay sail and double reefed main alone, quietly, looking to set the anchor. Dare I say, like a sailboat.

Pixie with co-skipper Cathy in cockpit.

Seaworthy and sea-kindly: no water maker, no ice maker, no electric autohelm, no pressure water system, nor hot water. This means no wind generator and no Genset diesel generator. We have solar panels (140Watts) and a towable water generator for running lights, wind instruments and AIS while underway. No radar and minimal SSB Ham transmission. Under 14,000 lbs there is no room for guests. Pixie, at 28 ft on deck, feeds 6, sleeps four, and lives, shall we say, two. Two is company and three’s a crowd.

The dingy problem is solved with a hard rowing/ sailing dinghy, no outboard engine, so, no gasoline, no crane, no noise. Rowing to shore provides an excellent time to admire your vessel. The slowest, quietest travel mode at sea to be followed up with the fastest, noisiest boat in a dream anchorage just does not make sense.

Classic beauty means a balanced vessel that heaves-to with ease, never pounds to weather and has motion in a seaway that is simply elegant. It’s all about the motion and feel, not the size. Low freeboard balanced on her waterline length and a sweet sheer that will never get old. The wine glass bilge below and full keel allow for gentle motion and easy tracking – the mark of an offshore vessel. Diminished below-deck salon volume is simply seaworthy, not just cosy. The low freeboard and narrow beam are only deemed diminutive relative to today’s “modern”, voluminous charter fleet vessels. They maximize interior space (the floating condo with staterooms fore and aft for two couples) for the dollar appeal and at the expense of sea-kindly and seaworthiness. Similarly, living space at the expense of storage space. At risk large windows that do not open vs small portals that open.

Yes, two feet smaller as we are two years older and have several more oceans to cross.

Bow view of Pixie half hull model

We learned in our world cruise that the smaller quality and quantity of Terrwyn could only be improved with more, two feet more, of less – described above. This is especially appreciated on a dark and stormy night, when one is down below and on sunny days when we are both up on deck. How much deck does a couple need?

Terrwyn‘s deck was two feet more than we needed and so here comes Pixie, preparing for round two.  We did not swallow the anchor on Terrwyn and have no intentions of doing so now with Pixie.


  1. Peter Christensen says:

    what a lyrical description Bill, a nice run down on what is essential in equipment and attitude as compared to rhododendrons. (my name for fancy yachts that never go anywhere.)

  2. Anonymous says:

    Congrats. Homers’ Odyssey II

    1. Anonymous says:

      Thank you sir . Much appreciated endorsement facing an onslaught of growing retired charter boats . Just had to give an alternative view foloowing in the Pardey wake. Following seas my friend. Bill

  3. William Campbell says:

    Hi Bill,

    I have always admired your boat as I pass by at the RVYC dock. I am re doing my canvas work and was wondering if you could point me in the direction of who did your fantastic dodger and canvas work? Shoot me a line if you have a second. It would be much appreciated.

    Happy sailing:)

    Wil Campbell

  4. Frank VanGyn says:

    Good morning Bill. It’s Frank VanGyn. An old sailing buddy of yours. Duncan and I have been following your progress with great interest. You have done and are doing the type of ceiling that many of us had always dreamed of. It’s fortunate that we can live our adventurous lives vicariously through you ..very proud of the things that you have done,!

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am filled with admiration!

  6. Ricky Picanço says:

    Hey Bill. All that simplicity surly Would calm the mind and leaves more room for enjoying the Voyage. Well plaid. Congratulations on your NZ landfall. The whole story puts air under my wings. Fair winds

  7. Ann & Martin says:

    Hi Bill, delighted to renew acquaintance with Jens’ boat in such fine condition after a voyage Jens would have been thrilled about. Best wishes to you and Cathy in your future voyages, and May Pixie keep you both safe and happy.
    Ann & Martin Sheriff
    Port Moody

  8. Rekka Bell says:

    My partner and & were walking along the RVYC docks last month to see a friend, and saw your boat at the dock. We spent a long time admiring the windvane, wondering how we could build one like that, and all the bronze on deck—timeless, durable, and so so rare.
    What a great, great boat. I hope that the next time I see it I’ll also get to meet the owner, because I’ve got so many questions :).

    SY Pino

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