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The word Drascombe is a trademark that was first registered by John Watkinson who applied it to a series of sailing boats which he designed and built in the period 1965-79 and sold in the UK. They comprised the Coaster, Cruiser Longboat, Dabber, Drifter, Driver, Gig, Launch, Longboat, Lugger, Peterboat, Scaffie, Scaith and Skiff, together with a few other one-offs. They have wide and deep cockpits, adaptable boomless rigs and high bulwarks.[1]

The word drascombe is also used as a generic term for any boat built to a design by John Watkinson. These include both 'the Drascombe range' build by Churchouse Boats [2] and the 'Original Devon' range produced by Honnor Marine[3], who are not licensed to use the Drascombe trademark. The use of the word drascombe in lowercase on this page refers to the generic usage.

The Caboteur and Drifter 22 have been designed and built recently following the design principles developed by John Watkinson which are described below.

John Watkinson died in 1997 and the trademark is now owned by his surviving family.

Current licensees include Churchouse Boats[4] and East West Custom Boats. [5]

Past licensees include Honnor Marine and McNulty. John Elliott and Douglas Elliott Boatbuilders (licenced to build in wood), Kelly and Hall who built the original production Luggers in wood.

Design principles

There are basically two types of drascombe. There are undecked open day sailers and two-berth weekenders. They were originally designed and built in marine plywood using glued lapstrake construction. As they became more popular, they were then manufactured in GRP.[3]

The hull, typically, consists of four strakes each side, the garboard strakes being wide giving a flat run to the transom whilst have a fairly sharp entry at the stem. There is a recessed rear deck level with the side benches and a recessed foredeck. The cabinned boats have a small two-berth cabin.

The transom slopes back at an angle of about 45 degrees with the top edge sloping forward giving drascombes a distinctive appearance at the stern. Just forward of the transom is a well to take an outboard motor with a slot in the transom that allows the outboard motor to be tilted out of the water when under sail. It also keeps the outboard motor hidden from view.

The usual rig consists of a gunter-rigged mainsail set on the main mast, a mizzen sail set on the mizzen mast sheeted to a bumpkin and a foresail. The tan-coloured sails are all boomless to avoid possible head injury from a gybing boom. The original drascombe lugger had a lug sail to start with but this was changed to a gunter mainsail but the name was kept.

The rudder fits in a case which is set in the aft deck in front of the mizzen mast. It can be lifted up into the case when in very shallow water.

A steel centreboard is in a centreboard case with a purchase to lift it.

Some (Dabber and Drifter) have a conventional vertical transom with the rudder hung on the transom.

Some (Skiff, Scaith, Scaffie and Peterboat) were double enders with a canoe stern.Of these, the Skiff has no outbard motor well, just a mini triangular transom to take a small outboard motor when the rudder has been removed.

File:N18 with drascombe.jpg
Drascombe Cruiser Longboat (left) and a converted National 18 with a drascombe rig (right).



Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
21 ft 9 in (6.63 m) 7 ft 3 in (2.2 m) 750 kg (1650 lb) 209sq ft (19.42 m²) ? 2

The Caboteur is based on the drascombe Longboat but modified to the requirements of French drascombe aficionado Jean-Louis Grenier to create his "ultimate drascombe camping cruiser"

Originally in wood epoxy the hull is now available in GRP. It is 8" wider in the beam than the Longboat with 3" more freeboard. The rig is also 37 sq ft (3.4 m2) larger and a 130 sq ft (12 m2) Cruising chute can be set to a bowsprit.

Jean-Louis' boat has a large sleeping platform and a vast amount of dedicated storage. In fact the great number of lockers, together with the added beam and freeboard make the sailing weight nearly twice that of a Longboat. [6]


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
21 ft 9 in (6.63 m) 6 ft 7 in (2 m) 1060 lb (480 kg) 164 sq ft (15.22 m²) 1979 - present Approx. 270

A trailer-sailer with a two-berth cabin (and, with the addition of a cockpit tent, room for two more) including cooking and toilet facilities. Replaced the Cruiser Longboat, having a much improved specification, especially with regard to the cockpit and cabin layouts. [7]

Cruiser Longboat

Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
21 ft 9 in (6.63 m) 6 ft 7 in (2 m) 1060 lb (480 kg) 163sq ft (15.13 m²) 1970-1979 400+

A Longboat with a cabin with 2 berths or one berth and a galley bench. Unlike the open Longboat and other drascombes a boom was fitted to the mainsail. Designed to appeal more to private buyers than the open version, the Cruiser Longboat was introduced and sold side by side with the standard open boat. Introduced in 1970 and replaced in 1979 by the Coaster. Over 400 were built. The wooden versions were all custom built and differ considerably from the GRP versions.[7]

Drascombe Dabber


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
15 ft 6 in (4.72 m) 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) 550 lb (250 kg) 118 sq ft (10.96 m²) 1971 - present Approx. 900

Although smaller than the Lugger, the Dabber carries a full yawl rig on main and mizzen masts. However, the Dabber can easily be distinguished by its bowsprit and transom-hung rudder. [7]


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
21 ft 6 in (6.55 m) 7 ft 3 in (2.21 m) 2,000 lb (907 kg) 210 sq ft (19.5 m²) 1977 - 1984 c 110

A cruising boat with a cabin and choice of outboard well or 6-8 hp Sabb inboard diesel. Draft 2'+. Long keel with fixed bilge plates. Original spec included sails with roller-reef jib, pramhood canopy, 2 burner paraffin cooker, flushing chemical toilet, fitted bilge pump, anchor warp + chain; anti-fouling below waterline. An optional tent was also available, extending sleeping accommodation from 2 to 4 adults. [7]

Drifter 22

Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
22' (6.7 m) 7 ft 3 in (2.25 m) 1,985 lb (900 kg) 234 sq ft (21.76 m²) 2007 - present 1+

At the 2007 London Boat Show Churchouse Boats launched the Drifter 22. [4]

Paul Fisher of Selway-Fisher was employed to revise the design of the original Drifter.

The prototype was built in wood/epoxy but moulds have been made and production boats are manufacturerd in GRP.


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
18 ft 0 in (5.5 m) 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) 730 lb (330 kg) 128 sq ft (11.92 m²) 1974-1978 55

An 18' version of the Launch hull with bilge fins for sailing. A Watermota Shrimp inboard petrol engine with fully feathering propellor was fitted. A petrol/paraffin version of the Watermota or even a diesel were available to special order. For sailing it had a standing lug rig similar to the Dabber but with a slightly larger jib and mainsail. [7]


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
25' (7.62 m) 7' (2.13 m) 1760 lb (800 kg) 255 sq ft (23.72 m²) 1984 - present Approx. 70

Never intended for the private buyer, the Gig is a pure sail training craft designed for use by Navies. Previously, the Royal Navy used the Montagu Whaler for this purpose, but these boats were getting well past their best, and new ones have not been built since the 1950s. The Longboat was considered too small, so the Gig was designed for this specific market. The French navy now uses 4 Gigs for these purposes. [7]

Today a number of privately owned Gig's are about - two were fitted with cabins (Hippo and Gig. One was fitted with a tent to allow for extensive cruising (The City of London).

In private hands the Gig is not for the novice. She has a fairly big sail area and handles and feels like a big boat. At the same time, once in tune with her, she gives her crew great confidence by her easily reefed lug sail and her sea keeping capabilities.


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
15 ft 6 in (4.72 m) 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) ? ? 1973-1978 12

Based on the Dabber hull and introduced in 1973, the Launch was designed for river and lake fishing. Fitted with a Watermota Shrimp inboard engine and a Dabber mizzen as a steadying sail. Not a very successful model, only 12 being built. [7]


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
21 ft 9 in (6.63 m) 6 ft 7 in (2 m) 880 lb (400 kg) 172 sq ft (15.97 m²) 1970 - present Approx. 600

Essentially a stretched Lugger, and originally intended as a training craft for sailing schools, Sea Scouts, etc.[7]


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
18 ft 9 in (5.72 m) 6 ft 3 in (1.9 m) 748 lb (340 kg) 132 sq ft (12.26 m²) 1968 - present Approx. 2000

The boat that started it all, and still immensely popular. The epitome of rugged simplicity, reliability, and seaworthiness in an open boat, the Lugger is equally at home pottering with the kids or undertaking more adventuresome expeditions.[7]


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
4.5 m 1.7 m approx 280 lb (130 kg) 9.3 m² Built by Douglas Elliott at 'John Elliott Boatbuilder' who also built the only drascombe Mule, essentially a transom version of the 4.5 metre Peterboat.{Source Douglas Elliott} Both designs carry a 28 lb (13 kg) centreplate 1
5 m 1.7 m approx 340 lb (150 kg) 11.16 m² Prototype and half decked version built at 'John Elliott Boatbuilder' by Douglas and John Elliott these were the only 2 built at that boatyard. ?
6 m 2 m possible approx 1,500 lb (680 kg) 18.51 m² Prototype 'Cariad' built for Dick Watkinson, John Watkinson's brother, by John Elliott and Douglas Elliott at 'John Elliott Boatbuilder' had a 300 lb (140 kg) cast iron centreplate and was originally flush decked.Unusual rig with a curved gunter main and large foresail, a beautiful and fast boat, 13 knots (24 km/h) claimed in a stiff blow. 'Cariad' was later converted to carry a cabin with a coachroof to provide better onboard headroom, similar to the drascombe Longboat Cruiser. ?

Designed by John Watkinson in 1973, the Peterboat was not mass-produced and never built in GRP. Only about 10 wooden boats were built by John Elliott, John Kerr, and Norman Whyte. [7] There was an original version of a 19 ft (5.8 m) Peterboat built by John Watkinson, similar decking arrangement to the drascombe Lugger, but with a gunter rig sporting a curved yard with a large jib,(similar to the rig on 'Cariad') only the one was ever built.


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
14 ft 9 in (4.5 m) 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m) 460 lb (210 kg) 100 sq ft (9.3 m²) 1978 - present (now known as the Devon Scaffie) Approx. 450

A smaller drascombe for single-handed sailing, the Scaffie has no centreboard, relying instead on a long central keel and two bilge stub keels. Rig is a single standing lugsail.[7]


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built,
15 ft 2 in (4.62 m) 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) approx 275 lb (125 kg) 84 sq ft (7.8 m2) main/113sq ft with jib and mizzen Only ever built in wood at the Boatyard of John Elliott Boatbuilder, Yealmbridge, Yealmpton, Devon. UK. All including the prototype were built by his brother Douglas Elliott. Two were built with for'd lockers and mast set in a tabernacle on the foredeck, as opposed to the completely open boat with the unstayed mast stepped on the hog and a mast thwart at gunwhale level. Some were supplied with just a mainsail, some with main and jib, some with main, jib and mizzen. All had a 28 lb (13 kg) galvanised steel centreplate. 13

Double ended open boat with a standing lug main, small offset mizen with bumkin and a jib, a folding rudder and galvanised steel centreplate. An outboard motor well is incorporated on the aft port side to carry a small (2hp) outboard motor. A very attractive boat and the forerunner to the Peterboat 4.5m.


Length Beam Weight Sail Area Production No. Built
4.46 m (14 ft 9 in) 1.4 m 80 kg Standing lug main 56 sq ft (5.2 m2), jib 12 sq ft (1.1 m2) 1970-? 30

Similar to the Scaffie but with a narrower beam, the Skiff was designed in 1970 and John Watkinson built the first 3 boats of around 30 that were built in wood by Doug Elliott at John Elliott Boatbuilders. A GRP version wasn't available until 1996.[7]


  • 1902 "Captain James McNulty starts family business. As stevedores it employed ship carpenters, but had difficulty retaining them to work casually and so to ensure continuity of employment, it was decided they build small rowing boats."[8]
  • c. 1955 John Elliott joined Kelly and Hall as boatbuilder.
  • 1958 John Watkinson bought Kelly and Hall.[9]
  • 1960 Honnor Marine founded by Pat Honnor.
  • 1962/63 John Watkinson designed and built 3 sixteen foot mackerel boats (wood).
  • 1964 John Watkinson sold Kelly and Hall.
  • 1965 John Watkinson moved to Drascombe Barton. John Watkinson designed and built first Drascombe Lugger 'Katharine Mary'.
  • 1966 New owners of Kelly and Hall produced Drascombe Lugger in wood.
  • 1968 Earls Court Boat Show. Exhibit (Wooden Drascombe Lugger) sold in 20 minutes 11 ordered.
  • 1968 John Watkinson granted Honnor Marine a sole licence to build Drascombe Luggers in GRP.
  • 1969 Honnor Marine produce first GRP Drascombe Lugger and exhibit at London Boat Show.
  • 1969 John Watkinson designed Drascombe Longboat, a stretched Drascombe Lugger, and Drascombe Cruiser Longboat.
  • 1970 Drascombe Longboat and Drascombe Cruiser Longboat built by Honnor Marine (UK) Ltd in GRP.
  • 1970 John Watkinson designed Drascombe Skiff, built in wood.
  • 1970 Kelly and Hall cease trading. John Elliott takes over premises and starts 'John Elliott (Boatbuilder)' with his brother Doug building wooden Drascombes.
  • c. 1970 In Llandysul, Cardiganshire, John Kerr set up his own workshop, building wooden boats ranging from small clinker dinghies to ocean racing yachts, for over 20 years. Following a meeting with John Watkinson, he was one of the earliest licensed builders of the Drascombe range. John built approximately 10 Drascombe boats, many finished to the customer's exact requirements. John died in 2001.
  • 1972 John Watkinson designed Drascombe Dabber. Built by Honnor Marine in GRP.
  • 1973 John Watkinson designed Drascombe Peterboat, built in wood.
  • 1974 John Watkinson designed Drascombe Driver. Built by Honnor Marine in GRP.
  • 1974 Honnor Marine in receivership.
  • 1975 Honnor Marine continues to trade under a management consortium.
  • 1977 Association of Dutch Drascombe Owners (NKDE) formed.
  • 1977 John Watkinson designed Drascombe Drifter. Built by Honnor Marine in GRP.
  • 1978 John Watkinson designed Drascombe Scaffie. Built by Honnor Marine in GRP.
  • 1978 John Watkinson designed Drascombe Coaster. Built by Honnor Marine in GRP.
  • 1980 John Elliott died. Business wound up.
  • 1981 Under the wings of Terry Erskine Yachts Plymouth, Douglas Elliot built one more Drascombe, a Peterboat 4.5 metre before calling it a day.
  • 1982 Norman Whyte license to build the whole line of Drascombes in wood which he did until 1995.
  • 1984 John Watkinson designed Drascombe Gig. Built by Honnor Marine in GRP.
  • 1984 Drascombe List started in West Wales by Jeremy Churchouse as a brokerage for used Drascombes. Became Churchouse Boats Ltd.
  • 1987 Drascombe Association formed.
  • 1997 Liquidation of Honnor Marine.
    • Assets sold to Bob Brown. Besides the boat moulds they also included all the plugs, which are the items for making new moulds as well as all the boat fittings and spars. Under Bob Brown Honnor Marine produce range of boats from the original Drascombe moulds under the name of Original Devon.[10]
    • McNulty Boats Ltd, Hebburn, Tyneside, UK were awarded the exclusive licence to use the Drascombe trademark. They made new moulds and built the Drascombe range.[8]
  • 1997 John Watkinson dies on 19 December.
  • 1998 Stewart Brown (no relation to Bob Brown) takes over Churchouse Boats from Jeremy Churchouse.
  • 2000 Stewart Brown joined McNulty Boats.
  • 2002 McNulty Boats went into liquidation. Taken over by Churchouse Boats, led by Stewart Brown, including license to use the Drascombe trademark.
  • 2007 Churchouse Boats exhibited the new Drascombe Drifter 22 at the London Boat Show.

Notable Voyages

Drascombes have been sailed across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, (by Geoff Stewart in a Longboat and Webb Chiles in a Lugger respectively). The voyage undertaken by David Pyle in his wooden drascombe Lugger Hermes in 1969/70 sailing from England to Australia, was possibly the longest journey ever undertaken in a small open sailing boat. The boat was a standard production model with the exception of a raised foredeck and a few other minor modification. Hermes was built at Kelly and Hall's boatyard at Newton Ferrers by John and Douglas Elliott.[11]


  1. Vandersmissen, Hans. (Undated) The Seagoing Drascombe. Totnes. Silver Boats.
  2. Churchouse Boats ltd”. Accessed 28 august 2009.
  3. Honnor Marine Ltd”. Accessed 28 November 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Churchouse Boats Ltd”. Accessed 28 February 2007.
  5. East West Custom Boats”. Accessed 2 March 2007.
  6. Classic Boat, March 2002 edition. Debut of Drascombe Caboteur Accessed 17 February 2007.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 The Drascombe Association, About Drascombes Accessed 17 February 2007.
  8. 8.0 8.1 McNulty Boats”. Accessed 5th March 2007.
  9. The Drascombe Association. 1996. DRASCOMBE 10/30. ISBN 0 9529656 0 7
  10. Honnor Marine”. Accessed 9 March 2007.
  11. Wooden Drascombes

External links