Boat Review Date: November 2009
Author: Mike Brown
A 21st century trailer sailer. It might not have the catchiest of names, but I found everything else about the West Wight Potter 19 delightful. The concept of trailer sailers has always struck me as a good one, and I have never worked out why interest in them died. I am happy to say to this one, “Welcome back.”
And boy, have they come on in the meantime. The typical trailer sailer of the 70s was skimpily finished, had so-so fittings and equipment, and many of them sailed poorly. An exception that comes to mind was the Windrush centre cockpit boat, a very good sailer but on the claustrophobic side for cruising - something the Potter is not. This boat has excellent sailing ability, top of the range gear, first class finish, day and night space for four, and a good cruising fit-out – all within an overall length of only 5.64m.
And for a price of $39,500, it is worth mentioning. How much powerboat would you get for that? And what would the relative running costs be? The review Potter had a 5hp Suzuki on the back, and the brief time it would run each trip would add up to small change in a year.
Costs aside, this is a great little yacht in its own right. Hard chined instead of the near universal round bilge, it has buoyancy in useful places. With three large males in the cockpit it did not drag its tail, and when hit by gusts the heeling was surprisingly limited. The drop keel also helped there; unlike the usual swing keel it is a dagger board of 19mm galvanised plate that lowers to a respectable 1.09m draught. It is raised and lowered by a winch next to the helmsman and, once down, is secured in place by four Highfield clips.
The dagger board case takes up little cabin space and forms part of the structure of the moveable table, although the cockpit table is likely to get more use. This other table is an ingenious part time use of the washboard at the cabin entrance.
The cabin, Tardis-like, has room for an astonishing number of items. Bunks forward, converting to a double bed; bunks aft extending under the cockpit seats; a one-burner stove, a sink and an icebox; a chemical toilet; a battery and 12v outlet, and there is even a reasonable amount of storage space. The whole interior is easy to clean because the hull is double-skinned with foam filling (importers Seagreen Marine specified the optional heavy lay-up for the outer skin), giving a smooth and hard surface except for the carpeted headliner. Oiled timber trim relieves any starkness.
This is a genuine weekend cruiser for a family or even two adult couples. Locally its natural grounds would be between Yanchep and Mandurah, and its easy trailing means they could be one-way trips. Trailing weight is 980kg on the braked trailer, so it is towable by practically any car. And portability extends its stamping ground to anywhere in Australia; Shark Bay and the Montebellos are obvious targets, and one prospective owner has Lake Argyle in mind. En route, the Potter makes a great caravan.
For most of it life, though, a Potter 19 will be a day boat, like typical trailable power cruisers, and it needs some sparkle in its performance to do the job. A generous sail area is a good start; Seagreen bring the Potter in with the biggest headsail option, and mount it on a furler. Combined main and genoa area is 181sq ft in old money – an exceptional power: weight ratio for this class of boat.
The rigging supporting the sail area is simple: forestay, backstay and single shrouds. Getting the mast up from its neatly designed supports is just about as simple. The builders supply a set of gear along the same lines as the A-frame for raising and lowering masts of cruisers at the Fremantle bridges, but with two halfway fit adults available it is easier to do it handraulically. There is no great muscle power needed, and I timed the job at less than ten minutes.
The Suzuki motored us clear of the ramp with urge to spare, but I suspect the suggested minimum 2hp would be gasping into any strength of wind or current. We then had the use of a 10-15 knot breeze and exposed the full sail area to it.
The results were very good: we could sustain five knots and reached a peak of 6.2 in the gusts. We were up to hull speed but that big headsail became fairly hard work. The sheeting arrangements would have suited the smaller sail options and the generally lighter US east coast winds, but more purchase was needed here. Nice gear like sheet tracks and low friction blocks was laid on, but only a single whip purchase and no winch. No one would want to complicate things with a winch, but Seagreen’s Steve Green intends converting all the Potters’ headsail sheets to a 2: 1 purchase.
The cockpit works well. Four could comfortably sit in it, and there is nothing interfering with movement. There are no cavernous storage bins (and who needs them), but there is a useful transom locker. There are also fore and aft grab rails, and access to a boarding ladder.
The headsail furler proved its worth even more than on a bigger cruiser. Getting to the foredeck was OK but needed full use of all the handholds, and going via the fore hatch instead to bring the sail down would have been fiddly. Much easier to slack the sheet and haul the furler line. Where you need the fore hatch is for anchoring. Unlike many US trailer boats the Potter has a good capacity cable locker, also reachable through a hatch within the cabin, and the anchor is provided with a clip on the pulpit – a simple and effective piece of stowage.
The single most impressive pieces of hardware on board are the opening ports. Massively strong, spring loaded and equipped with powerful dogs and flywire, it would not look out of place on a destroyer – except for the shiny finish. But everything else on board seemed to have a healthy safety margin too, especially the chain plates, which past trailer sailers specialised in under-engineering
I looked around for maintenance items, but apart from the varnished tiller nothing needed periodic re-coating. Some oil here and there, emptying of the toilet and some hosing and sponging seem to about cover the rest of it. I am completely sold on the Potter 19, and I despair for the taste of our boating population if it does not sell in numbers. It was one of the few review boats I had to be politely ejected from. I did not want to go home.
Model: West Wight Potter 19
Overall length: 5.64m
Draught: 0.10m (keel up)
1.09m (keel down
Boat weight: 468kg
Sail area: Main 8.18sqm
Fresh water capacity: 57l
Motor fitted 5hp Suzuki 4-stroke
Price as reviewed (plus motor): $39,500