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Featured Boat

May 2022 - Branwen

By Asmat Downey

A 32ft, steel hulled Wylo ll centreboarder, designed by Nick Skeates.

The farmer who built her in a cowshed in Gethsemane, Pembrokeshire named her Bronwen, after his wife. It means “white breast” in Welsh. This wouldn’t do and we renamed her Branwen, “white raven”; it is also the name of the mythic Welsh goddess of love and beauty, who was the daughter of Llyr, the god of the sea.


When we purchased her, she was fitted out as a coastwise cruiser and we spent a year and a half making her into a comfortable live-aboard. A professional boatbuilder would certainly have taken much less time and he may well have made a better job of it. The savings made by doing the work ourselves were swallowed by the expense of storage ashore as work progressed.


 Our maiden cruise was through the French inland waterways, with a winter moored in the centre of Paris for 10 Euros a day. Our plan had been to cruise the Mediterranean Sea, but an idle morning of doodling somewhere in the middle of France resulted in a pretty sketch of Branwen as a junk schooner. Perhaps I am no sailor, but I never liked her gaff rig which needed topsails until the breeze rose above force 4 and about reefing the main, the less said, the better. Gaff rig is hard work, to which I am averse. We did catch a fleeting glimpse of the Med from the Canal du Midi as we turned for home, where we spent a summer converting her to junk schooner. For those interested, JRA magazine issue 70 contains an article describing the job


Wylos aren’t built for ditch-crawling. The day after launching as a junk, we sailed her down Channel and crossed Biscay to Spain and Portugal.

A boisterous singlehanded passage down to the Cape Verdes and across to Antigua followed. The Cook joined the ship there and we spent a few months cruising the Leeward Islands as far as Puerto Rico, then north to Chesapeake Bay.  A chance to view a total solar eclipse was our chief reason for visiting America – rather a long way to go for a 2 ½  minute show. The Hurricane season ended, we cruised the length of the Intra Coastal Waterway down to Florida, across to Cuba and back to Key West from where, solo once again, I spent a few weeks in the Bahamas before bringing Branwen home to England by way of the Azores.

There’s an article, “Atlantic Antics”, describing the outward passage in JRA Magazine 84.


We are based in the port of Hull, once the home of a fleet of ships that sailed north to hunt whales in Greenland waters or off Svalbard, returning home without having put in anywhere, for it was feared that, given the opportunity, crewmen might desert the ship. This Summer, Branwen sailed north to Spitsbergen and back, like the whalers remaining at sea, although there was less danger of desertion; this was a single-handed cruise.

Our Featured Boat (or "Boat of the Month") Archive is here, and the forum discussion for comments and candidate suggestions is here.


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