Four summers ago, en route through the Northwest Passage aboard a 64-foot steel cutter on an expedition called Around the Americas, I came across what was surely one of the more surprising and inspiring sights I’ve ever witnessed in my years of ocean voyaging. High above the Arctic Circle, in a cold, icy stretch of water called the Dolphin and Union Strait, was the most unlikely vessel imaginable: a NorseBoat 17.5. Amazingly, the boat was also in the midst of a NW Passage transit.
There were two Englishmen aboard, a pair of Royal Marines—Major Tony Lancashire and Lt. Col. Kevin Oliver—on what they called “adventure training.” Between deployments to Afghanistan, they were on a bit of a holiday in the ice. Along with the sailing rig, the boat was equipped with a sliding seat and long oars so they could row when the wind wasn’t cooperating. They’d purchased the versatile boat at the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, the year before. When they weren’t sailing, they used the small cuddy cabin for shelter. To say they were an impressive couple of fellows would be an understatement.
In any event, I was reminded of the encounter last week here in Newport, R.I., after getting my first look at the new NorseBoat 21.5 Open model. All I could think was, Major Lancashire and Lt. Col. Oliver (who did complete their trip, though in two summers, leaving the boat in Cambridge Bay over the intervening winter) would consider it palatial.
The Brits would certainly recognize the vessel, which in spirit and execution is very much the big sister to the 17.5. (The company calls its vessels “the Swiss army knife of boats,” which is both funny and appropriate. NorseBoat also builds a 21.5 Cabin version.) It’s a salty little craft that shares many features including the lapstrake hull, a pivoting carbon mast, a fully-battened mainsail with the brand’s signature curved headboard, and a furling genoa set on a bowsprit. The trailerable boat is quickly and easily rigged and sports a ballasted, foil-shaped stub keel, a pivoting centerboard and a kick-up rudder, all of which make it ideal for shallow waters.
In related news, the NorseBoat folks have just joined ranks with the renowned Maine boatbuilders at Lyman-Morse to produce the line. Sail away price for the 21.5 Open is $39,995. Options include a full cockpit tent for “camping cruising.” For more details, visit www.norseboat.com.
It’s hard not to look at another line of sweet little open boats—Cornish Crabber’s new Adventure Series—and not see the affinity with the NorseBoat clan. There are five distinct offerings in the line: a 12, 17, 19, 22 and 26. The boats all have the timeless lines and profiles of the “classic” Cornish Crabbers, with one key exception. Instead of gaff rigs, the Adventure Series have been updated with modern Bermuda rigs for simplicity and efficiency.
The American importer and distributor of Cornish Crabbers is Forum Marine on Chesapeake Bay. For more information, contact Forum’s president, Thomas Duhen, at firstname.lastname@example.org.