How we turned our motor yacht into an offshore adventure boat

How we turned our motor yacht into an offshore adventure boat

Daniel Brocklebank, a distant ancestor of mine, received a letter of marque in 1779 from George III, appointing him as a royally licensed pirate as well as a shipbuilder. He duly spent some months harrying newly independent American ships before returning to England to his shipyard in Whitehaven.

Following expansion to Liverpool, he and his sons, Thomas and John Brocklebank, built ships that began to trade across the world in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and I’m proud to say that salt spray remained in the Brocklebank blood.

My father shared this passion and was fascinated by lighthouses and so, for many years, I’ve wanted to voyage around the UK to visit those lights in the wildest parts of our coastline. These lonely but majestic sentinels stand in some of our stormiest and most inhospitable waters, often far from shore.

They represent not just astonishing intellectual ability in their design and construction, but also a level of graft and bravery that is alien to most professions these days. Their names are deeply emotive: Wolf Rock, Bell Rock, Skerryvore, Eddystone, Fastnet, Muckle Flugga, Sule Skerry, Dubh Artach.

There are 21 (if you exclude the western shores of Ireland, which I will explore on a separate voyage) and they represent technological optimism: that if you work hard enough, using new engineering techniques, you can quite literally shine a light into forbidding darkness and help preserve life and wealth in treacherous times.

Craftsmanship is a key part of the appeal

Debut motorboat

For me, this is an inspiring metaphor for times past as well as present, and so I set out to find a suitable boat to visit these places. Thankfully, the UK is still blessed with some wonderful boat builders. From Mike Reynolds at Dale in Wales to Sean McMillan at Spirit in Suffolk, our coast is studded with outstanding craftsmen.

Being based in Cornwall for much of the time, I was immediately drawn to an announcement by Rustler of Falmouth that they were to build a 41ft motor launch. Rustler have an enviable reputation for their oceangoing sailing yachts and they are particularly favoured by Golden Globe solo circumnavigators, with Rustler 36s coming in first, second and third in 2018.

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Trouble is they had never made a motor yacht. But according to their MD, Adrian Jones, some of their older clients were growing tired of hauling in the sheets and beating up against the wind and wanted Rustler charm and build quality without the sails. So they decided to build a modern, efficient 41ft gentleman’s motor boat. Working with Tony Castro, whose creations now number 10,000 boats at sea, they settled on a sleek design with gorgeous lines, a touch of tumblehome to the stern and a whiff of picnic-boat style in the Hinckley fashion.

Voyage-ready spec

When I originally enquired, they were just engaging with their first customer for hull number 1 but I was able to get in line to configure hull number 2 with my rock lighthouse voyage in mind. They have been tremendous at involving me in the build and welcoming me to their factory to watch the process unfold so I’ve been able to have plenty of input. The key specifications are 41ft (12.5m), with a beam of 4m and a draft of 0.64m. It will also carry 1,200 litres of diesel and 300 litres of water.

Rustler has a reputation for beautifully built offshore sailing yachts

Powered by twin Yanmar 8LV370 370hp engines on straight shafts, we’re looking at a cruising speed of up to 25 knots and a top speed of 30 knots, with a maximum range
of around 300 nautical miles.

For my particular offshore requirements, Nick Offord, Rustler’s director of engineering, has worked very hard with the team to create a suitable voyaging specification. We’ll be off to some very unfriendly seas in out of the way places, so we have thermal imaging cameras, forward-facing sonar, lithium-ion battery banks, full remote CZone electrical switching and monitoring, solar panels, Sleipner’s new SE100 proportional bow and stern thrusters, searchlights, radar and active radar reflection.

But while she’s equipped to really perform at sea, the charm of the boat for most people will be the quality of her lines and fit out. I highly recommend watching the “What Makes Rustler Special” series on YouTube, where you can see the company’s dedicated team at work. In fact, Adrian and Nick were kind enough to let my 16-year-old son do a few days’ work experience with them and he came back full of admiration for the teams in the workshops, the complexity of the systems programming and the diligence of the service department.

Bishop Rock lighthouse is firmly on the hit list

Meaningful moniker

After the lengthy process of turning Tony Castro’s CAD drawings into moulds, the hull is now formed, the spider frames are in, the deck is being installed and the cabinet making is underway.

As this work progresses, I can share more photos and discussion of the various engineering choices as we look to launch at the end of the summer. But whether she’s taking our family and friends to the Scilly Isles for a day trip or battling round the overfalls off Cape Wrath, we’re creating a vessel that is comfortable yet capable, handbuilt by men and women who have shipbuilding in their blood, in a nation where the sea has been at the heart of our history. And this sense of history is also apparent in her name.

The lighthouse that is the first to greet so much of the shipping around the UK is Bishop Rock, lying 4 miles off the Isles of Scilly.

Will’s ancestor was a licensed pirate

For me, these treacherous and enchanting islands are quite iconic. They represent unbelievable beauty, serious technical challenges, serene isolation and a very warm welcome. They also happen to have a history that has witnessed great global events.

Around 400 AD, sea levels were much lower and St Mary’s, St Martin’s, Tresco and Bryher were apparently joined together. The ancient name for this offshore haven was Ennor. And there’s something about that strong Cornish word that felt fitting for the new Rustler. So here’s to the construction of Ennor, hull number 2 Rustler MY41…

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