Covey Island Boatworks of Petite-Rivière, Nova Scotia, continues to build enduring classic voyaging yachts. Their latest launch, Niñita — based on Niña, the Starling Burgess 1928 trans-Atlantic and Fastnet racer — pays homage to its namesake. The new yacht will be home to a Hampshire, England, couple who have been sailing all their lives and plan to expand their cruising horizons in a boat that “can travel anywhere in the world and be comfortable and fast.”
After reading a 1987 Llewellyn Howland III article, The Burgess Legacy, the British couple began researching Niña’s design and laid out a new interior plan to accommodate their live-aboard requirements, while keeping the hull, doghouse and flush deck as close as possible to the yacht’s original drawings. To enhance visualization of the boat, they constructed a 1-inch to 1-foot scale model. They even went as far as making sails and cushions. It was properly ballasted and a perfect model in every way.
“Building the model has allowed us to ‘see’ the boat from all angles and to float it to check its displacement, CG (center of gravity), stability, etc., and all of this only strengthened our feelings about the design,” the owners said. After approaching Covey Island Boatworks about another boat and a series of email discussions with the yard’s owner, John Steele, the couple decided to go ahead with the Niñita project.
Rigged as a staysail schooner, Niï¿½ita may not be as fast as a conventional schooner, but sail-handling is much easier because of the size of the individual sail components. The rig is manageable by a crew of two and should prove to be an excellent windward performer. The yacht’s profile is lovely with sweeping lines, but the overhangs are somewhat short as a result of the original racing rules the lines were drawn to.
On deck Niï¿½ita sports a clean, flush deck that heralds its racing, as well as a low-profile doghouse and butterfly hatch over the saloon. The yacht’s hull is a wood-epoxy composite, constructed of laminated Douglas fir and sheathed with Xynole and epoxy. Below the waterline, the hull is painted blue; above, bright-white topsides and low, bright-finished bulwarks. Burgess’ design has kept the wetted surfaces to a minimum, resulting in an easily driven hull.
The owners were also attracted to the design because of the ample space below. In Niï¿½a’s original racing configuration, below deck was a cavernous open space set up to accommodate a trans-Atlantic racing crew. Niï¿½ita on the other hand is configured as a live-aboard. There are single and double berths just aft of a large U-shaped galley. The galley equipment includes a Seafrost BD3 reefer and Force 10 stove that can handle propane as well as butane for use in the United Kingdom.
All of the counters are finished in wood, the interior joinery material being a mixture of oak, Douglas fir, locust and white pine. Forward of the galley is the main saloon with a wraparound settee, pilot berth to port and a wood stove with built-in chairs to either side &mdash a cozy spot for tired crew. A Radex water-heating system has been installed as a backup to fend off any chill. Forward of the saloon and to port is the master stateroom, a single berth to starboard and a forward head. The accommodations are all simple and straightforward, finished in tung oil with a urethane varnish over the interior epoxy surfaces.
The owners wanted absolute simplicity in the yacht and even considered going without an engine. After giving in to power, they decided on twin New Holland diesels turning two Gori three-blade folding props, but they held firm on no furling gear, hydraulics or electric winches. Even the electronics were kept to a minimum, limiting navigation equipment to a Furuno 1933 radar, Furuno WAAS/GPS, and a Sony VHF.
The late Uffa Fox, in his discussion of the Niï¿½a design in Sailing, Seamanship, and Yacht Construction (1934, Charles Scribner’s Sons, N.Y.), said, “Niï¿½a’s staysail schooner rig, offering as it does, almost the speed of the cutter with the ease of handling of a schooner, is tempting.” Combine that with the simplicity of Niï¿½ita’s accommodation plan and systems, all beautifully put together by Covey Island’s skilled craftsmanship, and you have a voyaging yacht that is very tempting indeed.