THE GOOD SHIP CASSIOPEIA
I have owned Cassiopeia for 26 years and in that time she has proven to be an utterly amazing cruising vessel. She is sea kindly and dry, and is so well balanced that she helms herself on nearly every point of sail. She carries through rough seas gracefully and has a strong and very forgiving rig. Her flush decks and open spaces below make her a joy to live aboard at anchor. Despite her size she is very nimble and I can single hand her, bringing her easily through a tack from the aft deck, and she has picked up many a mooring under sail alone.
She is well known in the world of classic yachts as she competed frequently in the Antigua Classic yacht regatta, winning in her class and winning the coveted Spirit of the Regatta award. She raced often, winning as well, in the Foxy’s wooden boat regatta and the Sweethearts regatta in the BVI. Her one passage to New Zealand was rewarded by her winning the famous Russell Tall Ships regatta in the Bay of Islands. As a cruiser she usually arrives in the middle of the fleet shocking some of the modern boats who arrive in the destination port to find her already at anchor. I use six knots for passage planning and more if the wind is to be favourable. Her top speed under my command has been 11 knots sustained for hours at a time.
I sailed her from Florida through the West Indies of the Caribbean where I cruised for ten years and then transited the Panama Canal. The Pacific saw us in Costa Rica, French Polynesia, Tonga, Fiji, New Zealand and Vanuatu. Stopping for years in many of these island paradises, we have now been in Vanuatu for nine years. Cassiopeia has sailed thousands of sea miles in a wide variety of conditions and I have come to appreciate the many advantages of a traditional vessel.
Cassiopeia is a Bald Headed Gaff Rigged Schooner. She is sixty three feet overall with an on deck length of fifty feet. She has a sixteen and one half foot beam and draws seven feet of water. She is listed at 23 tons net and 28 tons gross and in the slings weighs just less than thirty tons. She is helmed with both a nine foot tiller and a wheel in the pilot house.
She is constructed of Pitch pine frames and planking and is laid on a ferro cement keel which forms the stem and the horn timber as well. This gives her a very strong backbone and allows the turn of the bilge to be rather sharp which contributes to her exceptional windward performance. Her mast, booms and gaffs are of solid Douglas fir tress from the South Island of New Zealand and were installed ten years ago. Her standing rigging is Stainless 7/19 wire with Staylock ends. Her running rigging is all block and tackle with ½ inch braided Sampson line. She has a Ford Lehman 80 horse power 4 cylinder auxiliary, which this particular one is undoubtedly the best motor in the world!
The brass tacks do not tell the whole story however. Cassiopeia is magic. Her soft timbers have soaked up the energy and love from her many crews. Their glorious experiences have changed their lives and they have embued her with a spirit which is palpable the minute your foot touches her deck. She is one of the most unique vessels on the high seas and I am justifiably accused of having an unreasonable emotional attachment to her.
She is near falling down at the moment but I doggedly cling to saving her despite the frequent advice to walk away. One more rather large carpentry project which can be done in the water, and I believe the recovery phase from a long ago burglary and near sinking will be over and she will finally sail again.
Wooohooo! YAY FOR US! It will be a great day when she drops the mooring, the canvass is set and the toast is shouted to the horizon!
Here’s is a video of Cassiopeia’s adventures as a pirate ship!
For all who know Cassiopeia, If you have a story or photos about your time on Cassiopeia about your experience with her please [post it here!