The marine architect Ian Proctor, of Hamble on the south coast in the United Kingdom, designed many high performance dinghies during the early nineteen fifties: National 12; National Merlin Rocket; International 14; National Osprey and Kestrel. And for his family he produced a little dinghy called Gull with a double chine. It proved extremely popular and grew into a class with over 2,000 boats. Out of this came a request for something larger, about sixteen feet in length and in the same construction — a craft that could accept the demands made by English coastal sailing and moorings that dry out. In short, what was required was a tough, stable craft that would take the ground without damage and was cheaper to build than the then-current carvels and lapstrakes.
Small Craft Boats of Southampton were prepared to build such a dinghy with specifications appropriate to the standard manufactured size of ply mahogany. In 1956, came the drawings and prototype of the first Wayfarer. The initial trials suggested, among other modifications, that the freeboard should be increased a bit (which is why some trouble is experienced in rowing) and the subsequent models resulted in the familiar hull in wood or fiberglass that we know today.
Proctor incorporated leak-proof buoyancy/stowage fore and aft, and precisely-designed aft side-benches that could be transferred to thwartships in order to accommodate children overnight. This dinghy turned out to be not only an excellent day-sailor but a lively race craft and a long-distance cruiser as well. Since sail numbers are a fairly good indication of dinghies afloat somewhere, there are now some eleven thousand Wayfarers around the world, with some 1,500 in Canada, and 500 in the United States.
This most kindly of dinghies made her debut in Canada in 1958 and was subsequently built here under license by Croce and Lofthouse of Toronto, then Whitby Boatworks, Windbourne, Voiliers de Québec and then Abbott of Sarnia.
During the nineteen seventies and eighties, further modifications made in fiberglass resulted in Mks. II, III and IV: solid buoyancy forward with open shelf stowage, and a double-hull configuration in the cockpit.
The extraordinary feats performed by this dinghy in different parts of the world have been dealt with at great length elsewhere. But no article on this design is complete without a mention of renowned dinghy cruiser Frank Dye, sometime with his wife Margaret, sometimes with other crew but mostly solo, starting with his wooden Wayfarer (sail number W48). He sailed thousands of miles in that dinghy, then later models, cruising as far afield as Iceland, Norway, the Middle East. And, in the 1990s, he sailed up the East Coast of America, the St. Lawrence River and into the Great Lakes.
It is enough to say that for day-sailing, racing or long-distance cruising, this little dinghy is the most popular and versatile craft of her size to be found anywhere.
Ocean Cossing Wayfarer by Frank Dye, Adlard and Coles, 2006
Dinghy Cruising with Philllips, published in Toronto, 1981: Free on the internet.
Wayfarer on Wikipedia
After a disastrous fire seven years ago, Abbott of Sarnia no longer builds Wayfarers.
Hartley boats of Derbyshire now produces them:www.hartleyboats.com
Ken Elliott, Editor, OHCC newsletter Flotilla, February, 2013