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#1 2024-03-05 08:54:25

From: Langkawi, Malaysia
Registered: 2021-06-14
Posts: 103

My search for a Frances 26.

Having done a lot of soul searching, I decided that I needed to downsize from the steel Ebbtide 36 cutter, JENAIN, that has been my home for 28 years.
My boat of choice was a Victoria Frances 26. While acknowledging that the Morris built boats have superb joinery; their internal layouts and external lead keels are negatives in my opinion. Also, I do not like the layout of the Victoria 800. So, what I really wanted was a Victoria built, Frances 26.
I found one Frances 26 in Langkawi, CHARM OF RYE, a gaff rigged cutter. She has been unused on the hard stand for years, but the owner would not part with her. A general internet search led me to a YouTube video, called “Sailing with Jill”. In fact there are 5 or more, videos in that series. Fortunately, I recognized Singaporean waters in the first video I saw. Then some detective work on the Singapore Yacht Registry, led me to discover a rather run down Frances 26, JILL, in the Singapore Armed Services Yacht Club. I traced the owners, and started negotiating  the purchase of the boat, sight unseen, no survey! I also sourced, and bought, an Optimus paraffin stove in Germany, and two Navik wind vanes in New Zealand.  I then had a stove, a wind vane, and just needed the boat!
As all this took place at the beginning of the Covid lockdown, I was unable to leave Malaysia, but I managed to get JILL out of Singapore, and into Malaysian waters at Johor Bahru. From there I single handed her to my base in Langkawi, a voyage of  450nm. JILL, had no stove, no fridge, no windlass, no dinghy, no liferaft, and the toilet, vhf radio, AIS, and auto pilot were non functional. Her sails were very old and baggy, and her 8HP Yanmar was totally underpowered for dodging ships in the Malacca Strait. In addition,the shaft seal was decidedly dodgy, having nearly sunk JILL on the short trip from Singapore. In spite of all that, I had a good, enjoyable trip, and learned a lot about  Frances 26s in general, and JILL in particular. Of course, I made a long list of items to change, refurbish, or replace.  On arrival back in Langkawi, I re registered her in Germany, as INYONI, a Zulu word meaning small bird.
First to go were the worn out teak decks, they are too hot to walk on in the tropics anyway, and very expensive to replace.  Next I removed the horrid self tacking boom for the jib; ordered a 16HP Beta marine engine and a 3 bladed, feathering, MaxProp. The teak capping rail was replaced and here I made the mistake of varnishing it again. Varnish just does not last in the tropics, and I have now painted it white!  The ridiculously small CQR anchor, was replaced by a 10kg Rocna, with a Fortress as a spare, 60m  of 8mm G 43 chain, was spliced to 60m of 3 strand nylon rope, and a Lofrans Dorado windlass was installed to handle it all.
I hauled her out, using a 500 ton travel lift, and stuck her in a huge hangar, as it was the monsoon season with very heavy rain every day. This hangar was equipped with a 5 ton overhead crane, which made removal of the mast and engine a doddle. I attached my bosun chair to the hook and raised, lowered, and moved myself, and the loads. No health and safety protocols!
After removal of the teak, the deck was filled, faired and painted with white KiwiGrip. Once the mast was pulled, I cut off the masthead, as I changed the rig from a fractional sloop, to a mast head cutter, with a removable inner forestay. This was done in conjunction with a rigger, and a New Zealand sailmaker. I fabricated a new mast head with internal sheaves for the genoa and mainsail halyards and attachments for the cap shrouds. I replaced all the standing rigging with new 6mm dia 1x19 wire, using mechanical terminals, and new rigging screws. A Harken furler was purchased to replace the original endless line furler, and 3 new, tan bark sails were ordered from Zoom Sails. A fully battened mainsail, with 3 reefs, a 130% roller furling genoa, and a hank on staysail, with a deep reef that doubles as a storm jib. This sail is stowed in a Sunbrella bag on deck. I kept two of the old sails, the yankee, and the spinnaker, and bought a telescopic pole for use with the spinnaker, or any other headsail. I added a cheek block and cleats on the side of the boom for the 3rd reef, and fitted lazy jacks.  I fabricated a new bow fitting to accommodate the Rocna anchor, and also move the forestay as far forward as possible. (I do not like bowsprits!) This necessitated, modifying the pulpit, and I took the opportunity to weld in lower tubes. I also changed the mainsheet from the original position in front of the companion way, to the end of the boom, with a new traveler across the pushpit. This enabled me to fabricate and fit a sailing awning, very necessary for tropical sailing. Replacing the fore hatch, with an aft hinged, Lewmar one, greatly  improved forepeak ventilation. All of the aluminum deck hardware was removed, anodized black, and refitted with Tufnol pads. A new dodger was made with the Centre widow zippered for ventilation, a new mainsail cover, cockpit cushions, and other canvass work were also commissioned. I designed and fitted a drop down boarding ladder, that can be released while in the water. This is really a big boost to safety. The 6 brass opening ports were refurbished, and I have purchased, but not yet installed, new rubber seals.
Changing the engine was not without it’s problems, and resulted in a major rebuild after only one and a half hours of running time. I positioned  the engine instruments in the cockpit, where they can be monitored by whoever is on watch. Raymarine Wind and Tridata instruments were installed, and a Vespermarine AIS unit.
Two new AGM  batteries, a new 100Watt solar panel, with a MPPT controller, and a complete rewire of all of the electrical systems to a new board, followed. Why did Victoria not use tinned wire?  All of the lighting is now by LEDs. The toilet was rebuilt, the interior cushions recovered, new paraffin stove installed and a Force 10 paraffin heater. Aportable 230/12 volt fridge unit was added. This is strapped down at the aft end of the port saloon seat.  I replaced the saloon sole with new marine ply, and artificial teak. Re finished the rather practical saloon/cockpit table. Refurbished the companionway doors, and made up a set of teak wash boards as well. Rebuilt and fitted one of the Navik wind vanes, and added a Raymarine ST 2000 tiller pilot. Also fitted a blue tooth sound system.
Little was changed on the interior, as I think the Victoria Frances 26 layout is very good, but I did cut 49% off the hinged down chart table, which made space for some useful cave lockers, and a place for the inverter. I rarely use paper charts anymore, and have a small tablet PC, running OpenCPN, and other navigation apps, in a holder on the chart table. I also run Navionics and iSailor on an iPad mini in the cockpit.  As stowage space is needed on a small boat, I made 3 shelves for the Port and Starboard “alcoves” at the head end of the Vee berth.   I fitted a lee cloth on the starboard saloon berth, so there is now now a  useable sea berth on either tack. I kept banging my head, going into the forepeak, so I cut 90 degrees out of a pool noodle, covered it with Sunbrella, and fitted it to the underside of the  deck  ahead of the mast. I fitted a nice brass lever action pump for the fresh water supply, and now use the Whale Gusher foot pump for salt water. Fitted lots of usb sockets. There had been a truly horrible plastic toilet pipe bend used as a ventilator. This had leaked, and rotted some of the ceiling slats, which had to be replaced. I built a proper dorade box with a nice brass cowl vent. Also redesigned the fuel filler in the cockpit sole so that it is now totally waterproof.
Last, I built an Eastport nesting pram dinghy, which I either tow, or stow nested on the foredeck for long passages.  

So far, we have done some local cruising among the 99 tropical island that surround Langkawi, and I am very happy indeed with the boat. About to do a longer cruise up the Thailand West coast. Of course, as always, there is room for improvement, such as sound deadening panels for the engine compartment, and zip on side flaps for the sailing awning.

Excluding the cost of my labour, I have spent a total of about US$ 27,000.00, and now own a rather nice, ocean capable, Frances 26.

I have many photos of the changes that I have made on INYONI, should anyone want details.


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