Repair and Maintenance of a Drascombe Lugger

Obtaining a new Gaff (1)

These pages describe the options for obtaining a new gaff. The easy option is to purchase a ready-made one and details of the UK manufacturer are given. A more interesting option is to make one which allows for customisation to personal preferences. The main part of this article is devoted to 'Do it Yourself' instructions for making a gaff. These are also relevant for spar making in general (mainmast, mizzenmast or bumpkin).

Why did I need a new Gaff?

Sospiri's mainsail was old (made about 1980), blown out and not particularly well constructed. It was time for a new one and I had asked R & J Sails for a quote. I was very puzzled when the quote came back as the sail dimensions were markedly different from those of the existing sail. However, all was made clear in a phone call to Richard Hannaford (the R in R & J Sails). He explained that the current (Mk 2) mainsail was larger than the original (Mk 1) as it gave better power and balance to the overall rig. However it did mean that the original Gaff yard (7' 8" long) was way too short and would need replacing with the current larger version (10' 2" long). His final words were "Why don't you save money and make it yourself? - it's not hard". So after a bit of head-scratching and research, that's what I did!


I would like to acknowledge the help I received from Ian Cowie who passed on some valuable advice and lessons learnt from making a replacement Gaff for his Lugger. I also benefitted from a wealth of advice at Collars superb stand at the 2004 London Boat Show. They were demonstrating mast and oar making. In particular Lee Gable (Senior Spar Finisher) was incredibly helpful (and enthusiastic!) spending some considerable time passing on advice on how I should go about the project, suitable wood, tools and finishes etc. I was duly inspired! Finally it is also a pleasure to acknowledge the help received in the discussions on the Drascombe Association Forum.

This article is based on my personal preferences and is not intended to be definitive in any way. If it is useful to those undertaking the same or a similar project then it will have served its purpose.

Purchasing a replacement Gaff

If you just want to purchase a replacement Gaff then the best option is to go to Collars who, at the time of writing (September 2004), manufacture masts, spars (gaff yard) and oars for the entire Drascombe range made by Churchouse Boats and the Original Devon Range made by Honnor Marine. Before you contact them, have a look at the following section to decide the size and shape of the spar relative to your mainsail and the options as regards halliard attachment.

Comparison of Gaff dimensions for the Mk 1 & Mk 2 mainsails.

Sketch of Gaff dimensions relative to the dimensions of the Lugger Mk 1 mainsail Sketch of Gaff dimensions relative to the dimensions of the Lugger Mk 1 mainsail

This sketch shows the dimensions of the Mk 1 Lugger mainsail and how it relates to the mainmast and Gaff. The gaff, at a length of 7' 8", is relatively short.

(Click on image for larger view)

Sketch of Gaff dimensions relative to the dimensions of the Lugger Mk 2 mainsail Sketch of Gaff dimensions relative to the dimensions of the Lugger Mk 2 mainsail

This sketch shows the dimensions of the Mk 2 Mainsail and the corresponding size of the Gaff. The Gaff at 10' 2" is 2' 6" longer than the Mk1 equivalent.

(Click on image for larger view)


The rest of this page concentrates on the detailed dimensions and possible profiles of the Gaff.

Sketch of Mk 2 Gaff dimensions and possible profiles Sketch of Mk 2 Gaff dimensions and possible profiles

The top sketch shows the basic dimensions (without the shaped profile) of the Mk 2 Gaff . Note the two sets of wedges. The lower wedges are for attachment of the main halliard under normal conditions. The upper set of wedges allow for halliard attachment when the mainsail is reefed. Gaffs currently fitted to new Luggers made by Churchouse & Honnor Marine do not have wedges but instead a hole is drilled through the spar to enable the halyard to be passed through and secured with a stopper knot. There is no additional provision for attachment when the mainsail is reefed.

The upper sketch does not show a profile for the gaff. Two possible profiles are shown in the lower two sketches. The 'tapered square' profile shown in the bottom sketch is that currently produced by Collars for Churchouse & Honnor Marine Luggers. The upper flattened 'double-taper' profile was used for the original shorter Mk 1 Gaff.

(Click on image for larger view)

Photograph of a Mk 1 Gaff with a 'double-taper' profile Photograph of a Mk 1 Gaff with a 'double-taper' profile

This picture of Sospiri's Mk 1 Gaff shows very clearly the flattened 'double-taper' profile. The tapered side is next to the mast whilst the sail is attached to the opposite flat, straight side. This was my preferred profile for making the new gaff even though the 'tapered-square' profile would have been easier to make. My personal view is that the 'double-taper' profile gives a better balanced spar with maximum thickness in the centre - where it is needed.

(Click on image for larger view)

Detailed Profile Dimensions

As far as I am aware, there are no detailed measurements available for the larger Mk 2 double-taper gaff profile so I drew up my own profile based on that of my existing shorter gaff. For those wishing to undertake a similar exercise (which can also be applied to the other Lugger spars), follow This Link for a detailed guide. If you just want to use my measurements, skip the link and continue to the next page following the link below.

The next page deals with what tools are needed to make the gaff.

Click on link below to continue

[Forward to page 2, Tools & Materials]