Hall of Lame – Wayfarer Dinghy Associations

For a long time I have had a thing for the Wayfarer Dinghy. It started with a piece in the dearly departed Small Boat Journal about a guy cruising the coast of Labrador in one. I looked the look of the boat – and it was a wooden one – but the adventure really captured me. I was responding well to the designers intentions:

When Englishman Ian Proctor initially set about drafting the lines of the Wayfarer in 1957, his objectives were threefold. First, he wanted a boat that performed well enough to be suitable for competitive class racing. Secondly, the boat needed to be roomy and stable to make it an attractive family boat. Lastly, it was to be endowed with features such as large stowage compartments and other cockpit amenities, which would enhance its utility as a camping/cruising boat. All of this was with the view that the dinghy would be sailed for the most part in the rough, turbulent, coastal waters of the British Isles. Ian Proctor succeeded with remarkable genius in achieving all three of his goals.

Back then I wrote the U.S. Wayfarer Assn. about obtaining plans for building one. I was told, as is still the case, that they are not available. The various associations apparently keep strict control over the design to ensure even racing.

The Wayfarer sailing dingy was first produced in 1957 as a wooden boat. Since then the Wayfarer has gone through numerous versions in fiberglass. The hull shape and sail plan have been tightly controlled to keep all of the versions of the Wayfarer competitive.

OK, the ends are reasonable, but I just find it really lame to lock up a great design. It’s not like there aren’t ways to control the risks! They could just allocate a certain set of sail numbers to home builders and make those builders go through a certification process at their expense. Done – everyone wins. The associations’ approach seems draconian and – frankly – paranoid. Ease up, folks.

Here’s the design:

Wayfarer dinghy

10 Comments for “Hall of Lame – Wayfarer Dinghy Associations”

tom armstrong


you must pass on to your readers the incredible journeys of frank and margaret dye, cruising a wayfarer from scotland to iceland etc. I believe the title is “ocean crossing wayfarer” and is a must read for anyone interested in extreme cruising small boats.

Geoff Heath


I’m the guy who sailed the Wayfarer in Labrador those many years ago. Great boat. I’m looking for one again, came on this bit about tight control of plans…I agree, they should be available. Frank Dye has a newer book out “Sailing to the Edge of Fear”. Frank is a good friend of mine and a great adventurer, though old now and boatless in Britain. The toothless old tykes of today are the tigers of yesteryear
Geoff Heath

David Heard


I just read your 1985 Wayfarer to Labrador and as a Wayfarer sailor,I loved every minute of it, especially as I now live in Bahrain where the water in summer is 35 centigrade not farenheight!The colder waters of UK are better!!
Have you seen Frans big adventure, a young lady recently sailed a wayfarer round the UK (avoiding the top of Scotland by using canals) the blog is good reading
Anyway thanks for your inspiring story
Best regards


Hi, Geoff:

I recall your lovely slide show from our 1981? AGM at Toronto Sailing & Canoe Club with great respect. To my mind, your is the most amazing W cruise ever done. I have your log posted at http://www.wayfarer-international.org/WIC/Cruise.Logs/1981.Geoff.Heath.log/Geoff.Heath.log.html and have been trying to track you down to see if those slides might still be around and available to add to the above coverage?? Best regards, Uncle Al (W3854)


Thanks for the nice Peace Canoe blog. I always imagined this design would take on a life of its own!

But about Wayfarers:

When I was about 16, I had built a 12-foot rowing dinghy that I used to explore the Elk and Bohemia Rivers on the Chesapeake Bay. Towed behind my dad’s ancient 26-footer, we sometimes got a little further afield. On one such trip we anchored off Cabin John Creek on the Elk River and I rowed in to look around.

There was a Wayfarer at anchor, and it looked unusual: loaded down, and with a big umbrella shielding a bearded gentleman. I rowed over to see what he was up to. He had a British accent and invited me aboard at once. The Wayfarer was obviously loaded for a long cruise. He said his name was Frank Dye, and he showed me a magazine article about his open-boat cruising adventures.

I should have known who he was, but I was young then. Frank Dye was on his umpteenth Wayfarer voyage, which had included trips across the North Sea and beyond. He was the author of “Ocean Crossing Wayfarer.” He was sailing his Wayfarer from Miami to New Brunswick. His wife, Margaret, had abandoned the trip, he told me, after too much bad weather along the Carolina coasts, so he was going it alone.

He insisted on taking my dinghy for a row—I was dazed by his generosity and encouraging words—and he had me sign his logbook.

Eventually he wrote a book about the voyage called “Sailing to the Edge of Fear.” I doubt Cabin John Creek was one of the fearful spots.

In one of those strange coincidences, in 1990 I bumped into Margaret Dye in Greenwich, near London, so I’ve managed to meet two of the most eminent Wayfarer sailors in the world, both by accident!

Anyway, all hail the Wayfarer for small boat cruising. Used to be a boat you build yourself, and I have a friend who’s building one. There was once a kit for it, and Chesapeake Light Craft has been asked a few times to consider it. Too complicated and expensive, alas.

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