Gilly Scott shares her favourite anchorages with Dick Durham on two daysails from Devon to Cornwall
What’s she like to sail?
As one might expect from a Hallberg-Rassy, she is well balanced and has excellent directional stability. The transom-hung rudder is semi-balanced, with the forward third of the blade extending along the keel, which contributes to her sailing virtues and reduces the load on the helm without deadening the ‘feel’ through the tiller.
She was designed with halyard winches on the mast, but it’s easy to lead the lines aft over the coachroof, as Gilly has done, if you don’t like leaving the cockpit. On her boat, you don’t have to leave the helm to raise, lower or shorten sail, using the Meissner 18 winches mounted on the coachroof athwart the companionway. Nor is it a stretch to trim the genoa when sailing solo: the Lewmar 30 self-tailing primaries are within easy reach of the tiller.
The genoa sheets are led to adjustable cars on the side-decks, but there’s also a track on the forward coachroof for a self-tacking jib, which would make short-tacking a breeze for a singlehander.
The cockpit is long, deep and secure, with ample space for four.
Would she suit you and your crew?
She’s comfortable for a pocket cruiser. The backrests of the saloon settees are on hinges, so crew sleeping in the saloon can haul them up at an angle to create a pair of exceptionally wide single berths to wallow in. She is well ventilated thanks to stainless steel vents on the foredeck, cabin top, and louvred panels in the washboards.
She’s not a purpose-built creek crawler, but her moderate draught of 1.4m gives access to anchorages that deeper fin-keelers can’t reach. To retrieve the anchor, I found that sitting on the deck, facing forwards with my legs in the anchor locker, was an effective way of becoming a human windlass and I hand-over-handed the cable with ease. But the nav light bracket on the pulpit is too low, snagging the anchor chain as you haul it over the bow roller.
She will take a few berthing bumps on the chin, thanks to a PVC rubbing strake that goes right around the hull. She’s easier to manoeuvre under power than a fin-and-skeg boat, but the saildrive is set too far forward to maximise prop wash over the rudder, so she’s not as handy in harbour as a fin-keeler with a shaft drive.
What’s she like in port and at anchor?
She may seem poky by modern standards but she’s comfortable for a family of four, with mum and dad enjoying a private en suite cabin in the forepeak. And if privacy isn’t a priority, four adults can cruise in more comfort than you’ll find aboard most 26-footers, thanks to a well-designed cabin layout and long, extra-wide saloon berths.
If you’re looking at old boats but don’t like DIY, this one deserves to be on your shortlist. She’s well built, with a hull-deck joint made by overlapping the laminates, high-quality marine ply bulkheads, strong joinery, heavy cast bronze fittings and a no-maintenance encapsulated keel. The GRP sandwich hull has a cellular plastic core, which gives good thermal and sound insulation, and these boats were factory-fitted with a heater, so she’s a good choice for winter cruising. The light conditions on our two days didn’t test her seaworthiness, but I’ve no doubt that she’d make a decent offshore passage-maker. A keen couple could cruise her far and wide on a modest budget. That said, her real forte is coastal port-hopping.
For either purpose, the HR26’s main limitation is likely to be her motoring ability, unless the original engine has been replaced, like Gilly’s, with a more powerful modern diesel.