It is a little known fact that the search for perfection is over. To be honest it ended precisely 50 years ago when a little factory in the Netherlands gave birth to a 670kg 17-foot super yacht. They called it a Leisure 17, built in 1967, so it celebrates it 50th birthday this year (over 4 times my age). The Leisure 17 and all other Leisure yachts were mainly used for cruising and day tripping but could also be used for racing. They have the same sail-to-weight ratio as a Musto Skiff albeit with the whole New Zealand rugby team aboard.
The Leisure name has become synonymous with all the finest in luxury yacht design, high quality yacht manufacture and the very best in aftersales service and support for all Leisure yacht owners. Regardless of size, every craft will exceed your expectations for a boat in her class. Tailored to meet your specific requirements and fitted with the very best components, their yachts set the highest standards in yacht luxury and performance. On the water, Leisure yachts are instantly recognizable for their graceful lines and timeless, classic elegance that will never date. Clean uncluttered lines and a muscular deep-V hull give Leisure yachts an undeniable presence, which is instantly recognizable in yacht marinas around the world. Complete with 4 berths, a gas stove and a mini-toilet inside the cabin, they were sailing’s equivalent of the mouldy caravan. Mine, unfortunately, has none of that. (Thanks to Princess Yachts for their luxury wording)
I first spotted her for sale on the local buy-and-sell as “free boat”. That was about all the information I got. I went down to have a look at her and she was a magnificent vessel; shame I went in the dark. She had as many holes in it as a golf course, an interesting smell and was missing the skeg; the fin-like blade in front of the rudder, which probably came off after hitting a rock/whale/oppi sailor etc. This was before even getting aboard! Down below I was struck by this fragrance of damp, mouldy cushions gently maturing like wine filling the cabin, which looks like it hadn’t been opened since the 70s. Filling the inside were flared jeans and weathered yellow fisherman’s oilskins. Among all that there were 3 mainsails, 2 spinnakers and 12 headsails! Being fairly tall at 6ft 5, sitting up in the cabin is impossible. Convertible? Inside there are meant to be 4 full-length berths but I have yet to find them.
What Needs Doing:
The skeg needs to be fibreglassed back on after its collision, and the interior and exterior needs cleaning and painting. The rigging will need to be checked and completely re-roped using Rooster Polilite Rope. The interesting smell inside the cabin will need looking at and keel bolts checked, however one of the previous owners has decided to fibreglass two giant eggs on top of the bolts, making checking them rather tricky. Also there are about 20 holes and deep gouges that will need filling along with thousands of little cosmetic scratches and chips.
Why do it?
Getting stuck in to a project like this is a great way to learn practical skills on the go that come in to use in everyday sailing and life out on the water like fibreglassing, ding repair, woodwork and many more. I was lucky picking up a Leisure 17, because it has quite a large following with there being about three and a half thousand made as well as a friendly class association with members that are keen to help out and share tips. Also it’s a nice step-up from dinghy sailing, for those thinking about progressing to yacht sailing and onwards.
What to look out for:
Why is this boat free? Is there something I don’t know? The person I got mine from honestly didn’t have enough time to repair it and get it sailing so he gave it away. Look out for structural problems like large loose bits or flexible sections and large quantities of stress cracks or hairline cracks. Also a thing called osmosis, where water sits between the layers of fibreglass and slowly delaminates them. This is visible in the form of blisters, and if you go around and gently tap with a rubber hammer you can hear slight crunching or a different tone to other areas. Check that there most of the bits are there, as usually these boats are old and they don’t make parts for them are anymore. Special thanks to Gerry at Hurst Marine for providing a new rudder and skeg due to the others being subjected to osmosis (and whale). A quick look at what’s available in the local area is usually enough to find something of value and worth a restoration. Finally, buy yourself the Rooster Pro Aquafleece Rigging Coat to make all the wet, damp weekends almost bearable.
Have fun and enjoy!