Lady Sonia
Boat Owner
Peter Witheridge
Peter Witheridge
Peter Witheridge

My wife likes traditional clinker dinghies. I like modern affordable building techniques and materials coupled with interesting, low aspect, easily handled rigs. We have a mix of shallow to moderate depth lakes and estuaries and the open sea near by, so a shallow draught is useful.
‘Lady Sonia’ is the result, a lightish displacement day sailer, drawing 0.62 metres with the dagger board down, and 0.2 metres with the board up or motoring; built in stitch and glue Hoop Pine ply trimmed with New Guinea Rosewood and hand carved Australian Cedar ‘nautilus’ stem-head. I used Boatcraft epoxy and Aquacoat throughout. Spars are aluminium tube, sails are cream Dacron made to my design by Switch Sails of Scarborough, Queensland. It is fitted with a 5 HP outboard for auxiliary power or just motoring – 5 knots at a bit above idle speed – and chart-plotter, sounder.
The boat has well balanced volumes fore and aft with plenty of reserve stability. It has 5 airtight buoyancy chambers and 120 litres of solid foam behind cockpit seat backs. There are 5 separate stowage spaces under the seats and a chain locker under the foredeck. As you can see in the photos, it is a boat to sit in, rather than on.
The 9.2 square metre gaff rig consists of a roller furled jib, and jiffy reefed gaff mainsail with a single halyard to both throat and peak inspired by those on Norfolk Wherries, with the mast supported by Dyneema stays. I made the main sheet blocks out of Coachwood for cheeks and Ironbark sheaves. The gaff and boom are also tipped with Coachwood. It is fun to sail.
The 8 square metre balanced lug sail is set on an unstayed mast with a jiffy reef. It is a simple practical rig for sailing at sea and makes for an uncluttered fishing platform. Given the Derwent is quite open, this is the rig I would prefer to bring to the Festival if chosen.
When designing my boats, I keep in mind that what we see in traditional boats is the best available appropriate technology of their day.

LOD feet
Hull Timber
Hoop Pine Ply
Type of Boat
Day sailer
New South Wales