REMEMBERING MY POTTER 19 TANBARK
Small Craft Advisor|January - February 2021
In the mid-1980s, Joe Edwards flew me out to California to try out our new boat.
Larry Brown

He was the President of HMS Marine and we’d become friends. By then, I’d owned several Potters and had written books about what you could do with small sailboats. I’d introduced a nomenclature: “Micro-Cruisers” (13-15 feet) that could cruise one sailor, overnight two inside, and day-sail four… “Compact Cruisers” (16-19 feet) that could cruise two, overnight four inside and day-sail four in greater comfort… and “Family Weekenders” (20-26 feet) that could allow a family of four to spend a few days on the water without driving each other nuts. Potter 15s in various forms had been the heroes of my books.

I wrote for Cruising World magazine back then and Small Boat Journal. HMS Marine and I had developed a sweetheart deal. I’d design some variants on Potter designs, Joe would build them and I’d take them to scenic places, try out the mods and get HMS Marine in some books and magazines. We were, in the process, evangelizing small-boat cruising. Most of my ideas involved Potter 15s. I drew the boat with a shoal keel. With the centerboard trunk gone, a port-a-potty could slide out from under the bridge deck for use. Shoved back, we had a sweet spot to stand in the hatchway. At night, a filler-cushion filled the spot. I made a removable compression post to allow for an unobstructed double berth. A storage space in the bow put weight where the Potter liked it and we slept head-to-bow with our legs below the knees sliding under the cockpit seats. We tried a lateen-rigged P-15, the mast socketing into a PVC tube glassed into the forward edge of the cabin, through the bunk platform and glassed to the floor. Time from arriving at the ramp to sailing away: 8 minutes at our best.

When we weren’t trailer-sailing America, our boats were bashing around in Buzzards Bay and the Atlantic Ocean…sea trials for real. I sold Potters for Joe in New England and thus got familiar with the Potter 19, setting boats up for new customers. Spoiled by the effortlessness of the P-15, I found the 19’s mast difficult to raise. I worried that the massive iron daggerboard, when fully raised, elevated the boat’s center of gravity dangerously high. Imagining being caught out in a storm, you wouldn’t want the boat tripping over its deep board. Shallow draft boats have fared best by being allowed to skitter sideways when waves hit. Also, the CB trunk, massively glassed as it was, could still be ugely stressed, board down in a storm. You might reasonably ask when most owners would ever encounter such conditions, but the Potter mystique was all tied up with amazing voyages made in the boats. It had to be able to walk the talk.

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