In 1959 the RNSA (Royal Navy Sailing Association) decided that there was a need to replace the existing 14ft RNSA Dinghy, used for training and recreational purposes. The basic requirements were for a tough, stable craft, able to operate easily from ship or shore, fast enough to be rewarding to sail and to attract skilled dinghy helmsmen, sailor proof and to require the minimum of maintenance, suitable for open water sailing with built in buoyancy to support four persons, capable of being righted and sailed away without outside assistance, and to have stability suitable for training and encouraging learners.
The Admiralty invited some thirty firms to tender for a design, and from this invitation five craft were ordered of four different constructions, which consisted of a Prototype Bosun dinghy, two Albacores (one extra heavily built), the Lazy ‘E’ by Jack Holt and one supplied by Portsmouth Dockyard. All these were thoroughly tested out in the Solent, and the Bosun dinghy was selected.
The 14ft Bosun was really developed from the original 12ft Alfa (rather like a National 12) also a fibreglass boat, and both were designed by Ian Proctor. The rights in it were secured by Bossoms Boat Yard Limited, Medley, Oxford. The Prototype was moulded by Bourne Plastics Limited of Nottingham and fitted out by Bossoms. It was a condition that if the design was accepted, the Ministry of Defence would have the right to the design for its own purposes, because they were paying for the tools and the Prototypes, but that the sole commercial rights would remain with the Company offering the successful boat.
Bossom’s Boatyard Ltd. has been supplying Bosuns throughout it’s life to the M.O.D. They are sailed world-wide by H.M. Forces. The construction of G.R.P. for hull and deck with foamed to shape P.U. buoyancy. All external edges, including stem and transom are formed in timber for damage and abrasion protection. The majority of the fittings are in polished stainless steel and the spars are anodised aluminium. The centreplate is of 6mm steel, galvanised and the rudder and tiller are timber so that they will float.
Length : 4.27m
Beam : 1.68m
Weight : 159kg
Sail Area : 10.68m sq
My only experience of the Bosun dinghy was a day in 1989, I think, when I taught 5 german students to sail, from Cobnor. It beat the hell out of the A-level study I’d have been doing otherwise! They were fairly old boats then, but as good as the wayfarers I knew, and plenty practical enough as a family day-cruiser. I hope someone’s still building to the same design…
I learned to sail, and learned to love sailing, in a Bosun. Very solid construction, simple to sail and with room to move about.
As a member of HM Forces, wherever I was stationed, if there was water nearby….then there were Bosuns. They were designed with squaddies in mind. Simple, strong and bullet proof. If there was ever a boat that deserved the phrase “it does what it says on the tin”……this is it!
I’m currently seeking a good one.
I currently sail these boats through my Navy CCFat school and they are fantastic.
If somebody said “I’m going to give you a Wayfarer or a Bosun, take your pick”, I’d have to think about it very carefully. Even though I’ve sailed both for many years, I’d probably go for the Bosun. It’s a great shame that that they’re exclusive to the MoD and secondhand examples are thin on the ground.
I could go on at great length about these superb little boats, so I’ll condense it: Very reassuring, comfortable and easy to sail, great little seaboat, tough as old boots and easy to maintain, lively and responsive enough to be satisfying, simple, honest, ‘classic’ design, the unique ability to set up the complete rig from the cockpit while afloat(in original MoD spec.),however old the boat every single part you’ll need still available from Bossom’s.
I could go on…
Downsides; she’s heavy for her size, and the mast spec is unique to the Bosun. Steel ‘plate can be a worry in a capsize or inversion if not properly secured. Fortunately, you’ve got to try very,very hard in heavy weather to get into this state.
Great boat. Should be better known.
I was taught to sail a bonsun dinghy at Hawley Lake near Farnborough Hants.I mainly sail single handed but prefer a crew mumber. Due to the constant wind direction changes on this lake, sailing can be a challenge.I am 64 with a new knee replacement so the opportunity for sailing is open to all.
I work at a sailing center where we own a fleet of 15 bosun’s, they are my favourte dinghy for a cruise and i learnt to sail in one amazing all round boat
With The Sea Cadets (UK) I sail Bosuns all the time, and absolutly love them! They provide excellent teaching plat forms and are mostly cadet proof! although not being as fast as other boats in nice winds a sailor can get a bosun moving along well – loads of fun
Bosun Dinghies and sails are still made by Bossoms Boatyard. See their website www.bossoms.com.