Samphire of Mersea  -  Carter 39   Lying ashore, Essex

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Owners comments

What attracted us to Samphire?

We were looking for a slightly larger boat than the Carter 30 we owned and one which would carry her way through waves better. Cruisers with lifting keels were also just becoming popular and, sailing on the East coast, we were attracted to this idea. We had a trial sail in the new Carter 35, but were not totally convinced by this. Then, sadly, Sammy Sampson died and the family put Samphire of Mersea up for sale. Sammy, with future Three Peaks races in mind, had recently had Samphire converted from fixed to a lifting keel. Through Samphire we met Brian Mead of Mead Engineering in Manningtree. His company manufactured the lifting keel mechanisms for the Carter 35s and 45s. Brian had sailed with Sammy and informed us that the lifting keel needed to be re- engineered and that he was keen to do the job.  Samphire spent the winter of 1986 outside Brian's works in Manningtree, when the keel box was lifted completely out of the hull. 

Click on photo for enlargement

Keel Components

ram3.jpg (39824 bytes) The components of the ram
ram2.jpg (27126 bytes) The Hydraulic Ram for the lifting keel on the bench at Mead Engineering
keel2.jpg (37069 bytes) Samphire being launched showing the keel in the up position

Brian designed a stainless steel (316) hydraulic ram that did not itself go into the water (and hence would never rust), together with a new electric control unit. Nothing of the old system was retained. Brian's sons now run the company at Manningtree and still service many of the Carter 35s and 45s. They are happy to continue the maintenance of Samphire's mechanism.

What Is she like to sail?

Having been designed for racing, Samphire’s hull and rig are very efficient. In ideal conditions all boats sail their best but Samphire sails like a dream, with the fine bow cutting cleanly through the seas. It is very therapeutic to stand on the foredeck in these conditions. In rougher weather she has the weight to carry momentum and be stopped less by each wave than many lighter weight hulls. She points well. The hull is well balanced and she sails at 6 kts with either just the main or just the jib up, thus she is very easily handled by a crew of two, especially after self-furling gear was added. Under main and jib she can make up to 10 kts downwind, 7.5 kts close hauled. The main has a high aspect cut, so the boom is short, which makes even this amount of sail area quite easy to reef and furl. Lazy jacks were added in 1992.

In rough weather she takes seas on deck, but the cockpit remains reasonably dry - the cockpit canopy is more for protection from the wind than protection from water. The hull is very buoyant and even in a force 9 following sea we rarely took any water over the stern. In the same gale, with mountainous seas, Samphire was knocked down with her mast horizontal in the water. The hull recovered rapidly and she was vertical into time to take the next wave. With her flush decks the seas have little purchase and run off freely.

Running under engine

Under engine in reasonable seas she will make 6 kts. At this speed she was quite economical to run, using something like just over a gallon an hour. The hull soon picks up speed from being stationary and she will turn in her own length. Having no superstructure, there is reduced windage on the hull, which aids handling in marina conditions. Going through the Caledonian Canal three people easily
handled her through the locks (and lochs). 

Where we sailed Samphire

Looking back we did not make the grand voyages we planned and, instead, regard our ownership of her as largely a period of refurbishment. However we did sail her across the North Sea on numerous occasions - her fastest trip from Harwich to Den Helder being 16 hours. In the summer of 1986 we sailed her from West Mersea up the east coast to the Moray Firth, through the Caledonian Canal to Dunstaffnage where she was moored for four seasons. During this period we sailed her around the West Coast of Scotland and found on a number of times that people recognised her from the Three Peaks race.

Click on photo for enlargement

Samphire's trip through the Caledonian canal

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As the surveyor noted, Samphire is capable or world sailing and some of her sister ships have done this.

Why are we selling her?

Good question, for she is one hell of a boat. Having worked our way up in boat sizes to 40 ft. we now feel that we wish to give more time to camper vanning our way round the continent and that it is time to work our way down in boat sizes again; a trailer sailer, for occasional use, would best suit our purposes now.

Similar Boat

Samphire was built as a high performance ocean racing sloop and Admirals Cup contender. She was raced successfully in local and RORC races by her first owner, Sammy Sampson. In 1980 she won the Three peaks Race with the Royal Marines as crew. She has cruised extensively around Scotland and made at least one Atlantic crossing. She was modified for deep water cruising in the mid 1980s with the conversion from fixed to lifting keel. "She is suitable for any aspect of offshore sailing and capable of withstanding the worst of sailing conditions" (Survey 1993)

From the Three Peeks race web site: - (

"In a superbly close race the one tonner 'Samphire', with a Royal Marines crew commanded by Sam Poole, won by just 8 minutes from 'Black Arrow' an RAF entry. The win was even more memorable since it was the last time that the overall race would be won by a monohull. The TV film generated so much interest that throughout the 1980s there was competition for the 35 race places and an annual ballot had to be held to choose the competitors."

Broker's Comments

Samphire of Mersea is a well known boat. She has been laid up ashore for the last few years whilst her owners have been abroad. They have now reluctantly decided to offer her for sale.

She provides plenty of comfortable accommodation for up to seven crew and, after re-commissioning, would provide fast family sailing or club racing. Many similar retired ocean racing boats are now used for blue-water cruising.

With her electrically operated, hydraulic lifting keel she would be well able to get a family through the French canals to the Mediterranean. 

keelh.jpg (26645 bytes) The control panel for the hydraulic operated lifting keel.

She comes particularly well equipped though some of her instrumentation is now obsolete. 
There are more sails than I could conveniently count, some of which, like the furling headsail, look new. 

This is not a boat for  the single-hander -  though she has been handled comfortably by a crew of two over long periods. Three or four would make for reasonable family sailing. 

The cradle, GRP dinghy and Tinker Tramp with sailing and liferaft accessories are available if required.

She provides an enormous amount of accommodation and pace at an affordable price.

Adrian Espin

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For further details or to arrange to view, please contact Adrian  Espin at: - Astonbury Marine Services 
19 Colne Road, Brightlingsea, Essex, CO7 0DL  Tel: Freephone 0800 068 6190 or 01206  305996 Fax: 01206  307846
     or email to:
The particulars given above are believed to be correct but the Vendor does not make or give and neither the Broker nor any person in its employment has any authority to make or give any representation or warranty in relation to this vessel in respect of which any Purchaser must rely on his own inspection.