It would be safe to call the Marsh Wren an evolutionary design in the Devlin catalog. She’s a refined synthesis of a long history of sailboat design in a form that is small enough for convenience and large enough for an entire family as a daysailer. Marsh Wren is a well balanced and efficient sailboat, light on the helm and easy to handle alone (Notes from Sam Devlin the designer and builder).
Although she is a 1999 the current owner did not take delivery until late 2001.
The Marsh Wren was designed at the request of one of our Nancy’s China customers. He was ready to graduate up from the smaller Nancy’s China and was no longer interested in a boat that had a cabin and sleeping accommodations. His family had grown and his children were now high school and college students and his wife now had many distractions in her life and so my friend was left without his traditional crew. His career at the point where he didn’t have much extra or spare time for sailing anyway! Most of his sailing adventures were relegated to slipping away from the dock for a few hours on a weekday evening just after work. If he was organized enough, he would stop to buy a sandwich at a local delicatessen and could sail on through the dinner hour returning to the dock just before or just after dusk. But nevertheless, sailing was still important to his life. Without the need for overnight accommodations, he opted for a boat with a larger cockpit, one that allowed the crew to spread out (when he had crew) and yet easily sailed alone if that was the way things shaped up. He loved the character and distinctiveness of the Nancy’s China and wanted to retain that flavor in the new boat.
So off to the drawing board I went and with pencil in hand, I came up with a new design that I felt would work for his needs. I used as a model my old Winter Wren design but drew the new boat out a little longer. Increasing the length from 18’8″ on deck to 20’2″ on deck, the new design looked better and hydrodynamically had a better run aft thru the water. One of the problems the Winter Wren had when she was overloaded with too many people in the cockpit was dragging her stern in the water, creating drag and wasting some of the power of the wind. But with the new design, moving the center of gravity forward of the ballast and crew helped to come up with a faster boat that would balance well with a single person sailing or with a crew of up to 6 people on board. I felt the same Gaff rig similar to the Winter Wren to be the best option as it sails very effectively close-hauled and off the wind, is actually much more efficient than a conventional Bermuda sloop. The Gaff also helps play to the distinctiveness that my customer had requested be retained.
The final result is a splendid sailor with a very balanced and light helm. The tiller just takes mere fingertip control and she sails so well as to literally negate the need for an auxiliary engine. I found by the second sail that I was sailing into complicated moorings with ease, docking in a variety of winds and tide conditions. It had been a long time since I could remember enjoying simple daysails so much.
Of course not long after building the first boat, someone came along wanting to place a cabin on the boat, so I finished the plans for either the original daysailer (long cockpit) version and for a more conventional cabin version. Either should be a delight to sail and spend time with. — Sam Devlin