West Wight Potter History
In 1949 Mr. Stanley T. Smith, with his brother Colin, built a small sailboat, Nova Espero, in the basement of a chapel in Halifax, Nova Scotia and shortly thereafter set off for England, arriving after 44 days, one of the smallest ships ever to cross the Atlantic at that time. Then in 1951 Stanley completed the more perilous East to West crossing, and beset by the usual head winds, arrived in New York City after almost 18 weeks at sea.
With the considerable experience from these historic voyages, Stanley settled in England on the storm swept Isle of Wight, where his father and grandfather had been shipbuilders, to build the stout pug-nosed little vessel called the West Wight Potter. Stanley wrote,"The high shoulders forward give the boat those few important inches of freeboard and just where they are needed to discourage the bow wave from getting carried up by the wind. The lower freeboard in the waist is where the natural form of the surface of the sea dips down when the boat is moving and a green sea seldom finds its way on board here. The kick-up towards the transom: it is very reassuring when contending with awkward following seas to have more freeboard aft.
The result is a small craft that feels bigger, more compatible and safer than any other boat for her size." Stanley's last major voyagewas the 780 miles from England across the wind swept and snowy Baltic Sea (editor's note: Smith sailed across the North Sea and then the Baltic) to Sweden in a West Wight Potter, a major feat in such a small boat, see Smith's account of his voyage.
Several other accomplishments followed, including Mr. David Diefenderfer, an adventurer, who spotted from a plane a city lost in the vast inland swamps and lagoons of East Central Mexico. Launching his West Wight Potter at the end of an ox cart path near Tuspan, Diefenderfer penetrated the maze of waterways, eventually finding Mexicalitan, an ancient Aztec stronghold. Until his death at 80, Diefenderfer's passion was exploring the remote and untraveled waterways of North and Central America, often using his West Wight Potter. Then John Ruth of Tucson, Arizona set a first when he sailed his Potter, Freya, single-handed, from California to Mexico and then to Hilo, Hawaii.
One of the longest voyages was by David Omick, a young sailor just 21 years old, who sailed his Potter from Seattle to Ketchikan, Alaska. It took 90 days to work his way up the coast while exploring hundreds of scenic inlets along the way.
Jim Devany has lived aboard his P-15, Sea Biscuit, since the summer of 1999 in the San Juan Islands (highlighted in Small Craft Advisor magazine).
While most Potter sailors are content to enjoy their Potters on weekend or vacation excursions, The Potter fraternity of owners has, and continues to display remarkable spirit in their pursuit of sailing.