Near and Far: The Little Boat That Won’t - West Wind Hardwood

It won’t cost you a lot of money and it won’t keep you in port when the weathers rough.

I don’t doubt for a minute that the Coaster 23 represents the shape of things come for many boaters. A semi-displacement design with small diesel and excellent small boat cruising range, the Coaster is a John Lovett and Dick Chudley creation.  All in all, it’s a boat with the sort of sea-keeping qualities that made this workboat design a success in the first place.

Three boats have now been completed and delivered while several others are in the works. The boat is being built by RFC Marine Ltd. of Sidney British Columbia, with Philbrook’s Shipyard of Sidney, BC doing the glasswork. Ove and Jan Nielsen were employed to complete all the woodwork, fitting and finishing.  Because production is low volume, some owner alterations – both pleasure and commercial – can be incorporated.

In Ove Nielsen’s words:  In the spring of 1979, Dick Chudley asked me if I would build the interior of a boat he was building, the Coaster 23.  It was to replace the Albin 25, a Swedish boat that was not built anymore.  We agreed to do the job.  At this time, we had just started West Wind Woodwork, manufacturers of teak marine products.  I felt we could fit this job in with it.

When the first boat was finished, I was asked if I would take over the production of all the boats.  This was fine and we continued with the teak products after “work”.  Jan was tasked with West Wind Woodwork’s creating samples and prices lists for dealers and retailers.  There was a lot to do to set up our new company; I spent a lot of time on the boats.  There were people to be hired; five of them plus Jan and myself; seven guys not bad; new machines to buy and so on.

The fibreglass was done by others; the engine installation, electrical, woodwork, etc. was our own to do and we had lots of orders.  My own boat project (a 46’ Robert Allan Fisheries’ Patrol Design), the Lene Marie would not suffer as I had the weekends and the days were getting longer. 

The Coaster 23 is aptly named: as it is very well suited to use on the coast. I expect that several will end up in commercial use, as this is where boat roots lie, and it is very much up to this type of work. We are mainly concerned with pleasure use rather than commercial, however, for that reason, economy of operation will take first priority with some buyers. When fuel becomes more expensive and perhaps harder to find, owners of Coaster 23s will still be boating.

The Coaster is weatherproof as one could easily expect and should enjoy a long and healthy life even if neglected. Virtually all outside are fibreglass, curved for best drainage and highest strength. It’s adorned with some of the best teak joinery work I’ve seen in some time. Roof-mounted grab rails, bulkheads and a swimming platform are among the exposed teak and they are beautiful, carefully shaped and generally solid teak that’s firmly mounted.

When it comes to performance, economy is one of the greatest factors – but after accepting the limited travelling speed of the Coaster, one can appreciate the relaxed and happy way it goes. Our privately owned test boat was christened Dolphin, and this name just about sums things up. The Coaster just plays in the water, dancing along and rolling with the waves.

Shelley and Jan spotted this little treasure in Maple Bay.  Forty years later, you still see them dancing about local waters.

Photo by Shelley Nielsen – August 2018 – Maple Bay, BC


Article Originally Published in Canadian Yachting’s April 1980 issue – Written by Andy Adams.
Revised and Adapted by Shelley Nielsen
Photos by Jan Nielsen – Circa 1978-1980 and Shelley Nielsen – August 2018

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