Ladybird of Rhu
NOTE: The drawing shows the layout of the two cabin version of the Nic 26 which were, I believe, produced by the Burnes shipyard after Halmatic ceased production.
Regarded as being rather expensive when new, the Nicholson 26 had a short production run with only 64 being built between 1966 and 1971.
Hull construction is typical for her era with an encapsulated long keel (no keelbolts to worry about), cutaway forefoot and transom hung rudder. Shroud attachments pass through the deck and are bolted through substantial fibreglass webs moulded into the hull. Windows are Triplex glass in aluminium frames.
Being heavy by modern standards the Nic 26 carries her way well and has enough momentum to punch her way through seas that would be hard going for lighter craft. Her motion always puts me in mind of far larger boats and with her underwater profile she never slams, she simply slices through the waves.
There is ample room for three or four adults to sit “on the high side” with feet braced against the opposite seat. There is good access to the self-tailing sheet winches via zipped panels in the sprayhood.
The mainsheet runs on a Barton track on the aft end of the cockpit. The Nic 26 has a relatively narrow transom so sliding the mainsheet down the track doesn’t help much in gusts. Where it scores however is ‘fine tuning’ sail balance for the windvane self-steering system. The self-steering comprises a windvane connected to a trim-tab on the aft end of the rudder. When Ladybird goes off course the wind vane is deflected, which moves the trim-tab, which in turn moves the rudder and brings Ladybird back on track. Of course, all this is relative to the wind, which makes for some very interesting tracks when there are a lot of hills and mountains around to mess with the wind. Where it scores is that the system consumes zero battery power, and once the sails are set you don’t have to keep fiddling with the sheets as they are always perfectly set.
Three lockers at the aft end of the cockpit contain 10 litres diesel for the Eberspacher, the engine waterlock / silencer, anchor pennant and buoy, a 4.5kg Camping Gaz bottle, Manual Bilge Pump and stern greaser, plus stowage for the Bruce kedge anchor, motoring cone and anchor ball. The port quarterberth was sacrificed many years ago to create a commodious locker under the port cockpit seat for fenders and mooring warps. The cockpit sole was replaced with 12mm marine ply with teak slats to give good grip.
The foredeck is small, as you would expect on a 26-footer. The pulpit, however, gives a good sense of security whether you are picking up a mooring, dropping or recovering the anchor. Two bronze fairleads, a cast stemhead fitting and a substantial cleat make up the mooring arrangements. There are similar cleats on the port and starboard quarters plus midships spring cleats.
Ladybird was professionally painted in 2015 using International 2-part polyurethane. The deck and coachroof were finished in off-white, with a matting agent added to reduce glare. The moulded non-slip pattern on the deck areas were painted with a 2-part non-slip paint in grey.
The dorade style vents, unique to Nicholsons, one on the forehatch, one each side of the coachroof, plus the ability to leave the main hatch ajar yet securely locked, ensure good ventilation which keeps the boat sweet and dry. All the brightwork is finished with several coats of International Woodskin.
Yanmar 1GM10 driving a two bladed prop giving a cruising speed of 4.5 knots rising to around 5.5 knots flat out in calm seas and with a clean bottom and prop.
I have carried out all the maintenance myself, including replacing the hard to get at pencil anode. The engine has done just over 1,000 hours, starts easily, burns no oil and doesn't smoke.
The stern-tube has inboard and outboard white metal bearings with remote greaser and a conventional stuffing box. There is a flexible shaft coupling at the gearbox end. Rigging
The Nic 26 has a simple single-spreader masthead rig with twin lowers, cap shrouds and a single backstay. The mast, boom and standing rigging date from 1997 while the running rigging dates from the same year and later.
A removable inner forestay was installed in 1997 for a hank-on storm jib, but without any means of hoisting one. I fitted a mast sheave and dyneema halyard in 2010.
New mainsail with 3 reefs in 2014
New roller reefing jib in 2015. This sail has approximately 115% overlap and a high cut clew to improve forward visibility.
Mainsail and a 150% low-cut roller reefing genoa dating, I believe, from when she was re-rigged in 1997.
A blade jib, age uncertain. A bit short on the hoist, but serviceable. Needs a longish pennant on the tack to avoid halyard wrap.
Storm jib. Never used in anger, only fun.
Spinnaker. Age unknown. Repaired and serviceable.
Profurl twin groove foil headsail reefing system.
Standard Horizon GX2100E DSC VHF. The cable to the aerial is one continuous run from radio to masthead via deck cable gland.
NASA Clipper Duet in cockpit. NOTE: The speed is from the pulse output of a GPS receiver, so gives Speed Over the Ground (SOG) not Speed Through the Water (STW).
NASA Target Speed and Distance Log at chart table. This one gives you STW.
The GPS Receiver, as well as providing a pulse output for speed also has an NMEA0183 output for the DSC VHF Radio and plotter. NOTE: I use a netbook computer running OpenCPN with VisitMyHarbour charts.
Photonic Universe 20W solar panel and dual output solar charge controller configured to prioritise house battery.
Down below there is over 6’ headroom the full length of the saloon. Surprisingly roomy, the saloon would shame many a 30 or 32 foot sailing yacht. On descending the companionway, the galley is to port with a stainless-steel sink provided with fresh and seawater taps. There is stowage for cutlery, crockery, etc. behind the sink and a mug rack.
The gimballed Plastimo Atlantic cooker, although old, is perfectly serviceable. There is flame-failure shut-off on the oven and a gas isolation valve to the left hand side of the cooker. To right of the cooker a fold-down flap provides extra work surface for the cook. Behind the cooker there is a locker for pots and pans with another good size locker below. The Eberspacher vent is just visible at the base of the engine box.
To starboard there is a quarterberth running under the cockpit. Forward of the quarterberth is the chart table / nav station. The chart table is perfectly sized for the Leisure Portfolio range of charts and there is a large shelved locker below for additional charts, pilot books, binoculars, etc.
Forward of the galley and chart table we have full length bunks (6’ 4”) to port and starboard. Between them lies a drop-leaf table covered in quaint 1960’s blue Formica. The mast compression post passes through the table. Lockers above the bunks and below provide enough stowage for extended cruising. The fit and finish of all internal woodwork is still extremely good.
The door in the forward bulkhead leads to the heads where you will find a Jabsco toilet, a sink (with cupboard under) supplied with fresh water, a vanity mirror, a hanging locker for wet oilies, the chain locker, and a reasonable amount of stowage for hold-alls, sails, large fenders, bucket, boathook and brush.
Ladybird of Rhu. Nicholson 26 Long Keel Sloop.
Year Built. 1967
Registration Number 333671
Sail number. C160
Call Sign: 2FUV5
L.O.A. 26.58 ft. / 8.1 m.
L.W.L. 20.00 ft. / 6.1 m.
Beam 7.75 ft. / 2.36 m.
Draft (max) 5.00 ft. / 1.52 m.
Displacement 10,280 lbs / 4,663 kg.
Registered Tonnage 5.11 tons TM.
Fuel capacity 9.5 Gallons (UK) / 42 litres.
Fresh water capacity 30 Gallons (UK) / 135 litres.
Two Harken 10ST sheet winches on cockpit coamings.
Two Halyard winches plus reefing winch mounted on mast.
Electric bilge pump (manual).
Manual bilge pump.
Radar reflector on mast.
9kg Knox anchor with 50m 5/16" chain
Bruce kedge with 6mm chain & warp.
6 sausage fenders, 2 large round fenders and various warps.
Raymarine ST2000+ Autohelm Raymarine 800 Autohelm.
Three dry-powder fire extinguishers.
Clock and Barometer.
Gimballed oil lamp.
Heavy Duty Winter Cover.
1966. Moulded by Halmatic 1977. Fitted out by Camper & Nicholson. Commissioned.
1981. Refit carried out by Camper & Nicholson.
1991. New Yanmar 1GM10 and stainless-steel fuel tank professionally installed.
1994. Anti-osmosis treatment carried out by West Systems.
Windvane self-steering fitted.
1997. Selden mast & boom fitted.
Standing rigging replaced.
Detachable inner forestay for storm jib fitted.
2009. October delivery trip from Dochgarroch to the Gareloch 2010. Halyard for storm jib fitted.
Eberspacher Airtronic D2 hot air heating system fitted.
2011. Two 110 Ah Elecsol batteries fitted.
2012. Standard Horizon GX2100E DSC VHF Radio fitted.
2013. Sprayhood & Dodgers replaced.
Barton mainsheet track fitted.
2014. New stainless-steel high-rise exhaust elbow fitted to engine.
New Headsail. 110% overlap with high-cut clew.
2015. Hull, deck and coachroof painted.
New roller-reefing headsail with hi-cut clew. 2016. All navigation and cabin lights changed to LEDs.
2017. New Jabsco toilet fitted.
Stern-tube removed and re-installed.
2018. Photonic Universe 20W Solar panel and charge controller fitted.
2019. New engine mounts fitted and engine compartment cleaned and painted.
New Rule 2000 GPH Electric Bilge-Pump.
New Henderson Mk5 Manual Bilge Pump.
Bilge-pump hoses replaced.
New hull anode fitted.