John Christophers’ Two Goblins

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John Christophers’ Two Goblins

21st May 2011: Out of the blue, I received an email from John Christophers who lives in Wolverhampton. U.K.:

Hi Jeff,

I have just finished reading your article on the net and thought that you might be interested in my Goblin dinghy.

The Goblin was designed by Percy Blandford in about 1961 and advertised as a 'build it in a weekend' project. At that time I was approaching the end of my teacher training as a craft instructor and was keen to build a boat. Originally I was intent on building a canoe but the instructor said that I would be wrapping up my mistakes in a canvas bag. I said that was exactly what I found so attractive. Regardless, he turned up with a set of Goblin plans and advised: “no Goblin, no certificate”. However, if I was to make the boat in a weekend I could go fishing every Friday for the next 8 months. Oh, the innocence of youth!! The weekend took nine months.

About four months into the building, the Cuban Missile Crisis made me wonder what the best finish for the plywood would be in the circumstance of the impending nuclear holocaust. I asked around but nobody knew. As an infant in London in WW2 I spent 5 years under the kitchen table so I knew everything there was to know about bangs and rationing. But the worst didn't happen. In late spring of 1963 the Goblin was floated and, in common with yours, there was a leak round the daggerboard trunk. I sailed her on the Blackwater, in Essex, and in the Lake District. Seven years later I sold her as the demands of kids, mortgages, a job, a new house, and a wife, sapped my enthusiasm.

In 2008 I built another Goblin hoping that when I hoisted the sail I would be 23 again. The daggerboard trunk leaked ferociously and the boat damned near sank! I was not 23 again - I was soaking wet and the word 'idiot' floated just above the horizon.

However, teething troubles over, my love for the Goblin was restored. I sail her on Lake Bala and Ellesmere in Shropshire and she attracts comments on her design. I, too, had Jeckells sails made and what an advance they are over Terylene.

As for sail numbers Jeff, I can offer nothing. There doesn't seem to be a register and indeed I have never seen another Goblin. I care little as I love the boat dearly. My family says that when I die they are going to use the boat for a Viking funeral on the village pond and, of course, I have named you as the guest of honour!

Happy bailing,



Since there is not much information about the Goblin dinghy on the Web, and since John has the experience of building two of them (!), I wrote back to him asking if he would be agreeable to my adding his information to my Website. John wrote back as follows:

Hi Jeff,

Thank you for replying to my email about Goblin dinghies. You are welcome to use my writings to add to your Web page. I also have pictures which I will send later.

Percy Blandford, the designer, died within only the last couple of years [see note 1 below]. I think he nearly made the 100. He was an Associate of the Royal Institution of Naval Architects which accounts for his superb ability at drawing plans. He functioned in Upton on Severn, near Worcester - a delightful spot. Clark Craft in New York hold a goodly selection of Blandford-designed plans, ranging from 8ft dinghies up to ocean-going trailer sailers such as the Lysander. Whether he designed bigger still, I don't know.

As for the construction of the Goblin, the plywood sheets forming the floor of the hull have a V-shape cut out of them. When the two edges of the V are pulled together they make the shape of the hull. I have read that this technique was a Blandford invention.

The daggerboard trunks should be seated on a dense filler, perhaps bituminous in those days. I didn't do that, so my boat filled up with water. There remained a very slight curve on the hog/keel which explains the advice on seating it. The other snag was joining the two pieces that form the front and rear of the hull. In my first Goblin, I was advised to make a scarf joint halfway along, which I did. On my second Goblin, I made two joint covers to stick over the join, as in the plan. A disaster!!! The plywood becomes double thickness and is curved in two planes. The covers banged loudly before coming free. Foul language and a stiff drink does much for adhesives and eventually I got them to stay on but they gave a rough edge to the hull, spoiling the curve on the underside [see note 2 below].

In my first Goblin, the spruce boom and mast were from Scandinavia but in my second I used ordinary pine/deal from the local timber yard to no ill effect. Both boats were finished in polyurethane varnish.

I recommend building a Goblin as one way to shed the tensions of a working day. You would certainly end up with a source of pride and enthusiasm.

I will send you some pictures before long. Wouldn't it be nice if another Goblineer got in touch!




Some notes about John’s email:

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  1. 1.See this email I received from Mike Summerton in October 2012: it seems that Percy Blandford is still very much alive!

1a. On 23rd January 2014 I received a further email from John informing me that Percy Blandford had died the previous day. See this obituary in the Daily Telegraph. I learned that Percy was very much into canoes as well as sailboats.

2. In my Goblin, the pieces of plywood that cover the joints are placed inside the hull so that the outside of the hull is smooth. A number of nails (probably bronze ring-nails) were inserted from outside and clinched over on the inside. Thus it is very strong (I assume glue was used as well) but is rough and unsightly inside the hull.