Venus Gaff Ketch FAQ
Venus Gaff Ketch FAQ
Venus Photos, Page1
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Photos from the 1960's
1960's Photos Page 2
Photos from the 70's and 80's
Photos of Paul Johnson
Building Photos
National Fisherman Article
Building a Venus34
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Down Below
Junk Rigged Venus
Norn's Cruising Photos
Paul Johnson's Watercolours
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I first met Paul Johnson in the late sixties, he was sailing a twenty-eight footer of his own design, that he built in Florida, using wood from an old church. I had never seen such a boat. She was tubby yet elegant, and beautifully rounded from every angle. Sporting a gaff rig and having no cockpit she drew me closer. I could just make out the name of this double ended visitor. "Venus".

We didn't get many boats arriving in Bermuda in those days. The cruising craze of the seventies hadn't yet started, and most of the boats and sailors that stopped in Bermuda are today well known. The Hiscocks in "Wanderer", Frank Mulleville in "Girl Stella", and John Riding in his twelve foot "Sea Egg", or "Sjo Ag" to name a few.

The next day I sculled out to "Venus" in my small pram. Just a few weeks before I had sculled out to another British yacht called "Wanderer" . After complimenting me on my sculling ability, they invited me aboard, and I ended up by having tea and spending a few hours at anchor with Eric and Susan Hiscock. I was only thirteen, and this was exciting. Could I be so lucky as to be invited aboard again?! There was no sign of life as I circled Venus. She had the most rounded deck I had ever seen, and no lifelines. How did her owner keep from falling off. As I pondered this a voice hailed me from the single porthole in the doghouse. "Come aboard! Come below"

As I decended the steep companionway ladder I entered another world. Though the boat was small the cabin was huge! And full of stuff! A Seagull outbard, sails, ropes, anchors. I felt more like I was in a cave than a boat, and I liked it immediately! Suddenly I was face to face with a young man with a beard and kind twinkling eyes. "I am Paul" he said with a very British accent. I was immediately was in awe of him.

Unlike "Wanderer", "Venus" had no engine, or electricity, or radio for that matter. How on earth did he manage? Later I would watch as Paul would actually sail in reverse under complete control! For lighting and cooking he had kerosene.
The cabin smelled of exotic places, and felt like a home. "Venus" was indeed a dream ship if ever there was one. Paul had an appointment ashore so I couldn't stay long, and it would be many years before I would be aboard "Venus" again. My little world had changed forever. I had experienced the world of Paul Johnson.

Paul designed three basic sizes, the 28, 34, and 42 footer. Although he designed a 37 and 38 footer, and several larger than 42 feet, most of the boats built were 28's, 34's and 42's. All are heavy displacement gaff ketches, and make excellent cruising boats. Although clearly not greyhounds, they are capable of surprising speed.

All three designs are individual, and are not scaled up or down. Venus ketches are often described as Colin Archers, and although there are similarities in that they are both long keeled double enders, a quick glance at the buttock lines will reveal a very different shape.

They are unique in having a higer than average ballast ratio, and therefor can carry all canvas long after most vessels have reefed. The high ballast ratio is somewhat compensated by incredibly massive spars, which must act somewhat as a counterbalance. Modern thinking is that a mast should be as light as possible. Paul Johnson's Venus Gaff Ketches prove this is not always true, and because the spars are so massive, the need for a backstay is eliminated. When the wind is strong these vessels really excell. Below decks in heavy weather they are so quiet, and even downwind, so steady, that it is always a surprise to find the sea looking so boisterous when one peeps out the hatch.

Venus Ketches have been built all over the world, and although a few have been built by professional yards, most have been lovingly built by amateurs. Construction material
for the most part has been wood (strip plank), and foam sandwich fibreglass (mostly Airex), although some have been built in steel and ferro.

Below: Venus by Paul Johnson. 1962


Venus Photos, Page1