A New Boat is Born

We mentioned in the last posting how we retrofitted an Ellis 28, a Maine built lobster boat from a gentleman’s fair-weather day boat into a multi month coastal cruiser.  It was a serious effort and the boat is a superb example of what can be done with experience and of course, a few pesos thrown at the project.  Once finished she was splashed for sea trials. After initial runs and setting the new autopilot parameters, off we went heading south down the Intracoastal from North Carolina to Florida where we were meeting our son and his family on vacation.  Here the story takes a very different turn.  The same day we headed south we realized this boat wasn’t for us.  It had nothing to do with the boat itself.  The boat is great, just not what we thought we wanted.  After a few months in the Florida Keys we ran up the Ditch to Virginia and left her for sale.

What the change of direction was we realized how much we missed the challenge and wild beauty of high latitude cruising aboard Egret

Egret was the perfect boat for us at the time.  She took us around the world safely and comfortably.  However, she isn’t for us any more.  Mary and I have lived our lives enjoying long stretches of diverse venues to challenge and pleasure ourselves over the years.  Over time as each venue dimmed, off we went in another direction to challenge ourselves and learn something new.  Aboard Egret we found long distance cruising was the single best venue for freedom and adventure in our later years.  However it was time for another adventure.  This time in a different venue and what this story is all about.

I had been toying with a new design even before we sold Egret; it was in fact, a totally different approach to cruising.  You might even say it was a new class of boats designed for a specific purpose. 

How could we possibly make long distance cruising better than the usual, traditional norm?  SPEED, baby.  Speed and simplicity.  We’re tired of leaving on a good weather window and after the forecast has run its course, what ever happens, happens.  Six and half knots doesn’t cut it any more either.  Nor does fixing things that make it easier we don’t need.  Done with all three. 

One thing became very clear on Egret’s 2013/2014 voyages from Florida to Iceland and return, is how short distances are closer to the poles.  On the Labrador to W. Greenland leg, and E. Greenland to Iceland, the longest distance was less than 600 nautical miles.  As you know, the higher the latitude, the more unstable the weather.  Longer windows of power boaters' dream seas of light and variables are rare.  However, we found even in high latitudes there are short windows if you are patient and have the discipline to wait.  We have done this for years and it was rare in the past for relatively short distances to be caught out.  In these situations, speed is your friend.  And speed we will have.  The idea is to wait for weather, then pull the trigger.

Three things were paramount with the new design with no compromise to either; the design had to be CAPABLE, SAFE and AFFORDABLE.  If you remember from the first posting, Mary and I distilled everything we learned into a single set of parameters from different boats we’ve owned over the years, my boatbuilding years and vocation in the boat business as well as land travel.

I began the design process using a 29’ planning hull that quickly morphed to 32’ then 34’.  I mentioned the project to yacht designer and good friend Steve Dashew and he quickly replied “make it 40’”.  Of course it made perfect sense because reach in the ocean is priceless.  By keeping the forward portion of the boat empty except for collision bulkheads, the extra weight was negligible.  I was so determined to keep the boat small, I didn’t think.

The design parameters’ range was to be 1,000nm at 20 knots, no reserve.  (1,200 statute miles, at 24 mph).  The forward area was to have multiple collision bulkheads and enough glass* forward to survive small ice or rock at displacement speeds and brash ice at low speed.

*The boat is being built of infusion grade epoxy and composite with various laminates of e-glass, Kevlar blends and carbon reinforcing.  The core itself is multi-density depending on the location.  For example, we use a very dense core on centerline and less dense core outboard of that to the chine for a softer ride.  In addition, because our boat is to be used for the most part in higher latitudes, we are using much thicker core than necessary for insulation as well as less noise under way.  

Someday this simple stick drawing will be a small footnote in boating history. The evolution of this design concept will be shown in the next posting.

Someday this simple stick drawing will be a small footnote in boating history. The evolution of this design concept will be shown in the next posting.

With the length set at 40 feet and a narrow beam of 10 feet, I drew a stick drawing as the first step toward the final outcome.  The basic design was a straight stem, a high chine forward tapering back to the house and a very narrow entry running back to a hard chine at the forward point of the house.  My idea was the entry would be very soft at sea without slowing in head seas like a full-beam-forward planning hull that pounds over waves instead of slicing through with a minimal loss of inertia.

More to follow.

Scott & Mary