Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Alerion 41 Review

Alerion 41 - Classic Elegance
The Alerion line of sailboats has long been one of my favorites, the first of which is the beautiful Nathaniel Herreshoff inspired Alerion Express 28, which was designed by Carl Schumacher. Sadly, Carl passed away in 2002, but the company has persevered and the Alerion 41 is the latest and largest of the line. The concept behind the 41 is a boat with classic lines above the waterline combined with a modern hullform below. Nowadays there are many boats of this type to choose from but few, very few, have come as close to that ineffably perfect balance of aesthetics, performance and comfort as the Alerion 41 does.

It all begins with the hull. The literature I received did not state who drew the lines for this boat so I will tip my hat to the entire Alerion design team.  In designing a boat of this type, we usually start with the sheer. The designer will put a lot of effort into getting the sheerline just right. Once that's done, he or she will work on the stem and stern overhangs to achieve balanced proportions.  Get these basics right and the rest of the hull design follows naturally. Freeboard on the A41 is rather low and the fairbody line is shallower than we would expect in a boat of this type. These design features make for lively performance at the expense of cruising accommodations. I think this is an excellent trade-off in view of the fact that the A41 is intended as a daysailer and coastal cruiser, and not an offshore passagemaker.

As I studied the drawings of this boat I began to see interesting similarities not with Herreshoff's designs but with Bill Lapworth's iconic Cal 40. Here are some numbers:

Alerion 41 Cal 40
LOA 40.50' 39.33'
LWL 30.50' 30.33'
BMAX 11.16' 11.00'
DRAFT  5.92' 5.58'
DISP 16,000 lbs 15,000 lbs
BALL 6,000 lbs 6,000 lbs
Bal/Disp 37.50% 40.00%
S/A 942 sf 700 sf
SA/D 23.82 18.48
D/L  252 240

I thought it would be fun to include profile drawings of both boats for comparison. While the Alerion is slightly longer than the Cal, the extra length is concentrated in the aft overhang.

Alerion 41
Cal 40
Drawing courtesy of

The Alerion's appendages are more modern than the Cal's but the overall proportions of the boats are, to my eye, quite similar. The Alerion will certainly be faster than the Cal due to its larger sailplan and more efficient foils, which is as it should be, but it would still be interesting to sail these boats side by side.

The Alerion comes standard with a carbon fiber mast with double spreaders and no backstay. This arrangement allows for lots of roach in the full-batten mainsail and makes handling that big sail quite easy. The optional V-shaped carbon fiber boom is lightweight and makes stowing the mainsail convenient. The jib is set on a Hoyt jib-boom which I would ordinarily not be a fan of, because they are heavy and not much fun to sail with in light air. The Alerion design team incorporated a gas spring to push the boom out when sailing with the jibsheet eased, solving that problem.

Big mainsail, non-overlapping jib and Harken electric "Rewind" winches make sailing the Alerion 41 simple. 

A large, comfortable cockpit. Notice the single helm. There is a cleverly designed boarding platform built into the transom.
Photo courtesy of

The bow roller pivots back into the anchor locker when not in use. A gas spring provides an assist so deploying the anchor is easier than it looks.

Sail controls are led to banks of rope clutches near the helm, leaving the forward part of the cockpit exclusively for lounging. Notice the beautifully varnished cap on the coamings. 

Going below, the first thing you'll notice is the exceptionally fine craftsmanship throughout the boat. Then you'll notice the refreshingly traditional layout of the interior components. This is a boat that has everything you need and nothing you don't need in terms of comfort and utility. A decent V-berth, a small but serviceable head and a couple of lockers occupy the area forward of the main bulkhead. The salon incorporates a large dropleaf table flanked by port and starboard settee berths. There is a hideaway chart table located at the aft end of the starboard settee. Nowadays, most navigational chores are handled by the GPS or tablet so a dedicated chart table isn't a necessity, but a desk is always desirable aboard. My guess is that most A41 owners will leave the small but reasonably adequate chart table in the deployed position.
Traditional accommodations plan

Aft to starboard is a quarter-cabin with a snug double berth. This will be the best place to sleep while underway. The galley is big enough for simple meals and incorporates enough storage space for local cruising.
Alerion 41 salon, a study in simple elegance. The chart table, at right, can be lowered to extend the length of the settee.
Photo courtesy of

While not a racer, the A41 could be raced at the club level but that's not its raison d'etre. This boat is as much a work of art as a sailboat, an elegant machine for afternoon cruises and long languorous weekends at the Island.  For more information contact Walter Johnson Yachts in Corona Del Mar.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Transpac Start 7-6-2017

Records fell in the 2017 Transpac race. It wasn't because this was a particularly windy race. It was because the boats that entered this year's race were faster than in previous years. Comanche, the 100 foot supermaxi set a new Transpac 24 hour record of 484.1 NM, which works out to an average speed of just over 20 knots. Comanche finished with an elapsed time of 5:01:55:26, beating the record set by Alfa Romeo in 2009 by over 12 hours.

We took our Albin 28, Compadre out to watch the start of the big boats, and Steve Crisafulli brought a camera. The photos below are all courtesy of him.

Comanche's crew prepares to hoist the headsail.

A few minutes after the start we paced Comanche at 13 knots upwind in light air. 

I searched around the Internet and found a line drawing of Comanche. Note the canting keel, inward canted daggerboards with winglets, and twin rudders. The boat was designed by the firm of VPLP in cooperation with Guillaume Verdier.

Just for fun I did some rudimentary calculations for Comanche based on published data and came up with a Sail Area/Displacement Ratio (SA/D) of 80.4 and Displacement/Length Ratio  (D/L) of 29.50. These numbers put the boat squarely in the "Sportboat" category. Aboard Compadre, we paced Comanche at a bit more than 13 knots as the big sloop headed for the West End in a light breeze.

The other supermaxi in the race was Rio 100, which claimed the Barn Door trophy as the fastest human-powered monohull in the race, with an elapsed time of 6:17:09:09, roughly 40 hours slower than Comanche. Rio struck a UFO (Unidentified floating Object) and had to make emergency repairs while underway and finished with only one rudder.
Rio 100 a few minutes after the start. Compare the size of Rio's headsail with that of Comanche.

Fifteen years ago Merlin was brought into my shop for a refit. The boat had been rode hard and treated poorly for decades and was in bad shape. Her new owner, a rancher/business tycoon from Texas wanted to remake her into something of a luxury racer cruiser, which I thought could be a good thing for the boat. I drew a nice, low slung cabin trunk and recommended that he get rid of the canting keel which was pretty useless without a daggerboard. In the end the owner opted to keep the canting keel and wanted a cabin with full headroom for himself. He was a tall man, and wore cowboy boots and a Stetson whenever he visited my shop. So we raised the cabin trunk another six inches. We opened up the transom and redesigned the cockpit, and artist Gary Miltimore gave it a dazzling paint job. Merlin finished with an elapsed time of 8:02:34:09, making her the fastest boat in Division 2.

It was great to see Merlin back in action under the command of her designer Bill Lee

Medicine Man is another boat that has undergone a considerable amount of surgery. This Alan Andrews design started out as a 56 footer with tiller steering. Over the years the boat received a new bow, new stern, water ballast, and gained roughly seven feet of length in the process.

Medicine Man finished 4th in Division 1 with an elapsed time of 7:20:45:51.

The big multihulls put on a show, with Mighty Merloe, an ORMA 60 trimaran setting a new record of 4:06:32:30.
Phaedo looks about ready for lift-off. This MOD 70 trimaran finished second, three hours after Merloe.
Maserati, also a MOD 70 takes aim at the Transpac record.
The Gunboat 62, Chim Chim must have provided a luxurious ride to Honolulu, with an elapsed time of 7:15:01:14, which works out to an average of 12 knots for the 2,225 mile race. 

Back on the home front, Compadre has been undergoing lots of repairs, modifications and upgrades. I'll post photos soon.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Celeste 36 Review

Here is an interesting yacht from designer Gabriel Heyman. The Celeste 36 is a performance cruiser built on a semi-custom basis in Sweden. It combines an interesting blend of cruising and performance features in a conservative aesthetic package. This is a refreshing departure from the current trend in production cruising boats that seem to be inspired by IKEA-like styling. For an experienced cruising sailor, having a boat customized to your specific needs can be a far more interesting and rewarding experience than buying a production boat off the showroom floor.

Celeste 36
Moderate proportions, conservative styling and good performance potential.

Let's start with the hull of the Celeste. The stem is not quite vertical and the transom is reversed about fifteen degrees. I find that having a small amount of rake in the stem is visually more interesting than a plumb bow. The sheer is gently sprung and matches the somewhat retro styling of the cabin trunk. In the plan view, the boat's narrow beam is apparent. The bow at deck level is quite full and incorporates a molded-in bowsprit. The beam at the transom appears to be about 9.00 feet which allows for a spacious cockpit as well as plenty of volume aft.  Below the waterline, the hull sections are smooth arcs. I'm glad to see that Heyman resisted the temptation to add chines.  This hull shape is reminiscent of  Rodger  Martin's Aerodyne 38, which is a very quick cruiser/racer. I would guess the Celeste 36 has a fairly high prismatic coefficient, so it won't generate large bow and stern waves when traveling at hull speed. On the other hand, with a Sail Area/Displacement ratio of 22.4 and a non-overlapping headsail it might be a bit sticky in light air. In general, narrow boats tend to have better sailing qualities than beamy ones and I think the Celeste will reward you with good speed and good manners in a seaway.

Underwater view.
Note the relatively fine waterlines forward and moderately proportioned keel.
Below the waterline, the Celeste incorporates a vertical fin/bulb keel that draws 6.00 feet. I am intrigued by the small skeg. There is no hydrodynamic reason for this feature, and I would prefer to see the rudder fitted right up to the fairbody of the hull. Aside from that minor detail, the hull looks quite slippery. With a displacement/length ratio of 170, this boat is light enough to provide respectable downwind performance and should be a lot of fun to drive hard upwind.

The deck is a study in conservative efficiency. The cabin trunk is low and nicely proportioned, It's rounded edges blend well with the "curviness" of the hull. To my eye, this is a welcome contrast from the boxy angularity of many modern cruisers. Side decks are wide enough and the cockpit is large enough for comfortable cruising. In the plan view below, note the long jib tracks and the transverse traveler just forward of the mast for a self tacking jib. In the windier parts of the world, the small self-tacking jib would be fine, but here in southern California, it wouldn't provide enough power so I'm glad to see the designer included the jib tracks. The deckplan below shows halyards and control lines led outboard to the edges of the trunk. At first glance this doesn't appear to be a good solution, but the builder cleverly buried the lines within the cabin trunk.
Halyards led outboard and buried in the cabin trunk.

The cockpit incorporates quirky hooked coamings around the seats, with spinnaker winches located just outboard of the "hooks". I'd have to try out this arrangement before passing judgment, but it looks a bit cumbersome to me, with little clearance for winch handles. The Celeste is narrow enough that a single helm is sufficient and the aft end of the cockpit is arranged to allow the helmsman to sit outboard. There is a plethora of small hatches for rope stowage etc. and a fold-down panel in the transom to create a boarding platform. I'm not a fan of this feature. I would rather see a step or platform molded into the transom.

Celeste 36 deck.
I like the solid bow plank, which will help keep the rode from chafing the hull when at anchor.  The cockpit is busy, but well appointed for cruising.

A nice balance of comfort and sailing efficiency.

I like the proportions of the sailplan. With the chainplates located at the sheer, the jib is limited to about 105% which means it will be easy to handle in all conditions. The mainsail is large and full-battened.  It is controlled by the mainsheet led to a single block on the cockpit sole instead of to a traveler. This arrangement sacrifices a bit of upwind ability for simplicity and, given the cruising orientation of the boat, this is a reasonable trade-off. This is a powerful rig for a cruising boat and you'll want an efficient reefing system for it. The photos show a carbon fiber mast and boom, but I'm sure you can order your Celeste 36 with aluminum spars too.

Celeste 36 under symmetrical spinnaker. The boat can  also accommodate
asymmetrical spinnakers tacked to the bowsprit.

Since this is a semi-custom boat, the options for accommodations are plentiful. I've included two variations below. In the first one, the forward cabin is spacious with a large V-berth, hanging locker to port and a small bureau to starboard. Just aft of this area is a large nav station to port and enclosed head to starboard. The head features access from the salon and forward cabin. One of the compromises in the nav area is the lack of a fixed seat. Mr. Heyman solved this problem by incorporating a swing-out bar stool type seat. I tried this arrangement early in my career and discovered that it doesn't work very well, especially when underway. A better approach would be to incorporate a fold-down seat attached to the furniture built around the mast. I love the size of the chart table though.

The main salon incorporates a centerline dropleaf table flanked by port and starboard settees with outboard shelves. The settees are a bit short for my taste, but I think this is a reasonable compromise in a 36 foot boat. Aft of the settees, the galley is split, with the stove and reefer to port and the double sink and counter to starboard. This arrangement would take some getting used to.

Aft of the galley are a pair of single quarter berths. These would be quite comfortable underway and allow for excellent access all around the engine, which  is located in a box behind the companionway stairs. I'm  a big fan of good engine access.

Salon in the split galley version.

Looking aft from the nav station.

The accommodations plan below is more conventional. It is identical to the other plan forward of the mast, including the head and nav station. The salon incorporates a starboard settee berth that appears to be long enough to use as a sea berth. The galley is to port and there is a quarter cabin to starboard. Aft of the galley is a large storage locker accessible from the cockpit. This would be a comfortable boat for coastal or distance cruising.

All photos courtesy of Heyman Yachts.

When I do these design reviews, I consider performance, comfort and practicality along with aesthetics. Overall I give the Celeste 36 high marks for originality and performance potential. As a coastal cruiser, it provides everything I would need to be comfortable. Aesthetically, I think it's a splendid example of the blending of the art and science of yacht design. While it's unlikely that a Celeste 36 is going to appear in a marina near me, if one did, I'd jump at the chance to go sailing aboard one. For more information visit

Friday, January 27, 2017

Albin 28

During our last cruise in Mexico aboard our Beneteau 423, Finisterra we began thinking about going in a different direction in our next boat. We decided it would be fun to cruise the eastern seaboard of our own country. Florida, the ICW, the Chesapeake, Long Island sound and points beyond. We knew Finisterra, with its 7 foot draft, would not be happy in the ICW or the shallow waters of many of the places we would like to visit. So after returning home from Mexico we put the boat up for sale and in April of 2016 we sold it.

The next month we flew down to St. Thomas and joined friends for a cruise in the BVI's which culminated in a passage from there to Panama. During which time we thought long and hard about what our next boat should be. Given its mission, we decided it should be a power boat.

We wanted a boat of 30 feet or less, a single diesel engine for economy, a bow thruster for maneuvering in the confines of a marina, and decent accommodations for living aboard for a week or two. Of course the boat had to be good looking and not too expensive. We wanted a boat with good speed potential, but more importantly we wanted it to be seaworthy and capable of handling the rough conditions we could expect not just off various eastern capes, but in our home waters of southern California.

In October and November of 2016 we took a trip down the west coast of South America and through the straits of Magellan and if anything, that cruise drove home the point that seaworthiness should rank at the top of the priority list. Now, there are about a zillion choices for folks looking for a 30 foot powerboat, but it was interesting to see that when we compared our requirements with what was available, the choices narrowed down to a precious few.

I like the Bertram 31. It's fast and a good sea boat with decent accommodations for its size, but its twin engines ruled it out.
Bertram 31. Sweet  lines and excellent pedigree

We also looked at the Mainship 30. It had the right powertrain and reasonable accommodations.
Mainship Pilot 30

The Mainship's hull incorporates a long keel and almost no deadrise aft, which did not appeal to me.

Back Cove 29.
Nice boat...too expensive

We looked at dozens of other boats online and in person but didn't find what we really wanted until we came upon the Albin 28 Tournament Express.  It is powered by a single 315 hp turbocharged Yanmar diesel and a bow thruster is standard equipment.

Albin  28 Flush Deck.

Moderate displacement, 16 degree deadrise at the transom,  protective skeg for the propeller.
The Albin 28 enjoys an excellent reputation for its seaworthiness and provides just enough accommodations to meet our needs. We will stay aboard short periods of 1 - 2 weeks at a time.

The accommodations include a dinette that converts to a double berth, enclosed head with shower and a compact but usable galley.

Pilothouse includes helm to starboard and nav station to port.
Over 900 Albin 28's were produced between 1993 and 2007. Early models were powered by a Peninsular diesel, which was replaced by a Yanmar turbo diesel of 300-315 SHP.

We found a 2005 flush deck model that had been lightly used and is in excellent condition. We are looking forward to spending the spring and summer of 2017 exploring the Chesapeake and points north.

All Photos courtesy of Yachtworld

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Leopard 45 Review

Last spring we joined friends in the BVI's for a week of cruising among the islands and then a passage to Panama aboard their beautiful Leopard 42, Salida. It's about a thousand miles from Tortola to the San Blas Islands over what is often a boisterous part of the Sea. We had an average of  twenty knots of wind on the port quarter for most of the passage but as we neared the Panamanian coast the wind left us and we motored the last twenty four hours, coming to anchor not far from Dog Island. We spent another week cruising among the San Blas Islands before heading home. It was a wonderful time with great friends aboard a handsome boat. Cruising doesn't get much better than that.

When I started looking at the new Leopard 45 the thought hit me that somewhere between the vintage 2003 Leopard 42 and the new 45, the Leopard line has evolved from sailboats to sailing condos. I am not saying this to be critical of the company or their products because there is nothing wrong with creating boats that provide truly luxurious accommodations along with less emphasis on the act of sailing them. In fact, I'm certain they have gone in this direction precisely because that's what their clients want. When I think of this evolution in those terms it's easy to understand why the new 45 looks the way it does.

Leopard 42 at anchor in Panama
Deisgned by the firm of Simonis Voogd,  the 45 incorporates hulls that, while fairly beamy at the deck level, are deep and relatively narrow below the waterline. The knuckle of the nearly vertical bow is well below the waterline and appears to be quite fine. The maximum depth of each hull is located at approximately station 6, or sixty percent of the waterline length aft from the bow and is about 36 or 37 inches below the waterline. In cross-section the hull appears to be semi-circular at this point, fairing into a nearly flat bottom at the transom. The keel adds another 24 inches of depth, for a total draft of 5'-1". That much draft is enough to keep this boat out of some nice anchorages, but is still manageable.

Above the waterline, there is a subtle chine that starts near the bow and fairs back into the hull near the transom. This adds visual interest to the boat's otherwise slab-sided appearance. The sheer has a slight reverse spring that terminates in a sloped transom. In studying the profile view below, it appears to me that the freeboard amidships is about 5'-6". This is a tall boat.

Deep draft and high freeboard in the Leopard 45.
It looks like the forward part of the deck house is raked aft, but that is only along the sides of the house. Those angled features actually disguise the vertical forward face of the cabin, which allows for a spacious forward cockpit, which you can see in the deckplan below.

Notice the forward cockpit and smallish trampoline

The deckplan shows the true purpose of the L45. It is designed to be a spacious home afloat with a front porch and a large patio aft. Both of these areas are protected from the sun by the large overhanging deckhouse roof. That forward cockpit will be a nice place to lounge when conditions permit, and the enormous aft cockpit, with seating for eight at the table, will be the social center of the boat.

One of the more striking features of the boat is the expanse of windows fore and aft, as well as port and starboard. Opening the sliding window and door in the aft end of the house converts the cockpit and salon to a vast open area. Open the door to the forward cockpit and you have plenty of flow-through ventilation and panoramic views from both cockpits and the salon. To me, this is more like a vacation home than a boat.

The galley is forward, on the starboard side of the deckhouse and incorporates substantial Corian counters, three burner cooktop, oven and a large single sink as well as a two-drawer refrigerator/freezer. I would prefer to have the sink located in the middle of the counter instead of next to the stove, but that's a minor issue.

Opposite the galley is a chart table. It's big enough, but I like to have my radios and master electrical panel nearby and I don't see dedicated spaces for them. Aside from that, there is plenty of natural light and visibility here. I like that you can sit at the chart table and have a great view looking forward.

The boat is offered in three and four cabin versions. Unless you are putting your L45 into charter service you would not consider four cabins. In the three cabin version, the starboard hull is dedicated entirely to the owners suite, with a king size bed aft, a huge head with shower forward and a plethora of storage spaces and a desk/dresser amidships. Again, this is more like a very comfortable vacation home than a boat.

The Leopard 45 would make a fabulous liveaboard cruiser.

The port hull incorporates fore and aft private staterooms, each with a separate bath. There is a V-berth in the bow, which will most likely be used for storage unless there are small kids aboard. There are large deadlights in the hulls, giving all of these spaces lots of natural light and visibility.

Notice that the bridge deck extends nearly to the ends of the boat. This adds considerable storage space. Housed in the forward bridge is the genset, freshwater tanks and plenty of space for ground tackle. There is just enough of a trampoline there to make a nice place to lounge when underway. I watched a video of the boat under sail and it appeared to be trimmed down by the bows a bit, so keeping extra weight out of this area would be important.

I saved the rig for last. It is a basic sloop with a square-top mainsail, roller furling jib tacked to the forward crossbeam and a furling screacher tacked to a short bowsprit. It's all of conservative proportions, which is in keeping with the cruising theme of this boat. The mainsail is controlled by a mainsheet bridle instead of a traveler and all the sail controls are led to the helm station, which is an elevated post on the starboard side of the boat.

Sailing this boat would be interesting. With the large hardtops fore and aft, and all the controls led to the helm station, the crew in the cockpit is going to be hard pressed to see the sails, let alone trim them. The helmsman will do all the sail trim by pushbutton from his perch. It doesn't appear that there are any sail controls in the cockpit. This means that sailing aboard the boat will be nothing short of idyllic for the crew, but it could get a bit busy for the helmsman at times.

I will leave it to you to judge the aesthetics of the new Leopard 45. The sharp angles and squared corners are certainly in vogue these days, but I miss the elegant curves and visual delight of more artfully designed boats. With that said, if I were in the market for a comfortable liveaboard cruiser, and not necessarily an offshore passagemaker, the Leopard 45 would be on my short list of boats to see.