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.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

That Was Quick!

 Back in July I decided to take a month off from posting here because I was busy with another writing project.  Well, before I realized it, that month turned into two and then three. I can scarcely believe the time has flown by so quickly!

It was a fun summer, filled with lots of travel, hiking, biking, work projects and some sailboat racing, but now I'm back at the keyboard and will soon be posting a review of the new Leopard 45 Catamaran. In the meantime I thought it would be nice to share some photos of the high country around Mammoth Lakes, where we spent a few weeks in August and September.

It was cold the day we hiked up McGee creek. At noon a misty drizzle began to fall, eventually turning into a light, intermittent rain. There was hardly anyone on the trail except us.

McGee Creek beaver pond. The pyramid-shaped mound in the middle of the photo is the beaver lodge. This time of year the colors are spectacular.

It's hard to believe that rodents built the dam that created the pond, which I estimate to cover at least four acres.
A closer view of the lodge.

It was a dampish hike back down the trail in the afternoon. But nature surprised us with a rainbow. A perfect first day of Autumn.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

X-Yachts X6 Review


The X6 has finally arrived. This all-new design from Niels Jeppesen and the X-Yachts design team is the first of their new "X" line of high performance cruising yachts. It appears that the X6 is designed to provide luxurious cruising amenities combined with very high performance. This is interesting because the company already offers a high performance cruising yacht, the Xc-50, as well as a luxury racer/cruiser in their Xp-55. Therefore I thought it would be informative to compare the dimensions and ratios of all three boats.

Note that some dimensions and ratios for the X6 are estimates based on the published data for the Xp and Xc.  Sail area and SA/D are somewhat inflated because I did not have actual rig measurements, but used published data from X-Yachts instead. Still, this table provides a snapshot of the performance potential of each boat relative to its siblings.

Comparing D/L ratios, notice that they are nearly the same for the X6 and Xp at 145 and 142, while the Xc weighs in at 182. The X6 and Xp will be able to surf when conditions are right, while the Xc will require relatively more energy to break free of its bow and stern waves and surf.

Most notable in these numbers is that all three boats have large rigs for their size and type. The Xp has a higher SA/D ratio than the X6, which is appropriate for the more racing oriented boat. The surprise here is that the cruising oriented Xc also has quite a powerful rig. We can think of the SA/D as power/weight ratio. A boat with a high SA/D is like a lightweight car with a big motor.

I included profiles of each boat below so you can visually compare them. The fairbody line of the Xc is significantly deeper than the other two boats, indicating a more V-shaped hull and more deadrise than the others. This shape gives the boat more comfortable motion in a seaway and allows heavy items such as tanks and the engine to be mounted below the cabin sole. Interestingly, the Xc has a higher ballast/displacement ratio than the others.

Xc 50
High performance cruiser

Xp 55
Racer Cruiser

Very High Performance Cruiser

The underwater profile of the X6 is similar to that of the Xp, but notice that it is beamier relative to its length. Another interesting difference is that the aft overhang is longer on the Xp. All of this implies that the Xp will be the faster boat in light air, but only by a little bit. I think the X6 will be faster upwind in anything more than light air. With its long waterline and powerful rig, the X6 will be significantly faster on a reach.

We are fortunate to have a lines plan for the X6. In studying it, the first thing you'll notice is that the hull is V-shaped to about station 7, then it becomes "U" shaped from that point to the stern. The hull is nearly flat-bottomed near the transom, which is not overly wide. Above the waterline there is little change in the angle of the topsides, this is apparent in the body plan. That consistent angle gives the hull a somewhat slab-sided appearance, but it is a very efficient shape. I'm glad to see that the design team didn't succumb to the temptation to add chines, which on a boat like this would be nothing but a styling gimmick.

The X6 is equipped with a vertical fin-and-bulb keel with three draft options. The shoal draft version draws 8.50 feet and the competition keel draws 11.15 feet. There are twin rudders, which ordinarily I would be critical of.  But the reason for that arrangement is to allow space for a dinghy garage. In the Xp-55, the dinghy must be wrestled aboard and stowed athwartships because the rudder post is in the way. The twin rudders on the X6 allow the dinghy to be hauled aboard and stowed all in one go, a more practical system by far.

If I could afford my own X6 I would sit down with Niels and ask about a lifting keel. Nothing beats a deep keel for sailing performance, but there are lots of destinations that are too shallow for even the shoal draft version. I think a variable draft keel of six to ten feet would give me the performance I would demand it a boat like this, and access to some of my favorite coves as well.

A new generation  X.
Deep draft and twin rudders.

The standard rig is aluminum and an optional carbon fiber rig is offered. Of course the winches are all electric. The mainsheet is led to a pair of blocks on the arch instead of to a traveler. For a luxury cruiser like the X6 that is a perfectly acceptable arrangement. The boat is equipped with a transverse jib track just forward of the mast that accommodates a self tacking 96% jib as well as longitudinal tracks for the 106% jib. There are no genoas on the X6.

The cockpit is large and well set up for cruising. The companionway is offset to starboard and the table is large enough for six to dine. The winches are located just forward of the helms. The controls and instruments are located on the consoles at the helms.

Rendering of the cockpit

Laminated wood/carbon fiber wheel and pushbutton controls.

There are plenty of choices in the accommodations.  I think the centerline V-berth is more convenient than the pullman type owner's stateroom. The galley, as you would expect, is large and well laid out. Guests can be accommodated in the quarter-cabins. The boat can  easily accommodate three couples.

Visually, with it's truncated cabin and expansive foredeck, the new boat is a departure from previous production X yachts. This may be an incremental step in the design evolution of X-Yachts, or it may be an indicator of a changing of the guard at the company. Either way, the X6 is a stunning addition to their product line and I can't wait to see the new X4.

 All  images  courtesy of X-Yachts.