Sunday, November 11, 2018

Albin 28 Upgrades

We've had Compadre for a bit over a year and have been enjoying our Island Commuter quite a lot. During this time I've made some additions to the boat that make it more suitable for our purposes and I thought it would be good to share them.

Compadre at her home port of Two Harbors
Last spring we hauled the boat at Sunset Aquatic Shipyard and applied a new, still experimental paint called Awlgrip HT. With really great support from our Awlgrip rep, Stan Susman, the boat turned out beautiful. While it was on the hard I had the prop tuned up and repaired the exhaust thru hull, which had small leak in it.

Freshly tuned prop.

We wanted a really good tender for the boat, one that would plane. The problem is that a dinghy and motor of that size is difficult to fit on a 28 footer. The solution was an 8'-6" RIB with a 6hp outboard. When we're not using it, the dinghy rides on the swimstep and the motor lives on a custom-made bracket. To make life easier, I also built a hoist so we could store the motor in the cockpit and then swing it out over the dinghy.  But I didn't want some clunky-looking crane permanently mounted  on the transom so I made it collapsible, so it would stow in the cockpit when not in use.

The dinghy rests on the swimstep when we're underway. It's light enough that I can
pull it up on the step without any assistance.

The bracket is designed and located so nothing interferes with the bait tank, mooring cleat or fuel fill. The dinghy planes easily with two aboard the dinghy.

The frame is welded 7/8" stainless tubing and the wood part is made of varnished teak.

I added 1/4" StarBoard to protect the varnish.

When not in use, the hoist stows neatly on a rod holder.
I fabricated the upper and lower mounting brackets from fiberglass. 

The vertical part of the hoist slides through the upper bracket and fits into the
lower bracket.
After I set the upright part into the brackets, the arm pivots up to about 30 degrees above horizontal and is secured to
the top of the upright. To make it easy to raise and lower the motor I added Harken blocks to make 4:1 purchase. One of the blocks is a ratchet block for security.

The block and tackle. The rope is led to a cam cleat on the upright.
When  the dinghy is in the water, the motor swings out far enough that it lowers almost directly onto the dinghy's motor mount. The geometry is such that it works if the dinghy is situated at the stern of the boat or alongside. Very convenient.
It takes two of us about ten minutes to deploy the dinghy, set up the hoist, drop the motor into position, and connect the fuel line, and we're ready to go.

Another fun project was making a nice looking footrest for the helmsman. I glued a couple of pieces of teak together, cut it to the proper shape and mounted it with a couple of hinges. I added a second aluminum footrest because when we're socializing, we often turn the seat around to face the cockpit and it's nice to have a footrest facing that way too.

The footrest hinges up out of the way when servicing the engine.

The nonskid adds a bit of security when it's rough.

We are often at anchor or on a mooring five or six days at a time and found that fresh water can run low, especially since our boat is set up with freshwater flush for the toilet. So now we use tank water for washing dishes, freshwater rinse after swimming and, of course, flushing. For drinking water, I build a shelf in the galley that fits the 2.5 gallon water containers from the grocery store.

The shelf is mounted high enough that we can fill a tall glass of water from the spout.

I discovered the hard way that a bit of nonskid under the container prevents it from falling out of its perch when it's rough.

When we got the boat, the rubber coating on the steering wheel was a bit gummy and I couldn't find anything that would fix that. So I found a leather wheel cover kit online. Problem solved.

The supple leather cover feels great and shows no signs of wear after a year of use.

It was a bit of a chore to get the stitching right, but well worth the effort.

My next project is to add a pair of solar panels on the cabin top. After three or four days at anchor, I have to run the engine to recharge the batteries. The solar panels will make Compadre electrically independent.

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