Saturday, December 29, 2012

Nautitech 441 Catamaran

There is a big, boxy-looking Lagoon 40 berthed on the next gangway over from us in the marina and it got me thinking about cruising multihulls and how they have evolved since the partnership of Rudy Choy, Warren Seaman and Al Kumalae developed the first offshore racing/cruising cats back in the 1950's. Back then catamarans were exotic, and were shunned by the offshore racing crowd. Today, thanks to those pioneers and countless others, offshore cruising multihulls are totally mainstream.  I did a bit of research on the Internet and came up with some interesting numerical comparisons for medium sized cruising cats and after reviewing three of the more popular models in that size range I decided to take a more thorough look at the Nautitech 441. But first, here are the numbers:

The squarish Lagoon 440 is a beefy boat with lots of accommodations
Lagoon 440 
LOA:  45.83'
Beam:  25.75'
Draft:  4.25'
Displacement:  37,265 LB
Sail area: 1,472 sq. ft. with square top main and roller furling genoa

The Leopard 44, designed by Morelli & Melvin offers more performance in a better looking package

Leopard 44
LOA:  42.56'
Beam:  23.75'
Draft:  4.18'
Displacement: 32,930 LB
Sail area: 1,270 sq. ft.

Nice proportions on the Nautitech 441

Nautitech 441
LOA:  44.18'
Beam:  22.33'
Draft:  3.92''
Displacement: 20,286 LB
Sail area: 1,055 sq. ft.

Each of these boats seems to emphasize a different aspect of cruising performance. At over 37,000 pounds, the Lagoon offers the most amenities. The Nautitech, at a little over half that weight should be the most fun to sail, while the Leopard falls somewhere in between. Of course it's never just about the numbers. Hull design, ergonomics, rigging and other facets of the overall design play important roles in determining the overall desirability of each of these yachts. I chose to take a more in-depth look at the Nautitech because of the three boats, it's balance of looks, comfort and performance comes closest of the three to what I think a good cruising cat ought to be. However, I should say out front that my ideal cruising cat would be lighter than all of these boats and be fitted with dagger boards instead of keels.

Efficient hulls, long and shallow keels and a short but wide rig. Most new cats incorporate  a square-top mainsail  instead of the one shown in the drawing.

N441 with square-top main sail

With all that said, let's start with the hulls of the Nautitech 441. If you visit the web sites for the Lagoon and Leopard boats you'll get a sense of how much bigger they are than the Nautitech. For the way we cruise, just the two of us with occasional guests, this boat has more than enough space. These hulls are relatively narrow compared with the other boats which translates to less drag. The Leopard hulls incorporate substantial chines above the wateline, while the Lagoon's hull are just plain beamy. These factors indicate that the 441 should be the better performer. All three boats have shallow fixed keels, so none will be particularly fast upwind, but that's not what these boats are about. They all have fairly large fuel capacity,  over 100 gallons in the 441 and 170 gallons in the Lagoon, so my guess is that the serious upwind work will be done mostly under power. The shoal keels will enable the 441 to venture into lots of places where deeper boats can't go, and also protect the sail drives from harm, but they don't help much in getting the boat upwind.

 The deck plan shows that not only are the hulls significantly narrower than the other boats, but there is less deck area and the deck house is relatively smaller as well. I like the wide open spaces on deck. Also notice that the anchor is stored on the port bow. I would prefer to see it mounted on a bow-plank along the centerline of the boat. The helmsman's perch is on the port side of the deck house and elevated so the driver can see over the top of the cabin. The photos show a hardtop over this area, I'd like to have a windscreen as well. It will be a cold helmsman that stands the midnight watch on this boat in anything less than balmy weather. The trade-off is much better visibility compared to helm stations located in the cockpit or at the aft end of each hull. The sail controls are also clustered in this area. This can be a good thing for the shorthanded crew, but it can make for a very busy helmsman at times and I question the ergonomics of this arrangement. Notice the locations of the jib sheet winches on the cabintop. There is a pair of winches at the aft end of the cockpit for spinnaker sheets.  The drawing shows a mainsheet winch also located there, but I think it has been moved to the cabintop along with the other sheet winches.

Unique deck arrangement lines on the N441

The helm station is set up with instruments and sail controls. A dodger would be a welcome addition 
The cockpit is smaller than the other boats but certainly large enough for a cruising couple and guests. I like the rounded contours aft that provides lots of space on deck. This layout doesn't provide as much shade as the more squarish designs, which would be noticeable in the tropics. Another difference between this boat and the others is the lack of a forward cockpit. The Leopard has a passageway from the cabin to that area while on the Lagoon there isn't one. These details account for some of the difference in the weight of the 441 compared to the others. I think the forward cockpit would be delightful on an inshore boat, but would find it less appealing for offshore work. One of the great things about all of these boats is their speed compared to monohulls of similar length. That translates directly to being able to do more of your passagemaking miles in good weather.

Nautitech offers the 441 in three and four cabin versions. I chose to focus on the three cabin version, which incorporates an owner's suite in the starboard hull and a pair of double cabins to port. The owner's suite is luxurious, with a large head and shower toward the bow, a desk and lots of storage space just forward of the passageway and a double berth arranged longitudinally aft. On the port side, there is a double berth way up in the bow, which will inevitably be converted to storage on most 441's. It is followed by a comfortable looking double cabin with an adjoining head. This head is also accessible from the main cabin. The aft stateroom offers more space and a private head.
Condo-like accommodations in fairly slender hulls

The main cabin works really well. The galley is large and the sinks, with lots of counter space, are located along the centerline of the boat. This makes them accessible from both sides, making the galley seem bigger than it already is. Opposite the galley is a large nav station with a large desk and plenty of room for instruments and all the other items I like to have handy when I'm navigating.  The forward part of the cabin is dedicated to a large wrap-around dinette that incorporates a circular coffee table.

Lots of hatches and light colored wood adds to the sense of spaciousness

There has been a significant migration of sailors from monohulls to multi's in recent years and it's not hard to understand why. Vast amounts of living space, sailing flat instead of heeled, more speed, and shoal draft all add to the appeal of catamarans. I think it's worthwhile to give these boats a look if you searching for a family style cruising boat.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Windlass Installation

 A few weeks ago I mentioned that the windlass was severely corroded and that I was planning to repair or replace it. When I removed it from the boat and got a look at the underside of it, the corrosion was as bad as I feared it would be. The screws that hold the gypsy assembly to the cast aluminum housing were completely frozen and no amount of PB Blaster could loosen them, and the corrosion around the mounting studs was severe enough to give me doubt about the entire base of the casting. One thing you don't want in your ground tackle is doubt, so last weekend I replaced the entire unit, and while I was at it I built a spacer out of StarBoard to raise the windlass up so that whenever there is water standing on its shelf in the anchor locker, it will not be sitting in it.

Using the paper template that came with the new windlass as a guide, I made a base plate out of StarBoard. 
It would have been a simple matter for Beneteau to mold a riser into the windlass shelf, or perhaps make the shelf slanted enough that water would run off, which might have made this project unnecessary. Anyway, once the plate was made I check-fitted it on the windlass. I also took the opportunity to back all the screws for the gypsy and back cover out and give them a liberal coat of Tef-Gel before re-tightening them, and did the same to the mounting studs before installing them. As far as I know, nothing beats Tef-Gel for preventing seizing of mating parts, including dissimilar metals.

This is what the base of the windlass look like. The housing that holds the gypsy and mounting studs is cast aluminum and the back cover, where the Lewmar sticker is located is composite material.
The unit comes with a rubber gasket that is about 2 mm thick, which isn't enough raise the unit up clear of any water on the shelf. On the old windlass, water had seeped between the gasket and the aluminum housing and worked its corrosive magic across the entire area of the base, especially around the stainless steel mounting studs.

Windlass with the gasket installed.

Woody checks the fit of the new base plate on the windlass.

After making sure the base and windlass fit together, it was time to mount the base plate into the anchor locker. I applied a bead of 3M 4000 around the perimeter and the holes, carefully pressed it into position and allowed it to cure.

Base plate is bonded in place with 3M  semi-permanent adhesive.
Now all that's left to do is bolt the windlass in place and connect the wiring. Of course it's never as easy as you'd think. The back cover of the windlass must be removed in order to make the connections, and there isn't enough clearance in the locker to do that with the windlass bolted in place, so that work has to be done before the windlass is bolted down.  If the windlass was mounted a couple of inches further forward you'd be able to get it off without removing the windlass.

Windlass installed.
The last step was to test the windlass. It worked like a champ. Now I can finish the job of rigging the boat with proper chain and rode and try out the new Rocna 55.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tartan 4000 Review

A progressive cruiser from a venerable builder

Tartan Yachts is a time honored marque in yachting. The Tartan 37 and 41 set high standards for sailing yachts back in the 1970's and '80's. In more recent years the company has been buffeted by the economic storms we've all had to weather lately and I'm glad to see that they appear to be surviving, and perhaps even thriving under new ownership. The 4000 is their latest offering in the forty foot range. As you may know, Sailing World Magazine's panel of experts named it 2012 Boat of the Year, so I think it's worthwhile to take a good look at the boat.

Like all the recent Tartans, the 4000 was designed by Tim Jackett to be a wholesome and well appointed cruiser/racer, with the emphasis, in my opinion, on cruiser. Starting with the profile view of the boat I must say it is refreshing to see a new boat that hasn't been pushed to the far edges of the design envelope in pursuit of interior volume. The sheer is elegantly sprung and there is a nice aesthetic balance between the rake of the stem and the slope of the transom. Below the waterline the hull is relatively deep amidships and fairs into finer waterlines aft than we see in the newer boats from Europe. That raked stem has practical value beyond aesthetics. Cruising boats with plumb stems invariably accumulate scrapes and marks around the bow from the anchor chain or rode unless they have fairly long bow planks. Tartan refers to the keel as a 'beavertail'. It looks like a squished bulb to me, which is fine. It gets the weight low without excessive draft and should provide good stability for this well balanced boat.

The bulb is different looking, but it does get the lead down where you want it.

The Tartan 4000 is propelled by an interesting sailplan that they call a 'Cruise Control Rig' or CCR for short. The mast is carbon fiber as is the boom, which is V-shaped to capture the mainsail when it is doused, eliminating the need for a canvas stackpack. That's a nice arrangement that I think will work well. The boat is rigged with double headsails on roller furlers. The forward one is a genoa and just a few inches aft of it is an inner forestay that carries a small working jib that sheets to a thwartships track just forward of the mast, making it self tacking. The idea is that in light air you'll use the genoa and when the breeze is up you'll switch to the working jib. For cruising, this arrangement might be okay as long as you remember that when sailing under the genoa, it has to be rolled almost all the way in whenever you tack. On the other had, when sailing under the working jib, that rolled up genoa is right in front of its leading edge, spoiling airflow and compromising its effectiveness. I think a better solution would be a single headstay with a well made foam luffed 140% genoa on a reefable furler. You would save the weight and cost of the second furler and have equal or better all around performance.

Tartan 4000 Cruise Control Rig

In the profile view of this boat it's hard to fault the nice lines in of the deck. It's relatively low and well proportioned, with good clearances along the side decks. I've given up on criticizing mid-boom sheeting since my own boat is rigged that way. It's not optimal from a sailing perspective but it makes other things work better, so I grudgingly accept it. The cockpit on the T4000 is really well done. Halyards and control lines are led to a pair of winches on the cabin top and the coamings are wide enough to sit on. Notice in the photo below that the mainsheet traveler is mounted on the cockpit sole, which is a practical thing to do. It might take a bit of getting used to, but it opens up the cockpit and offers much better sail control than the standard mid-boom unit. The boat has twin wheels mounted on nicely designed carbon pedestals. The photos also show that the hull is quite beamy aft, but there is considerable flair in the aft sections of the hull. I think this is a nice compromise that will reward this boat with good sailing manners in a breeze while still allowing for plenty of room in the cockpit.

Nice cockpit arrangement. Cruisers will miss having a swimstep built into the transom.

The accommodations in this boat are a pleasant surprise. The layout is thoroughly modern, with a queen-size berth in the forward cabin and strategically angled bulkheads in the main salon. The galley is large and offers plenty of counter space and storage. The nav station is also large and well designed, and just aft of it is a good sized quarter-cabin. All of these spaces work well and the only missing item is a good sea berth. Aboard the Finisterra I've designed a lee-board to fit in the quarter cabin to make a snug berth for offshore passages and the same could be done with this boat. I think the designer was able to incorporate the nice open spaces into the boat because it has only one head. Personally, I think one head is enough for a cruising couple with occasional guests. Aboard the T 4000, they weren't content with building a nice spacious and practical head, they incorporated a circular door for the shower. It may be cute as a bug's ear, but I prefer to eschew such gimmicky features that are likely to give trouble at some point.

Nice layout and solid wood joinery make for pleasant living aboard

I really do like the nice solid wood joinery in this boat. It is a refreshing departure from the IKEA-like styling of the new European inspired boats I've been looking at lately. I saw one of these boats at a recent boat show and admired the quality of the furnishings. The engine is a 55shp Volvo with a saildrive located under the companionway. That many horses will push the 4000 along at hull speed in almost any conditions.  Back in my boatbuilding days we installed a good many saildrives, mostly Yanmars, and they work very well especially on racing yachts. But I personally prefer the trusty shaft and strut type for long distance cruising. I've seen more than a few boats having saildrives replaced in inconvenient harbors.

Traditional wood joinery makes for very pleasant accommodations

The Tartan 4000 looks like a sweet ride for local cruising and club racing, and it could easily be optimized for offshore passagemaking. It has some interesting features such a cast and polished fairleads for the mooring cleats that add a touch of class . My guess is that most of the time you'll bypass them, but they sure are pretty. I checked PHRF numbers for this boat and it looks like the rating is going to settle in the 72-84 range, which is quite respectable for this boat. I'm sure the good looks, build quality and  BOTY award will generate lots of attention for this boat. It's definitely worth a look.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Finisterra Update

In the last couple of months we've been sailing the boat quite a bit. The stackpack system works well. It's different from typical systems in that when we're sailing it can be rolled up and secured along the boom instead of staying deployed. It's a bit more work to roll it up but I much prefer the sail unfettered by the bag and lazy jacks.

Slick stackpack contains the full battened mainsail

Awhile back I mentioned that the autopilot was not working properly. After searching the Internet for ideas on how to fix it, I removed the linear drive and rebuilt it, then reinstalled it, confident that I'd solved the problem. But I was wrong. So I've ordered a new drive which should arrive next week.

The boat came with funky pleated cloth curtains on all the portlights. I suppose they're stylish in a 1990's sort of way, but they are eight years old and at the end of their useful life. We really liked the OceanAir shades we had on the Honcho so we ordered a set from Defender and installed them last week. These shades block out 100% of the sunlight and are good looking.

One thing I've wanted to change since we got the boat was to upgrade the ground tackle system. The original equipment included a 40 LB Bruce anchor, 40 feet of 3/8" BBB chain and 150 feet of nylon rode. The new system includes a 55 LB Rocna anchor, 200 feet of 5/16" G40 chain and 150 feet of nylon rode. This requires changing the chain gypsy on the windlass. To do that, I had to remove the windlass. This is a simple matter of four bolts. When I got it out of the boat I discovered a lot of corrosion around the base of the unit. I've noticed that the shelf in the anchor locker where the windlass is mounted is often wet, either with seawater or fresh, so it's no wonder the aluminum housing of the windlass is corroded. When I re-install the unit I'll make a mounting plate out of 1/2" StarBoard to raise it up so that it never sits in water.

My winter project is to go through the exterior canvas on the boat. I'll lower the dodger by an inch or two, make some changes to the bimini and have side curtains made for it. I'll also set it up to mount solar panels to it. 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 41 DS

DS 41: New Look from Jeanneau

Recently I've been looking at the new Sun Odyssey DS line of cruising yachts and had a chance to go aboard one of these uniquely styled boats at a recent boat show. In reviewing this design I'll start with the overall proportions of the boat because we can learn a lot about a boat's sailing qualities just by assessing the juxtaposition of the keel, rig and hull volumes. Boats can be beautiful or not, but I think boats that perform well are always better looking than those that don't, regardless of dimensions and coefficients. In the profile view above, notice the relationships between the hull, keel and rig. The nearly vertical leading edge of the keel is slightly forward of the mast.  On the deckplan you'll see that there is a jib traveler also just forward of the mast along with a pair of jib tracks just aft of it, with the shrouds led to chainplates that are located almost at the gunwales. All of this dictates that the 41DS will carry small headsails, while the mainsail shown in the photos is a good looking fully battened and lazy-jacked unit with lots of power. This arrangement looks to me like it will generate a good deal of weather helm, so it'll be interesting to take this boat out for a test sail.

Beamy and full ended, the DS 41 offers plenty of room below, but how does she sail?

In studying the shape of the hull, I see that Jeanneau has embraced the current fad of chines from about station 6 to the transom. This may add a bit of visual interest to this hull but won't appreciably affect its performance. I would call this a chubby boat in which accommodations were perhaps more important to the builder than speed. The rudder is deep and powerful and will be appreciated when the boat is on a reach.

I think the DS 41's deck is a bold, even audacious, design. The height and bulk of cabin trunk is visually mitigated by the clever use of smoked plexiglass windows and molded-in steps aft. With the jib tracks mounted on the cabin top, side decks are uncluttered, making fore and aft movement easy. The cockpit coamings are an extension of the roofline of the cabin trunk, curving downward to a point just forward of the helm station. I leave it to you to judge the aesthetics of this design, but I will say that I found the slope of these coamings to be uncomfortable for sitting. Of course there are seats aplenty in the cockpit, but I still think the coamings should be more than just styling points. While I'm on the subject of the coamings I'll mention the winches. I appreciate that they are conveniently located for the helmsman, and that they are electric (at least on the boat I was aboard). But the location of them means that under sail, the helmsman is going to be very busy at times managing the sheets and other controls that are led to this pair of winches. Given their location, there is no good way to get any real leverage to pull on any of the lines that are led to them and the crew who jumps in to help will likely be a distraction for the helmsman. The mainsail is controlled by a German style sheet system without a traveler. We're seeing this arrangement on many new designs and I think it is an inexpensive alternative, but I prefer to  have a traveler.

Twin wheels are really a requirement on the 41DS because of the very wide stern of this boat. They enable the helmsman to sit well outboard so he or she can see the jib teltales, and they have the added benefit of making access to the swim step easy. I really like the swiveling instrument pod on the aft end of the cockpit table. I'm not sure how far it swivels but I'd like it to go far enough so that I could sit in the cockpit and see all the data. The cockpit is large and will be a fun place to congregate when the boat is on the hook.

Going below, you can see the benefits of that buxom hull. The wide open spaces, light colors and natural light from the plethora of hatches and ports make the 41DS a very inviting boat. More so when at anchor than at sea.
Condo-like accommodations
The DS designation stands for Deck Salon and, combined with the tallish cabin trunk, the cockpit sole is raised far enough to create a massive aft cabin with sitting headroom above the centerline berth. I think this arrangement is going to be a huge selling point for the DS 41 among buyers whose sailing ambitions are oriented more toward weekends at the island than passagemaking, which is the vast majority of sailors these days. The galley is reasonable for a boat of this size. The sinks are a bit smaller than I would like but still usable.  Opposite the galley is a large head with the shower integrated into it. There is lots of counter space and storage room here. The main cabin incorporates a large and deep dinette to starboard and a short settee to port.

Large chart table, plenty of light and even a wine locker...very French.

I like the large chart table. That enormous monitor can display all the ship's data, including navigation, radar, wind, etc. as well as movies. I like this new technology, but what's missing is a good sea berth. Forward of the main bulkhead is a private cabin with ensuite head, plenty of room and lots of light. Once again, this will be an inviting place to hang out when the boat is at anchor.

Dining table converts to coffee table.
The Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 41DS represents a growing trend in the sailboat market. Except for racing enthusiasts, sailors want a roomy, comfortable place to spend time with their families. They want reasonably good performance but not at the cost of comfort. I think the 41DS fulfills these requirements very well. I would add that given these harsh economic times, which are even more so for sailboat builders, providing for the needs of their customers at a cost they can afford is an extremely difficult proposition. Synthetics are replacing wood, square corners and modular structures are replacing handcrafted interiors, and closed molding is the method of choice for making fiberglass parts. The result is boats that are strong, lightweight and have the aura of 'styling by IKEA'. This can be a good thing if your yachting taste runs in that direction.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Left Coast Dart

Not long ago I met Jim Lee at a community college in Oak Harbor, WA where I happened to be teaching a seminar on composite materials. Jim mentioned that he wanted to start a boat company in Anacortes and was searching for a design similar to the B25, which, coincidentally, I had designed back in 1987. The B25 had been a highly successful trailerable sailboat with a long string of victories at major events in the 1980's and 1990's.
Dart with a mini-sprit punching upwind 

Jim had sailed a B25 on San Francisco Bay and we agreed that it would be a great idea to produce an update of that design. So I made some preliminary drawings for a boat that would be a worthy successor to the B25 and it became the Left Coast Dart. The idea was to continue the theme of a fast, seaworthy boat with a lifting keel that could easily be trailered. It would have basic accommodations, including good sized berths, a porta-potty and a place for a single burner stove. It would have just enough comfort for a couple with perhaps a kid or two to spend a night or weekend aboard. I wanted the styling to be roughly the same as the B25 but modernized.
Notice the dacron sails. Laminated sails would be lighter and faster.

In the years since I drew the 25, there have been vast improvements in composite materials and processes as well as the design tools we use. In 1987 I drew all my boats by hand and had only rudimentary computational devices to optimize the hull design. Today I use powerful software to model the hull, rig and foils in the computer and generate the drawings in AutoCAD. So let's start with the hull design.

Lines Plan showing fine waterlines forward and powerful aft sections

In the lines plan you can see the fineness of the bow sections and the slightly hollow waterlines. Notice that the bow is not quite plumb. I prefer that over a plumb bow purely for aesthetic reasons. Aft, I gave this hull a flat, clean run and firm bilges. I could have incorporated a hard chine here, but this boat will operate in both displacement mode and planing mode and chines add a bit of turbulence when the boat is traveling at hull speed. I think chines are something of a fad these days. You find them even on beefy Jeanneaus and Beneteaus that will likely never surf, let alone plane. Here are some numbers:

LOA -- 25’- 10”
LWL -- 22’- 10”
BMAX -- 8’- 4”
DRAFT -- 6’- 0” (Keel Down)
Draft -- 3’- 0” (Keel Up)
DISP -- 2,200 LB
SA (100%) -- 338 SF
DISP/LENGTH -- 82.54
SA/DISP -- 31.97  
I -- 31’- 6”
J -- 9’- 1”
P -- 31’- 3”
E -- 12’- 6”

The keel is a vertical fin with a torpedo bulb. If you're a regular reader of this blog you know I'm not a fan of this type of keel for cruising boats. For racers, it is the best solution from a performance perspective. At about 6 feet of draft, the Dart is deeper than the average boat of this size and nearly all of the lead ballast is in the bulb, making it a stiff boat. I designed a kelp cutter for the keel, which would be built into the leading edge.  You'll want to order that option for sailing in southern California. The rudder is a deep, high aspect ratio foil with the leading edge tucked under the transom to provide balance. The result is a light helm and very easy steering. The numbers indicate a lightweight, high powered vessel, but not extreme. It will provide excellent light air performance and exhilarating downwind speed.

Superb craftsmanship on the keel plug. They used this to create the keel mold.

I originally designed the boat for a carbon fiber mast and retractable bow pole, but Jim was adamant that it be fitted with an aluminum rig. Aluminum is certainly less expensive but it costs the boat about 12-18 seconds/mile in performance. Jim was also fiercely opposed to the bow pole, preferring instead a conventional symmetrical kite. This also cuts into the boat's performance and it didn't take long before he added a short bowsprit. My hope is that the next boat out of the mold will be fitted with a retractable pole and a carbon rig to take advantage of the boat's true potential.
Dart, circa 2010. Non-overlapping jibs and moderate proportions for the spinnaker

B25 circa 1987
1991 B25 Listed on Yachtworld for $21,000

Simple, efficient deck plan

On deck, goal was to make the boat a comfortable and efficient sailing machine. The cockpit is long and wide with the mainsheet traveler mounted on the sole. Jib tracks are mounted well inboard for close sheeting angles.  With the compact proportions of the cabin trunk, the companionway hatch lifts off instead of sliding forward. This caused Jim no end of tension, but it's really the only way to make it work on a boat of this size and type.
The original design had a split bow pulpit. Jim preferred the type shown here, but you can order the split version.

Jim did some innovative things with the electrical system, such as molding the electrical wiring into the deck so there is almost no wiring visible in the boat. Along the way he invented the Simple Stereo which enables you to connect your IPod or MP3 directly into the amp and and rock the boat. Construction is is vacuum infused vinylester resin using biaxial e-glass over a lightweight Corecell foam core. This is standard practice these days and it is a vast improvement over the hand layup method we used back when we were building B25's. The Dart is longer, roomier and much faster.

Simple, lightweight accommodations. Most who seriously race this boat would dispense with the V-berth.

Lightweight internal structure with just enough wood to keep it interesting.

Hull #1 sitting outside Jim's shop in Anacortes
When Jim started this project he was fairly new to boatbuilding. It's not easy to be a boatbuilder even in the best of times and the last few years have been anything but. So I give Jim a lot of credit for sticking with it and building exquisitely detailed pocket racers. For Jim, I think it's more about building very nice boats than making a profit, and that is a refreshing departure from the thrown together boats we often see at the boat shows these days.

In its brief career the Dart has had some impressive wins:
First Overall, 2012 Lake Pontchartrain Racing
First in class, 2012 Whidbey Island Race Week
First in class, 2011 PITCH Regatta (Bellingham)
First in class, 2011 Windermere Regatta.

Check out Left Coast Yachts at

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Beneteau 423 Rig Conversion Update

Over the last couple of weekends we've made good progress on the rig conversion. We finished modifying the boom, added some rope clutches for reefing lines and a second jib halyard, and installed the necessary hardware for the lazy jacks. We also installed a Tides Marine sail track. It was easy to install, fit perfectly and looks great. The new mainsail was also easy to hank on, and slides up and down the track with all the ease I had hoped for.

Notice the artfully shaped reinforcement patches. I'm not sure if they an improvement but they do look sporty.
I installed the track before putting the boom on. To make it easier to install I put a spare sail slide in the track and attached a halyard and downhaul so I could put some tension on the halyard then just guide the track into the mast. When it was all in, the halyard held the track exactly where I wanted it while I installed the retaining screws. Once the track was installed, it was a simple matter install the boom, vang and control lines and, finally, to hank on the sail and secure all. The entire operation took about four hours.

Mainsail installed. Notice the custom Home Depot sail cover!
The stackpack bag won't be ready for another week so the sail is flaked on the boom and covered with a couple of plastic tarps from Home Depot.  We're looking forward to going for a sail over the Labor Day weekend.

Monday, August 27, 2012

X-Yachts XC-38 Review

Over the last thirty years or more, X-Yachts has created a reputation for building fast, high quality sailboats that have won major regattas in both the old and new worlds. In recent years they have broadened their product lines to include all-out cruising yachts, as opposed to the racer-cruisers they have built their fine reputation on. I think Niels Jeppesen has been the chief designer for the company since it was founded around 1979, and he has produced a long and successful string of what I consider conservatively aggressive sailing yachts. Their cruising boat line carries the designation "XC" and the  XC-38 is the smallest in that line.

XC-38: Conservative proportions coupled with a powerful rig.
 I've always liked the juxtaposition of conservative and aggressive characteristics that Jeppesen and his team instill in their products and this 38 footer is an excellent example of their thinking. With its relatively springy sheer and conservative cabin trunk, beefy hull and aggressive rig, the XC-38 looks like a fun, yet serious cruising yacht. It is, to my mind, unfortunate that we don't see more of this type of boat on the west coast of the USA. In studying the profile view above, notice the depth of the hull and the proportions of the underbody. My guess is that the hull incorporates "V" shaped sections instead of the the more often seen "U" shaped bottom. Couple this with the efficient keel and deep rudder and you have a hull that will be especially fun to sail upwind. Here are some stats:
LOA:            37.99'
LWL:            34.06'
BMAX:         12.50'
Draft:               6.50'
DISP:            19,621 LB
BAL:               8,448 LB
SA:                     865 SF
BAL/DISP      43%
D/L ratio:        221
SA/D ratio      19

These numbers are indicative of  boat of moderate proportions and good manners.The keel and rudder are deep and efficient shapes for cruising. These days there is no shortage of stuff in the water to snag and foul keels and rudders. You only have to dive overboard to free the keel from nets, pots or kelp in the middle of the night a few times to appreciate clean and streamlined appendages on your boat.

Big cockpit, artfully curved windshield, conservative lines.

On deck you'll find simple lines forward without any fancy flourishes. The foredeck is flat and uncluttered, with an anchor locker and deck mounted windlass. The nearly plumb bow requires a bowsprit of some sort so the anchor rode doesn't rub the finish off the hull when at anchor.
Clean lines forward and an A-frame bowsprit
The sailplan incorporates non-overlapping jibs. I've designed a number of boats with this type of rig and it's great for windward/leeward racing. It's not as good for reaching because when you ease the sheet on this type of jib, the top of the sail opens up much more than the bottom so you end up reaching with the lower part of the jib over-trimmed to keep the top from flogging. One solution is to set up outboard leads for the jib and that's what I'd do on this boat if I owned one.

Twin wheels, trapdoor transom and artfully curved windshield.
The cockpit on this boat incorporates nice, high coamings and twin wheels along with a curved windshield. This arrangement invites comparisons with the Hallberg Rassy 412. Notice the instrument console on centerline, with a dropleaf table incorporated into it. This is an acceptable arrangement for daysailing but not very good for passage-making, although it is redeemed somewhat by the instrument displays built into the forward cockpit coaming. The fact is that cruisers spend little time behind the wheel when on a passage, so locating vital displays back there is inconvenient at best. Aboard the Honcho we mounted the GPS on a swivel just forward of the binnacle so you could see it from anywhere in the cockpit. We also traded the Raymarine instruments for TackTick wireless units, which could be mounted anywhere we wanted them, even below. Our Beneteau 423, Finisterra, came with the Raymarine instruments and, reliable as they are, we've already replaced them with Tackticks. Another unfortunate aspect of this cockpit is the permanently mounted dropleaf table that bisects the cockpit. Again, we have this arrangement on the Finisterra and find it to be inconvenient when sailing. I've already started designing a stowable table that will give us room to maneuver while under sail and still provide fine dining accommodations in the cockpit when we need them. Notice the nearly vertical transom. It sports a drop-down panel and gate to make a swim step or platform. I think a reversed transom with a molded-in swim step is preferable because it is so much more convenient than this arrangement. It would also increase the sailing length of the boat and reduce turbulence at the  transom.

Nearly perfect accommodations plan

X-Yachts offers only one interior plan in the XC-38, which is fine with me because it works really well. The forward cabin is spacious and incorporates a large V-berth, multiple lockers and cabinets, and plenty of light. Those windows built into the hull look small but provide a good deal of light and visibility. The settees in the main cabin are big enough to serve as sea berths. With the galley, nav station and head aft, the crew that sleeps in the main cabin won't be disturbed when you go below to check the chart or fix a cup of coffee during the midnight watch. The galley is large, with lots of counter space and double sinks amidships. I respect the designer's decision to eschew a second head on this boat. One is plenty for the cruising couple and this one incorporates enough room for a shower as well. The aft cabin offers a good sized berth and plenty of storage. In studying the photos of the boat on the X-Yachts web site, it took some time to get used to the horizontal grain pattern on the furniture. I'm not sure I like it yet, so I'll reserve judgement until I see a boat in person.

Overall, I think the XC-38 would make a very good medium sized cruising yacht. I'd ask for that reverse transom and swim step if I ordered one but other than that, this boat is ready to cruise.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Rig Conversion Update

We stepped the new mast a few days ago. The whole operation went without a hitch, except for the actual delivery of the mast, which was shipped from US Spars in Gainesville, FL. The trucking company, called "Big Dog" is not one I would use again. The driver picked up the mast around July 1st and told me it would arrive on the west coast on the 5th or 6th. Well, that day rolled around and the mast didn't show up, and when I called the driver he said he'd be there in three or four days due to some sort of family complication. Another three or four days roll by and I called him again. Well, more complications and blah, blah, blah and it'll be a few more days. So I rearrange my schedule again and sure enough, when I got through to the driver, "yada yada yada, a few more days". The thing finally arrived about three weeks late, but the driver entertained us with the most horrific story of tragedy and travail on the road...Bottom line, Big Dog no bueno.

Anyway, the mast was in good shape when it arrived, and making the swap was pretty easy, and done in a couple of days. I brought the boom home and converted it from a roller furling type to a real boom with an outhaul and three reefs. It's about ready, but first I have to install the Tides Marine sail track system, which I'll get done next weekend. The new mainsail, a dacron unit with full battens, was delivered this week from Elliott-Pattison and I have the lazy jack system nearly ready to install. We're still getting bids on the "Stackpack" and expect to make a decision on it in the next couple of weeks.

As of today, the costs look like this:
Mast with optional equipment................ $3,500
Shipping cost........................................ $2,300
Yard bill for swapping out the mast........ $1,570
Converting the boom..............................$   100
Tides Marine sail track system................$1,250
Full-batten dacron mainsail.....................$3,000


We still have to purchase the Stackpack bag, lazyjack materials and reefing gear, which I estimate to cost around $1,200.

You may ask if it's worth upwards of $14K for what amounts to nothing more than converting the roller furling mainsail to a classic type. I think the answer would be different for everyone. For us the answer is an unqualified 'Yes' because we'll be able to SAIL to weather, reef the main on any point of sail, and rest assured that we'll never get caught out with the mainsail stuck.

Photos coming soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Emerald Bay

We headed over to Catalina Island's Emerald Bay last week, expecting lots of activity for the Fourth of July holiday. This was the Finisterra's first voyage to our favorite cove. We left the marina in Long Beach at 1500 and tacked up the harbor toward Angels Gate in light air. The UV cover on the jib let go after four or five tacks at the spot where it rubs on the mast mounted radar antenna, so we looked a bit ragged as we passed through the Gate, with a foot-long tatter trailing off the leach of the jib, but the boat sailed well until we ran out of wind. We motored the rest of the way to the cove, arriving at 1845.
Finisterra moored at Emerald Bay

We picked up a mooring behind Indian Rock and sat back to enjoy the view as the sun set behind the hills. On the trip over from the mainland we used the autopilot and about every twenty minutes it conked out, with "Drive stop" on the display. According to the manual, that message means that the linear drive quit because the force required to turn the rudder is too great for the system. That doesn't sound right to me because the helm was pretty light at all times, so in the next few days I'll be tearing into the system to find out what's really going on there.

The boat is equipped with electric heads that use fresh water to flush. I'm not a fan of them and, sure enough, the aft head stopped working. So we'll swap them out for the tried and true Jabsco manual heads. Aside from that little glitch, the boat and its systems worked well throughout our stay.
Calm weather prevails as we look toward the west end of the Island 

Since this was our first trip aboard the boat, there were lots of little things to fix, and this took some time, but we still had plenty of opportunities to hike and putter around the anchorage in the dinghy. We met some folks from Corsair Yacht Club, John and Judy, who sail a beautiful old Ericson 41. They invited us to a barbeque at their club site, which is located next to the scout camp near the west end of Emerald Bay. It was nice to connect with them. The next day we hiked out toward the west end of the island past Parson's landing, where the views were spectacular and we saw lots of signs of deer, island fox and bison.

Not far from Parsons Landing we encountered this bison on the trail. Notice that his horns have been clipped. For several years the Island conservancy kept them out of the the west end of the Island, but nowadays they roam freely.

The weather stayed cool and overcast until our last day, and we departed the island under beautiful blue skies and sparkling sunshine. The Finisterra sailed under main and raggedy jib, doing seven and a half knots, until we reached the entrance to LA harbor. Passing the lighthouse, we hardened up and reefed the jib in about 20 knots of wind and sailed up the main channel to get a glimpse of the famous old battleship USS Iowa, which recently took a permanent berth near the maritime museum. The ship first deployed in 1943, and participated in bombardments of Japan in WWII. As the war drew to a close, the Iowa was present along with the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay for the official surrender of Japan, marking the end of the World War. It is interesting to note that it was during WWII that the battleship, with its big guns was supplanted by the aircraft carrier as America's premier seaborne combat weapon. Already obsolete by the end of the war, the USS Missouri was the last US battleship to be built. 
USS Iowa at her permanent home in Los Angeles harbor

The big guns on the Iowa are impressive artifacts of a bygone era

Leaving the Iowa behind, we headed back down LA harbor's main channel and bore off for Long Beach, only to be confronted with the sight of a large ship entering the harbor loaded down with several new hammerhead cranes destined for service loading cargo in the Port of Long Beach. It was quite a sight to see the ship with its cranes working its way, with the help of a couple of tugs, through the harbor entrance and into her berth. The cranes were painted with the COSCO/SSA emblem. COSCO, not to be confused with Costco, is short for China Ocean Shipping Company. SSA is an American logistics company that manages marine shipping terminals.

It's hard to imagine this shipload of cranes crossing the Pacific. The weather routing service earned their pay on this project. Shipping companies, like us regular yachties, use routing services to route their ships to avoid weather systems. 

Three tugs guide this unwieldy ship to her berth in Long Beach harbor.

We got back into our slip before sunset after a nice sail down the harbor. I have been pleasantly surprised by the performance of the boat with the small roller furling main sail and look forward to sailing with the new rig. The mast has been shipped from the manufacturer and we expect it to arrive this Friday.