Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rig Conversion Update

The new mast is scheduled to be delivered in early July. US Spars says the standing rigging from the original mast will fit so we won't have to buy new rigging. When the mast arrives we'll unship the old one and transfer the instruments and antennas, including radar and TV. We will also install a Tides Marine sail track and lazy jacks. There won't be much to do on the boom except add some sheaves and reefing lines. On deck we'll add a set of rope clutches for the reefing lines.  The new mainsail is also on order and we expect to have it in mid-July.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Morris 45RS Review

M45RS with non-overlapping jib and in-boom furling main. 

We've been having a grand time tinkering with the Finisterra but the previous owner was so meticulous in his care of the boat that there is little for me to repair or rebuild. So while we're waiting for the new mast, I thought it would be fun to take a look at the M45RS, the latest offshore racer/cruiser from Morris Yachts. Morris has been around since the 1970's and has had a longstanding relationship with Chuck Paine, who designed this boat as well as the pretty double-enders that Morris was originally known for.

A modern and powerful rig on the M-45RS. Notice the spreaders and non-overlapping headsail.  This is a racing rig on a sleek hull with a deceptively cruisey deck.

Morris describes this new boat as a "Fast yet extremely durable IMS and PHRF racing yacht, [yet] she is also highly qualified for long distance adventures." I'm not too sure about optimizing for PHRF, but the M45 is clearly a faster ride than we ordinarily expect from Morris. The rig certainly would not look out of place on a pure racing machine. It's tall, with non overlapping headsails and a carbon fiber three-spreader mast. The sail area/displacement ratio is a healthy 19.30 and the displacement/length ratio is 149. These ratios indicate a fairly powerful rig on a medium displacement hull. The ballast/displacement ratio of .42 is somewhat indicative of a stiff boat that should go upwind quite well, but the drawback in these impressive performance numbers is the draft, which is only 5.83'. That will compromise the upwind performance of the M45. Of course there are many parts of the world where more draft would limit the places you can go in this boat, so the choice is to put a deeper keel on the boat and go get some trophies, or settle for fewer trophies and more cruising destinations. Since I live in California where the water is plenty deep, I'd go with a deep keel if they'd offer one.

Notice the mid-cockpit main traveler and exposed windlass.

The deck layout of the M45 is an interesting compromise for racing and cruising and it exposes the difficulty of trying to be both a racer and a cruiser. Starting at the bow, notice the traditional pulpit. It works fairly well for a cruiser, but makes handling the asymmetrical spinnaker, which is set on an extendable pole, tricky. The foredeck, which is quite small is further cluttered by the windlass, making scrambling around up there a bit more challenging for the bowman. Moving aft, there is a pair of dorade vents just forward of the mast which will be much appreciated when it's hot and sultry in the galley, but add more clutter to the foredeck. I was surprised to see the drawings showing the mainsheet led forward along the boom, admirals cup style, then aft along the deck to a pair of winches adjacent to the traveler. I'm certain that arrangement was quickly changed to a cabintop traveler and conventional mainsheet system. The cockpit is too small for that sort of arrangement and few cruising families would tolerate the traveler bisecting the cockpit. Aside from those small items, don't you think the proportions of the sheer and cabin trunk are simply elegant? I also like the slim lines of this boat. It is a bit narrower and finer in the stern than you'll find on similar sized production cruisers. This gives up some space below but will result in an easy motion and good all around performance.

Morris offers the boat in two basic versions, galley up and galley down.  In the galley up version, the main salon is forward and a step down from the raised portion of the cabin trunk. Just forward of that is the forward cabin, which includes a queen size berth, plenty of seating and storage and lots of varnished wood.
Sweet lines are evident in the hull shape. Is this a practical layout?

In the raised part of the cabin you'll find a large galley to port, offering the cook lots of light and splendid views through the large windows. The nav station, to starboard is equally inviting, with lots of finely crafted wood and all the instrumentation you need to circle the globe. Adjacent to the companionway is the boat's only head. It's spacious and incorporates a shower stall. Opposite the head is a quarter cabin to port, with a double berth and what appears to be plenty of storage.

Galley down arrangement. I like the shape of the underbody, but not so thrilled with the saildrive.

In the galley down arrangement, the main salon is in the raised part of the cabin, along with the head and nav station while the sleeping cabins are the same as in the other arrangement. In this version, with the galley forward where the motion of the boat is greater, cooking will be a bit more challenging. I like this arrangement almost as much as the other, but neither seems quite right to me. I think it's better to have the dinette as well as the galley in the raised part of the cabin, and the head forward, next to the forward cabin. I keep trying to imagine us living aboard this boat and I have a feeling I'd want to change things around before long. Imagine yourself living on this boat. What do you think?

One thing we can be certain of is the quality Morris puts into the boats they build. There are photos of the M 45RS on the Morris web site ( which is where I got the drawings and photos for this review. I encourage you to visit the site and enjoy not only the photos of this boat, but the earlier boats that Morris built. You can't help but admire them.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Beneteau 423 Rig Conversion

Now that we've had the boat for a couple of weeks and I've been able to dig deeper into the systems and construction of the Finisterra and I'm able to start putting together a serious to-do list. Our purpose is to outfit the boat for long distance cruising so the number one item on the list is to lose the in-mast furling system. There are two basic ways to go about this. The easiest is to simply pull the roller furling main out of the mast, put slides on it and run it up the luff groove that is built into the mast. The other option is to chuck the entire roller furling (RF) mast and sail, and buy a new rig. Of course there are a few options between those two extremes, but they aren't worth talking about.

Beneteau 423 close reaching under a 140% jib and RF main

After pondering the alternatives and doing the math, we chose to go all the way and put a new rig in the boat. You're probably wondering why someone would take a perfectly good rig out of a boat and exchange it for something that is usually more work to set trim and douse. My answer is that RF mains work well for many things, but they can fail in ways that could be inconvenient at best and dangerous in some circumstances. They also can't deliver the performance that a full battened main can. In terms of danger, all you have to do is visit the B423 message board to read about a range of problems people have had with their RF main sails. Sails jammed in the slot, batten pockets torn, more jammed sails, maintenance issues on the furling system, etc. Don't misunderstand me, most B423 owners seem to love their RF main sails and have very few problems with them. But if you're planning for offshore cruising to remote places with a shorthanded crew, you want your rig to be 100% manageable in all conditions. So it's out with the furling rig.

As it turns out, we can do the conversion for a very reasonable price if we manage it well. US Spars, the company that built the original B423 rigs happens to have some mast extrusions left over from the production days, and agreed to build a new classic rig for us at a very attractive price. We found a local rigger here in SoCal who will take the old rig on consignment and we can surely sell the sail at Minneys, our local marine surplus store. So with the new rig, modifying the boom and buying a new mainsail, I estimate that the entire project will cost around $15.000.

423 with classic main and stackpack

We will include a 'Battcar' system, lazyjacks and a Stackpack to make sail handling easy. With full battens the sail falls neatly into the pack, eliminating the whole flaking exercise. More importantly, the sail can be reliably reefed in all conditions. I'll keep you posted on the progress for this project.

Mainsail neatly stowed.