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.