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