Crunching Numbers: Hull Speed & Boat Length

Sailboat moving at hull speed

Aside from its displacement, which we discussed before, another important factor to refer to when evaluating a boat is its length. We usually think first of a boat’s length overall (LOA), but when it comes to sussing out a boat’s performance potential, the more relevant measurement is actually the load waterline length (LWL). This refers to the horizontal length of a hull at the water’s surface when a boat is carrying a normal load. All other things being equal, this is the single most determinative factor in establishing how fast a boat can ultimately go.

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Estocada on the Rio Odiel: Death of an Alden Schooner

Matador gored after estocada

During much of that long night as our fine Alden schooner, Constellation, lay crippled on her side in the river, I found myself thinking of the bulls.

Tim, the first mate, and I had gone to see them at the Plaza del Toros in Puerto de Santa Maria, across the bay from Cadiz, not long after we first landed in Spain. Neither of us had ever witnessed a bullfight before, so initially we’d had trouble grasping what was happening. It seemed unfair that one bull should have to fight all those men--the picadors, the banderilleros, the haughty matador with his sword and cape--and as one animal after another slumped to the sand lathered in blood, I could not help but feel that their deaths were cruel and meaningless.

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Allied Princess 36

Allied Princess 36 at anchor

The Princess 36, built by the long defunct Allied Boat Company up the Hudson River in Catskill, New York, is a robust character ketch that does not pretend to be anything other than a simple, comfortable cruising boat. In truth, it is a boat only a cruiser could love. Designed by Arthur Edmunds and first introduced in 1972, the Princess enjoyed a 10-year production run during which about 140 hulls were built, which likely makes it the most successful boat produced by Allied during its 22 years of existence (1962-84).

Of all the boats Allied built--including the Luders 33, sailed by the famous boy-cruiser Robin Lee Graham; the Seawind 30, first fiberglass boat to circumnavigate; and the Seabreeze 35, a very handy CCA cruiser-racer--the Princess is the one that still commands the most loyal following among modern cruising sailors.

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Catalina 445: Best Aft Cabin on Earth

Catalina 445 aft cabin

There's a lot to admire in Catalina's new 445, and it's little wonder it won both SAIL's Best Boats and Cruising World's Boat of the Year competitions at the Annapolis show last fall. What I like best is the so-called utility cabin in the aft port quarter. I have often bemoaned the current accommodations status quo, wherein aft cabins are invariably equipped with double berths, and have longed to see more useful layouts with twin over-and-under single berths that can be used by kids. Catalina's Gerry Douglas must have heard me moaning, because the 445's port aft cabin is exactly what any modern cruising boat really needs, IMHO. It truly is a Swiss army knife of a space. It can be quickly converted from a guest cabin, with either a full double berth or over-and-under singles, to a storage/utility space with a dedicated work bench. Even better, the overhead gull-wing cockpit seat hatch opens directly into the stateroom, providing super ventilation (which is very rare in aft cabins) and full access to the cabin's interior from above.

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So Long, Mom: Popham Beach Erosion and Rebirth

Stephanie Doane with dwarf Asian otter

My mom was never really into boats, though she had to cope with them for much of her life, having grown up on an island. She did love the water and was always happiest when in close proximity to it. So when she became terminally ill last month, it was pretty obvious where she should spend her final days. Fortunately, we managed to install her in her sister's house on Popham Beach in Maine, just across the Kennebec River from the house she had lived in as a child. It was on this same body of water that I first learned my way around boats when I was a lad, which I've always thought was a good thing. The Kennebec is a very fast, turbulent river, and one of the many things it taught me was that you should never take anything for granted while afloat in a boat. It is a lesson, I've found, that is applicable to most other things as well.

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REID STOWE: Longest Voyage in History (Undisputed!)

Reid Stowe aboard schooner Anne

The record might be broken as of today (according to his harshest detractors), or it may actually be broken less than two weeks from now on Saturday March 27 (according to my own calculations), but either way Reid Stowe is now (or soon will be) the unequivocal record-holder for longest non-stop voyage of any type ever undertaken by a human being.

You may recall I mentioned Reid last December, when he broke Jon Sanders' record for longest solo voyage. This target at least was always clearcut and well defined, though it wasn't originally one of Reid's goals when he set out from New York Harbor aboard his 70-foot schooner Anne on April 21, 2007. Back then Reid had crew (a young photographer from Queens, Soanya Ahmed, who later left the boat after becoming pregnant) and he believed he would capture the title for longest voyage (solo or otherwise) if he beat Sanders' mark of 658 days non-stop at sea. To do this he proposed to stay at sea for 1,000 days.

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Jamming GPS: Intentional Interference Increasing

Portable GPS jammer available to public


Even as our nascent eLoran system is being shut down here in North America, concerns over the vulnerability of GPS and other sat-nav systems are growing elsewhere. Late last month in the U.K., at a symposium hosted by the Royal Institute of Navigation and the Digital Systems Knowledge Transfer Network, several scientists and engineers discussed the increasing threat posed by those seeking to intentionally interfere with GPS signals. Just Google the term "GPS jammer" and you'll get a sense of the scope of the problem. Once GPS jamming equipment was used solely by government and military types for discrete purposes, but now it is commercially available, at prices starting below $100, to anyone who can think up a use for it. Most of these units are quite small and are only powerful enough to mask a car or truck with a GPS transponder aboard, but others are quite powerful, with effective ranges exceeding 300 meters at ground level.

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Crunching Numbers: Defining Displacement

In the interest of general enlightenment with respect to matters nautical I thought I should explain some of those mysterious numbers that always appear at the end of boat reviews and evaluations, both here on WaveTrain and in the marine press in general. Being able to intelligently interpret a boat's numbers doesn't mean you'll be able to fully appreciate its qualities and deficiencies at a glance, but it does give you a big head start.

One of a boat's most significant characteristics is its weight. This is called displacement, thanks to a fundamental law of nature (first discovered by Archimedes in the 3rd century B.C.) that states that the weight of an object is exactly equal to the weight of the water it displaces when it is placed in water.

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