Boats & Gear

2013 NEWPORT BOAT SHOW: Dock Walk

Alerion 41

Ah, yes. Hype season is upon us once again, and I spent all day yesterday walking the show in Newport. If you visit the same shows every year, they start to assume a sort of timeless quality, as though they are frozen in capsules where nothing ever changes. In reality, of course, they are constantly changing. Some of these changes jump out at you; others are more subtle.

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CORSAIR F-27: A Fast Folding Trimaran

Corsair F27 sailing

First introduced in 1985, this trailerable trimaran quickly became a seminal boat in the world of multihull sailing. Designed by Ian Farrier, a Kiwi who emigrated to California (by way of Australia) with the specific goal of perfecting his concept of a production-built trimaran with folding amas, the F-27 is both an excellent high-performance coastal cruiser and a competitive one-design racing machine. During a 12-year production run that ended in 1997, a total of 453 hulls were launched, making this by far the most successful boat of its type to date. Arguably, the boat is still in production, as Corsair's successor design, the F-28, though it has a rotating wing mast and is generally more sophisticated, is quite similar and is built with much of the same tooling.

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POOL TOYS: Aquatic Drones and Submarine Automobiles

Ziphius drone

Nearly 10 years ago SAIL magazine asked me to write a speculative story on what cruising sailboats might be like in the year 2040. In response I created a boat I called the DreamAway 408, which was equipped with, among other things, a mooring and anchoring exploratory probe named MAX. This was a little remote-controlled submarine robot that could roam into a harbor or anchorage ahead of its mothership to hunt for vacant moorings and anchoring spots--a critical function, I figured, in a future world with a much more crowded coastline. Once MAX found you a likely place to park, it would save the spot by surfacing there and flashing a strobe light on its back until retrieved.

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CRUISING SAILBOAT EVOLUTION: Cleopatra’s Barge

Barge model

In the beginning, what we now call "yachting," or sailing for pleasure, was practiced solely by a wealthy elite. Indeed, the first leisure craft were owned by monarchs and were profligate in their construction and appointments. Ptolemy IV of Egypt, we are told, lolled about the Nile aboard an immense 300-foot catamaran whose hull stood 60 feet high and was propelled by thousands of galley slaves. Cleopatra is said to have bewitched Mark Antony aboard a luxurious barge that had silver oars, purple sails, and a gold-encrusted hull.

As Shakespeare described it in Antony and Cleopatra: "The barge she sat in, like a burnished throne/Burned on the water."

Even centuries later, when the industrious and more egalitarian Dutch took up pleasure sailing in the shallow waters of the Netherlands aboard their sturdy all-purpose jaght schips, the ancestors of what we now properly call "yachts," they could not resist lavishing their vessels with ornamentation.

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GULFSTAR 50: An Affordable Big Boat

Gulfstar 50 under sail

Gulfstar Yachts was founded in 1970 by Vince Lazzara, an industry pioneer who in the early 1950s helped make a success of Aeromarine, one of the very first fiberglass boatbuilders. In the early 1960s he did the same at Columbia Yachts, which became the world's biggest sailboat builder in its day. Early on Gulfstar emphasized low price and maximum interior space over build quality and sailing ability, but in the mid-1970s the company shifted gears and worked to deliver a more high-end product. The most notable manifestation of this was the Gulfstar 50, a large center-cockpit cruiser first introduced in 1975. The GS 50 was the best boat Gulfstar ever built and also the most popular, with 172 hulls launched during a six-year production run that ended in 1980. Designed by Lazzara himself, the GS 50 boasts superior interior joinery, generous accommodations, robust construction, and a well proportioned hull and rig. These days it is one of the best values on the brokerage market in a larger center-cockpit boat.

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HAUNTED SAILBOAT: Up For Auction

Endeavour 37

I remember when I lived in New York City there were some people who used to read the obits every day, looking for what might be good deals on newly vacated apartments. Apartment ghouls, I called them. Here's an opportunity for any boat ghouls out there. The city of Newburyport, Massachusetts, is currently auctioning off an Endeavour 37 that used to belong a local liveaboard who is now presumed dead.

The boat's owner, Richard Decker, a German national who was living on the boat in the Merrimack River off Newburyport, went missing last November. His dog was found tied to a post on shore; his swamped dinghy was found tied to the boat's stern. All assumed that Decker somehow fell overboard, but authorities found nothing when they searched the river for his mortal remains.

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MODERN SAILBOAT DESIGN: Quantifying Stability

Capsized sailboat

We have previously discussed both form stability and ballast stability as concepts, and these certainly are useful when thinking about sailboat design in the abstract. They are less useful, however, when you are trying to evaluate individual boats that you might be interested in actually buying. Certainly you can look at any given boat, ponder its shape, beam, draft, and ballast, and make an intuitive guess as to how stable it is, but what's really wanted is a simple reductive factor--similar to the displacement/length ratio, sail-area/displacement ratio, or Brewer comfort ratio--that allows you to effectively compare one boat to another.

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SWAN 48: Definitely Worth Salvaging

Swan 48 Avocation

MY LAST POST about that abandoned Swan 48 floating around south of Bermuda has created some buzz it seems and numerous people are now making noises about retrieving it. To help inform and inspire would-be salvagers, I thought I should share some of what I know about these boats. I've sailed them back and forth between New England and Caribbean several times and have also raced a bit on them—around the cans and in one Bermuda Race.

You know, of course, that Nautor Swan of Finland, founded originally by Pekka Koskenkyla, has an excellent reputation. They've been building high-end production fiberglass sailboats for over 40 years, most of them what I'd call cruiser-racers. Most older Swans have sleek, modern hull forms, according to the era in which they were built, but they are also a bit heavy, as they are very solidly constructed with teak decks and lots of heavy solid-teak interior joinery.

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MASTFOIL RIG: Mainsails Be Gone

Atlantic 47 under sail

I spent a day hanging out with multihull designer Chris White a while back and came away all buzzed up over his latest idea. The basic concept, as you can see in the image from his website up top, is pretty simple: two jibs and no mainsail. What isn't immediately clear from the photo is that those aren't conventional pivoting wing masts behind the sails. The masts in fact rotate through a full 360 degrees and have controllable flaps on their trailing edges, so that they too can act as sails and create lift at any wind angle.

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