Sailing to the edge of the earth
Although the palm trees and sandy beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean islands are always alluring—and the Mediterranean is a romantic place to visit—what do you do when you’ve already experienced all that? Jim and Jean Foley asked themselves the question after finishing a seven-year circumnavigation aboard their Mason 44, Mara.
They decided their next adventure would be to cruise in the high latitudes and visit Antarctica, Greenland, Iceland, and the Arctic Circle. They concluded that Mara wasn’t the right yacht for spending time in the ice, and they refined their ideas about what they needed in a new boat. After looking at a few existing boats, they realized the only way to get one that included all the features they wanted would be to build it.
The Foleys asked designer Chuck Paine to craft a yacht 10 feet longer than their Mason that could sail comfortably in high latitudes. In their design brief to Paine, they noted that the yacht should be easily handled by two mature sailors, that all onboard systems had to be simple enough to be maintained and repaired by the two of them in port and under way, that it had to be reasonably fast, and it absolutely had to be able to bounce off an iceberg at 6 knots.
Once they had Paine’s design, they contacted a number of builders. Only one of them, Kelly Archer, had both owned his own boat and cruised on it with his wife. Archer got the order.
The result is an aluminum voyager of moderate displacement. The lines are similar to those of Paine’s light-displacement Bermuda Series of yachts, but the similarity ends there. A watertight bulkhead forward has been engineered to withstand an impact with a solid object at 6 knots, and in the hull 3/8-inch aluminum plate extends well above the waterline amidships and even higher at the bow and stern sections. To reduce maintenance the hull is unpainted.
As with many such building projects, more items were added to the wish list, and the yacht grew from its original 55 feet to 60 feet and finally stretched to 63 feet. The extension process began when Archer observed that making the yacht a few feet longer amidships would cost only some additional metal but would produce a spacious engine room in which it would be easier to maintain the refrigeration, heating, dual autopilot rams, hydraulics, water-system pumps, and generator. To improve access to the belts, water pumps, and alternators on the Yanmar diesel, the engine was installed facing aft with the propeller shaft mounted on a V-drive unit.
The dominant deck feature is the pilothouse, from which the Foleys have a 360-degree view of the horizon and a clear view of the mainsail through an overhead Lexan hatch. The coachroof has been extended aft over the cockpit. Because the Foleys will be spending a lot of time in the pilothouse, comfortable berths run lengthways on both sides. For meals while sailing, Archer built a retracting table with two leaves on a stainless-steel pivoting arm. Locking pins secure a condiment basket that also does duty as a dish container when items are being moved between the pilothouse and the galley. The basket fits perfectly into the galley sink.
There are three roller-furling jibs, and two poles are mounted on tracks on the mast so they can be deployed easily when sailing downwind. The mainsail has three reef points and single-line slab reefing run to the cockpit. Lazyjacks and fixed catching arms on either side of the boom make it easier to handle the mainsail in heavy weather. A trysail can be hoisted on a separate track when extreme conditions are forecast.
All running rigging can be controlled from the large cockpit; the rope tails are stored in pocket bags that double as backrests. The deck serves as a primary freshwater catchment area and has high toerails to collect rain (there is no watermaker on board). The lifelines are higher than usual, and the Foleys chose to run safety lines at waist height rather than use traditional deck-mounted jacklines. Six winches, three on each side of the cockpit (four are electric), do the hard grinding work.
The Foleys had experienced a rat infestation aboard Mara, and to eliminate the possibility of a repeat experience placed mesh grills on all dorades, portholes, hatches, and engine vents. A stern-anchor deployment system can be run from the cockpit, and direct leads to the primary winches make it easy to raise and lower the anchor.
Because Onora’s interior bow space is relatively shallow, there wasn’t enough space for a fixed bow thruster, and a drop-down thruster conflicted with the Foleys’ determination to keep working components as simple as possible. Archer’s solution was a tunnel system that allows the internal thruster to be mounted a bit farther aft.
The yacht has two separate autopilots with hydraulic rams that can each operate independent of the other. The steering system has been set up so that the hydraulics do not affect steering sensitivity. A DC generator charges the batteries to reduce running time on the main engine. Three inches of blown foam insulation line the interior of the hull, and there are three heating systems. One of them, an open-flame diesel heater, has been specifically configured to burn off the condensation that occurs in cold climates.
There are also two separate pressure water systems. A 240-volt inverter runs the microwave oven and breadmaker; at sea the Foleys make fresh bread every day unless conditions are too extreme. Forward-looking sonar gives a warning if it picks up an iceberg ahead.
Although the Foleys will be sailing mostly in the higher latitudes, they wanted good ventilation for tropical cruising. There are six portholes on each side of the hull, and each porthole alcove has been designed so that rainwater coming in an open porthole will drain into the bilge.
To keep the clean look of polished wooden floors while avoiding their slipperiness when wet, Archer suggested putting strips of crushed walnut shells embedded in resin in the high-traffic areas. They look good, and the grip is solid.
The interior cabinetry is teak, as is the main dining table. The bulkheads are painted in an off-white lacquer, and the overhead is cream. Light from the hatches and portholes is enhanced by the high-gloss wood floors.
The owner’s stateroom forward has an island berth whose mattress is split down the middle by a zipper to allow easy access to the storage space underneath it. There’s a lift-up shoe locker under the port step and plenty of drawers under the berth. A chart locker drops down from a wall unit, and there are more storage bins under the cabin sole.
The main saloon has settees to starboard and to port. The starboard settee can fold inward to create a wider sleeping berth, and its back end can be converted into a backrest for the navigation station. Aft of the saloon, at the foot of the companionway is a head with a shower and wet locker.
The galley has dedicated compartments to hold crockery, pots, and other accessories. Two sliding step platforms in the lower galley cabinet make it easy to reach the nearest porthole and to access the depths of the top-loading KABB freezer. Nonbiodegradable waste goes into two wastebaskets, one for recycling and the other for garbage. A sealed garbage locker is located in the transom.
The inboard side of the galley holds a combination washer/dryer as well as a deep sink. The sink can be converted into a workbench by inserting a fabricated wooden top that has a vise mounted on it.
The Foleys have provided for visitors with an aft guest cabin. In addition, the two single seaberths there can be hinged together to form a double. I talked to the Foleys in New Zealand after they’d cruised to New Caledonia, the Solomon Islands, the southern tip of Australia, and Stewart Island in the Southern Ocean south of New Zealand. They were preparing the yacht for a passage to Chile, where they would wait for the Antarctic summer season to begin. “How had Onora performed so far?” I asked. “She has exceeded our expectations,” said Jim Foley. “She handles well, and, despite her heavy construction, we’ve had her doing 14 knots broad-reaching under a double-reefed main and staysail in 25 knots of wind.” Sounds like the perfect platform for the next Foley adventure.
Veteran offshore sailor David Woodley lives in Picton, New Zealand.
Designer: Chuck Paine/Kelly Archer, C.W. Paine & Associates, Box 763, Camden, Maine, 04843; 207-236-2166; www.chuckpaine.com
Builder: Kelly Archer Boatbuilders, 17 C Airborne Road, Albany, Auckland, New Zealand; 011-649-415-8252; www.kellyarcher.co.nz
Sail area (100% foretriangle)
1,561 sq ft
Yanmar 200-hp turbo diesel with/24″ Gori prop
Sail area-displ. ratio