Thin Water Conversion
The boats I sail today, including my own, are typical cruising boats. They have deep fin keels, and they’re spacious, well equipped and comfortable. I spend a lot of my time on a boat, so I want at least a few of life’s luxuries. And I like a boat with a bit of heft to it, like my Dufour 34, to handle bad weather. That’s why I’ve never considered owning a trailer-sailer.
One winter many years ago, I sailed a friend’s O’Day 23 on Tampa Bay and along Florida’s west coast. That O’Day was a cleverly built boat and a decent sailer. It was also easy to trailer. But it was cramped and uncomfortable for anything more than a daysail.
I have no quarrel with trailer-sailers in principle. On the contrary, it would be great to get to new cruising grounds at 60 mph. Having sailed deep-keeled boats for so long, I would also love to be able to creep close in to shore and up into shallow rivers. Nonetheless, there are certain things I must have on a boat, like a proper head, with standing headroom and a pump toilet—not a Porta-Potti. I also need a decent galley, with space to perform culinary miracles (if you can eat one of my concoctions, it’s a miracle), and a hull form that can go to windward in a stiff breeze without being blown sideways.
That’s not a combination I thought possible in a trailer-sailer, until I was given the chance to borrow a Seaward 32 RK for a jaunt among the Florida Keys. During my week aboard I was neither soaked nor cramped. The boat performed wonderfully in a range of conditions, and I never once felt jostled about like a cork in a washing machine. I had hot meals, cold drinks, a proper hot-water shower and a couple of good adventures to boot.
It all started one morning in Miami when designer and Hake Yachts CEO Nick Hake and sales manager Tim De Vries arrived from the factory in Stuart, Florida, with the 32 RK in tow behind a large truck. Two hours later, the boat was afloat at the dock, the mast was up, sails were furled, the bimini was set and we were ready for provisioning. Nick and Tim made the process of launching and rigging the boat look easy. Everything went together as it should. Stepping the mast, usually the difficult part, was simple and impressively quick, thanks to the boat’s cleverly designed hoisting mechanism. It took us only a few minutes, even in a 15-knot breeze. While all this was going on, the Seaward was attracting plenty of attention. Even a local traffic cop stopped by to look the boat over in admiration. It isn’t every day you see a boat this big being launched from a ramp typically used by much smaller powerboats.
Soon enough, Nick and Tim were heading back to work in Stuart and I found myself alone with the 32 RK. Truth to tell, I was expecting it to feel like that O’Day 23 years earlier, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The 32 RK is spacious, well laid out and has the accoutrements one expects in any modern cruising boat—a good-sized galley with fridge, freezer and a propane stove, pressurized hot water and good stowage. The electronics onboard were top of the line, and—joy of joys—there was an autopilot. Instead of an outboard, there was a hefty three-cylinder Yanmar diesel. The boat even came equipped with—I kid you not—air conditioning. It is more a trailerable cruising boat than a true trailer-sailer.
Because the weather was deteriorating as I left the dock, I decided to find a protected anchorage along the Venetian Causeway to hide out from the breeze that was now gusting to 20 knots. That brought the only disappointment of the trip; the anchor refused to set and after eight or 10 attempts—thank goodness for the electric windlass!—I fled to a more protected area, where it dug in immediately.
Although I’d want a bigger anchor and more chain than the boat came with, I can see why you’d want to keep the weight down for trailering. The windlass was set up with controls both at the bow and in the cockpit, a real blessing for singlehanders, and another sign that this boat was no ordinary trailer-sailer. A lot of “proper” cruising boats don’t have a setup like this.