The original Alerion, a 26ft daysailer designed in 1912 by the legendary Capt. Nat Herreshoff for his own use, is one of the most iconic small sailboats ever created. Boats faithful to the original design are still built from time to time, and of course one modern builder has chosen the hallowed name for its own line of high-end retro-style boats.
This most recent variation was born when a knowledgeable owner, Michael Rindler, came to French & Webb in Belfast, Maine, seeking an Alerion-style daysailer in cold-molded wood, but much stiffer and less hard-mouthed than the original boat, which carried a long shoal keel and centerboard. French & Webb, in turn, called in designer Chuck Paine to update and fine-tune the hull form and rig, but otherwise allowed its build team, led by Jeremy Gage, to craft the boat by eye as it went along. The resulting vessel—complete with a deep full keel and a distinctive oval cockpit-and-cabinhouse footprint that at once sets it apart from Herreshoff’s Alerion—thus has a very organic aesthetic.
The hull is laminated fir and mahogany set in epoxy and sheathed with vacuum-bagged 11-oz. E-glass. The half-inch marine plywood deck is traditionally framed with Douglas fir beams beneath it and is skinned with 9-oz. E-glass. All of the interior and exterior joinery was crafted from a single slab of mahogany, so it is perfectly color matched.
The rig, custom-crafted in carbon fiber by Forte, is elegantly simple, with cap shrouds and a single set of lower shrouds with no diamond stays supporting a very fractional sailplan. The hardware is all Herreshoff-style bronze, either fabricated in-house by French & Webb or supplied by J.M. Reineck & Son. Auxiliary propulsion comes courtesy of a Mastervolt Drivemaster electric motor powered by a Mastervolt Slimline AGM battery bank that in turn is fed by a pair of 40-watt Ganz solar panels that are laid out on the cockpit sole when the boat is idle.
I sailed Rindler’s new boat, named Bella Luna, with Todd French and Art Paine, Chuck’s twin brother, out of Southwest Harbor, Maine, on a gorgeous September afternoon. Quite honestly, I have never before sailed such a well-balanced full-keel boat with an entirely unbalanced attached rudder. It really is a bit uncanny. Sailing in everything from ghosty-light to gusty strong conditions, I found no lee helm at all and just the right amount of weather helm. The boat is also easily driven and quite quick for a full-keel vessel, while at the same time being very stiff and weatherly.
The cockpit ergonomics are spectacular. The broad bench seats are perfectly pitched, and the coamings are nice and high. The simple sail controls fall easily to hand. As befits a bespoke traditional daysailer, the boat boasts a very elegant, yet minimalist interior inside the small cuddy cabin forward. Trimmed in fine beaded paneling painted Herreshoff white, the furnishings include a pair of single-seat settees and a large V-berth, under which lurks a proper fully plumbed marine head in an easily accessed hide-away compartment
It seems everyone who meets this boat, myself included, is entirely captivated by it. French & Webb therefore are eager to build more and are billing it as the Sadie 27, after the very first Alerion knock-off, a refined near-sister to the original that Nat Herreshoff himself designed in 1914. If you are on the lookout for a classic daysailer with modern appointments you’d do well to suss it out.