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Many of us would like to see the world from the deck of our own sailboats, but time, money, and long, slow offshore passages can interfere with that dream. Sailboats are efficient but slow, earning money requires time and roots, and crossing an ocean takes determination and good health. So many of us sail our own boats coastwise and charter in exotic places. If we could only pack our own boats safely aboard a cargo ship, send them to interesting places, and join them there...
That’s the reason for the Far Harbour 39, a cruising motorsailer that fits into a standard 40-foot shipping container and can be sent anywhere in the world for less than $10,000. That’s cheaper than prepping your own boat for an ocean crossing and entails a whole lot less stress.
The look of this vessel is unique but not unattractive. Bow-on, the boat almost vanishes; with its slab sides and extremely narrow beam, it resembles a large plank set on edge. However, the profile and quarter views are pleasant. Bob Perry performed an artistic miracle in turning such constricted dimensions into a boat.
Belowdecks, the cabins are bright and traditional with a nice balance of white bulkheads and varnished wood that visually maximizes the 71/2-foot beam. If you like the classic yacht look, it’s lovely. If you prefer the wide-open style of today’s beamy interiors, you might consider it odd. I liked it.
The prototype I tested was built in Oregon to a high standard. It’s actually a wooden boat, sheathed in fiberglass; the production model will be made in Croatia of hand-laid, cored fiberglass. I found carefully finished glasswork, neatly installed electrical and plumbing systems, and high-quality hardware and equipment on the test boat.
Accommodations are very comfortable for a couple—and no more. There’s adequate stowage (remember that you’re not provisioning for an ocean crossing) and a delightful pilothouse space from which two people can enjoy the surrounding world. If you want to take the whole family with you, this is not the right boat. The interior space of this narrow hull seems roughly comparable to that of a typical production 34-footer, but with better stowage capacity. Headroom in the forward cabin and head is adequate for a man of average height, but tall guys will have to duck.
The Far Harbour 39 is a true sailboat. In 6 knots of wind on Chesapeake Bay, I measured a solid 4 knots of boatspeed with the Code 0 flying. In a stronger breeze, you can roll up that headsail, unfurl the working jib, and really have some fun. It’s not a self-tacker, but it is small enough that the sheet loads are low.
There’s little feedback from the tiller and, of course, none at all from the hydraulic wheel in the pilothouse. The boat tracked absolutely straight and responded accurately, but this calls for visual interpretation of sail and water pressures, not kinesthetic sensations. The builder says that very little weather helm develops as the boat heels, a result of the hard-chine, vertical-sided design. He also reports that the vessel is stiff in a breeze, which I would expect from the relatively small sailplan and bulb-fin keel.
The Far Harbour 39 is also a real motorsailer, returning nearly 8 knots at an easy 2,400 rpm and slicing effortlessly through motorboat wakes. It handled perfectly in close quarters, turning crisply within one boatlength and backing absolutely straight. The cabin sound level is a bit high at 82 dB, but that should be remediable with improved insulation.
Motorboats of the early 20th century had similar qualities because they were also long and narrow, with long waterlines. Naval architects of the 1920s had only heavy, low-powered engines available, and the efficient way to get speed was to cut through the water with the lowest possible resistance. Planing atop the water required a higher power-to-weight ratio than was practicable with the technology of that time.
The dimension constraints imposed by a shipping container (40 feet by 8 feet by 8 feet) also predicate this sort of design. Such hulls go fast with low power, track straight, and cut through waves rather than skipping over them. However, they don’t have a lot of interior cabin space for their length. In many ways, the Far Harbour 39 is a very traditional boat for very modern reasons.
Packing up the boat to send it to a foreign port isn’t exactly “push-pull, click-click,” although the structure does make the disassembly process pretty easy. A couple of workers unstep the mast, unbolt the keel (it’s caulked with a sealant that separates easily), and unpin the rudder and drop it. Then the hull rolls stern-first into the container and the rig and foils go in last, with the keel bulb under the bow. The builder says packing or unpacking requires about 30 man-hours and, of course, a crane. The dimensions also make the boat legally trailerable anywhere in the U.S.
It’s always fun to see a truly innovative boat, and the Far Harbour 39 is certainly that. It’s also a nice-sailing, well-built, carefully planned vessel that happens to fit in a 40-foot container.
Price: $225,000 includes radar, cartography, wind instruments, full galley equipment, ground tackle.
Builder: Container Yachts, Middletown, RI; 401-851-7925. www.containeryachts.com
Designer: Robert Perry
Construction: Solid-fiberglass beams in a grid arrangement serve as the backbone for the cored hull and deck. The deck is glued and bolted to a dedicated hull flange, and the bottom is coated with transparent, osmosis-resistant gelcoat.
Pros: The easiest way to ship your mid-size sailboat; good performance under sail and power; good construction/equipment.
Cons: Strictly for one or two people; little sailing feedback to the helm; engine noise level high.
LOA – 38'9"
LWL – 38'
Beam – 7'5"
Draft – 5'6"
Displacement –13,100 lbs
Ballast – 4,600lbs
Sail Area (main and jib) – 582 sq ft
Power –40-hp diesel
Tankage Fuel/water/waste – 75/75/25 gal
Electrical – (4) 100-Ah AGMs, 60-amp alternator
Displacement-Length ratio – 107
Sail Area-Displacement ratio – 15.9