Shoal Survivor

Author:
Updated:
Original:
seaward

There was a time when the variable-draft sailboat was a common sight along North America’s coastlines. Tartan, Pearson, Morgan, C&C, Sabre, Hunter and other builders all offered largish cruising boats with centerboards or swing keels, and many of those now-elderly vessels still populate the thin waters of the Carolinas, Chesapeake and Florida.

Changes to racing rules in the 1970s made keel/centerboarders unfashionable, and as other ways of achieving shallow draft—wing keels, Scheel keels—were developed, so the big centerboarder fell from grace. I suspect builders weren’t too unhappy, as centerboarders are more complex and therefore expensive to build than a fixed-keel boat.

To cut a long story down to size, that’s basically why you don’t see high-volume builders producing big variable-draft boats. You don’t see many low-volume builders doing so either, with a few notable exceptions like England’s Southerly Yachts and Florida’s Hake Yachts.

For many years, Hake has produced a pair of idiosyncratic but eminently sensible trailerable lifting-keel cruisers, the Seaward 26 and 32. Both boats share retro styling—I do like a touch of tumblehome—and an electrically operated keel-retracting mechanism that transforms them from efficient deepwater sailing machines to shoal-draft creek crawlers at the touch of a button. Having once owned a big centerboarder whose plate took 120 cranks of a winch to raise or drop, I can attest to the desirability of the latter feature.

Outremer1

Luxuriating in the enviable position of being both president and chief designer, Nick Hake is able to indulge his personal vision of the ideal cruising boat. His latest design, the Seaward 46, is the culmination of a lifetime spent drawing “the kind of boats I would like to own.” It is, as you would expect, no ordinary 46-foot cruiser. Like its smaller siblings, it is designed around a (7,500 pound) lifting keel and its support structure, in this case a curved main bulkhead that braces the keel trunk and also carries the loads from the deck-stepped rig. The beavertail-shaped ballast bulb is recessed into the hull when retracted; the boat can dry out on this, supported by the twin rudders. Draft decreases from 7 feet 6 inches to 2 feet 5 inches when the keel is raised.

The long, lean hull (beam is a whisker over 13 feet) looks easily driven, and this boat should be a fine windward performer. The mainsail-driven sailplan features a self-tacking jib, and owners can specify a tabernacle arrangement to allow the mast to be lowered and raised easily. A “fisherman sailor” option includes a swiveling captain’s chair, outriggers and a big insulated fish box. Interesting features abound belowdecks too—for instance, the forecabin is watertight, and there is the option of twin diesel engines.

Hull #1 will be on display at the 2011 fall boat shows, and I expect to see long lines waiting to board her.

While it’s unusual to find a lifting keel in a big monohull, such is not the case in the multihull world. Most catamarans with any pretensions to sporty performance have a pair of daggerboards to boost their windward credentials. A prime example of the kind of fast cruising cat I’d like to see more of is the Outremer (pronounced “oot-reh-mare”) 49. The most immediately obvious performance feature on this boat is that it has a pair of tillers, which is highly unusual on a boat of this size—though there is also a wheel for maneuvering under power. The idea is that you can spend a few hours reveling in hand-steering a fast boat while reclining in your carbon-fiber bucket seats, then retire to the helm station and let the autopilot do the work. Sounds good to me.

Outremer2

Outremer has built a string of fast cruising cats over the years, and like most builders, it has used the downturn as an excuse to renew a tired range. Tillers aside, the 49 is an interesting boat. It is light—less than 10 tons in light-ship trim—and by all accounts can turn in impressive daily mileages on passage. The mainsheet traveler is on the transom beam, which was once standard on most cats but is now unusual. Instead of the now-common solid top over the cockpit, there is a partial hardtop on a stainless steel frame around which a full cockpit enclosure can be rigged.

The cockpit and saloon are on one level, and the interior styling is light and effective, dominated by a big chart table and large galley. Owners have considerable freedom in customizing the interior so it’s unlikely any two boats will be the same.

This boat will also make its American debut at the fall boat shows. This is shaping up to be a fine year for boat geeks.

Related

CCA-story-2048x

Safety Culture Starts with the Skipper

Sailing might not be the first pastime that comes to mind when you think of extreme sports, but that’s not to say risks don’t abound. The Cruising Club of America tackles many of them head-on in their newly released guide for skippers, Creating a Culture of Safety: The Skipper’s ...read more

GMR19_F53_0539

Boat Review: Beneteau First Yacht 53

Luxury performance-cruising isn’t entirely new. You can go fast and still be comfortable. You can even race if you make the right tradeoffs—or so says Groupe Beneteau, which recently launched its First Yacht 53, in the process also reinventing the company’s “First” brand. ...read more

BirdonBoard

Cruising: Birds of a Feather

One of the neatest things about sailing offshore is the other lifeforms we encounter. We smile when we see flying fish skimming over the surface of the sea. We cheer when dolphins leap and dance in our bow waves. We are duly reverent when mighty whales sound and spout, and ...read more

pirate-marlin-logo

Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament

This Spring has felt a bit like a slow day of fishing but it’s almost time to time to Bait…and Switch. The Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournaments offer something for every member of your crew. Exceptional fishing, fun times with family, old friends and new. Our run is short, our ...read more

Tusk.00_00_16_21.Still001

Tusk by Spyderco

Spyderco's Tusk knife combines a blade and marlinspike to create a multitool perfect for marine use. Made with corrosion resistant materials like titanium and LC200N steel, a nitrogen alloyed steel, and Spyderco-exclusive locking mechanisms, this knife is one of the toughest ...read more

IY11.98_fTaccola©DJI_0200

Italia 11.98 Performance-cruiser

This past winter, SAIL principal editor, Adam Cort, check out the new Italia Yachts’ new 11.98 performance-cruiser at the boot Dusseldorf show in German, and says he can attest to the fact it’s a boat more than worthy of the attention of North American sailors. Available in ...read more

01-LEAD-2017_IDALEWIS_0219

Racing: Doublehanded

I was born in 1955, and although I was a tad young to actually follow the first Observer Single-Handed Transatlantic Race, I grew up in the age of the pioneers of solo offshore sailing—Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnson, Alec Rose, all Knighted for their singlehanded ...read more

newport-400c-updated

Spectra Watermakers

The world's quietest and most energy-efficient watermakers. Our product line ranges from hand operated desalinators that can make 6 gallons a day to our largest system that produces 20,000 gallons of fresh, potable water per day. Spectra Watermakers has the complete package: ...read more