Thursday, November 1, 2012

A New Breed of Daysailers

The last time I anchored in Pulpit Harbor, my wife volunteered to get dinner ready, and so the kids and I set up the rig for our little tender and ghosted around the outer harbor in the last of the light before sunset. I didn't have a camera with me but I found these shots online taken by another family who enjoyed the same view of the sun dipping behind the Camden Hills as one of the local windjammers anchored for the night…you get the idea.

The breeze was very light, and there were only a few anchored boats as navigational hazards, I allowed my five-year-old son to take the helm. We tacked and jibed and ran and reached to nowhere in particular while mom cooked steamers and his little sister perched in the bow alerted him to all manner of approaching perils. By the time we returned to the “big boat” as the kids like to call it, crew members of four different vessels had appeared in their respective companionways, cameras in hand, to snap pictures--not of the glorious sunset or the other boats in the last of the long evening light--but of a couple of very young kids ferrying their dad around the harbor under sail.

In the morning, a couple weighed anchor on a lovely little boat that I think might have been an Able Marine Whistler 32.

Doubtless they were headed for a day of sailing and then a night in some other immaculate harbor in Penobscot Bay. As they passed us, the man at the helm eased off the throttle and his wife appeared in the companionway to say what a pleasure it was to see a family with young children cruising. The man at the helm nodded and said “we don’t see much of that anymore.”

I am no market analyst. I don’t know whether families are cruising less than they once did. I cherish the fact that the harbors up here are never crowded, but I haven’t been at it long enough to notice a trend in the ages of people on the boats around me. I can say it is usually us asking the kids to quiet down and explaining how sound travels over water…particularly at 6 am... which is to say if there are kids on the boats anchored nearby they are either quieter or better sleepers than ours. It stands to reason that given the economic conditions of the last several years, a two week family cruise on the boat might represent more of a luxury than it once did. Or it could be, as a client recently observed, “of the two commodities time, not money, is the one in shortest supply.”

I can say that in the last several years, in the midst of a downturn that was pretty rough on the entire yacht design and construction industry, the majority of the new construction inquiries we received were for “daysailers.” I put that word in quotes because when I was a kid a daysailer was a little fiberglass boat built by O’Day, or a Rhodes 19, or a Beetle Cat.

Sure, there were always the Herreshoff 12-1/2’s and Wianno Senior’s, and though I didn’t know it at the time there was in fact another level of daysailing grandeur to be found in the Stuart Knockabouts, Dark Harbor 20’s, Buzzard’s Bay 15’s and 25’s. But the daysailer I am talking about now, the daysailer that appeared on the scene in the last decade or so, has as much in common with the boats built around the corner at Stuart Marine as The Breakers in Newport has in common with my house:

I’m not going to post pictures of my house but you get the idea.

These are large boats for serious and knowledgeable sailors who have come to expect spacious cockpits for entertaining under sail and at the dock, powered furling and sail trim, a full complement of navigation electronics, and luxurious creature comforts like air conditioning, refrigeration, satellite radio, etc. Perhaps most significantly, the clientele for this new breed of daysailer seems to place equal emphasis on quality of construction, sailing performance, and aesthetics. And by equal I mean the best of all three. From the designer’s perspective this is an intriguing design brief because optimizing one of these attributes does not imply compromise of the other two. It does imply that the budget for construction is probably not the first concern.

There’s a long standing joke in the custom boatbuilding industry that goes like this:

There’s quality, cost, and delivery date. Pick two.

As I am sure you will be able to tell from the photos, the designers and their clients for this new breed of daysailer have chosen quality. Naturally those other things come into the equation when it comes time to select a builder, but only builders who have demonstrated the ability to produce that level of quality are considered.

Recently Rockport Marine was selected as the builder of the Friendship 36. The most recent addition to this new species of daysailer comes from Ted Fontaine of the Fontaine Design Group. It is my first opportunity to work with Ted and Steve McNally, a designer from his office. It has been a genuine pleasure. One of the interesting things about my position here is that I get to see the work of a lot of different designers. The drawings and 3D models Ted and Steve have provided for this venture are as detailed and accurate as they come. Rockport Marine’s incomparable John England is heading up the project and about half of the frames are set up with the others coming shortly. Here’s what she looks like right now:

And here’s where it is all headed:

Incidentally If there are any aspiring designers reading this, I encourage you to take a position in a busy custom boatbuilding shop early in your career for the following reasons:

1. You will be forced to recognize how little you know about boatbuilding. This is a good thing because it is the first step in learning to build boats. If this lesson holds your ego in check, even for a little while, that is all to the good. 
2. The crew will frequently stomp up from the shop floor to point out how clearly your drawings convey how little you know about boatbuilding. While this may not the most gentle way to learn how to build and therefore design boats, it is probably the fastest. 
3. You will have an opportunity to review drawings from other more established and experienced designers. This is invaluable. I don’t know how long ago AutoCAD was invented, but it has taken designers a long time to master the proper use of paper space vs. model space, color dependent line weights and a whole host of other design tools. I still haven’t seen an AutoCad drawing that approaches the obsessive, compulsive beauty of one of Aage Nielsen’s white line on blue masterpieces. On the whole however, the quality of drawings I come across has improved greatly since I started doing this. There just isn’t time to learn all of it at boat school/ design school. The best way to learn it is to pore over the 2D drawings and 3D models of others.

So here is what this new breed of New England daysailers looks like. The Friendship 36 isn’t really our first foray into the field; Robert W. Stephens’ W-46 design certainly fits in this company. Inevitably I am going to leave out a boat and a design that belongs in this list. And there are a number of European designed and built boats that could fit in the category that I’ve deliberately left off, but If you have a candidate that you think belongs let me know and I’ll post the additions.

-Brendan Riordan

Bruckmann Daysailer
Hinckley DS 42

Morris 36
Morris 42 
S&S 2752 
W 46 
Friendship 40 

Labels: , , , ,


At January 18, 2013 at 4:02 AM , Blogger Website Design Portland said...

The clientele for this new breed of daysailer seems to place equal emphasis on quality of construction.
Website Design Portland

At August 6, 2014 at 3:21 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

This is a great product! I found some more information on this website:


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home