Rod Heikell's very informal site on sailing around bits of the world and an eclectic collection of things nautical or nearly so.

Boat Design

Thoughts on boat designs for cruising, on new or second-hand (or pre-owned as our American cousins like to say and it does sound better) and thoughts what sort of boats are actually out there cruising (just about anything it turns out).


Designs from Down Under

Buying on the Internet

Thoughts on yacht design (blog)

So what sort of boats do people cruise in?

So what sort of boats do people cruise in? II

Ragtime (Infidel) radical design from 1964




Designs from Down Under

 I have to confess my ideas on this sort of cruising boat have changed quite a lot since the design project for the Heresy 45. At a later date I'll try to put down some thoughts on cruising designs. Meanwhile these were my thoughts and direction ten years ago (1997).




A couple of years ago I initiated and managed a design project for a fast 45 foot cruising yacht. The Heresy 45 project aimed for a 200 mile a day yacht that was easily handled by a short-handed crew (aka ‘a couple) and had good stability and form characteristics as well as being relatively cheap to build. The project brought together a mix of sailors including offshore racing crew and straight cruising folk. There was some squabbling, but in the end the designer, John Morgan, produced a hull that should have pleased the go-fast boys and the cruisers. Unfortunately I didn’t have the money to build it, but ever since the project and it’s reams of excel worksheets, I’ve had an abiding interest in fast cruising yachts.

Down under the idea of fast cruising yachts is not something talked about in bars and clubs, but is a reality on the water. Numerous designers in New Zealand have produced fast cruising yachts that are out on the oceans putting in the miles


and the 200 mile a day yacht is no longer a concept, but a reality putting in passage times that the likes of someone like me on a 36 foot medium displacement long fin cruiser can only gawk at. While I was in Auckland for the Americas Cup I asked three well known kiwi yacht designers to explain the philosophy and the practice of fast cruising and just how they would convince cruisers in the old world that this was a practical and safe option.

My questions were more or less along the following lines with a bit of probing here and there.

Q.1   Strength: What about structural integrity in modern designs?

Q.2   Seakindliness: How do you cope with the comfort/seakindliness equation?

Q.3   Costs: What about the costs of these designs? Can you stick, say Dacron sails on, instead of composite sails?

Q.4   Loading: What about load factors in lightweight designs?

Q.5   Numbers: What are typical numbers for the boats in terms of the AVS, ballast ratio, that sort of thing?


Greg Elliott

Greg Elliott is a boat-builder turned designer because he wanted fast racing boats. He has a reputation as a hard man who goes out on his own designs and pulls out all the stops. ‘Unlike other designers’, he growled, ‘if you put a pile of sticks on the ground I can build something’. A number of his racing and racer-cruiser designs have been put into production in New Zealand, Australia and the USA, but you rarely see them in Europe. In the 90’s he shifted his attention to cruising designs and not surprisingly these were yachts that were capable of fast passages. His new Tourer range of designs are from 12 to 15 metres and already a number have clocked up impressive passage times. Greg says that he aims for boats that will do 200 miles a day under sail or power.

One thing about Greg Elliott is that his mind is always buzzing with new ideas. His new designs have what he calls ‘inside-outside flow’. On the Tourer series and other cruising yachts you walk straight through from the cockpit to a raised saloon in the pilot house. To keep water out on passage a waist high sliding door is closed with a plastic blind above it to keep spray out. The owners of Kotick, the 50 footer in this range, love the ‘movement and flow of this area’. In extreme weather it can all be closed up and secured.


Q.1   Strength: Structural integrity is a matter of engineering. Elliott Marine do some of the engineering design and the rest goes to High Modulus (an internationally respected marine engineering company in Auckland) for final figures on what dimensions scantlings and lay-up should be. ‘Look, nobody pushes a cruising boat like a racing boat. We go out there on the course and bash a racing boat to bits. I’m a boat-builder with years of experience and I know what has to go into a boat to stop it breaking.’ So structural integrity is an engineering problem and we know how to do that. In fact most of our boats are built quite conventionally with a foam core and epoxy or glass’.

Q.2   Comfort: ‘I know where you are coming from here’. I had asked him about going to windward in lightweight designs and he nods. ‘Off the wind our boats are rock steady. You can sit on 10 knots and it is like doing 5 knots in an old fashioned long keeler. You need one finger on the wheel’. But he does acknowledge that going to windward you are going to pound more than a boat with a deep V-entry and more weight. ‘But you are going slower and pointing lower anyway’ he protests about the older design. On the downwind stability I know he is right. A friend has an Elliott 12 metre cruising boat built in the early 90’s and off the wind it flies at 10-12 knots and is easy to steer.

Q.3   Costs: The costs depend to some extent on the specification. ‘Some of our cruising customers will stick Dacron sails on instead of composites. Others want every available bit of equipment’. He gives me an example of his 50 footer Kotick, built for an experienced British couple to cruise in. ‘They arrived here in a Moody 419 having averaged 4½ knots to get here. By the time they got to the Mediterranean in my 50 foot design they were averaging 7-8 knots on passage.’ Now the price of that 50 footer, built here in NZ and ready to go is around 1.2 to 1.5 million NZ dollars depending on the spec.’ A NZ dollar is currently around 2.9 to the pound, but it fluctuates and last year was as low as 3.4 to the pound.

Q.4   Loading: ‘We know we are designing cruising boats so we allow for load. On the 50 foot Kotick we allow for 1½ tons and 500 litres of water and 800 litres of fuel. It’s not an issue because we know it is going to be loaded up.’

Q.5   Numbers: On average our cruising designs have an angle of vanishing stability of around 120º. Our ballast ratios are around 38-40%.


Elliott Yacht designs


Brett Bakewell-White

Brett Bakewell-White has been a full time designer since 1994. In the last few years he has risen to prominence with a wide brief of cruising and racing designs built in NZ and Australia. In 2002 his design team was declared winner of the NZ One design keelboat competition which was looking for a competitive design to provide growth and direction for a fleet of fast keelboats of which the first is in build at Auckland now.

Like Greg Elliott, Brett had a grounding on racing yachts and his design philosophy is ‘Just because it’s a cruising boat is no excuse for it to be slow’. To this he adds that consulting with the client is all-important because a boat must be appropriate for it’s use and it must also be aesthetically pleasing. Most of Brett’s designs have a pleasing almost old fashioned sheer despite their high tech genesis and construction.

Bakewell-White cruising designs have mostly been in the 13 metre and up range, though he points out that some of his smaller racing machines have some accommodation and the owners cruise them around NZ and Australia. The cruising designs proper are mostly in the modern pilothouse mould, although he has designed a 66 foot classic for the Mediterranean and Caribbean which looks like a yacht of 40 years ago, except it is of composite construction with a very slippery underwater profile and bulb keel from present day thinking.


Q.1   Strength: ‘The last thing we want is for our boats to break’. Brett believes that racing yacht technology filters down to the cruising world in much the same way that Formula One racing technology does. In particular he believes that to get good angles and speed to windward you need a deep keel like a racing boat, but because cruising yachts want to get to places where draught is restricted then lifting keels are the way to go. A number of his cruising yachts have lifting keels and to minimise the risk if you hit something when the keel is down, he uses a sacrificial member inside the boat which will break but not compromise the structural integrity of the keel or the hull. For other parts of the hull he uses a mix of Kevlar and aramids where appropriate - at the bows, around the keel and rudder. Along with Greg Elliott, the marine engineering problems are mostly sorted by High Modulus.

Q.2   Comfort: Brett is typically dry about the comfort and seakindliness equation. ‘Well, if you are going to be out there that long you may as well be comfortable’ he says of medium displacement cruising yachts. ‘In any case our yachts are not super lightweight jobs like the current racing yachts’. More importantly he says that it is not a weight issue, but a design issue. ‘A lot of long keelers bob around uncomfortably in a sea. And in a blow a lighter boat can be safer. A heavy boat has higher loads on the spars and rigging because it has to move all that that weight. A lighter boat has lighter loads. Which is safer?’

Q.3   Costs: It depends what you build it with. ‘For example the cost of carbon fibre has dropped dramatically in the last few years. But we still use a lot of fibreglass where appropriate. Brett is pretty fond of the ‘appropriate’ word. ‘It depends what is appropriate for the use of the boat’. On sails he recommends Spectra or Vectran because they hold their shape better. ‘But Dacron is OK’ he adds, though I’m not so sure he really thinks that. On the actual cost of a boat Brett says it depends entirely on the specification. While I was writing this I looked at his brokerage section where the ’97 40 foot racer-cruiser design Time to burn was for sale for NZ$ 400K.

Q.4   Loading: Brett says his designs are modest weight-wise by NZ standards and should be looked at as medium displacement. ‘We take a realistic view of what cruising is about and for long term cruising the boat is designed to take the weight.’ He budgets for the weight of the yacht and stuff on board to take it to only half the load waterline length. And ‘it is not a structural issue, but one of volume’ he adds.

Q.5   Numbers:   ‘Ballast ratios really annoy the hell out of me. They relate to 60’s designs and do not take into account the lever.’ He is on a roll here and tells me it is obvious, which it is, that it depends on the foil acting as a lever. The deeper the weight, the more the righting moment. ‘In fact our designs can have a 25-30% ballast ratio with an angle of vanishing stability of 125º-130º. Some have 140º’.


Bakewell-White Designs


Kevin Dibley

Kevin Dibley was born in Canada, but is in most ways as much a kiwi as the natives. He has been designing yachts since the 1980’s and worked for seven years with the renowned Laurie Davidson, mostly doing Davidson cruising designs of which there are a good number out cruising around the world. If you look over his designs there is a bit of a gap in the range. He has designed fast trailer sailors and larger cruising yachts of 55 foot and up. In the middle range there are mostly racing machines. When I asked him about this he was keen to point out that with Laurie Davidson he designed cruising yachts in the mid-range. ‘We are a small design office and it depends on what comes along. We are flexible and will start with a clean sheet of paper or alter any of our existing range of designs to a client’s needs. And we follow the whole project through to completion.’

Q.1   Strength: Kevin likes to use composites as much as possible. ‘100% GRP is just too much weight’. His cruising designs make good use of Kevlar and carbon fibre around a foam core to keep weight down although solid GRP is used as well. And like the other designers he makes use of outside companies like High Modulus to get the technical specs right. He is also keen on false sections at the bows and around any lifting keel so that impact damage is contained in a watertight foam or honeycomb compartment. ‘Look’, he says, ‘This concept is recent but not unproven. I have ten yachts out cruising on the water, mostly crewed by couples, and it all works’.

Q.2   Comfort: ‘These boats are comfortable. The do have round sections.’ He tells me of how the great Olin Stephens insisted that the prismatic coefficient for racing and cruising boats differed and Kevin still follows Olin’s recommendations for cruising yachts. These new designs will pound a little more to windward, but they are a good deal more stable downwind at higher speeds.

Q.3   Costs: ‘We have a set of stock plans available, but in general, we are a custom design office. This means that each project is costed individually. Prices can vary depending on size, level of detail and level of services. We are producing a custom design so it will cost more than a standard production boat.’ But Kevin is quick to point out that changing things on a production boat costs a lot. ‘Here customising is at the beginning of the design process and the cost in the end is not much different to a production boat that has been customised at a later stage. He goes with composite sails like Vectran because sail shape is important ‘... and why would you want to put Dacron on a performance boat?’ To get an idea of costs Kevin will put together some specs and costings. ‘If a customer comes to us we can consult with him and produce plans, a VPP (velocity prediction programme) analysis and a specification book for 20% of the full design fee, though he does not get full line drawings, for obvious reasons.’

Q.4   Loading: ‘We talk to the customer. If they want a washing machine, months of provisions, and every gadget under the sun then we design the boat to allow for that.’ In fact our cruising boats carry a lot of gear.

Q.5   Figures: Kevin points to a photo on the wall of a racing boat from the Davidson stable. ‘I was on that in the Sydney-Hobart when it cart-wheeled and stayed upside-down for 5 minutes before righting itself. I don’t ever want to experience that again so our angles of vanishing stability are on the high side. Generally they are 135º to the gunwale only.’ As an AVS is calculated on most boats to include the buoyancy of the cabin as well, most of Kevin Dibley’s boats would exceed this figure in practice.


Dibley Marine


If there is one thing that impressed me with these designers and what I know of High Modulus, it is the engineering which goes into these boats. One of the criticisms levelled at these new fast cruising yachts is that they will not stand up to heavy weather. In fact the engineering that goes into the structure and loading of these yachts is the best there is and they are over-engineered rather than on-the-edge-racers. Those yachts I’ve looked at get more of a hammering in the sea off New Zealand and in the Tasman Sea than they will ever get cruising in many other places.

High Modulus was formed in 1979 and uses modern composites in racing and cruising yacht construction. Their expertise is renowned world-wide and they have offices in the Hamble and France as well as in Auckland. In the 1986 Americas Cup they did the figures for the first fibreglass 12 Metre yachts ever built and since then they have been involved in every New Zealand Americas Cup Challenge and Defence.

















Buying on the Internet

Back in the USA


This was written in 1997 after buying seven tenths. It is still relevant and after buying Skylax the same way in 2004 there is little I would change.


Buying seven tenths 1997


Bought in the USA

Everything is cheaper in the USA right. Cars, TV’s, CD’s, Levi’s and computers are all cheaper. And boats too. Anybody who has thumbed through an American sailing magazine and looked at the prices of boats and made a quick currency conversion will have been surprised at the relatively low cost of boats there. To some extent it depends on the rate of exchange against the dollar, but in general the oft quoted maxim that 1$ will buy you the same in the USA as 1£ does in the UK is about right. If you need to be convinced then just look at a common European boat for sale in the USA and compare prices to the UK. I reckon 25% less is not uncommon and in some cases prices can be as much as 35-40% less in as far as you can make comparisons between the asking price and what a boat is likely to be sold for. It got me thinking.


The Internet

Not only are things cheaper, but things are bigger in the USA and that includes the internet and web sites for everything. When the Starr Report detailing Clinton’s infidelities and whatever it was he did with a cigar was posted on the internet, the CNN website reported 300,000 hits in the first hour. More than 60% of the population has access to the internet and they use it. More of everything means more brokerage web sites than you can shake a boathook at and if you call up a general search for ‘boats for sale’ on the internet you will see what I mean. American sites account for more than 75% of brokerage sites and that gives you a lot of boats to look at. This makes looking for a boat a lot easier than phoning, faxing and writing to brokers by snailmail.

Brokerage sites tend to be either from individual brokers who set up their own web pages or there are a number of grouped sites that anyone, broker or individual, can place an advert in. The sites from individual brokers are useful in that they may provide more information and additional photos of any one boat, but suffer from the fact that they won’t have that many boats to choose from. In general it is better to start with the grouped sites where lots of boats are clumped together and look through these lists to see what is on offer and to get an idea of prices. Of the grouped sites I looked at there are only a couple that were worth going back to all the time. A bit like the anxious investor, I used to have a quick look at the sites most evenings to see if any new boats had been added to the list and if any of my favourites had been deleted.

The following three sites are the best grouped sites I found.


This site was way ahead of any others. It gives a brief description of the boat, an idea of the equipment on board, and the price, location and brokers address. It usually has at least one photo and sometimes a couple of other photos, usually of the interior.


An extensive site (nearly 5000 sailboat listings last time I looked) from Soundings magazine, although you only get a brief description and contact details and no photo.


BUC is an organisation which acts as a net for all member brokers and publishes a guide to used boat prices along the lines of Glass’ Guide which publishes used car prices in the UK. The problem with the internet site is that you get very limited information on a boat although you do get a photo and interminable messages to contact your nearest BUC broker. I will mention BUC later, but for the time being suffice to say that I did not find their web site very useful although most brokers are members of BUC and can access boats on the Bucnet.

There are a number of other grouped sites, but from my searches these turned out to be the most extensive, although not always the most useable. Once you have looked through a group site you can start looking at individual brokers sites and bookmark your favourites.


Getting organised

You need to start early looking at boats on the internet for a number of reasons.

There are going to be a lot of boats on the market that you are not familiar with. American boats often get bad press over here for shoddy construction, but they are no more or less shoddy than are manufactured in Europe and some very good boats indeed are made there. Looking at the photos will at least give you an idea of whether you can live with a boat and once you have narrowed down the options by size, design and price, you can start looking in more depth at the sort of boats you are interested in.

Early on you need to decide which part of the USA you are going to look at. In my case I was initially happy for anywhere along the eastern seaboard and as far down as the Leeward Islands and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean. It soon became apparent that there were more than enough boats in Florida to choose from and it seemed like a logical place to concentrate on. This was because there were a cluster of boats I was interested in around Miami and Fort Lauderdale and also because moving around long distance can soon add to the costs with flights, short term accommodation and hire car rates. It also makes sense to choose somewhere in the US where services and equipment are readily available. Miami and Fort Lauderdale more than fit this criteria with just about every boat service you could think of catered for. Around Fort Lauderdale alone the conservative estimate is that there are some 20,000 boats.

Once you have a number of boats you are interested in then you need to get more details from the broker. I found in most cases the boats I was interested in were with brokers and not private individuals doing their own advertising. Most brokers were on email and so it was simply a matter of emailing a request and getting additional details, the inventory and photos back by email. In some cases I would have to phone or fax and details arrived by post, usually fairly promptly.

It is best not to settle on just one boat, but have a number to look at. Photos and descriptions of a boat will tell you little about whether it has the pox, the owner has made some awful modifications, or whether it needs a new engine. Not until you actually get out there can you see just what the boat is like. In my case I had at least a dozen boats I was interested in and as it turned out, I bought one that wasn’t even on my first list. More of that later.


Organising yourself

Once you have settled on some boats, talked to some brokers, and decided to go, you can use the internet to find a cheap flight, organise an apartment, and hire a car. For example I was able to hire a car for $110 a week whereas the cheapest rate I could get from a travel agent in the UK was £160 a week. Likewise I was able to find an efficiency (read room plus bathroom and kitchen) off fashionable Las Olas Boulevard with a pool for around $650 a month which is a lot cheaper than taking a sleazy motel on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale.

When to go will depend a lot on when you can take the time off. I arrived in Florida in August which is the off season for the good reason that it is so humid that the word perspiration takes on new meaning. But being low season everything from apartments to hire cars cost less and brokers have more time on their hands to deal with you as it is the off season for selling boats as well. Paradoxically flights are not cheaper because there are few charter flights running.

It is difficult to work out how long buying a boat and organising what you are going to do with it will take, but on average I would guess it would be difficult to complete in less than a month and if the boat needs some work (and what boats don’t) then look at 6-8 weeks as the time frame.



In the USA

Once you have arrived and settled in then it is time to get on the road with the brokers. I have to say I came away with a very favourable view of most of the brokers I met. They were courteous, on time, and drove me around to see a lot of boats. Most brokers will belong to BUC and this means they have access to the Bucnet and should pull up a list of yachts they think you might be interested in once they have some idea of what you are looking for. All brokers on BUC have access to boats on other broker’s lists so you can look at boats that are not actually listed with your broker. In the end the boat I bought was not actually listed with the broker who took me to look at it, but being on the Bucnet it was available for him to sell. I dread to think how complicated it all gets working out the commission on such a sale which is split between the broker who lists the boat and the broker who actually sells it.

A good broker will work for you as well as the owner of the boat and I found them quite amenable about suggesting what sort of price I might pay for a boat compared to the asking price. They also have a lot of useful information such as which yards are to be recommended, what sort of equipment to look for, and the approximate cost of fitting a new engine or having an epoxy barrier coat put on the bottom of the boat. This is all information which you can add into your fund of knowledge when it comes to having work done on the boat.

Once you decide on a boat then there is set procedure for the sale to go ahead.

·         You make an offer and the owner can accept or reject it. After a bit of haggling a price will be agreed or you can make an offer on another boat.

·         You then lodge 10% of the price with the broker and sign a Purchase Sale Agreement. You can now take it for a test sail and have a survey done. The owner or the owner’s agent will appoint a captain to take you out, the broker will go along, and you will need a surveyor. If you are going to have the boat hauled then you or the broker need to arrange a yard to do this. You are responsible for the cost of the haulout and the surveyors fee. Why do you need to have a captain appointed by the owner along? Apparently it’s one of those insurance things or else you may be asked to pay for damage incurred on the test sail or the haul out.

·         If you decide to go ahead after the survey and test sail then you can go ahead at the agreed price or if you think there are sufficient grounds, make a revised offer. Or you can pull out of the sale altogether and get your 10% deposit back.

·         Once you have agreed to the sale the broker will do a check to make sure the boat is free of debt and not subject to any charges or there are companies that can do this for you. You should have the check done. You then obtain a bill of sale in your name. He may also obtain any pertinent paperwork such as the history of ownership, although this is not essential.

·         Once you have the bill of sale then as a non-resident you have two choices. To avoid paying sales tax in Florida you must leave within 90 days. Alternatively if you put the boat into a registered boatyard to have work carried out then when the boatyard signs you out, you have 20 days to leave. The latter option lets you put it in a boatyard and schedule repairs over a number of months and then collect it to sail out of the USA. One thing you are required to do is send back receipts for marina fees, diesel, or similar within ten days of leaving the USA to the local tax office. Sales tax varies from state to state and is currently 6½% in Florida.


And then?

Having bought your boat in Florida or elsewhere in the USA it would be a bit of a waste not to explore the Caribbean. Friends of mine have bought a boat there and set off directly back to the UK or the Mediterranean, but I spent some time cruising around the Caribbean with a visit to Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico to start things off. You are at a bit of a disadvantage going against the prevailing winds from the E-SE, but there are also a lot of places to duck into and in the winter the occasional norther blows through to aid passages to the SE. A few people have shipped the yacht back to Europe and in the overall equation this still seems to work out cheaper than buying in Europe.



There are a number of flies in the ointment. The first is the question of VAT. If you import a yacht into the EU then you are required to pay VAT. You will need to work out whether paying VAT on the boat will turn the whole thing into a financial disaster. You can pay in the Azores where the rate is 13% and Atlantic Yacht Services based there can organise it all. Alternatively you can keep it in a country outside of the EU in the Mediterranean such as Croatia, Tunisia, or Turkey.

Another factor to be considered is the recently introduced Recreational Craft Directive. This piece of badly put together legislation states that as of July 15th 1998 any craft imported into the EU must have a CE mark indicating certain standards of construction. How craft built before this date when the directive was not formulated could be built to non-existent standards demonstrates just how silly it is to apply the directive retrospectively. Craft registered in countries outside the EU are not subject to this requirement. There are a number of companies that will carry out the measurements and paperwork for you with a price tag of around £6000 and up. It would seem that many EU countries just ignore the directive though that may not be forever. It remains to be seen how it is works in practice but just as the retrospective collection of VAT on boats was patchy, I suspect the same will apply to the RCD requirements.


And moi

How did it all pan out for me. I think the best way to summarise it is to say that I would not hesitate to do it all again. I bought a Cheoy Lee Pedrick 36 for at least 40% less than I would pay in Europe. It also has pretty high equipment levels including a lot of navigation gear like radar, SSB, and cockpit instruments, a good sail inventory, good canvas and lots of American standard items like a barbecue, good refrigeration system and good canvas down to covers for the teak handrails. In addition I get to sail seven tenths down to the Caribbean for a bit before bringing her across to the Mediterranean.

One thing you should bear in mind is that Florida does get hit by hurricanes. The hurricane season officially runs from June to end of November, but the worst months are traditionally August and September. Hurricane Georges brushed by me in September ’98 without inflicting any real damage on Lauderdale. If you are a fair way inland then the chances are that unless the eye passes over you, that things will be rough but not untenable. In the canal I was berthed in most boats took lines to the other side of the canal and pulled themselves off the dock. I stayed on board while the edge of Georges passed by and really the worst part was the sauna-like conditions below as I had to keep the hatches closed with the continuous torrential rain. Squalls came through but there was little wind over 45 knots. The Florida Keys were not so lucky and from the television pictures of Puerto Rico I swear I saw some of the boats I had earmarked to look at sitting up on the road.





Useful Miami and Fort Lauderdale contacts.


I used several brokers and found the following gave good reliable service.

Florida Yacht Charters & Sales  

Miami Beach Marina

1290 Fifth St

Miami Beach

FL 33139

Tel (305) 532 7600   Fax (305) 672 2039

Web site


Jordan Yachts   (Rob Jordan)

2182 SE 17th St

Fort Lauderdale

FL 33316

Tel (954) 522 8650   Fax (954) 522 8825

Web site


The surveyor I used was recommended by the broker and having watched a few surveyors at work, I have to say I was impressed by Randall.

Randall Boiko

PO Box 431560


FL 33143

Tel   (305) 661 1016


For work on the boat I was fortunate to have Dave Davenport recommended. He will do some work himself and sub-contract other work. Most importantly he knows his way around and can tell you where to go for canvas work, sail repairs, electronics, stainless steel work, propellers, and even where to get your shoes repaired and where to find good seafood.

David W Davenport

PO Box 5101

Fort Lauderdale

FL 33310

Tel/Fax   (954) 731 8554   Beeper (954) 992 9991


For insurance I used Pantaenius in the UK who responded promptly with a quote. It is possible to get insurance in the US and there are several brokers in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Ask around for recommendations.



American built boats

The names that follow do not make up a comprehensive list, but are recommendations from friends familiar with the American market or boats I knew something about anyway.

If you are looking at top notch boats then the following American built sailboats (you need to start acquiring the language) can be included: Hinkley, Cabo Rico, Sabre, Morris, Crealock (Pacific Seacraft), Island Packet, and Caliber.

Less expensive are the following: Cal, C&C, Tayana, Tartan, Pearson, Ericson, Gozzard, Endeavour, Bristol, Morgan, and Gulfstar.

There are also a lot of European or known US boats such as Hunter, Beneteau, Jeanneau, Catalina, Dufour and Gibsea. Then there boats from all sorts of American and overseas manufacturers (including the UK) which were imported or sailed over to the US.

Some of the boats I was interested in were: C&C 38, C&C Landfall 38, C&C 40, Dufour Frers 39, Beneteau (Moorings) 38, Kalik 40, Freedom (Hoyt) 40, Newport 41, Cal 39, Endeavour 40, and Morgan 382 amongst others. In the end there were around 4 yachts which fitted the bill and it came down to condition and equipment levels.






And in 2004 I did it all again and bought Skylax, a Cardinal 46 in Lauderdale. More on that later but given an exchange rate of near enough $2US=1£GBP things are better than when I bought seven tenths and Skylax.



From the Skylax blog 08-08-07


Brief thoughts on modern yacht design

Yacht design has always had fads and fashions. Think of all those awful distorted IOR hulls that made it into production as cruiser/racers basically because they offered a lot more volume than older cruiser/racers. It’s no wonder that a mantra could be heard all around the cruising community of ‘long keel good/fin keel bad’ when what was really meant was that IOR derived hulls were pigs downwind whereas long-keeled older boats were easier (and slower) to drive.

Now there are other fashions around that don’t suit cruising in warmer climes, the Mediterranean and the Tropics, but which are flavour of the month if you cast your eye over new boat designs.

Pilot houses (Deck saloons)

A pilot house letting in lots of light and allowing a panoramic view outside must be wonderful in colder latitudes. But put one anywhere there is a bit of sun and the owner will be scampering off to get canvas covers made up to cover up all those windows which just turn the boat into a super-heated greenhouse below. The object in warmer climes is to keep out as much sun as possible while allowing maximum ventilation and that’s why you put covers over all your perspex deck hatches. So if you are contemplating cruising anywhere warm discard the pilot house/deck saloon options and get a design which has a decent number of opening hatches to funnel air below. You will be spending most of your time outside in the cockpit (with a good bimini and an awning for shade) anyway and not inside the deck saloon.

Cover it up in the sun - OK this is on a motorboat but the same goes for deck saloons on sailing boats.

Fat arses

While there should always be a place for fat bottomed girls, as the song goes, it shouldn’t be on production cruiser/racers. Crewed up racing boats and Open 50’s and 60’s with canting keels are not what I’m talking about, though you wouldn’t want to go to windward for too long in one without ear-plugs. I’m talking about average production boats that are not overly wide at the stern, but wide enough, and into which the designer has tucked two quarter berth cabins which in turn push cockpit stowage even further aft. Imagine piling up a 100 metres of 10mm chain, a couple of big anchors, cans of fuel and water, maybe a generator and a watermaker as well at the back of the boat, and you have a boat which is arse heavy. Take a peek inside an older design (say 15 years ago) or in an Open 60 and you will find the back end is virtually empty. Boats don’t like to have a lot of weight at the pointy end and the blunt end. OK we all carry anchor and chain forward, but an effort should be made to minimise this as much as possible and carry light stuff under the forepeak berth(s). But on boats with the weight of two quarter berth cabins and cockpit stowage right aft the weight distribution is all wrong.

Now I have a theory (amongst others) that this weight concentrated in the aft end of the boat has distorted keel design and position. Have keels moved further forward on modern production boats. I’m sure any yacht designer would shoot me down in flames, but I’m still wandering around boatyards and looking at these boats and some of them don’t look right.

Less contentious is the fact that these designs are touted as off the wind flyers, but what happens when you need to go to windward, and lets face it, there is a lot more windward work involved even on a tradewind route than most people imagine. And what if you want to get somewhere interesting that lies upwind? Getting one of these fat arsed beauties going to windward is not easy because they like to be sailed flat or those stern quarters start digging in and the boat gripes awfully. Even worse they don’t seem to be that stable downwind, at least on some of the common modern designs I’ve sailed. I won’t name them but you should have a pretty good idea which ones I’m talking about from the biggest European boatbuilders.

Compare the stern sections of Skylax on the left and a pretty typical AWB on the right

Swept back spreaders

Yeah I know engineering-wise it works and it cuts down on weight aloft, but you can never sail directly downwind, at least with the main up. I remember on a trip from Antigua to the Azores a modern 46 footer came flying past our starboard quarter at around 110 degrees to the wind while we ambled downwind wing and wing. Two days later the same boat appeared on our port side after gybing over, again around 110 degrees, and just scraped past in front of us. Now this guy was putting a lot of effort into sailing his angles but it didn’t seem to have paid off over a two day period (and we really were just ambling along) unless he had run out of wind or something else had happened.

A conventional rig with simple straight spreaders may be old fashioned, but you do get to go dead downwind and that works for me and lots of others.

Self-tacking jibs

Along with swept back spreaders there is the fashion for non-overlapping self-tacking jibs. The design imperative is a fairly large main so the boat is more main-driven than genny-driven and the convenience of a self-tacking jib. When the wind is light you put up an asymmetric the brochure blurb says. Come on, most cruising boats are handled by a couple and when the wind is light it’s not often you go forward and hassle about with an asymmetric. Skylax is a pretty main driven boat, but we still go for a 145% genny because it covers 90% plus of the wind range we come across. In fact the asymmetric on Skylax is so old that I’m pretty sure the next time it goes up it’s going to shred anyway. So go for a big genny and some decent deck gear to handle it.

 Nice arse, good sized genny, sweet boat (old First 345)


What sort of boats

From the Skylax blog 10-08-08

So what sort of boats do people cruise in?

These photos are a snapshot, nothing scientific, of the boats around Skylax in the anchorage in the lagoon off Marina Taina in Papeete that are cruising the Pacific. Many I know and some I don't, but most of the ones I know have cruised from Europe as part of a circumnavigation. So in case you were wondering what sort of boat you need, and getting totally confused by the flashy adverts in yachting magazines, the recommendations from 'experts' and other bad advice, here are the people actually doing it around Skylax. As I say, nothing scientific here...

 Chanticler, a NZ 50 footer finishing circumnavigation. Probably triple skin kauri. Crew of 2.

60 ft aluminium boat, looks like it could venture down into the Antartic or other rufty-tufty places. Crew of around 4.

Aqua Libra, a 40ft steel Bruce Roberts Spray design out of the UK. Crew of 2 and small daughter.

Fontaine Pajot 40 something cat. Crew of 2.

30 something ft French steel chine boat.

40 ft French steel centre cockpit boat. Crew of 1?

30ft (?) French chine steel boat. Crew of 1. For some reason the three French steel boats around Skylax are all yellow.

41 ft Jeanneau sun fizz. Crew of 2.

Jellyfish, a NZ 42 Beneteau (ex-charter). Crew of 2.

Ovni 43. Crew of 3?

Peggy West, Irish Nicholson 35. Left Ireland for NZ. Crew of 2.

Ramprasad, ferrocement Golden Cowrie 39. Crew of 1 (sometimes 2). Just behind is Stream Spirit, a Fontaine Pajot Bahia 38. Crew of 2.

Timoraire, a NZ Salar 40 finishing circumnavigation to NZ. Crew of 2.

Timshel, an Australian 45ft (?) ketch. Crew of 2-3.


What sort of boats do people cruise in II

From the Skylax blog 12-07-09

So what sort of boats do people cruise in? II

Like the informal survey of boats around Skylax in Papeete, these photos are a snapshot, nothing scientific, of the boats around Skylax in the anchorage behind Iriki Island in Port Vila, Vanuatu. Some I know and some I don't. So in case you were wondering what sort of boat you need, and getting totally confused by the flashy adverts in yachting magazines, the recommendations from 'experts' and other bad advice, here are the people actually doing it around Skylax. As I say, nothing scientific here...

Older 55ft Australian cruising ketch. Crew of 2-3. Ferro construction?

Steel Endurance 38

Older Halberg Rassey 42. Crew of 2.

Hylas 46? Crew of 2.

38-40ft steel cruiser. Crew of 2.

Tom & Vicky Jackson's Sunstone. S&S 40 built by McGruer in 1964. Has covered more miles than most of us have had hot dinners.


From the Skylax blog 09-12-08


The incredible Ragtime, originally Infidel, was hauled out in Gulf Harbour for a few repairs including checking the chainplates. This incredible sailing boat was built in ply in 1964 (yes, that is 1964) to a design by John Spencer and was light years ahead of her time. She was a 60 ft lightweight flier and although her original keel has been replaced with a modern bulb, the mast replaced by a carbon stick and probably half of her plywood replaced as well, she is still in essence the boat designed and built by John Spencer for the late Sir Tom Clark in NZ. Nowadays she is owned by an American Chris Welch and in the northern hemisphere she has raced more Transpacs than any other boat and won four of them from 1971 to 1974. Add to that a cabinet full of cups from other races and that she sails on her own bottom to most places - she only recently arrived down in NZ from San Francisco for the Coastal Classic.

Hard to imagine that this dates from 1964


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