Boats & Gear


Tandem Island

Now this was a fun assignment! I’ve had a few glancing encounters over the years with Hobie’s roto-molded Mirage Drive kayaks and even sailed one once for a few minutes, but never before had I been asked to officially test-sail one. This took place courtesy of Fay’s Boat Yard on Lake Winnipesaukee a couple of weeks ago. I know what you’re thinking, that these things are just glorified pool toys, but really I was impressed by how well engineered this little vessel is.

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2015 NEWPORT INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW: More Euro Invaders and Some Cool American Boats As Well


Walking the docks at Newport last week I couldn’t help noticing that the seemingly never-ending invasion of Euro boats into the American market continues apace. Two new brands in evidence this year were Euphoria and Azuree, both of which are creatures of Sirena Marine, a Turkish builder that previously did contract work for others (most notably building powerboats for Azimut) and a few years ago struck out on its own. Yes, I know most of Turkey is not in Europe, but still, the Euphoria 54 (see photo up top), designed by German Frers, reads as a sleek luxury performance cruiser in the best Euro style.

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BELLA LUNA: New Alerion-based Daysailer From French & Webb and Chuck Paine

F&W Alerion

Boat-testing season is upon me again, and what better way to start it than by spending a day with Art Paine (sailor-artist-journo twin brother to designer Chuck Paine) and Todd French (from the Belfast-based boatbuilder in midcoast Maine) loitering about the waters off Southwest Harbor in this fabulous boat. The original Alerion, a daysailer designed by Nat Herreshoff for his own use back in 1912, is perhaps one of the most iconic classic small boats ever created. One modern builder has seen fit to hijack the name for its own line of high-end retro-style boats, boats faithful to the original design are still built from time to time, and a few variations have been assayed over the years.

This particular variation has especially serendipitous origins. These begin with a knowledgeable private owner, Michael Rindler, who came to French & Webb seeking an Alerion-style daysailer in cold-molded wood, but stiffer and less hard-mouthed than the original keel-centerboard boat, with a round cockpit coaming aft. French & Webb brought in Chuck Paine to fiddle with the hull shape, underbody, and rig (Rindler quickly rejected a fin-keel variation and insisted on a full keel), while the interior and the deck with its elegant cockpit-and-cabinhouse oval footprint were designed in-house by eye as French & Webb actually built the boat. The result is one of the smoothest sailing and steering boats you’re likely to ever meet, combined with a sweet organic built-by-eye aesthetic.

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OCT in action

I’ve been studying the specs on this new Offshore Cruising Tender (see image above), which was developed by Russell and Karin Carlyon, a Kiwi cruising couple who evidently often found themselves pining for a better dinghy during their 7-year circumnavigation. We can only presume this represents their idea of “the perfect dinghy,” which is, of course, a highly subjective concept. After studying their website I’d guess their goal here was to create a dink with most of the attributes of an RIB tender, only more rugged and durable.

It certainly has a distinctive look, and for a hard tender it is remarkably light, just 92 pounds. Construction is relatively exotic--carbon-reinforced glass with Kevlar abrasion pads over a 10mm PVC foam core--yet the Carlyons claim the boat is easily repaired. There’s also a big closed-cell foam bumper encased in Sunbrella running all the way around the hull. Their most remarkable claim is that the boat will plane when powered by a 3hp outboard.

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MODERN CRUISING SAILS: Sail Construction and Materials

Under sail

To function as a proper airfoil a modern Marconi sail must present a curved surface to the wind. To the casual eye a sail may look like a flat two-dimensional piece of cloth, but in fact it has a very specific curved shape built into it. This shape is carefully engineered, depending on what sort of sail it is and how it will be used.

To turn a piece of flat fabric into a curved foil, the fabric must be cut into panels and stitched back together again. By cutting a convex curve along one edge of a panel and stitching it to a straight edge on an adjacent panel, a process is called broadseaming, a unitary curved surface is created once all the panels are joined together. Where the edge of a sail will be attached to a straight spar, as with a mainsail bent onto a mast and boom, shape can also be created by cutting a convex curve along that edge. This is called edge-shaping and is not commonly used these days.

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SEASCAPE 18: Evangelist Test Sail With Andraž Mihelin

Andraz astern

How’s this for convenience? I get the word from SAIL HQ that I should look into test-sailing the Seascape 18 from Slovenia, recently revealed on these shores, and it turns out the new U.S. rep is based in Kittery, Maine, mere footsteps from my home. Even better, on arriving at the anointed moment last Friday at Pepperell Cove, where said rep, Toralf Strand, a tall gangly Norwegian fellow, has assembled both a Seascape 27 and 18 for test-sailing by prospective buyers and this one journalist, it turns out I’ll be sailing with Andraž Mihelin (see photo up top), one of the masterminds behind the whole Seascape concept.

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OPEN 60 DELIVERY: From Portland to Marblehead with Rich Wilson

On deck GA4

I narrowly missed my last chance to sail on an Open 60, way back in 2001 at the Heineken Regatta, when Josh Hall and Gartmore turned up a last-minute no-show due to family issues, so I was pretty psyched about getting aboard Great American IV (ex-Mirabaud) with her skipper Rich Wilson late last week. This was his first outing on the boat this summer, a delivery jaunt from Maine Yacht Center in Portland to her home mooring in Marblehead, a distance of about 100 miles. Also onboard was Jonathan Green, a local Massachusetts racing sailor (on the left in the image up top) who is assisting Rich in tuning up the boat for next year’s Vendeé Globe start in France.

Unless something pretty dramatic happens, Rich, who last ran (and finished!) the Vendeé Globe in 2008-09, will (again) be the only American sailing in the race. At age 65, he will also be the oldest competitor in the race’s history, a fact he doesn’t necessarily like to dwell upon.

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CRUISING SAILBOAT RIGS: Converting a Sloop to a Slutter

Sophie as cutter

I mentioned the concept of a "slutter," a sloop that is converted to a cutter by adding a removable inner forestay, in my last post on this subject and thought I should expound a bit on the process of the conversion. It is a popular upgrade, particularly on bluewater boats, and of course being able to hoist a staysail can also be handy on a coastal boat. My old Golden Hind 31 Sophie was a sloop when I bought her, and I converted her to a cutter rig with a removable inner forestay, although she became a true cutter, as I also increased the height of the mast and added a bowsprit to enlarge the foretriangle. In the photo up top you see Sophie post conversion, during her very first test sail, flying both a large genoa and her staysail, which in fact was something I rarely did, as it was difficult to tack the genoa around the staysail.

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GREEN 37: New Centerboard Yawl Design by Jay Paris

Profile and sailplane

Just heard recently from Jay Paris, N.A., who has been SAIL magazine's technical advisor since before time began. He sent drawings and details of an intriguing upscaled version of the 32-foot centerboard yawl he designed and built for himself. (For details on that boat be sure to check this post here.) He calls this new design the Green 37, as he claims it "reduc[es] the environmental impact of construction and operation in terms of accommodation, payload and performance." I'm scratching my head over that a bit, but in all other respects I find this a fascinating concept and would love to see one of these built someday. Knowing Jay, there are all sorts of clever details in here that won't be readily apparent until they are fully realized in three dimensions.

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