Our former boats — Elizabeth, a Bristol Channel Cutter 28 and Daphne, a Nor’sea 27 were fantastic blue water boats! Both designed by Lyle Hess, they are hard acts to follow. Both were built like tanks, and made to go anywhere. In this post I want to talk about a few of their on deck features we really liked, which have become features we seek in our new sailboat.
1. Wide Uncluttered Side Decks:
The BCC 28 did have wonderfully wide side decks. There was plenty of room to get by the shrouds without getting stuck, or having to contort ones body. There was room enough to lash a spare diesel tank without stubbing your toe. Also, the mast, mains’l and winches were all accessible at deck level. Cabin tops, upon which you must climb to work at the mast make for a high and unstable work platform in lumpy seas. We like the security of being able to remain low while at the mast.
2. Comfortable Cockpit:
The NS 27 has possibly the most comfortable cockpit ever. The aft cabin provided a perfectly angled backrest and secure area for being comfortable while on watch. Watches can be long, and being comfortable in the cockpit is paramount. Comfort allows you to stay out longer and keep a better watch, while an uncomfortable cockpit inhibits your ability to concentrate on the important tasks. The cockpit on Daphne also doubled as a fantastic under-the-stars double bunk!
3. Winches In All The Right Places:
I’m an advocate for getting to the mast to work your lines. I’m not in favor of “lines led aft” (See Ben’s SAIL Magazine article, page 26, April 2013). Winches on the mast are the only place to raise, lower and reef sails. Forget the spaghetti in the cockpit, the rope clutches, the snags, the chafe, the frustration. It’s not worth it. On Elizabeth, winches were on the mast where you can look up and see what’s happening with your rig, especially important when reefing.
4. Clutter Free Helm:
Underway, the helm is for both steering and keeping a proper lookout. The common practice of putting a TV screen sized chart plotter in front of the helmsman is counter productive. At night, those screens are blinding. I know I can’t see any stars, flotsam, or even distant ship lights when I’m staring at a plotter all night long. Instead, just give me a compass, a tiller (or wheel) and a dimly lit depth sounder.
5. Effective Ground Tackle Systems:
If the anchor is the heart of a good ground tackle set up, then the windlass is the backbone. Both our BCC and NS had manual windlass’ mounted on the foredeck, with a spill pipe. Trap doors that reveal a hidden windlass and store chain near deck level are a recipe not only for corrosion, but also more difficult anchoring. Both our boats had a bowsprit of sorts that helped keep the anchors away from the hull. The anchor rollers/fairleads were stout and designed to take a load from nearly any direction, not just straight ahead.
6. Cutter Rig:
The simplicity of a sloop rig is enticing. But adding a single inner forestay offers an additional easy option for heavy weather sail plans. Although you need to balance that inner stay with either running backs or intermediate stays, our feeling is that it is completely worth it. When the wind piped up, we simply dropped the jib, and sailed under the stays’l.
7. Keel Shape:
The full or modified full keels on our BCC and NS provide the boat with a steady track and a wide landing pad for intentional hull dryings. Our moderately heavy displacement and wineglass hull shape offered an easier motion at sea. The protected rudders and props reduced our stress over fishing lines, lobster pots and other potentially destructive debris in the water.
8. Long Waterline Length:
Hull speed is a function of waterline length. Overhangs are sure pretty, but for us, maximum waterline length is prettier. While speed is not our highest priority, making the most of our hull is. Each of our Lyle Hess designed boats had water line lengths that were about 92% of the length on deck, thereby making efficient use of their overall length.
So these are just a few of the things we loved about our former boats. Tell us what features you love about your boat or are seeking for your next boat in the comments.
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