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Old 27-02-2015, 22:05   #16
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Great post.... I'm really excited for you.
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Old 28-02-2015, 10:08   #17
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

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Originally Posted by Hugh Howey View Post
I did. I love the Outremer 51. Gorgeous boat. The price at the boat show was pretty enticing. And that's another semi-custom boat that really allows you to tweak the interior to your liking. I could easily have gone with the 51, but I went with a boat I could see being more comfortable living on, at the sacrifice of a knot or two of speed.

I keep mentioning the dinghy, but it really was a major consideration. The cat will be my home, but the dinghy is where (in my experience) you have your fun. It's what you take snorkeling, or gunkholing, or out on a date, or to pick up guests, or to run to that next island over, or to shuttle neighbors, or pick up supplies. So many of the boats I looked at had saildrive mains right at the back of the boat, which means adding more weight there for a dinghy really bad for pitching and performance. With the Francis, the mains are well forward (you can even get them with shafts, if that's your thing). The boat can really handle weight on that aft platform. All else being a bit of a wash, this kept bringing me back to the boat, over and over.

I also had a great time with the builder, going through boats at three different shows, discussing design decisions and what he has planned for subsequent boats. They are never satisfied at St. Francis. One thing I haven't mentioned yet is the new saloon windows, which will be different in this hull and all future hulls. They are really blowing out the size of the saloon windows to create a wrap-around effect. It'll mean better vis inside, more light, a really different feel in there. I've seen the renders, and it looks amazing. I love all that tinkering.

Another thing I've liked is pointing out ideas and seeing the builders weigh them seriously and come back with refinements and/or enthusiasm. I want to use Harken's split track on the mast, to reduce the stack height, and after showing them the rig on a Gunboat there at the show, they were all for it. They aren't set in their ways, but they are very informed and thoughtful as well. If you have a good feeling for the people you're working with, that goes a long way. Of course, had I gotten to know the Outremer folks more, I probably would've been equally enthusiastic about going with them.
Thanks for the detailed description. I'm excited to see how your built turns out as it will be extremely helpful in our decision process. Congrats!
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Old 28-02-2015, 19:45   #18
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

There are dozens of little odds and ends about this boat that really drew me to it. Many of them seem small and trivial, but it's the cumulative effect. Moving from cat to cat at several boat shows, I would come back to the St. Francis and wonder why in the world every boat doesn't have this or that feature. Spending a few days on the boat at sea reinforced this. I thought I'd list a few here, mostly to vent my excitement. Also: I'll be on hull #18 all next week down in the Exumas, so if anyone has a specific question or wants a photo of something in particular, or a measurement, let me know. I'll be picking over the boat with the new owner, who signed a contract for his boat the day after I bought mine. We're both totally geeking out over our new purchases.

* Pretty much everything on this boat is built at the factory. They do their own stainless steel work (rails, stanchions, seat supports, etc.), and they craft a lot of the little details that many yards don't tool themselves. One of the small things that you can't appreciate unless you look at several boats side by side are the bow seats on the St. Francis. You can sit on them either way, with your legs through the rails, facing forward (toward the dolphin), or with your back against the rail. Even better, they are wide enough for two. It seems like a small thing, but I spent a bit of time here underway. These seats feel like afterthoughts on some other models. I asked the builder about this, and he beamed and bragged about being able to sit either direction, which meant something that I thought was just a happy accident was actually planned.

* This one is really silly, but it blew me away: There's a built-in tray on the starboard side in the saloon, behind the settee, and kinda under the saloon window. It's probably 18" by 24" by 5" deep. There's an outlet in this open compartment. It's the perfect place to put all your loose items that normally clutter the saloon (sunglasses, binocs, cell phones, handheld electronics), and you can charge the latter while they're in there. My girlfriend went nuts over this space, as did I. Underway, I saw how it was used, and it kept the clutter down, but those important tid-bits at hand.

* The aft deck storage. You know that raised coaming that forms the backrest of cockpit seating? Along the sides of the boat and then along the aft? This is hollow fiberglass on most boats. Nothing is left idle on the St. Francis. Along the aft, they put hatches on the back side of that raised coaming, and these compartments can take dive tanks, fishing gear, boat cleaning supplies, etc. The coamings along the sides are accessed through aft hatches as well, and these long compartments are wide enough and deep enough for wakeboards, skis, boat hooks, gaffs, fishing rods, cleaning poles, or all of this. This doesn't mean you load the boat down with lots of extra stuff, it just means the stuff you have to have on a boat are all in a specific place, not buried behind other stuff. I'll take video of this next week to share it.

* Access to the rear panels of things. This is a biggie for me. Fifteen years of living on boats and fixing all the things that break has me particular about mechanical space access. There are a handful of touches here that are just incredible well thought out. The entertainment center in the saloon, for instance. If you need to get to that, you go down in the aft port stateroom, close the door, and turn two latches in the ceiling. A panel hinges down (no tools needed!). You stick your head up in that space, and you can get to the back of your AV equipment. There's a similar trick to getting to the back of the helm electronics. I love these touches. All the wiring is impeccable as well. Everything is crimped with numbers on both ends. And every boat comes with a manual for that particular hull (sail measurements, systems, plumbing, valves, etc.)

* The bowsprit is ingenious. It telescopes in with the use of a pulley, so you don't have to reach forward of the crossbeam to send it out. A video would be needed here to appreciate the system. Hopefully we'll get the screecher out next week, and I'll get a shot of how it works.

* The anchor flies from the crossbeam, rather than back from the aft end of the trampolines. I was able to appreciate this after spending a couple weeks on a Fountaine Pajot right before I got on the St. Francis. Getting off anchor in a blow, it was easy for the skipper to cross the anchor chain with one bow or the other, even with me pointing in the direction of the anchor. Because the pivot point is back at the windlass, which allows the bows to cross the chain, even touching them if the chain is taut and you aren't careful. Sure, it's nice to have the weight of the anchor further aft, but not worth it when you spend time on two boats back to back with these different systems. One is just foolproof. And weather conditions, fatigue, and repetition turn us all into fools given enough opportunity.

* Engines inside. I was really torn about this at the last two boat shows, when I looked at the St. Francis. All I could imagine, seeing the engine placement, was the noise and smell inside the boat. As we motored into the Miami channel, I went down and sat on the bed over the running engine. The noise in my old monohull was ten times what this was. And checking the oil before we motored off the dock in Bimini showed me how nice it'll be doing maintenance without being in the elements. You can quickly take the mattress out of the stateroom, dismantle the bed frame, and have access to the entire engine. And then work on it without bugs, sun, rain, etc. interfering. I can see doing preventive maintenance during a shower that has me pinned inside. And I didn't note any smell from the bilge, or any hint of exhaust. (Also, the weight forward is part of the reason I can carry a 13' RIB with a 40 hp outboard on the aft chocks).

* Cockpit enclosure. A full fabric enclosure for the entire cockpit rolls up into recessed cubbies in the hard bimini. I can see using the side enclosures underway in a blow, and at anchor for privacy. no storing these things away where they never get used. I was able to lower the enclosure by the helm when it started spitting in the middle of the night on the Bahama Bank, then roll it back up when the cell passed. Nifty.

Tons more, but this is already too much for anyone to read. More of a log for myself, I think. Something to help the next five months hurry up and pass.
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Old 28-02-2015, 23:28   #19
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Hi Hugh, Your excitement is palpable - we can smell it. A great choice and you have written some interesting stuff. Its brilliant to read of how others view boats and what is important to them. I hope to keep reading your updates and thoughts. I saw a picture of another St Francis which had an addition to the aft swim platform where it had a folding extension to allow for sunbeds to set out. At the time I thought, wow, that is a good idea for when at anchor. I often borrow other people idea's for our boat so keep them coming. Duncan seems very helpful. We were involved with the Island Spirit when it was first being designed and its a nice feeling to see touches that we were responsibe for initiating still being included - on the Island Spirit my wife asked for an inbuilt hull step for getting aboard from a pontoon - and these are still moulded in as of today.
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Old 07-03-2015, 09:37   #20
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Just got home last night from a week spent aboard the latest St. Francis 50, which is the hull just before mine. The more time I spend on this boat, the more I come away impressed with how they are built. I've gotten to know the deck hand who helped bring the cat over from South Africa, and he told me about the demo day sail they went on following the show. Some prospective buyers were onboard when they hit 18 knots true speed in 20 knots of wind. Not loaded down for cruising, but with eight people on board. He said the buyers were taking pictures of the instruments and laughing. I'm trying to track them down to get copies of the photos. Insane, if true.

Lots of design decisions to make. Fortunately, there were three St. Francis cats in the anchorage, so I was able to spend time on more than one and take some of the ideas from each. I was sent pics from the yard showing the build progress. One of the deck reveals the much larger saloon windows, which will be standard going forward. I'll try to get those hosted so you all can see the difference between the current 50s and the upcoming 50s. The windows will now have a wraparound look, and allow for even better visibility from inside the saloon.
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Old 07-03-2015, 14:37   #21
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

That is going to be an awesome boat!!
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Old 09-03-2015, 13:06   #22
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

I had an email inquiry about the new saloon windows on the St. Francis 50. Just last week, the builder sent me an email with a few photos from the tooling process. One of them reveals the new blown-out windows.

Here's the photo of the deck of hull #19:



And here's a shot I took of hull #18 at this year's Miami Sail Only Show:



It's not just the gap between the windows that's been reduced, the windows have been enlarged top and bottom, almost down to the deck (compare the lower bit in the two photos. Also look at the thickness of the starboard side edge in the second photo with how thin the same part is on the port side of the top photo). There is going to be much better visibility inside the boat from hull #19 onward.

Not seen in these photos is the shape of the side windows, which have also been expanded. In fact, the windows now go back so far that one cabinet in the galley will have to be relocated, and you'll be able to look out at the water from the sink. Currently, standing at the sink, you look at that cabinet.

Also of note: The glass will overlap the fiberglass gaps across the front of the deck and butt up against the neighboring pane of glass. That is, the glass will "wrap around" the deck. You won't see the fiberglass in-between. And there's no loss of structural integrity, because the glass being bonded in is as strong as the fiberglass that's been cut away.

Can't wait to see it in person. If I get a shot of the new side windows, I'll post those as well.
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Old 09-03-2015, 13:37   #23
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

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And there's no loss of structural integrity, because the glass being bonded in is as strong as the fiberglass that's been cut away.
What flavor of Kool-Aid are you drinking?

It doesn't look a lot different to me. Still kind of boxy. Don't take that wrong - still love the boat.
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Old 09-03-2015, 18:26   #24
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Sorry Palarran.... I see a pretty big difference. FWIW.
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Old 10-03-2015, 05:20   #25
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

It's the exact same deck, they just blew the windows out as far as they could. So the shape is going to be the same. The difference is the amount of visibility and light.

And I think it looks better with the larger windows. It'll be hard to gauge the full effect until after the wrap-around is done with the glass. Instead of four squares across the front of the saloon, you're going to have two wide rectangles.
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Old 10-03-2015, 05:59   #26
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Another change I'm making between hull 18 and my hull is the davit system. We played with the in-boom system on hull 18, and it works very well, but it could be tricky with one person. One of the neighboring St. Francis cats had a goalpost davit that lowered down, hoisted the dinghy, then tilted up to lower it onto the chocks. Very streamlined in how the davit was shaped to conform to the existing support columns for the hard bimini. And all operated right there from the aft deck.

With the dinghy I'm getting, and some of the places I hope to visit, I'm going to try to form a rigid habit of bringing the dinghy up every night. Which means getting the simplest to operate davit possible.
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Old 10-03-2015, 06:19   #27
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

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Originally Posted by Hugh Howey View Post
Another change I'm making between hull 18 and my hull is the davit system. We played with the in-boom system on hull 18, and it works very well, but it could be tricky with one person. One of the neighboring St. Francis cats had a goalpost davit that lowered down, hoisted the dinghy, then tilted up to lower it onto the chocks. Very streamlined in how the davit was shaped to conform to the existing support columns for the hard bimini. And all operated right there from the aft deck.

With the dinghy I'm getting, and some of the places I hope to visit, I'm going to try to form a rigid habit of bringing the dinghy up every night. Which means getting the simplest to operate davit possible.

Excellent decision on the dingy lift system. You will only use the chocks when underway. If staying in the same anchorage you will just lift it up level with the dock, then tighten it against the stainless steel tube of the dock. So easy.


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Old 11-03-2015, 14:10   #28
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

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Originally Posted by Hugh Howey View Post
Another change I'm making between hull 18 and my hull is the davit system. We played with the in-boom system on hull 18, and it works very well, but it could be tricky with one person. One of the neighboring St. Francis cats had a goalpost davit that lowered down, hoisted the dinghy, then tilted up to lower it onto the chocks. Very streamlined in how the davit was shaped to conform to the existing support columns for the hard bimini. And all operated right there from the aft deck.

With the dinghy I'm getting, and some of the places I hope to visit, I'm going to try to form a rigid habit of bringing the dinghy up every night. Which means getting the simplest to operate davit possible.
I was pointed to this from my own thread (Saba vs Antares).. in reality I've started looking at a lot of other cats up to 50ft. I can't believe how much you are changing (and are allowed to change!).. unless I missed it, did you opt for the Saildrive?
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Old 11-03-2015, 14:35   #29
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

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I was pointed to this from my own thread (Saba vs Antares).. in reality I've started looking at a lot of other cats up to 50ft. I can't believe how much you are changing (and are allowed to change!).. unless I missed it, did you opt for the Saildrive?
I did opt for the saildrives. The engines on the St. Francis are far enough forward to do either, but having worked on boats with both, I much prefer saildrives. No need for packing glands, no chance of alignment issues leading to vibrations, and you can do all the maintenance on modern saildrives with the boat in the water (oil changes, zincs, etc.).

I just helped a friend move a FP to a haul out facility due to vibrations with one of his shafts, and he lamented not having saildrives. I know there is a lot of debate about this, and I don't think either side has all the answers, but I've developed a preference over the years. The cool thing about the St. Francis is that it's left up to the customer, rather than sold as a feature because a builder only does it one way.
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Old 11-03-2015, 14:59   #30
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

I cannot find it to save my life but i rented a Paddle board once that actually split into two pieces in the middle. That way you would be able to get more than one in there.
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