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Old 26-02-2015, 11:21   #1
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St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Hello all. Long time listener, first time caller, all that jazz. I finally chimed in on a thread after years of perusing the forums, as I saw a poster was interested in two boats that I took a long, hard look at. I ended up with something else, but I'm of the mindset that most boats are better than no boats. It's all about the right boat for you and what you want to do with it.

For me, I decided on a St. Francis 50. This will be hull #19 of the line, and I should take delivery July-ish. A few users of this forum have already asked if I would keep a log of the build process, so I'm starting this thread so as to not derail others. Also, I always appreciated the info shared by other boat owners while doing the years of research that went into this decision, so I'm happy to pay back in whatever small way that I can.

I started a blog with some build and design notes. Just checking with the builder to make sure it's okay to share schematics and tooling photos. If so, I'll duplicate that content here. Until then, if anyone has questions or comments about the boat, why I chose it, my sailing history, my plans, the meaning of life, fire away.

This is me at the helm of hull #18, Guinevere, which also sold at the show this year:

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Old 27-02-2015, 04:35   #2
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

There is no such thing as a perfect boat. Every choice is a compromise. What I love about the St. Francis is that*you even have choices. These are semi-custom boats, in that the hull molds are reused and structural bulkheads can't be changed, but everything else is up to you and what you are willing to spend. Many of the options don't cost a thing. Since the furniture is hand-built, rather than popped out of molds, you can travel to the yard in St. Francis Bay, South Africa and lay the boat out how you choose at no extra charge.

For instance, one of the things I don't like about many catamarans is the curved settees in the salon. From my time aboard other boats, I find these designs uncomfortable for lounging. There's no straight back to rest against and stretch your feet out. And if you try to lay down, you have to curve your body to match the curve of the cushions.

I prefer something more like a booth, where you sit facing each other for conversing, playing cards or chess, and able to look to the side to see forward rather than having to turn all the way around. So I asked the builder to square up the settee and turn one side into a chaise lounge that will look directly out the salon door and out over the aft of the boat. You can see that design below:



The settee table will drop down to form a daybed, which I see us using a lot not for guests but for sleeping up-top or for watching a movie on a rainy day. The three cushions along the centerline of the boat will probably be a tad longer. There will be room here for an adult to stretch all the way out. I feel some serious reading and napping taking place here. Again, the view from this placement is straight out the back of the boat. For me, it's just ideal.

As you can see, part of this design includes doubling the width of the nav station, so two people can sit at a bench instead of one person at a chair. My experience on other boats*is that often two people want to look over routes and waypoints together, or share a laptop screen to check the weather while planning a cruise. The wider station will also allow me to keep a laptop open without the screen covering any of the instruments, another annoyance I've run into on other boats, as the temptation is always to fill that expanse of space with lots of gizmos you don't really need or rarely use. I plan on leaving a large space, understanding that my open laptop screen will fill it.

This nav station will serve as my office. While I looked at some boats that had entire hulls dedicated to the owners, complete with desks, I'd rather work up top with a view. Not pictured in the above drawing is a rack of drawers on the right side of the nav station that will come out beside the bench, matching the extension on the left side. The nav station and settee meet at the centerline of the boat. What's cool about the settee design is that it still seats the same number of people, they are just wrapped around a rectangular table, with room for four of the people to face one another, rather than sit at a huge crescent, facing aft.

Down below, there will be some major changes as well. Where I got really lucky with this boat is the stage of build she's in. The hull was going to be laid up the week after the show, and the deck has already been laid up. That means the shortest possible wait for delivery while still getting the boat in time to make some cool changes. The biggest of these is to the portholes.

I'm really glad I got to spend a few days living on the boat and sailing her for a decent passage. This was hull #18 of the St. Francis 50, a gorgeous boat named Guinevere. I loved the boat so much that I considered just buying it so I could move aboard immediately. The boat ended up selling during the Miami show to a lovely and very lucky couple. I would've been thrilled with the boat, but now I get a chance to tweak some things for hull #19.

During my time aboard Guinevere,*I slept in the port forward bunk, which is nearly identical to the master suite on the starboard side.*While in the bunk, you face the side of the hull, where you see a mirror and a dressing station. There's great storage space here, but what I would really prefer is to look out over the anchorage or the horizon. I asked the builder if this was a possibility. We walked back to the aft bunk, which has an amazing fixed glass porthole right beside the bed, and told him I'd probably sleep back there just for the view.

Duncan showed me the design for the next boat, which was to have a new, second large fixed porthole on both hulls. You can see the location in the schematic above. One of the portholes is over the freezer, on the port side. There will also be one in that blank space just forward of the hanging closet on the starboard side. You can just barely see the double thickness on the edge of the hull showing the location and size of these new windows. You all are the first to see this new design; the boat will be shown to the public in Annapolis.

I told Duncan that I loved the idea of adding more light and a bigger view below, and could we do the same at the foot of the two forward bunks? We sketched out a few designs, all of which were at first planned*around the shape of the existing mirror, which was a more vertical layout. The curve of the hull here would make that difficult. Duncan went out on the neighboring boat to measure and look at a few things. And then I asked if we couldn't just scrap the entire dresser design and go with a matching window like the ones he's adding just aft of the bulkhead.

Duncan*loved the idea. He was worried about how narrow the cupboards would be to either side, but this led to something else I wished the boat had, and that's a handful of open shelves. Now, the St. Francis 50 is loaded with cupboards. Anywhere there's interior volume, Duncan puts a hatch or a door so you can use that space. There's so many cubbies that I've warned Amber that we aren't allowed to use them all. You could easily pack too much stuff onto this boat. I can't say this enough: There's room for everything.

So I wasn't worried about giving up the cabinets to win the view and the light. The same was true of these new open shelves, which will allow us to keep a few books on display (not too many!) and some seashells, pictures of family, and other things that make a space feel like a home (without feeling cluttered). You can see the result of these design ideas in the mockup below. This will be the view from the owner's bunk on the starboard side. On the port side, those open shelves will probably be narrow cupboards. We'll make that call as the build progresses.



Another change that I'm excited about is the removal of the bathtub in the owner's suite. This might be nice to have on a few occasions, but it means a very high step to get into what will 99.5% of the time be used as a shower. So instead we're going with a shower big enough for two, with a bench seat for showering underway, and a central rain head in addition to the regular nozzle. Luxurious. My last boat didn't have a shower at all. When it rained, I grabbed a bar of soap and ran out on deck to take a shivering bath.

The next*change is a pretty involved one that I didn't think Duncan would go for, but he seems to love a good challenge. I'm hooked on paddleboarding. I love the exercise, the ability to see down into the water, and the meditative aspects. We go often here in Jupiter, and while on a friend's boat recently, I took the board out every day, either at sunrise or sunset. What stinks about paddleboards is there's no place to put them. And yeah, I know the inflatable boards are getting better, but you tend to leave them inflated, otherwise you would never use them every day. So these boards end up lashed to the rails, where they look awful, get banged up, and create windage.

The St. Francis 50 has two storage compartments on either side of the cockpit where you can put boat hooks, fishing rods, skis, wakeboards, surfboards, etc. I love these spaces. Boats get cluttered with the items that are too long to fit anywhere else. During the delivery, I spent a lot of time walking around with a tape measure and a sketch pad, trying to sort out how to get a paddleboard into one of these spaces. The problem is that the cavity isn't nearly long enough. The width is adequate, as long as the hatch door can be changed, which Duncan said is no problem. So how do I get a ten*and a half foot board into a seven*foot hole?

It turns out that cavity bumps into the sheet locker, which is plenty deep enough to give up six inches at the bottom. So that adds a foot and a half to the cavity and moves it*right up to the saloon bulkhead. Which got me poking around inside, where I discovered that the cavity could continue forward and intrude into the galley. It'll mean giving up one cupboard, which will become a shallow spice rack. That's an easy trade. As far as I know, this'll be the first catamaran anywhere close to its size with a dedicated paddleboard garage (the Neel 65 trimaran has something like this in its amas). I can't wait to see if it works and be able to demo this with a paddleboard at the Annapolis show. A great bonus to this design is the quick launch of the board, since it's right there at the aft steps. And no need to lash it to the rails or watch it take a beating.

More tweaks are in store. I'll update with another post as we progress! Until then, you can see below*the new fixed windows set into the hull. This is a photo from the yard, and my first physical look at any part of my new boat. To appreciate how large those windows are, look at the schematic above. There's a good 2.5 feet between those windows, so the windows themselves are nearly three feet wide! Soon, that won't be cardboard I'm looking out at, but a brilliant sunrise.

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Old 27-02-2015, 05:54   #3
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Thanks Hugh - look forward to your updates!

Brad
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Old 27-02-2015, 07:01   #4
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

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Originally Posted by Hugh Howey View Post
I started a blog with some build and design notes.
Hugh, thanks so much for sharing. What is the link to the blog when you get a chance? I'd rather read that if possible.

Thanks,
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Old 27-02-2015, 07:05   #5
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Congratulations on a great choice!


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Old 27-02-2015, 07:52   #6
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Great that you started this thread. Here are some of my questions:


What are your plans for the boat?
Will you live on it?
Where will you go?
Are you doing the galley up or down?


I spent a lot of time thinking about the SF50 before buying Palarran. Probably should have just ordered one but the economy was tanking right then and I wasn't sure of my future. And Palarran was about 1/2 the cost.


After 5 years of having Palarran one of the major items on any boat I'd look at is the tender storage and method of deployment. We use ours all the time and for very long runs. Two years ago we tendered from Anti Paxos all the way around Paxos and back, and that's not unusual. A 14' rib with 40hp motor and jockey console is perfect IMO. The SF is nice because you can chock the rib on a platform. I've read that the in-boom lifting system isn't ideal though. Is this what they are still using?


If your going to the Med a hydraulic passerelle would be super nice to have. On one Lagoon power cat I saw they used the passerelle as a dingy crane also. That was a pretty sweet set-up.


You look pretty young btw. Are you going to have a lot of family and friends join you? We often have 8 to 10 people aboard and one thing that would have been nice is a type of bunk room for kids, 4 single berths in one cabin.


Just a few ideas but may not be applicable.
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Old 27-02-2015, 09:46   #7
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Lots of good wishes with your purchase - I second the commentary on dinghy storage and handling. We run an all aluminium RIB (Looks like a conventional semi rigid but is 100% ali) with a 25hp Enduro Yamaha. The lift was also via the boom but we struggled with it and added a goal post arrangement - with solar panels on it and the dinghy was hauled aboard from it as well. Your boat is a great choice and you shall be starting your cruising from a great location.
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Old 27-02-2015, 14:29   #8
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Quote:
Originally Posted by Palarran View Post
Great that you started this thread. Here are some of my questions:


What are your plans for the boat?
Will you live on it?
Where will you go?
Are you doing the galley up or down?
I'll be living aboard from the day I take delivery. Everything I own is now in an 8' X 6' storage unit. Just need to sell my car and my motorcycle before I fly to SA and take delivery. My plan is to live aboard for the next 10 or so years. I'd say "forever," but I've given up on any sort of consistency of self. The last time I lived aboard, I said I would never move off a boat for any reason. And then I did.

I'd like to circumnavigate, but I'm not setting goals or destinations. I'll just go where the wind and my predilections take me. I'm semi-retired in that I'll continue doing what I love to do (write novels), but it isn't necessary for me to sell any more. So I'll treat it like a hobby.

Galley up. I never understood the argument for galley down, not if you can have a wrap around counter in the galley, like the St. Francis does. There's a better chance of hurting yourself going up and down the stairs with hot things than there is of hurting yourself in either galley design. I find guests and crew stay less queasy in a galley up, both because it's central to the motion of the boat, and better ventilation and sight lines to the horizon. I see zero advantages to a galley down, but that's just my opinion.

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Originally Posted by Palarran View Post
I spent a lot of time thinking about the SF50 before buying Palarran. Probably should have just ordered one but the economy was tanking right then and I wasn't sure of my future. And Palarran was about 1/2 the cost.
I very nearly went with a Helia 44' because it was almost half the cost. It's hard to spend this much on a single item. I'd say you probably did the right thing for the time. And you've been out there doing it, which is the key.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Palarran View Post
After 5 years of having Palarran one of the major items on any boat I'd look at is the tender storage and method of deployment. We use ours all the time and for very long runs. Two years ago we tendered from Anti Paxos all the way around Paxos and back, and that's not unusual. A 14' rib with 40hp motor and jockey console is perfect IMO. The SF is nice because you can chock the rib on a platform. I've read that the in-boom lifting system isn't ideal though. Is this what they are still using?
There are dozens of things I love about the St. Francis, but the dinghy storage is one of the top. I don't want something dangling. The in-boom system works great, once you get the hang of it. It's helpful to realize that the pressure is not so much down on the boom as a lateral pressure on the extension, forcing it into the boom. You can lift a 13' tender that weighs 650 pounds by yourself with practice. I'd say the only drawback is not being able to quickly hitch the tender up to two snap shackles and just lift it a little out of the water like I'm used to. I'm hoping I never get lazy and start leaving the tender in the water overnight, as that's just inviting trouble.

The builder has an idea for a new davit design in addition to the in-boom hoist. I may work on that with him for this hull. If so, I'll share the design and build process as we go through it. It's pretty innovative. Oh, and they brought one St. Francis 50 over with a fiberglass motor cat on that platform. The motor cat weighed over 2,000 pounds, and the delivery skipper said they still made good time on the crossing. Damn impressive.

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Originally Posted by Palarran View Post
If your going to the Med a hydraulic passerelle would be super nice to have. On one Lagoon power cat I saw they used the passerelle as a dingy crane also. That was a pretty sweet set-up.
I've seen that and really liked it. The St. Francis has a great solution as well. The chocks the dinghy sits in are removable, so you don't stub your toe and can use the aft deck like a back porch. They just slot into SS sleeves, without even a pin. The weight of the dinghy (plus your down straps) keep them in place. So you pop those out when you dock, and you use the SS sleeve to hold the pin of your passerelle, which allows it to swing from side to side. Really smart design. And it lets you board right into the cockpit, rather than onto the side stairs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Palarran View Post
You look pretty young btw. Are you going to have a lot of family and friends join you? We often have 8 to 10 people aboard and one thing that would have been nice is a type of bunk room for kids, 4 single berths in one cabin.

Just a few ideas but may not be applicable.
I'll turn 40 right as I take delivery. It sure feels young. But the last time I did this, I was 20. And that was YOUNG, young. Like, criminally stupid young. I'm a legal level of stupid these days.

I'll have friends and family join now and then, but I'll mostly be single-handing. There's room for 13 to sleep on this boat. The saloon table and cockpit tables both lower to make beds, with cushions stored in a humongous cubby in the port aft stateroom. The starboard aft stateroom has a child's bunk next to the bed that two kids could sleep in if they wanted. I'll never have that many aboard, but the thing is incredibly spacious. It feels like a 60' cat inside. Not sure why. Especially to have such narrow hulls (which you can see in the plans, and is why she scoots as well as she does).
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Old 27-02-2015, 14:34   #9
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

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Hugh, thanks so much for sharing. What is the link to the blog when you get a chance? I'd rather read that if possible.

Thanks,
- Ray
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Wayfinder | A Life at Sea

I'll try to post content in both places, as I think it's easier to get feedback and have a conversation on a forum like this. But the presentation on the blog is probably better just for the reading.


Dave & Southern Star: Thanks for the well-wishes! Really appreciate it.

Bulawayo: Great choice. I'm going aluminum as well. I went with a 13' AB. Their ALX model. It has a console, and the biggest bow locker I've ever seen on a tender anywhere near this size. The bow locker actually takes a triangular 6 gallon gas tank, which puts weight forward and leaves storage under the bench seats. And the locker is big enough that the anchor, chain, and rode can fit in there as well. I haven't had it on the water yet, but as far as design, it's the nicest RIB I've ever seen. Perfect for scuba, snorkeling, spear fishing, beaching, etc.
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Old 27-02-2015, 16:17   #10
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

Congratulatiosn Hugh,

Can you give more less the price for a finished boat ? If you are not allowed to do it publicly, you can send to me a PM too.. You said somewhere the double of Helia which hits the 1 mio USD mark, correct ?

Cheers

Yeloya
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Old 27-02-2015, 16:31   #11
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

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Congratulatiosn Hugh,

Can you give more less the price for a finished boat ? If you are not allowed to do it publicly, you can send to me a PM too.. You said somewhere the double of Helia which hits the 1 mio USD mark, correct ?

Cheers

Yeloya
The Helia I looked at, brand new, was nowhere close to 1 million US. The Euro is very weak compared to the dollar right now. You can get the 50' Saba for under 1 million US, in fact. And it's a lot more boat than the 44' Helia (of the two, I actually like the Helia a lot more).

The St. Francis 50 was comparable in price to the 50' Saba. And in my view, it's a much higher quality boat. I wouldn't be surprised if the St. Francis goes up in price in the future. I think they've got them priced too low for what you get. The fact that an Antares 44i goes for over a million is pretty shocking. The St. Francis costs less, is better equipped, carries a bigger tender, and is a lot more boat.

Don't get me wrong, all of these boats are nice, and I would've been happy on any of them, but it came down to the Helia and the St. Francis, and they are very different boats, at very different prices.


Edited to add: I should point out that the price of the Fountaine Pajots has plummeted with the decline of the Euro. I got to know the owner of a 44' Helia at the show, and I could get his exact boat for $100,000+ less than he paid for it a year ago. That's insane. If you're paying with dollars, and you're close to a decision, now's a good time to jump. Even with the St. Francis, I got a good deal and the builder got a good deal. I paid what felt like a very fair price, and the conversion is going to net them more than usual. We both do well.
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Old 27-02-2015, 17:00   #12
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

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Originally Posted by Hugh Howey View Post
The Helia I looked at, brand new, was nowhere close to 1 million US. The Euro is very weak compared to the dollar right now. You can get the 50' Saba for under 1 million US, in fact. And it's a lot more boat than the 44' Helia (of the two, I actually like the Helia a lot more).

.
Sorry, I wasn't quite clear on my previous message; I was saying that you said Helia would cost almost the half of St Francis. Helia app. 500 USd X 2 , so St Francis would hit 1 mio USD mark, not the Helia ..

With current exchange rates Saba should be around K 800 USD. Does St Francis sells for; USD, Euro or Rand ?

If I had to chose between Saba and St Francis ; I would call for St Francis. If I were to buy as a charter investment, Saba can have a better ROI..

Anyway, enjoy yr boat and if you happen to come to Turkey, let me know..

Cheers

Yeloya
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Old 27-02-2015, 17:49   #13
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

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Sorry, I wasn't quite clear on my previous message; I was saying that you said Helia would cost almost the half of St Francis. Helia app. 500 USd X 2 , so St Francis would hit 1 mio USD mark, not the Helia ..

With current exchange rates Saba should be around K 800 USD. Does St Francis sells for; USD, Euro or Rand ?

If I had to chose between Saba and St Francis ; I would call for St Francis. If I were to buy as a charter investment, Saba can have a better ROI..

Anyway, enjoy yr boat and if you happen to come to Turkey, let me know..

Cheers

Yeloya
Ah, then you are right on the money. Within 10%, anyway. I paid USD, as that was a better deal for everyone. And yeah, the Saba would be better for charter, especially with the 6 staterooms. But I think the Francis would make a fine charter boat as well. And I mostly want to use it for myself.

I was in Istanbul last year and fell in love with the place. The Turkish people are amazing. I didn't want to leave. Really want to come back and sail the west coast, which friends who live there say is amazing.
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Old 27-02-2015, 20:17   #14
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

I'm very much looking forward to this thread, especially for your insights of the build process and the pics of the new features/design.

Quick question. During your deliberation between SF and others, did you consider the Outreemer 51? If so, I'm curious about the factors that made the SF win at the end.

Congrats again on a great boat! BB.


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Old 27-02-2015, 20:48   #15
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Re: St. Francis 50: "Wayfinder"

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I'm very much looking forward to this thread, especially for your insights of the build process and the pics of the new features/design.

Quick question. During your deliberation between SF and others, did you consider the Outreemer 51? If so, I'm curious about the factors that made the SF win at the end.

Congrats again on a great boat! BB.


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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.
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