I'm having a wonderful winter pottering around the Solent single-handed without a principle headsail.
Last week, I sailed down to Yarmouth dead upwind, tacking into a winter gale on staysail and deeply reefed main alone. Yesterday, after having left the boat
there to fly off on a business trip for a few days, I sailed back to my mooring
. It was one of those magic calm winter days, not a cloud in the sky, warm sun shining. Only 6 to 8 knots of wind
blowing from the NW for a broad reach, so without the most important sail on the boat
, only enough for 3 or 4 knots. But with the tide in your favor you don't care that much, and besides, sometimes it's just so lovely out there you don't want to arrive anyway. Just ghosting along up the Solent in complete silence.
In Yarmouth, I was moored opposite a lovely Nauticat 521, in absolutely gorgeous condition. This is the old S&S design with some very old-fashioned features -- long overhangs and pronounced tumblehome.
It was interesting to compare her with my boat -- much shorter, ketch
rig; much more freeboard; much shorter waterline; much bigger doghouse. So it's obvious who will sail upwind faster and closer. My boat looks like a greyhound in comparison.
But when I peeped into the pilothouse, I felt a rush of -- pilothouse envy. Wow, what a place to keep watch from on a long passage
in hard weather
. A what a wonderful place to hang out in at anchor
or on the mooring
. Like being in a room with a panoramic view overlooking the latest beautiful place you've sailed to. My boat has a raised salon
a la Oyster
, but you still sit down in the hull
. Standing in the salon
, you have a pretty good view out of decent size doghouse windows, but sitting, you only have two small hull ports
to see out of. Yes, it's pretty light and less cave-like than many monos, but it's still down in the hull.
How much more pleasant it would be in a pilothouse like that on a long passage
in the less-than-balmy weather
we usually have at this latitude. You can even turn the heat on in there! And for sailing in good weather, there is an excellent open sailing cockpit
, beautifully mated to the doghouse structure with clever design.
I do really get the tradeoffs of this design. Of course, you have lost
ultimate upwind ability with the low ketch
rig and the huge amount of windage from all that superstructure. But how important is that, really? If the engine
is big enough to power upwind when it's needed, and the tankage adequate to do it long term. You will never pay for the diesel fuel
with sailing ability, on a boat like mine, anyway. Just the laminate sails
which I need to sail hard upwind cost more than a lifetime's worth of fuel
. That Nauticat, with its modest rig and much smaller sails
, can use ordinary Dacron sails costing a fraction of what my sails cost, and should still give perfectly acceptable sailing performance off the wind
I don't know if I will ever have another boat than my own -- sometimes it seems like my life's work
to get her in good condition and configured just like I want her. But if I ever did consider a different boat, I think it would be somewhat larger than this one (maybe 60' to 65'), and maybe something with a pilothouse.