My boat is a steel
version of John Hanna's Tahiti ketch
. She is a fabulous bluewater
cruiser with a design reputation that spans over 80 sea-going years. Tahiti
ketches have crossed every ocean and rounded every cape on the planet. In spite of never having been a production boat, it is estimated that over a couple thousand of them have been built all over the world, and many hundreds continue to this day to carry their owners safely to their destinations.
The original 1927 Tahiti design, a 30-footer, called for wooden construction. The first conversion to steel
construction was drawn in 1947 by Weston Farmer, then editor of Modern Mechanix magazine, and the updated design was named "Tahitiana." Unfortunately, the amateur construction method called for the use of flat sheets
of steel and hard-chines, resulting in two chines showing above the waterline and, in my opinion, making for an ugly boat.
Things got real interesting in the early 1970s when Merritt Walter, an engineer
and boat builder
with an international reputation for creating large, stunningly beautiful gaff-rigged schooners for inter-island trading in the South Pacific
, was approached by "an experienced deepwater sailor intent on a yacht with a traditional look, but one with good sailing ability on all points, not just reaching and running."
The original Tahiti ketch
had a reputation for being slow and a poor windward performer. Merritt Walter conducted an engineering analysis and comparison of both Hanna's original Tahiti ketch, and Farmer's Tahitiana. Calling upon his first-hand experience with improving the speed and windward performance of his large gaff-rigged steel schooners, he introduced into the Tahiti's basic design parameters a longer waterline, an improved stem/forefoot/keel configuration, a more favorable prismatic coefficient and ballast displacement
ratio, plus a larger sail area. Tahiti ketch owners had long discovered that she was under canvassed, and Mr. Walter's refinement added 111 more square feet, to 581 sq.ft. over Tahiti's original 470 sq.ft.
The make-over was phenomenal! Merritt Walter retained all of what had made the Tahiti ketch such an exceptional sea-keeping vessel, as well as her deck/bulwark/house configuration which contributes so much to her "ship like" feel. Walter named her Tahiti Rover, and called for multi-chine steel construction, but both chines were now below the waterline, creating a curvacious hull
that mirrors precisely John Hanna's beautiful little cost-conscious cruiser.
John Hanna designed the Tahiti ketch for the average work-a-day guy of modest means. His intent was to produce a boat that would be “the best for cruising with maximum comfort and safety
, with minimum effort and risk.” My Tahiti Rover is gaff-rigged on main and mizzen, and was built in 1991. After 17 years of service
, she has not a speck of rust on her, inside or out. Once or twice a year I lift
the sole boards and wipe away the dust and galley
dribblings with a lightly oiled rag. I spend less than $100 a year on her maintenance
, most of that being for varnish
for the hatches, toe rails, and cockpit
coamings, and perhaps some halyard
or sheet cordage. A simple bronze manual windlass
handles the ground tackle, and an Aires windvane
spares the skipper
at the helm
. There is not a single halyard
or sheet winch
on board. Her motion is gentle, and she behaves like a lady in the nastiest weather
. Hanna said this about his Tahiti in a 1935 magazine article:
“She is dry; that means she stays on top of the waves, and does not tend to stick her nose under them. She is easy in her motion; she is remarkably easy to handle, and obedient to her helm
; the rig, known as the ketch rig, is extraordinarily well balanced, not only under full sails
, which all boats are, but under any combination of sails, which few boats are; and she has that much-desired but seldom-attained merit of a good cruiser, the ability to sail herself and hold course for hours with the tiller lashed.”
No other cruising design has logged more sea miles, crossed more oceans, rounded more capes in greater numbers than the Tahiti ketch. If a sailor is looking for an uncompromised blue water
vessel with impeccable sea-going credentials, it would be hard to beat the original Tahiti ketch if her sail plan was improved to enhance speed and windward performance. In steel, like Merritt Walter's Tahiti Rover, she is an incredibly strong, dry and easily handled vessel.
Although now retired, I believe Merritt Walter still sells plans for the Tahiti Rover. He has a website (Tahiti Rover by Merritt Walter
) that offers a free booklet about the design. I will be happy to answer any questions about my own Tahiti Rover. And, no, she is not for sale
at any price
, thank you very much.