Modern Yacht Design—What Do We Need?

A tough, comfortable boat makes for relaxed cruising

I mentioned in my last posting that we had recently chartered a relatively up to date 40 footer for our basking shark survey in Scotland. As most of my sailing over the years has been aboard my own boats, either Pèlerin (built to go anywhere) or our old Frers cutter (tough eighties cruiser-racer), I thought that two weeks on the water and sailing on a daily basis would be a good introduction to where boat production has been going in recent times. And so it was.

A Good Example

The boat in many ways epitomized the average charter boat—huge accommodation, four cabins (three doubles), two heads and showers, linear galley and dinette arrangement in the saloon. Externally, she had a big cockpit, lots of freeboard, shallow canoe body and modest draught (1.55 m). The rig was conservative with heavily swept spreaders, but she had a nice fully battened main and roller genoa, and overall she sailed well in the conditions we had. Under power a good sized Yanmar engine that was smooth and quiet (despite plenty of hours) drove her along well.

She did everything we wanted, and was comfortable and roomy to live aboard, much more so than many older designs I’ve sailed. She felt solid, and there were no signs of flimsy construction, even after a good few years in a charter fleet in the Hebrides. Wear and tear, yes, but everything functioned more or less OK. For the job she had obviously been designed for—holidaying aboard for a couple of weeks at a time, in less than demanding conditions, with a full crew—she was a great boat, and entirely fit for the purpose.

Fine For Charter—But For Cruising?

But there were elements of the boat’s design that ranged between annoying and unworkable if she were taken outside her design brief and taken long distance cruising, in my opinion. Not that it couldn’t be done, with some modification, at least one eye on the weather and a capable crew, but things that simply annoy on a two week holiday or for general weekending would take on a whole new significance when lived with full time. But I’m not blaming the boat—she was designed for a specific market, and she fitted that design brief very well indeed. What worries me is that I keep seeing the same design features that are tolerable in a ‘holiday’ boat turning up on new models from some well established cruising boat builders, where I don’t think they belong—what’s going on?

What’s Needed

In my view, a cruising boat designed for offshore passage making should possess (at least) the following attributes as a minimum standard.

Under Sail:

Be easy to handle, with the ability to reef all sails quickly and efficiently. Be able to stand up to her canvas up to at least gale force. Have a comfortable motion, to avoid tiring the crew. Have a balanced hull form so she is not prone to rounding up, and is easy on the autopilot.

On Deck:

An anchor handling system and all ancillaries that is built to cope with really severe conditions. Sufficient winch power for all crew members to work the boat. Good shelter for the crew in rough seas. Be safe to move around on deck in all conditions.

Down Below:

Have sufficient locker space for the crew’s gear to be safely stowed when on passage. Have proper, safe, secure sea berths so that the crew can rest even in bad weather. A workable galley, so that hot food (not just snacks) can be prepared in rough seas. Be safe to move around in rough conditions.

Structurally:

Be durable enough to withstand a less than extreme grounding without structural damage. Have a simple, strong rig with failsafe capability. Have a robust, reliable steering system (including the rudder) with viable back-up in an emergency.

Time For A Review

Much of what I’ve outlined is by no means impossible to achieve, and is entirely in keeping with John and Phyllis’s mantra of What Really Matters.

Over the next couple of months I’m going to return to each of these points, enlarge upon them and look at ways in which I think we’re heading in the wrong direction. I’ll offer alternative ideas or ways in which improvements can be made, from my own experience and advice from others. And I hope you’ll be part of that, too, given the wealth of real experience that’s out there with AAC readers. So please contribute your thoughts, and hopefully a bigger, better-focussed picture will emerge.

Maybe we can come up with some timely reminders for designers and builders that the sea doesn’t change, offshore requirements are very different, and that fashion belongs in the high street—not in boat design.

Like what you just read? Get lots more:


Meet the Author

Colin Speedie

Colin, European Correspondent here at AAC, is a deeply experienced offshore sailor who holds a Yachtmaster licence, and a gifted photographer and talented writer who has added a whole new dimension to Attainable Adventure Cruising. In addition, since Colin and Louise are from England and had their OVNI 435, Pèlerin built in France, they bring a European perspective to our site. You can read more about Colin and Louise and their business at their website.

25 comments… add one
  • Viv and Mireille Aug 23, 2011, 12:15 pm

    Colin: Agree with all your points but the main one about the hull shape is something that I feel is very debatable (or should I say open to endless debate). From narrow to wide sleds to chine to flat fore sections, and pinched sterns, all have pros and cons. But all in all I think the balance of a sea kindly hull shape and a strong driving rig with lots of wind power is what makes a boat safe and a good passage maker.

    Looking forward to your detailed analysis of the points in your posting. Incidentally, as a Frers fan, which one do you own? is there any information on it on the web?

    All the best
    Viv

    • Colin Speedie Aug 23, 2011, 4:28 pm

      Hi Viv

      I agree that there are many different values with hull forms – after all, we sail an OVNI! What I hope to flag up are some of the extremes that don’t make sense for a cruising boat, offshore – or at anchor. And I’d agree with your definition of a good passagemaker. And that’s what I think those of us with ambitions to cruise long distance want, too.

      As far as our Frers boat, I sold her after nearly seventeen years hard sailing to a friend who loves her just as much as I did, and who has refitted her to sail away himself. She was the first GRP Dufour 39, built in 1983, but we made many, many changes to her over the years. Suffice to say that I, and virtually everyone who sailed her, reckoned that she was the nicest boat to sail – a dream to helm, and fast in all conditions.

      Hope you’ll stick with the series, and come forward with your thoughts.

      Best wishes

      Colin

  • Victor Raymond Aug 23, 2011, 1:58 pm

    Colin, Your description of the charter boat defines my first boat exactly. Many fine features, well thought out and executed but for a holiday boat not a cruiser. Sailing a sistership from Gibraltar to Cannaries last fall convinced me above all else that I had to have a different boat for my own piece of mind and comfort.
    The Meta Dalu 47 is just that: a vessel that is defined by self sufficiency, maintainability and brute strength. Hopefully she will prove to be a good sailor too. I will sleep better too.

  • Colin Speedie Aug 23, 2011, 4:48 pm

    Hi Victor

    Welcome back – it’s good to hear from you.

    I’m glad you agree with my opening thoughts, especially as with your own experience of having owned a boat of this type, and having sailed one offshore you’re in a good position to judge.

    And it will be really interesting to hear how your new boat compares once you’ve got some miles under your belt in her, as she is a serious cruising machine.

    Best of luck with your new boat!

    Colin

    • Victor Raymond Aug 25, 2011, 8:43 pm

      Colin,
      Thank you. Looking forward to getting some miles on her myself. She certainly has a thick hull and seems well put together. How she sail on all points will be interesting and I am sure a big learning curve for me from the Jeanneau. I suspect, just as on your boat, sailing downwind will be the most comfortable point of sail. With double headsails and a cutter stay we will have some options.

      Time will tell. Fortunately we will have some nice quiet areas in Venezuela to get to know each other before heading west and north.

      Victor

  • Richard Elder Aug 24, 2011, 1:06 pm

    Always a topic that gets people’s arms waving in the air! I can’t resist!
    A few features on modern boats I’ve sailed on recently—.

    Deck Salons:
    It’s great fun being launched from one side to the other of a 16′ wide living room because it is totally devoid of handholds. Ended up in the hospital in Bermuda with a goose sized lump on my elbow as a result. That particular boat, an Oyster 53, has an interior designed by someone who not only had never been to sea, but couldn’t even imagine what it might be like. The living room, er-salon has a curved settee that seats twelve and is impossible to sleep on when underway. Opposite side has a washer/dryer where a full length settee should be. Traversing this skating rink from the forward cabins requires a leap of about 5 feet between two inadequate and poorly placed handholds. Deck salons don’t have to be designed this way (Check out the Antarctic expedition yacht Seal designed by Ed Joy) .

    Linear Galleys in the center of the boat:
    Hardly needs further comment: Bob Perry may not have spent nearly as much time sailing as he has drawing boats, but he loves to cook and eat well. Don’t think he has ever designed a bad galley— too bad he hasn’t been appointed the czar of galley design.

    Exit Chute Cockpits:
    Take two million dollars and an ex-racing skipper and what do you get? Twin carbon wheels, no place to sit or hold on to, and a straight slide out the back to the swim step launching pad. A cockpit that feels insecure at night in 15 knot trade winds would be suicidal in a storm.

    Shallow bilges and the hull forms that produce them:
    Trade in your bilge pump for a sponge and a wife on her knees or become resigned to having everything in your lower lockers repeatedly dampened by residual bilge water. Of course the hull pounding will probably take your mind off a minor thing like a little water.

    Seizure Furl mainsail systems:
    The name says it all!

    Enough ranting for one day!

  • Colin Speedie Aug 25, 2011, 8:44 am

    Hi Richard

    Yes, it’s a subject that often gets people going, but as your recent experiences demonstrate, for good reason.

    What I’m hoping to do is to tease out ways that some of the less positive features can be improved, or at least their weaknesses reduced. After all, most of us sail the boat we have, which may well be what we can afford, or which is brilliant in many other ways. Every boat is a compromise.

    So any thoughts you have on that front would be gratefully received!

    Best wishes

    Colin

  • Nick Kats Aug 25, 2011, 9:03 am

    Hi Colin

    This is a great subject, maybe the biggest there is.

    Sailing is strongly influenced, often dictated, by racing. Racers feature the ultralight, widebody, open transom, no comfort, etc etc.

    Cruisers have a totally different set of priorities. Because of this they need to buck the trend.

    One thing that I think is important is weight.
    Water is heavy, air is light. In bad weather the safest ship is a submarine deep down, and the most dangerous ship is something ultralight. The point is, use the water to obtain safety from the air. Which calls for a heavy boat.

    Related to weight is the ratio of boat hull above water to below water.
    The modern boat has a LOT of body above water, but very little below. Which makes this type extremely vulnerable to the racing airs & the torn surface of the sea.
    The opposite is a deep boat with a lot of keel, and with a low sheer & cabin. This boat obtains security from the sea, partly because the keel is in calmer waters meters below the turbulent surface.

    Combine these 2: a lot of weight and a lot of boat underwater (preferably with a good draft), and you get a dramatically different creature from those gracing the covers of sailing magazines.

    Cruisers not interested in racing, and not insecure about being at sea (ie, not anxious about rushing overseas from point A to point B in minimum time), might think in these terms.

    All this is comprehensively against the flow of modern trends.

    Nick

  • Richard Elder Aug 25, 2011, 7:28 pm

    Hi Nick,

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments about weight, at least for a monohull that is intended to cross oceans and perhaps venture into the higher latitudes.

    But just to keep things stirred up, let me describe a boat I designed and tried to put into production in 1987.

    24000# retractable daggerboard cruising catamaran, 58′ long and 30 ft. beam. Wing mast, powered by twin 240hp Yanmars giving it a speed under sail of 20 knots and well over 25 under power. Narrow hulls, semi-wave piercing bows, and the ability to power 400 miles per day in a moderate sea state and 300+ in winter trade wind conditions.

    I’d argue that my design was the safest sailing vessel on the ocean, at least if your sailing is between 40N & 40S.
    1- Unsinkable.
    2- Ability to use speed for weather avoidance.
    3- Extreme beam and retractable daggerboards allow it to lie ahull or to a series drogue in extreme conditions with no need for crew management. Retractable daggerboards are the key, not only to sailing to windward, but to avoiding tripping over lateral resistance when on a wave face in extreme conditions.
    4- Superior maneuverability under power.
    5- Shallow draft minimizes reef grounding risk and opens more secure harbors of refuge (as well as opening new cruising grounds in places like the western Caribbean).

    There, that should stir people up!

    Here is a link to a boat designed with a similar philosophy. It is 12′ smaller, but has done a 360 mile day with a pre-teen family as crew.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFXhPxJgeXs&feature=player_embedded

  • Dick Stevenson Aug 27, 2011, 9:31 am

    Colin, Read your comments and totally support your efforts. Part of what you are talking about is education. Many sailors, especially those not broadly experienced are, to my mind, not well served by those that operate in an “expert” arena (journalists, boat brokers, boat manufacturers and venders, surveyors to name a few). It is hard to convince a prospective buyer that a slab reefed main is better at sailing, less weight aloft, costs less altogether and is much safer in conditions other than everyday when all he/she sees is the sail being drawn in and out like a window shade. Or media completely neglecting to report bad/difficult/dangerous happenings on rallies. We should demand more from our media than they be public relations lobbyists for the industry. Recommend “Offshore Yachts (desirable and undesirable characteristics)” as the best general book in this area and, more recently (last 2 years), Practical Sailor did an article on the sailing characteristics of the more modern yacht designs you referred to, talking about many things, but in particular, their dangerous tendency to round up in gusty conditions. I could likely get better citations if requested. Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

  • Dick Stevenson Aug 27, 2011, 9:31 am

    I must comment on Richard Elder’s email. Not many know of Bob Perry’s proclivity for good galleys and good food, and too many people do not pay attention to a designer’s capacity to design the whole boat (and not just speed or the # of berths), something again I think Bob Perry is particularly good at. But I am naturally inclined in that direction having made my home on a Bob Perry design (Valiant 42) for almost 10 years now. Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

  • Dick Stevenson Aug 27, 2011, 9:32 am

    Colin, Your comment “Every boat is a compromise” is certainly correct and I know what you mean. However, many in the boating world use it in a throw-away fashion similar to an adolescent saying “whatever”. This latter sense I would challenge: Making decisions on the compromises acceptable on one’s vessel is a big responsibility. It is not an exaggeration to say that lives, particularly lives of those who did not participate in the compromise decision, will/may depend on those decisions. A compromise is only a compromise if the owner is fully aware of the options. Those with broad and deep experience can do this well. Many, from my observations, seem not to be aware of options/alternatives, and they are not well spelled out by those whose responsibility it should be. This is partly a reflection of our times where people act and operate as if they can just jump into the cruising life (or, commonly buy their way in). Even such authors I respect a great deal (Beth & Evans Starzinger) make a case for unprotected rudders for their vessel, Hawk. I think they are very correct in their observations, but I wish they had gone one step further to point out (my assessment) that there is no production level boat with free standing rudders that are built to the kinds of specs they indicate necessary. I would go one further and say that most custom boats with free standing rudders are not engineered to that spec either. One has to go way out of one’s way to get that kind of strength. It is just that kind of caveat that would be so helpful to the readers of any expert. (I will return to B&Es web site when I am on line sometime to confirm my observations. In any case I use this as just an example). Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • SailNoFo Apr 5, 2019, 3:38 pm

      Yes, every vessel is a matter of compromises, and after years of “bouncing around” open ocean deliveries on “Boat Show Production Boats,” I opted for an older, Bob Perry design – Passport 47 aft cockpit. The correctness of my compromises are confirmed every time an owner of such a new Production boat comes out for a romp in stiff conditions and customarily has an epiphany as to what was first perceived as an old “heavy, sluggish design.” While I chose to give up not more than a knot and a half, about 3 degrees of pointing, a second shower (let’s not get into water scarcity here) and a third queen berth, we slide through the sea with a consistent, mesmerizing motion. More enjoyable are the numerous times when fellow sailing friends on newer Charter-Style mono-hulls of equal size, with all sail up, have hailed us from far astern asking: “you’re still motoring too, right?” Not!!
      Thank you Mr. Perry!
      Cap’t Dan
      S/V Rhapsody
      Greenport, NY

      • John Apr 6, 2019, 8:51 am

        Hi Dan,

        Bob Perry is one of my favourite designers and I think the Passport one of his better efforts.

  • Richard Elder Aug 27, 2011, 11:02 am

    Pet Peeve # 12
    Dumpster Diver companionways:

    Modern Marketing has discovered that the one absolutely necessary feature of a sailboat is the walk-around Queen berth. Until the boat gets into the 60′ range it usually resides under the companionway. That companionway now becomes 7′ long, multiplying the probability of an accident when traversing it in rough conditions. The second effect is to completely eliminate the possibility of having a dodger that provides adequate weather protection. I’ve looked at several Swan-style boats that were good values for other reasons, and the first thing I look at is where to start cutting with the saws-all to build a second companionway and provide safe access from the cockpit into the boat in a seaway and allow construction of a proper HARD dodger.

  • Matt Marsh Aug 29, 2011, 11:55 am

    Colin’s preference: “Have a comfortable motion, to avoid tiring the crew. Have a balanced hull form so she is not prone to rounding up, and is easy on the autopilot.”

    The charter market seems to demand multiple queen-size staterooms with ensuite heads. In a 40-footer, the market expects three such cabins.

    Where do you put them? One in the bow, two in the stern, saloon in the middle, that seems to be the standard configuration. If there’s to be enough room to keep those guests comfy, this forces the designer to choose a very wide stern- wider than would be ideal from a seaworthiness and balance standpoint. The charter market also wants the appearance and speed promises of a racer (whether such performance can actually be achieved is irrelevant), pushing designers towards light hulls with high initial stability.

    We could get the interior space by going Dutch Botter style, with a full bow, and maintain balance. But then it looks “funny”, and won’t point like a racer anymore, so that option is out for the charter boats.

    Or, we could stretch the hull out by ten or fifteen feet, going long and slim like a Sundeer, and once again end up with a balanced hull- this time with real performance potential. But now it’ll cost more to dock and to store, and it’ll seem intimidating to sailors used to 40-footers while being tiny to sailors used to 55-footers. So, as far as the charter market is concerned, this is also a no-go.

    What are we left with? Cramming too much space and stuff into a given length. Or, viewed another way, insisting on too short or too fine a hull for a given accommodation spec.

  • Colin Speedie Aug 30, 2011, 8:46 am

    Hi all,

    Sorry for the delay in replying, but we’ve been out on the water, so out of reach.

    So many great comments, and much food for thought. I hope to cover much of the subject matter raised in the series, which I hope you’ll all feel willing to comment upon.

    We’ve just had an eventful passage, with the usual mix of weather, fishing boats, fog etc., and we were very happy indeed to be in our Ovni, with her gentle motion and forgiving nature. It’s also the case that the design changes we demanded at the build stage make her a far more practical boat when in her natural element, and where we had to compromise, we’ve done our level best to make improvements – which have, so far, paid off, thank goodness. In a lesser boat it might have been a very much more arduous, uncomfortable and even worrying passage.

    So look out for my first posting on rigs – coming soon.

    Best wishes to you all

    Colin

  • Richard Elder Aug 30, 2011, 9:51 pm

    Hi Colin,
    “I can’t believe people close their boats with little pieces of wood”, spoken with a typical expression that only the French can manage—by Monique Souchard, Cape Horn and high Arctic veteran on board the Garcia 45 “Passion” ( a close relative to your Omni).

    Pet peeve #13—drop boards. Just because somebody had a few extra pieces of wood left over when building a wooden boat a century ago, is that any reason why we should continue to use such an archaic system instead of a proper gasketed door like Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger have on the VandeStat 47 “Hawke”, or a dogged hatch like the Souchards had on “Passion”?

  • Dick Stevenson Aug 31, 2011, 6:32 am

    Dear Richard,
    With respect to gasketed doors, I will beg to differ in a few areas. There is no question that most would feel safer behind a gasketed door. I am reminded of the first car I helped subsidize for my then 16 yo daughter. I wanted to buy her an armored tank, but there were none on the market. What most sailors have done for centuries, barring evidence to the contrary (and I see no pervasive evidence), will likely still be seaworthy into the future. And pieces of wood have done the job. (For most they are probably not scraps off the shop floor.) Safety and seaworthiness are, to my mind, well satisfied by sturdy washboards (able to be secured in place) on top of a high bridgedeck and a sliding hatch able to be locked in place (and openable from inside the boat and out). In 40-50,000 miles & 10 years full time live aboard I have used the washboards/hatch in the above manner once (and that proved merely precautionary, not necessary). Aesthetic concerns should always play second fiddle to safety/seaworthiness, but usually, in my experience, with a little effort and creativity, these do not live in conflict but rather more often are synergistic.
    A boat designed primarily for higher latitudes or for a singlehander (who is more likely to be surprised by changing conditions and fatigue-induced mistakes than a vessel with constant watch) could easily make the case for gasketed entry. There are likely other considerations including personal wishes. On most 12 meter vessels, a gasketed entryway would be a design challenge and likely a live-ability challenge. The larger the vessel, the more easily designed, but then you get into how large a vessel is seaworthy for a crew of 2 (or less). The question is moot in my mind as I feel there is little seaworthiness gained.
    Respectfully submitted, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • Colin Speedie Aug 31, 2011, 10:55 am

      Hi Richard and Dick

      An interesting point.

      To me, it’s all about where you plan to take the boat. And certainly where Beth and Evans have taken ‘Hawk’ in the Southern Ocean, I’d want a doghouse with a proper watertight door. And the Garcia solution is a practical one, but I’d have to say that for a couple of owners I have spoken to, it was one of their least favourite features of the boat.

      As Dick suggests, sturdy washboards are simple and (if properly made in the right materials) robust. They allow lots of light and ventilation in warmer climes, which is a plus. It’s relatively simple to beef them up with solid strongbacks which can be slotted into place in the event of really bad weather, items which we installed on our last boat – and never used in anger. And as Dick also points out, the critical factor is to be able to secure them in place, from either inside or out, so that in the event of a knockdown they can’t fall out.

      But as I’ve mentioned before, we wanted a solid doghouse for our boat, but couldn’t have one. And as and when we have the time and the means, I still think we shall, as keeping the crew dry and comfortable as far as is possible in cold climates is also a safety feature, and we still plan on heading into higher latitudes in the future.

      Best wishes to you both

      Colin

  • Sandra Aug 31, 2011, 8:22 am

    Looking forward to the follow-up. Not undermining safety, but I’d appreciate if you keep in mind that a Beneteau Oceanis costs about 20% of a Hallberg-Rassy. And lots of people with only that 20% should and will also go offshore cruising. Perhaps the recommendations and analysis also could consider the economic side. We are not all retired, successful businessmen 🙂

    • Colin Speedie Aug 31, 2011, 10:30 am

      Hi Sandra

      Point taken, and I’d totally agree that the desire to go is the strongest motivation. I have a friend who has made voyages to Greenland in a wooden French Langoustier, and another who has recently been around Spitsbergen in an old wooden pilot cutter. And there are plenty of people sailing stock designs upon the oceans of the world, albeit much modified in some cases.

      What I hope to look at is what design features are creeping in to all types of yachts these days, at all levels of the price scale, and consider whether they are positive additions to cruising design. And if not, couldn’t we have some of the good old stuff back, please?

      Best wishes

      Colin

    • Richard Elder Aug 31, 2011, 10:14 pm

      Hi Sandra,
      In the real world we all have to make do with what we have, and we certainly don’t need to compete with Steve Dashew for owning the perfect boat, a least in this lifetime!

      However I’d think twice about choosing something like the Beneteau Oceanis for anything other than a party platform. Instead look to unfashionable boats in the same price range like the Westsail 42-43 that were intended for ocean cruising. Having an old and somewhat ugly boat certainly hasn’t prevented Eric Forsyth from making voyages that few people in the world have equaled. I personally know of a 44′ boat for sale for $45,000 that I’d take around Cape Horn tomorrow with a few more sails and a backup autopilot on board. Or buy a blister Valiant 40 and ignore the pimples! At least you won’t have a pop-in hull liner and a joke for a mast step.

  • Richard Elder Aug 31, 2011, 9:31 pm

    Yacht design, like so many other things in life is indeed a series of compromises, but it starts from a choice of priorities. Unlike the Queen Berth Bean Counters, I consider the weather protection of a well designed dodger to be an absolute necessity for the deck/cockpit of any boat intended for more than weekend ocean sailing. Once that priority has been determined, the design of the cockpit and aft deck sections of a moderate sized sailboat follow from the specifications of a proper dodger.

    Now, a dodger needs to do three things: Provide a place where the watch obtain shelter from green water coming on board and rain from above, not impede the forward view necessary for safe piloting of the vessel, and provide bulletproof hand holds. How many dodgers have you sailed with that satisfy these three basic criteria? Probably less than half.

    Dodgers are not canvas cabins, and clear plastic covered by sea salt are not windows to keep watch thru. This means that the proper dodger must be just short enough to look over without requiring excessive crouching when underneath. The distance from the cockpit sole must be within +/- one inch of the nose height of a 6′ adult, with plith blocks on the cockpit sole to stand on for the shorter crew members. This allows the watch to look over the dodger for a full visibility scan—to actually keep watch—and then duck below when that green one with your name on it comes aboard.

    Once the height of the dodger is set by functional requirements, then the next problem is the bridge deck. With a typical bridge deck or forward companionway you will have to crawl on hands and knees to the companionway or make the dodger so high that you have to look thru it rather than over it, and the boat ends up looking like a stinkpot. If you don’t care about esthetics, a tall hard dodger with glass windows and windshield wipers will work fine.

    Or we can eliminate the bridge deck. When yachts were built of wood and held together by bolts and screws, the bridge deck performed an important structural function. Once we started building monocoque structures from metal, fiberglass, or cold molded wood it is no longer is structurally necessary. However the second function—keeping cockpit flood water out of the interior still remains. Which brings us full circle to my comments about drop boards and dumpster diver companionway steps. If we design a low 6″ sill that is easy to step over, our trip to the yacht interior has three or more fewer vertical steps and becomes much less dangerous, and we can walk directly to the companionway with only a slight stoop under the dodger. However wash boards that work OK for a high bridge deck are no longer adequate for a low sill cockpit where they have a higher chance of seeing solid water. We need look no farther than the solutions developed by multiple generations of single handed racers. The adaptation of this concept on SEAL (http://www.expeditionsail.com/contacts/virtualtoursaloon.htm) is perfectly feasible on a yacht as small as the mid-40’s in length if it has a doghouse salon, and provides more convenient companionway access whether you are in the high latitudes at sea or sitting at anchor in the Caribbean. Or you can use a sliding hatch with a shorter single or even double doors like on HAWK.

    P.S. I agree with the Garcia owners who don’t like their hatch companionways, for the simple reason that the entry is too high and the ladder too long.

    P.S.2 The best “drop board” arrangement I have seen is the one used by Oyster, with a heavy integral board that moves up and down in a slot, counterbalanced by shock cord “springs.” Not very high tech or inordinately expensive, and could be designed into most boats but certainly not retrofitted.

    • Victor Raymond Sep 1, 2011, 12:20 am

      Richard, I could not agree more. Comfort means out of the wind and dry. It does mean posh posh. A properly designed dodger is a rare commodity but I have seen a few and if we could post photos I would share a few with you.

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