Model T Voyaging Boat Specified

JHH5_104618-EditA couple of weeks ago I wrote a post suggesting that what we really needed in the offshore voyaging world was a simple, fast, comfortable and safe new boat at an affordable price—a Model T voyaging boat.

That post was one of the most popular we have ever published and also elicited some really interesting and thoughtful comments, including a suggested specification from Richard Elder, who often comments under the initials RDE.

Richard’s Model T


“The following is a proposed specification for the boat that John has put on the table. It represents ideas drawn from my career building a wide variety of boats and managing projects large & small, along with the occasional yacht delivery.

There are many features in this specification that derive from cost minimization, rather than selection of the best possible equipment. For example, if I were looking for the best possible engine installation, I’d choose an AquaDrive behind a conventional marine gear, driving a straight shaft to a 3 blade MaxProp. But by installing a Saildrive instead, the builder could save thousands in labor and installation costs, and by building a watertight engine compartment make it as safe as a conventional driveline.”


  • “LOA: 40-feet, LWL: 36-feet, Beam: 11-feet, Draft: 6-feet, Displacement: 18,000-Lbs. [Subject to optimization by the designer.]
  • Balanced hull form, relatively deep V sections.
  • Balanced spade rudder with oversized bearings and shaft.
  • Sloop with detachable soft inner forestay rather than true cutter.
  • Conventional double spreader rig, straight spreaders.
  • DUX soft rigging, no turnbuckles or wire except on forestay.
  • Roller furling on forestay only, tacked 24-30″ aft of stem head.
  • Detachable Code Zero tacked to stem.
  • Four sail inventory: Main, Jib, Storm Staysail, Code Zero.
  • Full batten main on low tech slides.
  • All halyards and reefing handled at the mast with secure mast pulpits.
  • No vertical bows and complication of bobstay and sprit etc.– 30″
    bow overhang to avoid fouling the anchor chain.
  • Tiller steering.
  •  Cape Horn windvane with drive permanently mounted below deck.
  • Small tiller pilot [for motoring or light air] driving the vane gear servo rudder.
  • 25kg Rocna anchor, 250′ 1/4″ high test chain, extra 250’ rope rode.
  • Manual windlass (like the good old SL 555).
  • Chain pipe leading to chain locker 8′ aft of stem.
  • 100 gallons of water tankage under the cabin sole.
  • 30 HP engine with saildrive motor mounted in watertight engine box to make it safe in case of collision with floating objects.
  • Low companionway protected by watertight, gasketed entry door.
  • Hard dodger low enough to look over the top.
  • Trunk cabin tall enough to facilitate easily reached grab rails and allow visibility from inside the boat.
  • No cockpit lockers for ease of construction and watertight integrity.
  • No exterior wood.
  • Hull and deck cored with balsa for economy, but built using vinylester resin infusion so that the entire core matrix is impermeable to moisture travel.
  • Structural components like chainplates, ring frames, and floors infused with the outer shell for structural integrity.
  • Liner components broken down into smaller units that do not form primary structure.
  • Stanchion bases, hatches, sail track, and all components to be thru-bolted to raised bases so the attachment interface is not in standing water.
  • Oversized cleats and fairleads for dock and mooring lines.
  • Entire area aft of companionway devoted to storage of sails, roll up dinghy, snorkel & scuba equipment, and food pantry with stainless steel restaurant style wire baskets.
  • Salon with two 7′ settees sized as generous sea berths with lee cloths and reading lights.
  • Forward cabin to have double berth for harbor use, with storage underneath.
  • Forward facing navigation/computer station with Ricardo automotive bucket seat or equivalent.
  • Four large Dorade vents.
  • Insulated deck and cabin overheads for comfort in the tropics.
  • Well insulated ice-box, no refrigeration.”

My Thoughts on Richard’s Boat

Well I could quibble with Richard on a couple of points. (You know me, I always have an opinion!) But they would be just that, quibbles. Bottom line, Richard has come up with a really great Model T boat.

My Additions

Since we envision this as a sail away ocean ready boat with absolutely no options, I would add the following:

  • Horizontal chain plates each capable of withstanding a load equal to 75% of the boat’s displacement at the transom corners to act as attachment points for a Jordan Series Drogue.
  • Lead fin keel with massively reinforced keel to hull joint. By using a Scheel type keel, it may be possible to reduce draft to as little as 5-feet without too much adverse effect on speed and pointing ability—a question for the designer.
  • Three reefs in mainsail and efficient slab reefing system.
  • Antal mainsail track system (not roller bearing). (A bit more expensive but makes a huge difference in sail handling.)
  • Hall Spars mechanical rigid vang.
  • No overlapping headsails, other than the code zero.
  • Generous sail area to displacement ratio—we want a flyer that is fun to sail. I’m thinking about 850 square feet of sail (100% fore triangle). The narrow symmetrical hull will be easily driven, which will, in conjunction with a good reefing system, allow the crew to shorten down well ahead of building weather and reduce the heel angle, but still keep the boat moving well.
  • Good quality winches and gear, preferably Harken. Four winches in the cockpit and three at the mast. No cost saving corners cut here.
  • A simple, but functional U shaped galley with two burner propane stove with oven. (This will also require a vapour-tight locker for the cylinders.)
  • Not sure if the cubic volume would allow it, but if possible, the head to be aft of the navigation/office table so that the watch stander does not troop through the boat when going for a pee.
  • A small work bench with vise in the open aft area.
  • Fore hatch for access to storage and escape. This would be the only hatch aside from the companionway and would supply plenty of ventilation when used with a wind scoop and Richard’s good big Dorade vents.
  • Very strong anodized aluminum arch aft for mounting solar panels, outboard lift tackle, wind generator and antennas. Large conduit to electrical panel with messenger lines to facilitate owner installation of above items, as desired.

A Standard Boat But Easy to Customize

My goal in adding these items was to keep the boat inexpensive to build by eschewing options, but at the same time make her easy for the owner to customize for her or his needs.

For example, a boat that will be used primarily for weekending will have little on the arch but an antenna or two or maybe a radar scanner if cruising Down East. On the other hand, a boat bound for the Caribbean will want solar panels and maybe a wind generator. With the arch already in place, and assuming it is well designed, any reasonably handy owner could install what they need in a few days.

On the other hand, if the boat came without the arch, the owner would be faced with a complex design, fabrication and mounting project that could take weeks and cost thousands to duplicate a task that the builder could do for a fraction of the cost and time on a mass production basis.

What a Boat!

With her easily driven hull, long waterline, relatively light weight, tiller steering and big rig, this boat will be just a gas to sail. Not only will she be a great voyager, but also a fantastic boat to own for day sailing, weekending and the annual holiday (vacation) cruise. Fun and competitive to race too, at least at the club level.

If you want to spend a pleasant quarter hour, as I did, go to the link below in “Further Reading” and crank in the Model T’s specifications. You will see what a fast, safe, and comfortable boat this will be.

At What Price?

So that leaves the big question. Could a builder produce this boat at my target price of US$175,000 and make a fair profit. I think that, given the right circumstances, the answer is yes.

I base this on the $225,000 that Beneteau lists the Oceanis 45 for—a substantially larger and more complex boat sold through dealers. Admittedly the boat we are envisioning here will be built to a higher strength and engineering specification, but if the builder tools up properly that should not add that much to the price.

For example, I would bet that for the cost of the two steering stations on the Beneteau you could  upsize the rudder stock, rudder, rudder bearings, mast step and chain plates to bomb proof levels,  and still come out ahead.

Those with sharp eyes will note that I wrote above “given the right circumstances”. I think that making this work will require a radically different business model. And that will be the subject of my next post on the Model T.

Questions For You

In the mean time, I have two questions for you, our readers:

  1. How do you like the boat’s specification and what would you change, add or remove? When you answer, please keep in mind the price point and the fact that there will be no options. The former means that we simply can’t add a lot of expensive gear, and the latter requires us to include things in the standard specification that would be difficult or expensive to add later, like the series drogue chain plates, hard dodger and arch.
  2. Would you be interested in buying one of these boats at US$175,000, brand spanking new?

If you have a comment about the general viability or desirability of the boat, by all means leave that too, but please make sure you read my first post, and the comments below it, before going to the trouble. A lot of that stuff has already been covered.

Please leave a comment.

Further Reading

Like what you just read? Get lots more:

Meet the Author

John Harries

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for twenty years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 12 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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