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 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.

109 comments… add one
  • Jeff H Feb 9, 2012, 5:16 pm

    Hi. I think the specs. are spot on and I would buy one at the $175,000 price. Give me the important basics, and I can add what options I want.

    • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 9, 2012, 11:15 pm

      Better sharpen your pencil, John. You’ve already got your first order! (LOL)

      • John Feb 10, 2012, 10:36 am

        Hi Richard

        Who me? I’m just the provocateur here, I thought you were coming out of retirement to build this boat!

  • Matt Marsh Feb 9, 2012, 6:15 pm

    Can it be done at that price? Yes, I think so, if you can do without exotic hardwood furniture and expensive computerized gadgets. The bare hull and structural grid is only about 15% of the cost of a typical modern 40-footer. You could easily put 50% more work than normal into the important structural bits and still come out cheaper, if you give up the luxury touches.

    Re. materials: Vacuum-infused, balsa-cored fibreglass is great above water. From the boot top down, my vote is for solid fibreglass; I have yet to find a core material that I’m willing to trust for 40+ years underwater, or in a hard grounding. I’d also consider double-diagonal or strip planked wood/epoxy for one-offs or a short production run, but if this thing’s likely to sell, a full set of infusion tooling would be preferred.

    Re. chainplates: If we’re going to specify fibreglass construction for this thing, I’d also like to see all the key hardpoints (chainplates, drogue attachment points, etc.) made of composites and infused in the same shot as the hull. Composite chainplates are harder to design, but they eliminate several insidious and nasty failure modes.

    Re. trunk cabin: At 12 m / 40 ft with relatively deep hull sections, you might be able to get away with a flush deck and still have it look good. This might be stronger, simpler and cheaper to build. If we do want a trunk cabin, it should be tall enough to have real windows (rather than 4″ slits) and real handrails.

    Re. keel: My vote is for a low aspect ratio (perhaps around 1.0) fin keel, something that can take a grounding at 9 knots without breaking anything. I wouldn’t rule out a trailing-edge flap as a relatively simple way to improve pointing ability.

    Re. interior layout: A decent galley, saloon / sea berths, aft head, reasonably large nav station, an engine room large enough to fit an adult human and a workbench- all of this means that we can’t have the usual huge master stateroom, unless we make the boat too fat to get out of its own way. Are we cool with just settee berths and pipe berths, or is a separate-but-cozy master cabin still desired?

    I’ll be giving this some more thought…. I do think the general concept is a Very Good Idea.

    • John Feb 10, 2012, 12:30 pm

      Hi Matt,

      I’m glad you think that the boat can be built at the price point.

      I really like the idea of making the chainplates integral to the hull and of composites. Done right, they should last forever with none of the deterioration problems of stainless steel chainplates. Also, the a composite chainplate could be fully bonded to the deck, in the same way that an aluminum chain plate is welded where it protrudes through the deck on an aluminum boat, totally eliminating this area of frequent leaks on fiberglass boats.

      On the keel, I still like higher aspect ratio and think that, as long as it is not too extreme and the draft not too much, it should be possible to engineer the hull to deck joint to take at least a 8 knot grounding without damage.

      And a flush deck, is an interesting idea. One of my favorite boats of all time is the S&S Swan 43, which is flush decked. Having said that, this is a smaller boat, so it maybe hard to do in a flush deck.

  • C. Dan Feb 9, 2012, 8:44 pm

    Think outside of the box!

    For example, how much cost could we cut out of the equation by switching to a simpler rig? Perhaps single or dual stayless masts, a la the Presto 30′? This would also result in a sail plan that would be simpler and less expensive to maintain.

    Which brings me to another point: While a low sail-away price is a worthy goal, a better measure of affordability would include the total cost of ownership, such that an emphasis is placed on decisions that would minimize ongoing maintenance.

    This might lead you to make some very different decisions. Maybe make the auxiliary an option, designing the hull to accept a variety of systems?

    • C. Dan Feb 9, 2012, 9:07 pm

      And since we’re thinking outside of the box:

      What price does the boat have to be to grow a new generation of blue-water sailors from the cohort that is currently in their prime earning years (say 25-65 years old) and has never sailed a day in her life?

      Consider these two quotes:
      “In 1914, an assembly line worker could buy a Model T with four months’ pay.”
      “The standard 4-seat open tourer of 1909 cost $850, when competing cars often cost $2,000–$3,000.”

      Let’s put the Beneteau at the bottom end of the “competition”. And let’s consider that the median earnings of a 25-65 year old person in the U.S. that has AT LEAST a college degree is $65,000.

      Let’s assume that a sailboat is a luxury item the person in question would spend a whole year’s salary to attain it. Using those two constraints, you would get a sail-away price of $65,000-75,000.

      Let’s design the boat to THAT specification!

      • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 9, 2012, 11:43 pm

        If measured in the same way as it was during the Great Depression (if you don’t have a job you are unemployed) , real unemployment in the USA is 22.5%. Some people may conclude that the system is permanently broken, buy a sailboat and live on it— even sail to a place like Ecuador where they can live for $500 per month, but they will be buying it on Ebay for $5,000, not new for $175,000. And, the shrinking middle class is unlikely to see a new sailboat as the lifeboat to deliver them from their underwater house. Never-the-less there are thousands of people worldwide who can afford it, and for whom the Model T would be the best possible ticket to the world.

    • John Feb 10, 2012, 11:17 am

      Hi C.Dan,

      I agree completely on the idea of a low total cost of ownership. That is one of the big benefits of a simple boat like we are proposing, where the money has gone into quality construction and not gadgets.

      I hear you on the benefits of un-stayed masts and I did consider that. However, the fact is that boats equipped this way have historically only had a niche market, and to be successful for the builder the Model T will need to appeal to a wide audience.

      Also, to date, I have not seen an offshore boat with a free standing mast that goes to windward well. And, while I, like most cruisers, try to avoid that point of sail, sooner or later it happens and then I want to get it over with as quickly as possible!

      • C. Dan Feb 10, 2012, 3:29 pm

        Or maybe try an A-frame mast like the new Rainbow Warrior III? That rig should go to windward pretty well.

        I hear you on the need for a wide audience, but to be truly successful on such well-trod ground, I believe you must discard preconceptions about what people think they want. Deliver compelling value with compelling performance and elegant aesthetic, and the people will come.

        Aspire to be a Steve Jobs, not a Steve Ballmer.

        • John Feb 10, 2012, 7:38 pm

          Hi C. Dan,

          I hear you on Steve Jobs. (I was an Apple dealer in 1984 when the Mac rolled out and loved the experience and the product.) Having said that, I think that to make a boat like this work in the current economic environment and at the price point we are aiming for, a builder would need to be relatively conservative in the technology used.

          Remember that all Jobs’ success stories have had premium prices that have given Apple the budget to innovate and then sell the market on that innovation. On the other hand, what we are looking at here is a product designed to sell for much less than its competitors, but still be better than many of them at executing the primary task—crossing oceans.

          And I think that the boat that Richard has come up with does exactly what you suggest: delivers compelling value at a great price. It will be stronger, safer, faster, and more comfortable at sea than just about anything out there for a price that is substantially less.

  • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 9, 2012, 11:13 pm

    Hi John,
    Sure is fun doodling on all these napkins!

    There are a couple of key trade-offs that would need to be analyzed early in the design process. One pertains to where the pickup truck area of the boat is to be located. I see you and possibly most others would locate the work area and sail storage forward where we are used to seeing V berths.

    My suggestion that the entire area under the cockpit be devoted to storage and the engine and it’s generator-style sound control box derives from several concerns.

    This is the area where we found a quarter berth opposite a poorly sealed cockpit locker in traditional designs, and now what seems like accommodations for 6 in contemporary condosailors. In a 40′ sailboat it is by far the most complex and expensive-per-volume area to finish out, encourages bad ideas like Swan-style bridge decks, and still ends up being uncomfortably cramped. Why not just spray the hull and deck laminates with white gell coat, install the appropriate racks for a huge pantry next to the galley, and build an easily modified rack system to hold sails, spares, dive gear, and even a roll up dingy safely below when on passage? Ca-ching! Just saved several thousand dollars in construction costs and added functionality.

    I see this design as a couple’s boat, with an occasional need to accommodate two guests for weekends, or a third crew for ocean passages. If that is the case, it does need a comfortable fixed double berth while at anchor. And that to me doesn’t mean a pull out settee or collapsing dining table. So we can either cut our galley storage in half and put a double stateroom aft, raise the bridge deck resulting in a dumpster diver companionway, and accept the lack of ventilation, or go back to the time tested V berth with an opening hatch directly over it forward. (actually the detail I prefer involves raising the berth almost to waist height to gain storage and foot room and making it a parallel sided queen with cabinets you can sleep against on either side. ) The cost of fitting this area out as a furniture boat with cherry cabinets, cedar lined hanging locker, and traditional pine hull ceilings would actually be less than installing any plain Jane finished stateroom in the complex space under the cockpit if that were the trade-off chosen.

    The second decision point revolves around the trade offs between a narrow 11′ beam and a moderate 12′ beam. I can list them on my one remaining napkin(LOL), but wouldn’t think of making a choice until I had spent time with my designer of choice running alternative lines programs , VP projections and stability studies to analyze the sailing side of the equation.

    ps: wouldn’t it be great to have a diesel propulsion engine that made no more noise that a 10 kw Northern Lights generator!

    • John Feb 10, 2012, 11:56 am

      Hi Richard,

      Sorry, my thinking, or at least me expression of it, got a little muddy on this point. I agree entirely on the idea of leaving the area aft of the companionway clear, and of course the workbench should be in the area next to the engine.

      I was actually thinking that the aft and forward areas would both be clear for storage, but that is, as Viv says, a bit too Spartan. On reflection, I think that you and Viv are right: we need a double up forward as a harbour berth and then the salon settees can be for occasional guests.

      My one concern here would be that the designer is not forced by this requirement to carry the area of maximum beam too far forward, or add too much forward buoyancy, to accommodate the double bunk, something you see far too often, that kills the boat’s performance and sailing comfort. Given that, if the double is to be reasonably sized, the foot will have to be quite a long way aft of the stem. One thing you can do is flare the bow and then, as Richard says, make the bunk quite high. Jim McCurdy, who designed our boat, was a master at designing a bow that was fine enough and Veed enough not to pound, but with flared topsides for reserve buoyancy to prevent the bow burying.

  • Viv Feb 10, 2012, 10:53 am

    Richard: Great design and a great starting point for a stage II forum. I would ask the experts amongst us whether an aluminium hull would save time and money as all the “strength” points including the horizontal drogue points and comms arch can be part of the hull construction. I still have reservations with composite hulls just because they are composite and therefore more costly and difficult to repair properly. I know there will be a weight cost using metal but is the construction cost that different?

    I am starting to come around to the idea of a narrower hull but I think 12′ beam on an 40′ would be better for livaboard, as would a master cabin forward, as the purpose of sailing is to get somewhere and enjoy being there. I’m all for austerity if I were trying to get somewhere in a hurry (racing) but not if the boat was home as well. I know that designing a cost effective boat tends to bring the “Spartan” out in us but this is supposed to encourage people to go sailing, not join the marines! But having said that, I don’t need or would want all the fancy systems and flimsy woodwork found on today’s floating cabins. in fact the one thing that has stopped me buying many a used boat, are things like teak decks and copious woodwork below (and composite sandwich construction).

    While we are on the Model T concept and breaking the conventional business model, are there alternatives to a conventional diesel engine that are cost and energy effective such as diesel/electric – a generator that provides power to an electric drive or similar.


    • C. Dan Feb 10, 2012, 11:12 am

      “are there alternatives to a conventional diesel engine that are cost and energy effective”

      The answer is yes, but one must sacrifice speed and range under power. You can save thousands if you downgrade to an electric drive engine system that is meant to 1) maneuver in/around anchorages and docks, and 2) make 2-3 knots of headway in dead calms

      • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 10, 2012, 11:58 am

        Hi C. Dan,
        I spent 2 weeks in the Bahamas sailing a Tom Wilie 44 with an electric drive propulsion system. Great fun “sailing” out of anchorages with no sound and no wind!

        Prestisimo’s system consisted of a small gen set, large and expensive battery bank, large fixed prop. and a controller that could be infinitely adjusted to generate power or produce drive. Good for about 4 knots in this very easy driven ULDB hull— barely adequate for the entries in the Exuma outer islands, and inadequate for a place like British Columbia or Alaska. I’d estimate the cost over a 5 year period at least 50% more than a simple diesel sail drive as has been borne out by the other attempts at this configuration.

        ps. Prestisimo also has a free standing mast modeled after the Open 60 Ocean Planet, and would sail to windward quite nicely. If high modulus carbon were free I might choose it for my boat, but this particular mast cost on the order of 2X that of a standard aluminum rig. I do like full batten mains with high roach like you can have with this rig.

        • C. Dan Feb 10, 2012, 3:41 pm

          It sounds like the electric drive was a viable alternative on the boat you were on; While our theoretical boat needs a hull engineered for any locale, the least common denominator for the engine system should not be the most extreme conditions on earth. The Model T was built for flat highways, not off-roading through the Grand Canyon!

          My point was more that designing with multiple engine systems in mind, at various price points, may yield more success over the long run. Some people want to go fast into the wind! Some would rather go slow and save money!

          Also, on the cost of electric propulsion, it depends largely on the displacement of the boat and the specified range/speed. A system for a 40′ boat would be MUCH less than for a 44′, and for a 35′ boat the cost differential becomes much more favorable towards electric. Plus, the per-watt cost of batteries and solar power is expected to fall by 25-50% over the next several years. With $100 crude oil, most boats are already at grid parity from an energy cost point of view.

          • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 11, 2012, 7:27 pm

            Actually Prestisimo is a very light, long narrow hull, more easily driven that the Model T. In order to be satisfactory for the Model T it would need twice the motor size, twice the generator size, and a $12-15,000 lithium ion battery pack.

    • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 10, 2012, 12:52 pm

      Hi Viv,
      My guess is that the cost breakover point between aluminum and glass comes at about 3 boats, PROVIDED that the aluminum is left unpainted, it is a hard chine design, the fabricators know what they are doing and have access to CNC cutting. Of course these specs automatically eliminate 90% of the North American market for a Model T. But you’d have to ask the guys at Boreal to get the real facts.

      Also, all “composites” are not created equal. A waterlogged C & C or Cheoy Leaky from the 80’s was built using semi-permeable polyester resin in a three stage process where balsa core was either pressed into wet resin and matt or bedding putty like CoreBond. Water could travel longitudinally for several feet from the entry point, and core failure is inevitable as soon as that happens.

      If I go to a composites engineer and ask him to develop laminate schedules for a composite Model T he could propose a pre-preg carbon/nomex hull where the skins would be less than a millimeter in thickness, a SAN foam sandwich with two 36oz triaxial glass layers on each side, or an infused balsa core layup with the same amount of glass. Any one will give adequate stiffness for the application. The carbon will be the least durable and far the most costly, the CoreCell the toughest and fairly costly, and the balsa stiffer and less expensive. Our engineer will specify a balanced layup because that gives the highest stiffness to weight ratio.

      For the Model T we want it to be tough and durable first of all. So we should choose a laminate schedule that looks more like a solid fiberglass hull with a core added inside to make it damn stiff and darn quiet! Old fashioned roving is great for infusion thickness build up because of its open weave, and costs far less than multi-axis stitched fabrics. Again keeping our bean counter hat firmly in place.

      ps. when you infuse balsa every tiny void becomes filled with resin, and while heavy by racing standards the end result almost should be considered as a monolithic single skin rather than a three part composite.

  • John Feb 10, 2012, 12:43 pm

    Hi All,

    I have just changed the specification to reflect Richard and Viv’s recommendation that the boat have a double bunk for harbour use up forward. I have also moved the work bench and vise aft, to where it should have been in the first place.

  • Matt Marsh Feb 11, 2012, 10:29 am

    To add to a couple of points that have been brought up…

    Drive system: Electric propulsion can make sense in a boat with high house loads, short range and minimal propulsion requirements, but is unlikely to pay off in faster, longer range vessels or in boats with low house loads. (I have a short summary of the logic behind choosing electric drive on my own site: ). For the moment, the appropriate power train for an offshore voyaging boat is still an I.C. engine with a mechanical connection to the propeller. That is unlikely to change until fuel cells and suitable fuel storage/reforming technologies become readily available.

    Metal vs. fibreglass: If you’re set on metal for technical reasons, that ends the discussion. If you have a choice, fibreglass will usually be cheaper in a production run; aluminum wins for a one-off. The break point can be at three boats, or ten; it depends on many hundreds of details.

    Cored hulls: My spec would be for a balsa-cored laminate above the boot top, a solid laminate underwater, all vacuum-infused with vinylester in a single shot. The outer skin will work out to be a fair bit thicker than the inner skin, as usual. Even vacuum-infused, cores of any kind have no place below the waterline on a cruising boat; the weight savings are small and in an area where they don’t count for anything, but you add a risk of water ingress into the core as well as making it much harder to repair grounding damage.

    Systems: This is a boat that will have a 50-plus year life and will go through at least two major refits before it gives up for good. Everything- engine, tanks, head, wiring- has to be replaceable without major structural surgery.

  • John Feb 11, 2012, 10:42 am

    Hi All,

    I strongly recommend following the link to Matt’s blog (in his comment above) on the subject of when, and when not, to consider electric drive on a boat— the clearest and easiest to understand explanation I have seen.

  • Viv Feb 11, 2012, 5:06 pm


    Matt; your blog link does put a clear perspective on the merits of electric/IC vs IC alone.

    Richard; you obviously have in-depth knowledge on composite construction. I guess I do not, so tend to stick to what’s tried and tested, but what are your thoughts on Matt’s suggestion of solid layup below the waterline?

    John: I agree fully with having the work/storage aft. Never saw the advantage of noisy and claustrophobic aft berths (unless a centre cockpit vessel). Would it be possible to move the head aft and still have access to the storage area on one side without resorting to cockpit lockers? An aft head would allow the forepeak berth to be longer with a watertight bulkhead forward.

    A Grand Soleil 46′ I inspected had a head behind the companionway on the centerline under a slightly longer bridgedeck. It was a bit tight but workable as one stepped down in to the head so the floor was lower than the main cabin sole plus being on the centerline is a little more comfortable!.

    But first things first, the hull and keel, rigging and engine, if we can get consensus on a basic plan (that can be customised to a degree) based on Richard’s design, then we can nail down the price range that it would be possible to build at.

    PS Yes the Swan 43 is a beautiful design, if only I could get one without a teak deck! or a glued not screwed deck, I digress… But a flush deck on the Model-T with a rounded solid dodger sounds like an aesthetic and practical design.

  • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 11, 2012, 7:00 pm

    hHi Viv,
    I wouldn’t dream of throwing cold water on anyone’s Swan Dreams (LOL), but the Swan/Grand Soleil 46/Jeanneau 47 bridge deck configuration is one of the worst designs ever for offshore use. (based upon living aboard and sailing an old S& S Swan 43 for a couple of months, and delivering a Frers Swan 54 up from the BVI)
    1- Dumpster Diver companionway. You have to climb a 7′ ladder to exit the vessel, and the higher you climb the more exaggerated the motion and the more tenuous the handholds. Once you emerge you have the choice of crawling along the deck to the cockpit or standing up and getting hit in the head by the boom or being launched overboard as the boat rolls downwind.
    2- If you survive the trip to the cockpit (which is designed too shallow in order to add headroom in the master stateroom) you then have the pleasure of catching every bit of solid water that comes aboard in the face because it is impossible to fit a proper dodger.

    Getting back to our 40′ boat-on-a-napkin, the nicest location for the head is in the aft quarter, with a big separate shower which serves as a wet locker underway. Of course you’ve now made the interior asymmetrical which is esthetically unpleasing, lost the nice strong symmetrical primary bulkhead which is ideal for mounting the chainplates, mounted the toilet in the wrong direction, and ended up with a more expensive arrangement—–. That is the way design works— prioritize and compromise.

  • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 11, 2012, 7:39 pm

    Hi Viv,
    If you really want a Swan 43 the one I mentioned has its decks removed and re-glassed. Saw it last year and it looks far better than it ever did covered with teak! Haven’t talked to the owner in years, but you never know.

  • John Feb 11, 2012, 8:09 pm

    Hi All,

    I borrowed one of Richard’s napkins to do a very quick sketch that tells me that we can have from aft: a clear area under the cockpit for storage with access, a head on one side with separate shower, U shaped galley on other side, chart table/office forward of head, 7-foot settees each side (might require a 18″ trotter box but probably not), 7′ V berth up forward.

    And, according to my napkin, we still have 8-feet of boat in reserve for bow area forward of V berth, and things I did not think of. Also, I really did not cram things in or make them small to make this come out.

    This is one of the many cool things about long thin boats: contrary to much popular opinion, it is way easier to do a functional interior in them that in a short fat boat.

    This assumes a fairly short cockpit of about 6 to 8-feet. The only problem I see, is that the engine might end up too far aft, but I don’t think so.

    Also, this assumes a fairly deep companionway and no bridge-deck since I’m with Richard on that one. On the Swans I have sailed on we used to call the trip from the companionway to the cockpit “The Dance of Death”.

  • Viv Feb 11, 2012, 10:37 pm

    Richard: Fully agree on the bridge-deck dangers having run a Frers Swan 51 that has the two (one lethal) companionways. My vision was for a much shorter and lower than the washboard bridgedeck between the companionway to the aft cockpit with the hard dodger covering the area. But in retrospect, probably not enough room to house a head partly below it unless height is gained with a flush deck forward.

    John, you may have a solution to the head positioning and I do see the merits of having the head away from the sleeping berths and closer to the companionway as someone mentioned earlier!

    The Model-T interior could have limited owner options but the main focus I am interested in is on the LOA, beam, construction and machinery for $175,000. Is the composite construction the way to go or will the set-up costs that are needed for control over temp and humidity and expensive vacuum process equipment. Are these manageable these days from a production point of view?

    PS Richard, yes the Swan 43 is of interest but given that the price is going to be up there, I am looking towards what comes out of the Model-T ideas for maybe not much more!

  • Peter Feb 11, 2012, 11:24 pm

    Lots of interesting ideas. However, to me it sounds like a boat for a more seasoned sailor that want (what is to me) a big boat. I believe a long range boat with all neccesities (whatever that is) could be much smaller, say 31-34′ or smaller still. I have very limited knowledge regarding design cost, but I do have a rough idea of owning cost and clearly the difference is noticeable.

    I would agree with most of the priorities suggested in a no-nonsense solid base structure. But a smaller more “attainable” boat and in my personal view nicer to single hand as well as being a possible “first boat” would sound more sensible. In short, I do not really get the 40′ thing, especially not for the target audience (younger people getting into cruising/exploring?).

    Maybe markets look different where you are, but to me it sounds your designing to your own priorities a bit too much.

  • Colin Farrar Feb 12, 2012, 1:13 am


    You ask a good question about boat size. Here are some comparison points. With most of its 14′ beam carried all the way aft, a Beneteau 41 is substantially larger than this boat. On the other hand, a 20,000# Westsail 32 weighs more than John’s design. Of the three, I much prefer the Model T’s higher length-to-beam ratio and moderate weight.

    Couldn’t one access the aft storage / work area through the head / shower, as in the Outbound 44/46? It could be a low hatch where you stoop to enter. Or does it make more sense to enter from the cockpit.

    You’ve mentioned minimalist cabinetry. How about the cabin sole? Something inexpensive, durable, and non-skid?

    A small forepeak would be brilliant. Or would it be simpler and cheaper to think of it simply as an enlarged anchor locker? Either way, this could solve the tension between a fine entry bow and a v-berth by pushing the berth aft just enough to create a comfortable bunk. We only need room for an asymmetrical chute and some extra lines. The rode could stow underneath, via chain pipe, in the aft part of the peak.

  • Robert Feb 12, 2012, 3:16 am

    The Bolger advanced sharpies have been shown to be fine ocean cruisers as well. With outboards and simple electronics it comes much closer to a model T. $175K is a joke. My AS31 was built for less than $15K.

  • John Feb 12, 2012, 11:22 am

    Hi All,

    Several people have advocated for a smaller boat, both on this post and the first one. A couple of points:

    First, one should not confuse overall length with size and cost, which are both a function of weight. As Colin Farrar points out, this is a smaller boat than a Westsail 32 and not a lot bigger than a Seawind Ketch. But the Model-T, by being longer with a modern hull shape will be about 50% faster and have a much more functional interior than either of those classics.

    Second, if this boat was successful, perhaps the builder would consider a smaller sister.

    Third, I chose 18,000 pounds and 40-feet as my best guess of the market sweet spot where the maximum demand seems to exist, since the key to success here is going to be the volume of boats that the builder can sell.

  • John Cobb Feb 12, 2012, 2:50 pm

    Now that the design is established, let’s figure out how to build it for half of 175,000$.


    • John Feb 12, 2012, 3:25 pm

      Hi John C,

      If anyone can do do that without compromising the base quality and low cost of ownership of the boat, no one would be happier than me.

      However, be aware that at least two people with realworld boat building experience are advising me (off-line) that even my $175,000 price point will take some work and an innovative business model.

  • Kettlewell Feb 12, 2012, 3:12 pm

    I have been arguing forever that the industry needs to build Model T boats in all sizes and shapes, like they used to. The layers of systems, luxuries, fine finish, etc. are what multiply the cost to the point that nobody is selling very many cruising sailboats these days, if they are in business. I see no reason to specifically call this a “voyaging” sailboat—why not broaden the market and call it something like a “purists” boat, or something that invokes qualities of simplicity, performance, fun, and practicality? Length is a huge consideration in cost for those times when you are tied to the coast, working for a living, or just coastal cruising, etc. A one-foot difference in length often means a dramatic increase in things like hauling costs, mooring costs, dockage, registration, etc. For example, if you are under 35 feet it costs $150 to enter the Bahamas, instead of $300.

    • John Feb 12, 2012, 3:21 pm

      Welcome Back, John,

      A really good point about broadening the market. I like “Purist’s Boat” a lot. Anyone have any other thought on a broad genre descriptive?

      Also, I think the that “Model T” may be outliving its usefulness. As several contributors have pointed out, there are some places where the precedences set by that car don’t really fit what we are trying to do here.

      How about “Attainable Adventure 40”. Or just “Adventure 40”. Now I wonder how I came up with those?

      Anyone else?

    • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 12, 2012, 6:17 pm

      Hi JK and others;

      There is a reason why every surviving production builder of quality sailboats no longer focuses on small, inexpensive boats. Its called profit margin, and even for throw-away things like Hunters it simply isn’t there in the 30-35′ range. Once you build it well enough for ocean sailing your profit margin is as upside down as a condo in Las Vegas, and your life expectancy as a builder is only measured by how much your investors want to loose.

      Speaking of being underwater, over 50% of the homes in the US have zero or negative net equity value. Not exactly an expanding market out there in the middle class of either the US or Europe—–. Even for a product like the Model T (or is it now the Adventure 40?) the buyers will be in the 90-97 percentile of wealth, but just eccentric enough to value function over fluff.

  • Kettlewell Feb 12, 2012, 3:36 pm

    I like Adventure 40—put the Model T and purist bits in the selling copy. You can have a whole Adventure series eventually, for those that need shorter and longer boats. Personally, I would go even lower tech for many things. Skid the full battened main and save $$thousands. Similarly, I’m not sure the soft rigging saves over standard SS wire. Go with no liner—simplifies installation of everything vastly. Forget stuff like raised cleat bases—maybe they’re ideal, but again every little thing that requires more time adds to cost. Today’s sealants are great, and if the deck area under the cleat is solid glass no need to raise them up. Etc.

  • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 12, 2012, 5:38 pm

    Hi Y-all,
    Good to see there are a number of competing viewpoints coming forward, many of them well worth consideration.

    When marketing a product that is basically a dream, there are certain things you do primarily for the gee-whiz factor and to separate yourself from the perceived competition. I see DUX soft rigging as one of those— it immediately labels you as innovative and invites explanation as to why it is better. (3x as strong, saves 1/2 the weight difference that could be gained by going to a $40,000 carbon mast)
    The rigging alternatives are:
    1-Buy the cheapest swaged 304 SS wire package and turnbuckles like everyone else. Over the course of the lifetime of 100 b oats there will probably be a half dozen mast failures as a result.
    2- Rig the boat with Stay-loc/Norseman type terminals and oversized 316 SS for an additional $1,000 or so, or upgrade to even more expensive rod rigging.
    3- Go with the least expensive soft rigging alternative at a cost close to the Stay-loc alternative.
    4- Or let the buyer choose on a cost basis. I’d bet that the majority will choose the cheapest and worst alternative.

    On the east coast and in Europe few sailors are familiar with the history of the now defunct Northern California ULDB boat building movement. A number of builders, Santa Cruz Yachts being the most prolific among them, started building long, skinny, lightweight boats designed to sail fast downwind to Hawaii. When I first went thru a SC 50 my first thought was that this thing was a license to coin money. (Base price about 150k in 1980) Low tech hand laid balsa cored hull only 12′ wide, so flexible that you couldn’t hold forestay tension, and a wood interior almost devoid of joinerwork. The secret was using premium Brunzeel plywood. Whenever you want to create a storage cabinet or door opening, all you need to do is cut a hole and run a router around the opening. No fabrication and installation of trim required, and the exposed wood is of spectacular quality. Spend money to save money.

    What people don’t realize is that a shiny white interior with corners properly rounded off is one of the most expensive ways possible to build a limited production interior due to the many hundreds of hours spent fairing and painting it. The only economical way to build the basic, simple white interior that I think people are visualizing is to fully tool it up as a series of liner modules. And, the molds involved will be substantially more costly than the hull mold itself.

    Bill Lee at Santa Cruz Yachts built probably 50 SC50’s and a number of SC 70’s in the original chicken coop factory. Eventually he decided that he wanted to become a real boat builder, and designed the SC52 with 2 feet more beam, a fully production tooled interior, and the usual bells and whistles . Lost the company to bankruptcy not long thereafter. Cause and effect? Perhaps.

  • Kettlewell Feb 12, 2012, 5:53 pm

    “1-Buy the cheapest swaged 304 SS wire package and turnbuckles like everyone else. Over the course of the lifetime of 100 b oats there will probably be a half dozen mast failures as a result.”

    Don’t buy the cheapest, but buy the most cost-effective and simple. The more stuff you can use that is off-the-shelf, dead-simple-replaceable anywhere in the world, the cheaper the boat will be in the first place and the easier to fix and keep going anywhere in the world. I don’t think you could support your statement above with any scientific evidence. I’m not sure what you’re saying about the interior—let the fiberglass cloth show, paint it white, be done with it. No need for a smooth yachty finish. I’ve owned several old fiberglass boats that looked like that on the interior and I like it a lot better. The idea is to build it strong, simple, and cheap enough so ordinary mortals can afford it.

  • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 12, 2012, 6:33 pm

    Hi K,
    Of course my statement about rigging failure is pure conjecture. Not unreasonable for 100 boats over a 40 year period. There is a real world test of that duration in the Valiant 40 but apart from the dismastings we have heard about thru rumor I doubt if there is any scientific way to evaluate how common it is.

    Sorry, but you can’t sell a new boat for the cost of materials if the interior consists of fiberglass roving with a coat of white paint on it.

  • Kettlewell Feb 12, 2012, 7:06 pm

    “Sorry, but you can’t sell a new boat for the cost of materials if the interior consists of fiberglass roving with a coat of white paint on it.”

    You may be right, but a lot of builders did just that back in the 60s and 70s, and they sold a ton more units than sailboat builders are doing today. It used to be that folks of average means could afford a sailboat, but for some reason the conventional wisdom now is to sell to the high end and ignore the average. It obviously works for some builders, but there just aren’t that many people around that can afford $500,000 boats. And, the funny is that most (I would guess 90%+) of those old Cals, Rangers, Pearsons, and Bristols are still sailing around with happy folks onboard, and their resale value is sometimes more than their original cost.

  • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 12, 2012, 11:03 pm

    “It used to be that folks of average means could afford a sailboat, but for some reason the conventional wisdom now is to sell to the high end and ignore the average.”

    Back in the 60’s and 70’s my girlfriend taught art and worked nine months a year for a salary of $9,000. She bought a brand new VW for $1,700 cash. If she were to buy an equivalent VW today it will cost over $20,000, or 12 times as much and the gasoline to power it is 14 times as expensive, plus she would have to finance it because no teacher has $20,000 in spare cash for a car anymore. So her equivalent income would now have to be more than $105,882.00 to maintain the same relative cost for a car (or for that matter a boat). Factor in the higher income tax rate bracket effect on net income, and the salary equivalency is closer to $140,000. How many art teachers do you know who make that much?

    It’s nice to dream about old girlfriends and the 1970’s where ordinary people had money left over for dreams, but that is not the world we live in anymore. So if you want to sell something as expensive to build as a boat, you have to sell it to someone who can pay for it.

  • Peter Feb 13, 2012, 2:41 am

    To me it almost seems that you have given up already, almost before we even started. The boat taking form here may be attractive and worth pursuing, but it is by no means a “model-T” and hardly even trying to reach a new market. Some of you are quite explicit of targeting the current market “sweet spot”?! Guess what – there are plenty of builders doing that (and nothing else but that) already… 😉

    I thought we were trying to target a market not reached by current strategies, rather than coming up with another option for the current buyers.

    If the aim is to reach NEW buyers, we need new approaches. If the approach is supposed to be “model-T flavored” by any means, I believe cost should be cut even more, size should come down a bit to save building-, but also fitting- and owning costs.

    In short. To break new ground we need to stop using the current paradigm as our framework for success. We need to believe that there is a market currently overlooked. If we do NOT believe that, this will lead nowhere or possibly to yet another option for the same “old” buyers.

    Maybe a bit provocative, but I hope no one is offended. I am thankful of the opportunity to learn so much from your insights that widely exceeds my own in so many areas, but can’t help but wonder… 😉

  • John Feb 13, 2012, 9:21 am

    Hi All,

    There are several comments in the stream that I need to address.

    I just don’t agree that the boat being discussed here is just another me-too boat. This is a fast, seaworthy, and ready to go around the world, offshore boat, brand new for less than US$200,000 (even after the owner adds electronics, dock lines, fenders, etc).

    I have looked high and low in the new boat market and can find nothing like it under US$500,000. And I can also tell you, based on the experience of five major refits, that it would be nigh on impossible to buy an older boat and refit her to this level for the price. And even if you have the experience and skills to do a refit like that properly, it will take years of your time when you could be out sailing on the Adventure 40 (Model-T).

    Having said that. If any of you know of practical changes to the specifications that could make it a better boat, we are all ears. Or if you know about another boat that will do what this one will at the price, we would love to hear about it.

    No, the boat will not cure the world’s ills, or bring back 1970. And it won’t enable some poor victim of years of over-consumption, and financial mismanagement by politicians and business, escape the realities of their debt ridden life.

    But the Adventure 40 will, I believe, enable many more people to go offshore sailing in safety and comfort.

    If we want to get anywhere at all with this, we need to remember what the late Dodge Morgan used to say “The world is divided into two groups: Yae-sayers and Nae-sayers.” Which do we want to be?

    • RDE (Richard Elder) Feb 13, 2012, 5:34 pm

      Spot on John, especially the quote from Dodge Morgan!

    • Ann Bainbridge Mar 12, 2012, 7:31 am

      A boat with many of the discussed attributes of the potential Adventure 40 is just starting production in the U.K. now. See the Wylo 35.5 (March 2012 issue of Yachting Monthly and Four options available: sail-away £97,750 to fully finished at £149,750. A little over the price point of the Adventure 40 and they have made a few choices which may be questionable (gaff rig and wooden spars?), but, generally, many of the design attributes seem to fit the bill for a reasonably-priced production boat suitable for voyaging i.e. diesel/electric hybrid engine, solar/wind, tiller steering, windvane, manual windlass, steel hull, solid fuel heater, optional refrigeration. A lot of the details are missing on the website (insulation? and ballast/displacement ratio?), but, thought people might be interested in looking at it…

      • Justin R. Mar 28, 2012, 3:02 pm

        What an interesting boat! Thanks much for sharing this. Considering that one can buy their bare hull and deck for $80k USD, I think they’re doing something right.

  • Peter Feb 13, 2012, 9:46 am

    John, obviously your comment has merit, but I believe that so does mine. If I can show you how to build a “better boat”? No. I am clearly not competent enough. And I mean that 100%.

    But, do I believe the current version is the best that can be done to make a useful, affordable cruising boat for a new breed of sailors? No, I think it reflect other priorities and that we could do better with a smaller, cheaper boat that would push the price noticeably lower than your current price tag target.

    Don’t you agree that a smaller boat would be cheaper to build and own? Is a boat at say 32′ to small to do the work of making great voyages? If it would be capable and “big enough” the only reasons to make it more expensive (bigger) are to fit other priorities or that you simply believe that no one would want such a “tiny” boat nowadays. And this is where I disagree. I may agree that the current, average(?) american boat owner may not, but do they represent the target market here?

    • John Feb 13, 2012, 10:08 am

      Hi Peter,

      The 18,000-pound size represents my best guess of a boat that will get the maximum number of people out there.

      Of course a 32′ boat would be cheaper. But the bigger questions are:

      Would it be a lot cheaper? No, these things do not scale in a linear fashion. For proof, look at what a brand new Dana 24 would cost (about $150.000).

      Will an appreciable number of couples really want to cross oceans in a 32-foot boat? Great in theory, but how many people really want to be that cramped and go that slowly? Not many in my view. It may sound romantic, but 8 days or so to Bermuda gets old in a big hurry.

      And remember that most of the “small” boats that everyone holds up as examples of good small offshore boats, like the Westsail 32, are in fact about the same size as the Adventure 40.

  • Peter Feb 13, 2012, 9:57 am

    Oh, also. Please note that there is a difference in saying this boat is “just another copy” than to say that regardless of its uniqueness, it is still targeting the same buyers. Whether I am right or wrong, I never suggested the former.

    • John Feb 13, 2012, 10:17 am

      Hi Peter,

      I can’t agree. The boat is targeted at people that want a good offshore boat and do have $200,000 that they can spend rather than the $500,000 that such a boat costs now. The former is, in my view, a logarithmically scaled larger group of new buyers.

      Keep in mind too that if the boat is done right, depreciation and maintenance, and therefore cost of ownership, could be less than a quarter of the current offerings, and that’s the real game changer.

  • Peter Feb 13, 2012, 10:44 am

    OK. Great points! 🙂

    I still believe that a 32′ boat (for example) is a “big enough” boat that will reach more potential buyers, but I have been wrong before… and not only once either. 😉

    I do believe that there also may be regional differences of what is desirable, between markets. On forums I follow i Europe, as well as blogs by circumnavigators/cruisers here, there are often references to the big boats in the bay which supposedly “always” belong to American cruisers. I know that many cruisers regardless of nationalities use bigger than 40′ boats, but I also believe that there is some truth to these observations. So maybe that is why you see the market in that segment.

    As a comparison, out of the 20 odd cruising blogs I follow, one is with a crew sailing a 40+ boat. And, no I have not looked to follow smaller vessels for any particular reason.

    So maybe I am mistaken about where the market lies, maybe not. Hopefully we will know some day! 🙂 I would not think twice of going wide and far on my 31′ and (sorry to use metric) 2,8 m beam. I admit to have limited experience on long distance travel with her, but I have stayed on her for extended periods out sailing and know of plenty of sailors that has gone far and wide on similar vessels without longing for a bigger boat.

    Lets agree that “your” boat is an interesting concept that breaks some new ground. Maybe we could also agree that a 32′ boat is actually not a dinghy but a size of boat that has made countless circumnavigations and not only by strange self punishing hermits. 😉

    • John Feb 13, 2012, 11:19 am

      Hi Peter,

      All interesting stuff. But do keep in mind that everything you say above is based on length overall (LOA) and that is a fundamentally flawed way to compare boat size and the expense of building and owning a boat.

      A much more accurate way to compare two boats is displacement. And I think you will find that if you go back and make the comparisons that you cite, based on displacement, you will come up with very different conclusions.

      It is not for nothing that in the commercial world, where it it is vital that decisions are made on the correct metrics, tonnage has been the standard measurement for centuries.

  • Kettlewell Feb 13, 2012, 11:26 am

    My earlier comments about cost are just to point out that there will be more buyers at a lower price point. How do I know this? Take a look around any harbor anywhere in the world and you will see a lot more older 40-footers than you will see $500,000 40-footers. I don’t get this argument that you can’t sell a boat unless it has all the latest bells and whistles, while you can look out the window and see harbors full of these older boats without all the bells and whistles. People buy what they can afford, and there are a lot more people at John’s $175,000 price point than at the $500,000 price. I think a lot of money can be saved at the design stage, and it can make for a better boat, not just cheaper. For example, why not drain the cockpit through the transom, eliminating cockpit drains, hoses, seacocks, etc.? Drains better, costs less, won’t sink the boat. Win, win. Why not go with tiller steering? Steers better, lots cheaper, easier to fix, works well with windvane self-steering or a cockpit autopilot. Stuff like that is what I am thinking of. I think the early J-Boats were examples of what we are thinking of. Very fast, simple designs, that still sail rings around most so-called “cruising boats” out there.

  • rand Feb 13, 2012, 2:17 pm

    ultimately – while input and dialogue are great/useful and it’s a wonderful thought process to include the readership in – somebosy has to wear the Cap’n cap…John, you seem to have a vision…I for one think thats great – for most people these days a 32 footer is a coastal cruiser whereas a 40 footer appears to have “longer legs” – that may not be entirely true but 30 years on buyers today (you are looking to sell today right?) arent gonna head off for fiji in a 32 footer – they have been conditioned to think a 32 footer is a daysailer – they are wrong sure but there u have it …I dont think my opinion is worth more than anyone else but thought I would toss it out there – encourage you to keep on ruminating, running the numbers and moving forwards – I think the Nordic 40 guys are giving it a go and if they drink beer maybe you should buy em one and see how its been going. best of luck!

    • John Feb 13, 2012, 6:16 pm

      Hi Rand,

      All good points and thank you for the vote of confidence, I was getting a bit disheartened when your comment turned up.

      I checked out the Nordic 40. Great boat, as you say. However, as far as I can see, they have not been built for quite some time.

      I did find one 1981 model that the owner claims is fully updated and refitted…asking US$170,000 for a thirty year old fiberglass boat!

      I rest my case.

  • C. Dan Feb 13, 2012, 2:52 pm


    You said: “I chose 18,000 pounds and 40-feet as my best guess of the market sweet spot where the maximum demand seems to exist, since the key to success here is going to be the volume of boats that the builder can sell.”

    Can you help us understand the rationale behind this statement? It may help sway some of the skeptics.

    I think you may underestimate the number of people who would trade speed for a lower sail-away price, but if we insist of speed, that will certainly factor into the LWL/displacement spec.

    Here is a stat that may (or may not) be useful (courtesy of and
    In March 2011, the average price for sailboats sold in the 36-45ft category was $104,000, down 5% from a year earlier.

    True, these are mostly used boats, and the ones that would be ready for bluewater cruising were probably well above average. But give the 40′ spec and the displacement of a ~33-36′ boat, this is probably a realistic comp for what the Adventure 40 would re-sell for after 3-5 years of cruising.

    I think there is more to be done on getting the initial price down. I still think you should consider a lower-cost rig, even if it sacrifices speed or some windward performance. Remember, “uncomplicated” and “low maintenance” are both GOOD selling points!

    • C. Dan Feb 13, 2012, 3:16 pm

      FWIW, I am in the process of buying my first sailboat.

      It is a 1985 plastic 28′ LOA sloop, with displacement of about 4000 lbs. SA/D of 23.5 and hull speed is ~6.5 kts.

      Some specs include:
      Full marine head, enclosed, to starboard below the companionway; low wet locker aft of the enclosed head with access to “engine room”
      Galley: 2 burner alcohol stove, icebox, dry storage, hand pump sink w/
      6hp outboard, but with existing engine mounts for a saildrive 10 hp diesel if I ever want to upgrade
      Electronics: Small battery bank, VHF, knotmeter, depthsounder; upgradeable to include hookup for GPS, solar panels, and/or a small gas generator (there is plenty of room).
      V-berth, plus dining room table that collapses to form a double berth, plus settee to port and quarter berth to port
      Hinged mast can be lowered or raised by ~3 people.

      All this, plus 3 suits of sails and full running rigging and other miscellany. Survey has already been done and the only items of note were cosmetic.

      TOTAL SAIL-AWAY PRICE: $13,000

      To be fair, I may need to do ~$2,000 worth of miscellaneous repairs, but still, it is an incredible amount of boat for the price. No, probably won’t be crossing any oceans, but I will be able to cruise the entire eastern seaboard of the US. Plenty of adventure for a late-twenties / early thirties sailor, pre-kids.

      Not a bad start on the spec list for the Adventure 30′? Could you build this boat for less than $40,000? If so, I will take delivery of Hull #1 in 3 years.

    • John Feb 13, 2012, 6:02 pm

      Hi Dan,

      Interesting number from Yachtworld. To me it only reinforces what a great deal the Adventure 40 would be at $175, 000. And here is why:

      I would guess that the average age of those boats will be about 15 years and that means that to make them ocean safe to the same level as the Adventure 40 will require the buyer to spend a minimum of half the purchase price again, and that’s if he/she do it themselves.

      So, once again, the buyer has spent nearly the same price as the Adventure 40 and several years of their lives. Trust me on this, it’s bitter experience talking!

      And, after all that. The second hand buyer still has a 15 year old boat that may, nay probably, have at least one of the following problems that few surveyors will find:
      * Corroded stainless steel chain plates and or attachment bolts.
      * Corroded keel bolts.
      * Cracks in the stainless steel rudder shaft and/or corrosion and cracks in the ss web inside the rudder.
      * An engine and or transmission that has been badly abused
      * Secondary bonding problems at the bulkheads.

      How do I know about these problems? I have the scars and depleted bank balance to prove it!

      I could go on, but you get the idea.

  • Colin Farrar Feb 13, 2012, 5:56 pm

    I’ve always like Bob Perry’s Saga 43. We’re thinking of a boat with similar proportions and rig, slightly smaller, and far simpler.

    The Saga 43 comes with 2 heads, 2 sleeping cabins, a plumb bow and large bowsprit, kevlar weave hull, and many options. It costs much more than $175,000. Saga went out of business a couple of times (now produced by Bruckman, I believe). Perhaps there’s a lesson, here.

  • Erik Snel Feb 14, 2012, 12:07 pm


    I have been reading this post with much interest. The idea of an affordable new ocean going yacht instead of refitting an old one is refreshing, although in Europe we have already seen the Varianta 44 which is based on similar reasoning, although this is not in my opinion the ocean going boat we are discussing here.

    I have some remarks on the setup proposed above:
    – engine: it might be a good idea to locate the engine in the middle of the cabin. This is very good for the weight distribution and also would make for an easier (and thus cheaper) install. The original idea of a waterproof compartment could be used in this location as well, and the top of the compartment could double as a table.
    – removing the engine from below the cockpit would gain us a lot of space, easily enough to accomodate a double bed next to the proposed storage area’s

    About the price and the lenght of the yacht: I would very much like to know the budget of ocean going sailors. My guess is that there is a split in two groups:
    – people who have loads of money to spare (not our target group here)
    – people on a relatively tight budget (yes, this is our group)
    The people on the tight budget would not really mind if the yacht were 36 foot instead of 40. Lower than 36 would probably compromise the comfort quite a bit. My guess is that a 36 would be quite a lot cheaper than a 40 foot:
    – sails
    – running rigging
    – motor
    – building the hull
    – etc
    Also, the running cost for a shorter yacht are lower.

    Kind regards


  • Colin Farrar Feb 14, 2012, 2:23 pm

    “Saga went out of business a couple of times… Perhaps there’s a lesson, here.”

    I meant to communicate (apologies if I did so poorly) that John is on the right track with his focus on simplicity and affordability. If someone could build and sell an Adventure 40 for $175,000 I believe he/she would avoid the pitfall of so many boat builders (or auto and aircraft builders, for that matter) – the tendency to add significant complexity, weight, and cost to the original design.

    • John Feb 16, 2012, 10:38 am

      Hi Colin,

      I too really like the Saga. And I think that you might easily be right about the reasons they have had financial problems. It’s hard enough to build a boat without worrying about three (I think) different keels!

  • Bill F Feb 21, 2012, 11:02 am


    If i may add to the discussion. I have been following this discussion now and am really interested and excited about the ideas here. I too have been for some time thinking of a boat that is very similar to the ideas presented here. I’d like to include a sketch of what I have been developing for some time. I’d like to throw it in for comment and would be willing/interested in developing it in line with what the group here has in mind.

    Some backstory might help, as i had been developing a design that would be “my” ideal cruising boat for a couple, with an occasional guest or two. it was to be 40′ x 10′ x 6′ max, and approx 18,000 to 20,000 lbs displacement, cutter or fractional sloop rigged. I had intended to have a layout very similar to what has been discussed, but with a quarter berth aft of the galley, this could just as easily be left as has been developed in this discussion for access aft, as opposed to deck access. The more I have thought about this the more i see the merit of access from below only. Obviously the layout I have worked on and the hull forms I have developed are based on a 10′ beam, this has been mostly driven by my love of narrow, easily driven hull forms. An additional 2′ of beam could prove invaluable in sail carrying ability with the rather light displacement of 18,000 lbs, while representing minimal additional weight in hull material/hence weight. The additional volume below might prove truly wonderful after a long time aboard. It might also permit a pilot berth or similar owner/mod to the saloon area to provide a truly dedicated sea berth.

    I offer what i have here for the open criticism of others, i’d like to throw up a drawing of the layout, but frankly not sure how to do so here.


    • John Feb 21, 2012, 1:00 pm

      Hi Bill,

      Thanks very much for the interest in the debate. There is no way for you to put up a graphic on our site since if we allowed that the site would be hacked and full of malware within a day.

      If you would like to send me the details of your design, I will have a look and may post it if I think it adds materially to the debate.

      Do understand though, that, at least at the moment, there is no intent to run a design competition here. If the Adventure 40 (Model T) ever does see the light of day, it will almost certainly be designed by a “name” designer, if for no other reason than it will be easier to sell that way.

      Having said that, what we are trying to do is gain an idea of what people want and also gather guidance that would be used by the builder in working with the designer. And in that process, the more the merrier.

  • paul Feb 27, 2012, 3:16 am

    New boat sales are down something like 86% since their peak in the late 70’s. It cost almost the same in man hours to build the interior of a 32 foot Valiant as a 40 footer hence no more new 32 footers in decades. Cut costs by prefabricating the boat out of pressed steel like a car. Think Buckminster Fuller meets Kaiser Liberty ships, and build them in Brazil. Set your price point at $75K. All the young guys in my marina are buying and sailing old 27 footers and doing the single handed Transpac for example. The bigger boats are going to retired boomers who can get away to Mexico for the winter. If that’s your market they can find boats for $175K all day long. I don’t see a model T at that price point very competitive.

  • Roger Mar 29, 2012, 3:12 pm

    It appears to me that Bob Perry’s P-38 design for Pacific Seacraft is indicative of the type of modern offshore boat that we are discussing (and I am looking for). The problem is that it was going to sell in the $375K to $400K price range. It was designed by Bob prior to the PSC/Saga bankruptcy at the direction of Allan Poole (of Saga Yachts), but Steve Brodie (who purchased PSC) might be convinced to resurrect the project. That being said, a modified no-frills version would probably still have to go for a lot more than the target $175K., especially given the 21,000 lb. displacement and the basic build quality desired.

  • RDE Mar 29, 2012, 8:12 pm

    Roger, thanks for drawing attention to this design— one I was not aware of. ( I personally do like this style of boat, which is a development of Perry’s larger designs “Night Runner” and “Eclipse” from about 25 years ago. I actually tried to buy the 45′ version “Eclipse” but couldn’t arrive at a price that justified replacing the rotted teak decks and home-built interior.

    If you look at the specifications for the p-38 ( and compare them directly to those for a Valiant 42 you will see that apart from the styling there is virtually no difference in all the vital statistics for the two boats. ( LWL, LOA, Beam, Draft, Sail area.) Since Seacraft’s interiors of that era were only slightly less highly finished than Valiant’s its not surprising that they priced it at nearly 400k.

    If a builder is to have a prayer of a chance of building the Adventure 40 at half that price it will because the design has been successfully stripped down to what is necessary to function as an ocean voyager, and everything else left on the dock. Among other things that means less beam, less displacement, fewer expensive cabin side portlights that do little for ventilation, no teak anywhere, no expensive bow platform, and of course an interior more like the original Santa Cruz 50 than a Valiant.

    • Roger Mar 29, 2012, 10:59 pm

      Other than the Valiant 40 is a double-ender with a skeg hung rudder, nearly two feet longer, 1,000 lbs heavier, has less sail area, and completely different keel shape, yes very similar 😉

      BTW, I find my opening cabin side portlights very useful for ventilation purposes.

      Yes, the Adventure 40 specs suggest a boat slightly longer, somewhat narrower but only a tad lighter. Build cost and displacement are closely related. As soon as you start specifying materials like lead keels instead of cast iron, costs creep upwards. Just saying.

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