Members' Online Book: Better Offshore Motorboats, Chapter 7 of 8

Thinking About Better Offshore Motorboats

Phyllis hanging out with Steve and Linda Dashew on "Wind Horse" arguably the first sailor's motorboat of recent times.

Phyllis hanging out with Steve and Linda Dashew on “Wind Horse” the first “sailor’s motorboat” of recent times.

Now that I have set the Adventure 40 free, I have some more mind share to think about other things. And one of those other things is making offshore motorboats better.

I started writing about this three years ago and to really understand the sailor’s motorboat concept you will need to read the original post, but here’s the short version.

A motorboat that is:

  • Able to cruise offshore at 8 knots or better with a top cruise speed of 10 knots.
  • Fuel efficient at that speed—two to four times better than trawlers currently available.
  • As safe offshore as a well-found sailboat.

A quick look at the trawlers available when I wrote the original post made it pretty clear that such a boat did not exist.

In fact, a bit of basic arithmetic conclusively showed that Phyllis and I already own a better motorboat, at least for our needs, in the form of Morgan’s Cloud, than anything the trawler builders were offering. Pretty damning when you consider that when we are in motorboat mode we are dragging a keel and rig, and taking the efficiency hit from a flat-blade feathering propeller!

Not Just an Exercise

And all of this is of more than academic interest to Phyllis and me, since over the last four years, as I first broke my leg badly and then struggled with another chronic health problem, we were seriously thinking about what boat would come next for us, since sailing and maintaining Morgan’s Cloud got very difficult.

I’m pleased to report that, for the moment at least, I seemed to have returned to better health, and therefore we now hope to sail our beloved cutter for a few more years. That said, the day will inevitably come when she is too much for us, a position that many of my cohort are approaching, or already in.

Not Just For Sailors

And not only that, I strongly believe that a “sailor’s motorboat” would be a far better alternative than most any of the trawlers now available for those going offshore cruising who decide to bypass the sailing step altogether.

Efficiency Matters

And further, the boat(s) I’m thinking about could, I think, survive in a world where governments will increasingly price diesel fuel, and the carbon that burning it emits, properly—bit of a setback in that area lately, but I still hope that sanity will prevail, at least in time.

Building a Plan

Over the last few years, Steve Dashew generously shared a lot of priceless information with Phyllis and me that has helped us clarify our thinking about what can and can’t be done to produce a better motorboat.

And we have blended Steve’s insights with our own 25 years of experience cruising the Arctic, where we ended up motoring a lot, and thoughts and wisdom from Dennis, designer and builder of the Artnautica LRC 58, as well as some chats with Todd over at Black Swan Yachts, who is working on a very interesting boat.

What’s Available

There were plenty of good, efficient, offshore motorboats available until a few decades ago, like the one on the left hanging out with "Wind Horse" on the right.

There were plenty of good, efficient, offshore motorboats available until a few decades ago, like the one on the left hanging out with “Wind Horse” on the right. (Yes, I know she has masts, but she is primarily a motorboat.)

Turning to the current state of play, Steve and Linda continue to show the way with their FPB line of ocean-going motorboats, but the problem is that the minimum price of entry is, as I understand it, around US$3 million, which makes these boats of only academic interest for most of us.

And I understand that Black Swan will soon have their first boat in build, but it too is priced at a level that is only accessible to the champagne-and-caviar crowd.

The Artnautica LRC 58 Adventure Edition


That leaves only the Artnautica priced at a level that Phyllis and I could ever even dream of paying, so I have put in quite a bit of time working with Dennis on what we call the LRC 58 Adventure Edition.


That said, even the Artnautica will set us back the price of a reasonably nice house. So is that attainable for many of our readers here? It’s a good question, and one I will explore in detail in a future post.

Spoiler: The case is surprisingly compelling, particularly for those willing to live aboard fulltime.

And Boréal

And further, our friends at Boréal have expressed interest in building a motorboat. It’s early days yet, and it may never happen in that they have a huge and successful tiger by the tail in the form of their incredibly successful sailboats, but we are committed to at least discussing ideas for a future boat with them, and, or course, reporting on the project.

My Job

I see my role in all of this as:

  • Explaining why a new concept is needed; not easy but important, since what many buyers are attracted to (a huge fancy interior), and what will actually make them happy when voyaging, are often two different things. A tall order yes, but one I have already had success with in the Adventure 40 project.
  • Defining and refining the overall concept—the former is mostly done in this Online Book.
  • Hosting a discussion among the incredibly smart and experienced mariners, technicians and engineers who comment here to improve said concept.

To that end I will be writing more over this winter, including:

  • Unveiling the work Dennis and I have done on the LRC 58. Coming in the next few days.
  • Discussing the two 800-pound gorilla design decisions that come up whenever offshore motorboats are on the table: stabilization and get-home power.
  • Examining the affordability case for a sailor’s motorboat.

And I’m sure I will write lots more, inspired, as I so often am, by your comments and suggestions.

Please come along for the ride; it should be interesting, and this time we are working with a boat that exists (LRC 58) and boatbuilders with a real track record (Boréal).

Further Reading

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The Artnautica LRC 58 Adventure Edition Offshore Motorboat >>

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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.

20 comments … add one
  • Giles Dec 13, 2016, 2:10 pm


    Great to hear about this activity, something I am keen to know more about.

    Late to this sailing lark, I had committed quite early on to the Adventure 40. However, being tied to the desk over the years has not allowed the opportunity to get the sea miles I need to feel even half competent with her. I’m looking to untie the lines in a couple of years so there is no time to get the experience I would feel adequate to sail seriously and safely so, reluctantly, had to look elsewhere to fulfill the dream.

    The early LRC58 posts however got me thinking that the dream could become a reality. Having a bit of an engineering background the mechanics of the boat appeal to me. Not having to deal with sails makes me think I could venture more safely (for me) and enjoy the experience.

    Many thanks in advance to all the sage advice that will follow from you and the broader Morgans Cloud community. A further thanks for all the wisdom Steve Dashew has available and shares freely. I’m learning a lot whilst desk bound.



    • John Dec 13, 2016, 5:13 pm

      Hi Giles,

      I think you make a really good point. Much as I love sailing, it’s a tough skill to acquire later in life so for many I think you are right, skip that, and focus on becoming a good seaman in a motor boat—more…attainable.

      And I second your thanks to Steve for all he has shared.

  • Dick Stevenson Dec 13, 2016, 3:22 pm

    Hi John,
    Exciting stuff.
    Those of us around our age statistically only have a handful of years left where the rigors of wandering widely by sailboat are in the cards. I do mean statistically as many will go much longer, especially with all the aids possible these days, but we also know many who have already fallen by the wayside.
    I suspect I will not need an “offshore passage maker” level power vessel, but I certainly would want one that could stand up to ugly waters and winds that coastal cruising sometimes throws one’s way.
    I look forward to your continuing thoughts.
    My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

    • John Dec 13, 2016, 5:16 pm

      Hi Dick,

      Yes, Phyllis and I are thinking about that too. Will we cross oceans in a motorboat, assuming we end up with one? Probably not. But we still want a good seaworthy design so we don’t have to slink from port to port in fear of getting caught out, as you see many trawlers doing.

  • Peter Mannerstråle Dec 13, 2016, 4:58 pm

    Off shore motorboat for ocean passage, why mono hull?
    Would it not be better with a catamaran for fuel efficency, stability and space?
    Price for berth may be the only negativ.

    • John Dec 13, 2016, 5:10 pm

      Hi Peter,

      I think you are absolutely right that there’s a lot to like about offshore motor cats, and I don’t have a thing against them. That said, my experience has been primarily with monohulls, so I would not consider myself qualified to add much to a multihull project.

      The other issue is that cats don’t work well in ice, even quite small stuff, due to the vulnerability of the props and the tendency of the hulls to collect ice and funnel into the area between the hulls. Not a concern to most people, but it is to me.

      And finally, Steve Dashew, definitely a mentor of mine, who has a lot of experience with cats early in life, found over the years that long thin mono hulls gave him a better mix of load carrying capacity and sustainable speed for the price. Does that disqualify cats, absolutely not, but it’s worth listening to.

  • Catherine Hammond Dec 14, 2016, 9:44 am

    We have just spent 4 months cruising through Indonesia and Malaysia in a rally which included 4 motorboats. We are the only powercat – a Chamberlin 12m. The others are a FPB64, a Selene 53 and Bond 80, all monos. We were by far the smallest of the 4, and in fact almost the smallest of the entire fleet, but our average cruising speed is 10 or 11 knots, with fast cruising at 13-14 knots. At our normal speed we are very fuel efficient at 1 to 1.1 litres per mile, total, and we also had the fastest cruising speed of the 4 boats. We very much appreciated our speed and being able to pick our weather opportunities. Admittedly this area of the world is fairly benign when talking about crossing oceans (except for the thunderstorms), but I feel a well designed powercat in a larger size, up to 50 foot would be suitable for passages in the usual “milk run”, and no, probably not the higher latitudes. The vast majority of powercats we see, both production and custom, are not well designed for the ocean, and are more of a house and entertainment platform, but this is certainly an area of boat design that has opportunities for the future.

    • John Dec 14, 2016, 10:28 am

      Hi Catherine,

      Thanks very much for a great analysis from a person who has the experience. All makes a lot of sense. I find your point that while cats can be great offshore, there are few cats that are actually designed to do the job properly, compelling. Of course the same problem applies to monohulls, albeit to a very slightly less extent.

      Richard (RDE) who comments here, and knows a great deal more than I do about power cats, has made the same point repeatedly and has also pointed out how well the power cats in the head boat charter trade do offshore even with big loads of passengers aboard.

      • RDE Dec 15, 2016, 12:55 pm

        Hi John,
        Before you and Phyllis become totally committed to the concept of a ULDB aluminum motorboat I highly encourage you to hop on a plane for a week in Hawaii. (Looking out my window at the snow blowing sideways, the timing is definitely right!)

        I can provide you with a short list of catamarans in the 52-60 foot range to ride on that will provide a definitive answer to the question of whether the platform is suitable for a sailor’s motorboat. Operationally most are motorsailors or motor boats with masts. They represent literally hundreds of thousands of hours of testing and development. I’m thinking of boats like Andy Evans’ Gold Coast 52 powered by a pair of 230hp Cummins that was delivered on it’s bottom from St. Croix and has been working in Hawaii for nearly 20 years.

        If you like the concept then talk to me about a build technique that can enable a 50′ x 25′ power cat to be built for the same or less cost than an Artnautica type design. (And of course be unsinkable, faster, and equally fuel efficient)


        • John Dec 15, 2016, 4:41 pm

          Hi Richard,

          Well first off, I’m not even slightly committed to anything, other that (health permitting) keeping my present boat for a while.

          That said, I’m sure I would be very impressed by those cats. (Actually I’m not quite as ignorant as I profess in that I skippered a plywood high bridge-deck head boat cat, back when the world was young and so was I.) That boat had some really bad habits, particularly when overloaded with rum soaked tourists who all wanted to congregate on the bow netting, but I’m sure all that bad stuff has been fixed in the intervening 45 (gulp) years.

          Anyway, I guess I would get a lot more interested if someone was actually building, or even planning, such a boat that people who were not super rich and did not want to start a self-build could aspire to.

          Maybe you should put such a project together. If so, I will write about it with gusto.

          • RDE Dec 15, 2016, 6:44 pm

            Hi John,
            Without going into details, the project (code name Cat Tracks) that I have in mind is uniquely suited to economical construction.

            1- No accommodations in the hulls. Only machinery, storage and flotation foam. Freed from the necessity of designing around queen berths and the like, the hulls can be optimized to move through the water with maximum efficiency. And no labor intensive building an interior in the hulls and fitting it into small, curved spaces.
            2- Because the hulls aren’t filled with accommodations they can be filled with foam– giving a whole new meaning to the concept of unsinkable. (see the history of Rainmaker — the Gunboat that just won’t go away in spite of not being designed with the intention of patrolling the Atlantic for years after being abandoned.)
            3- Most of the boat will be built on a large flat surface vacuum table using resin infusion to produce a finished exterior surface with minimal fairing.
            4- Twin engine get-home redundancy

            There is nothing experimental about this kind of vessel as millions of drunken passengers can attest! Certainly not in comparison to a small engined, flat bottom 58′ ULDB long range motorboat where two or three examples have accumulated a few thousand miles.


          • John Dec 16, 2016, 8:49 am

            Hi Richard,

            I will look forward to seeing your design and writing about it.

            I know you don’t like the LRC 58, and that’s fine, but you should be aware that Broadsword (hull number 2) has just crossed the Pacific from NZ to Panama, upwind, and is now, I believe, in the Bahamas, all, I gather, without any problems, so might be time to tone down the really negative tone about the boat—there are lots of different ways to get the job done and none are perfect.

          • RDE Dec 16, 2016, 4:35 pm

            Hi John,

            As you say, there are a lot of ways to get the job done– and a boat designed for the ice is certainly different than one designed for the Bahamas.

            re the Artnautica– I’m no motoryacht designer and have no direct experience with the boat so am in no position to pass final judgement on anything other than the fact that I like the styling. I did motor from San Diego to Panama at 8 knots on a 55′ sport fisherman with a flat bottom configuration, which left me with the opinion that that crossing oceans on that boat at that speed was not something I wanted to repeat! And I’m no fan of ULDB sailboats as cruisers. As a boat builder I understand that you can have ultralight, ultra strong, or ultra cheap— pick any one! The idea that boats are priced by the pound is only true if the materials design and technology required meet the structural demands is held constant.

            Pointing out that the Artnautica design is a new and relatively unproven approach to long range cruising is simply factual. It bears little resemblance (apart from styling) to Steve Dashew’s proven LRC 65’s or to conventional trawlers. And pointing out that displacement catamaran hulls have millions of hours of development and service is equally factual.

            Far from being negative about the Artnautica concept, I hope that it proves itself over time and that my reservations are unfounded. New alternatives are always welcome, especially when they are pleasing to the eye and fill a niche not currently well served.

      • Catherine Hammond Dec 15, 2016, 10:34 pm

        I did not mention in my previous comment that our 12 metre power cat has 2 x 110hp motors only. It has been designed for liveaboard, and not charter. Between the bows is filled in with light weight foam and there are no nets, and so potentially there could be a large number of people on the foredeck. Our particular design is affected by the weight and the distribution of the fuel load, and also because our total weight is only about 7 tons. The fuel tanks are fairly centrally located, and water tanks are at the cockpit area. Two “ballast” water tanks which are usually empty, are in the forepeaks, and can be used to balance the boat. Robin Chamberlin the designer has decades of designing multihulls, and his powercats are definitely not designed as sailing cats with the mast removed, they are a whole new shape underwater.

        • John Dec 16, 2016, 8:59 am

          Hi Catherine,

          Sounds intriguing. Is anyone building the boat? As far as I can see from a quick Google search, you built your boat yourselves, is that right?

          • Catherine Hammond Dec 20, 2016, 12:04 am

            Yes John, my husband built Catchcry I, every part and system except s/s welding and also one of the 10m versions, which looks very similar. Robin was continually consulted during the building process and worked closely with John. He became a fan of Robin Chamberlin after we built and sailed our 13.5 sailing cat Catchcry, a fantastic family live aboard cruising cat. Robin has had no boats built as a production” since the Stratus cats of his design about 20-30 years ago. We are from Australia where the market is much more tolerant of custom and home built boats. Robin learnt all about boats and sailing by numerous Tasman Sea crossings and thousands of miles of sailing and deliveries, sailed his (open bridedeck) cat Excess the furthest south to Antarctia and his son Kim is a qualified naval architect and is now involved with new designs.

          • John Dec 21, 2016, 9:39 am

            Hi Catherine,

            Great, thanks for the fill on that. I spent a happy quarter hour on your web site looking at pics of your build, very interesting.

  • Danny Blake Dec 14, 2016, 6:46 pm

    Hi John
    Well I don’t think I’ve commented on your site since the last time you wrote about the LRC 58 although I have read just about everything you posted and comments since however I have been kept informed by Dennis of a boat being built in Europe to his design so I believe that will be 3 LRC 58 roaming around now, am really looking forward to the next instalment of offshore motorboats info.

  • Richard Dykiel Dec 16, 2016, 11:54 am

    I like the design of the LRC59, except for the single engine. IMO a motor vessel cannot claim to be “long range” with just one engine. On the other hand, I guess the “self-righting” property may come in handy when the boat is dead in the water in a storm 🙂

    • John Dec 16, 2016, 1:13 pm

      Hi Richard,

      I will be covering get home options in a future post. Dennis and I have put a lot of thought into just that.

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