The Best Cruising Boat


The photo shows our new-to-us J/109 and AAC member Frank’s Ovni 435 hanging out together in the workshop at East River Shipyard here in Nova Scotia.

It would be hard to imagine two more different boats, and yet I like both boats a lot.

Which is best? Wrong question. They are designed for different purposes.

Sure, this is a radical example, but it does serve to illustrate how silly the all too common “best boat” meme is.

Wing Keel Craze


I will bet this keel was designed shortly after Australia II won the America’s Cup.

It’s a dead ringer for Ben Lexcen’s revolutionary keel.

But here’s the thing, while end plates are good and bulbs can make shallower keels more efficient than they would be otherwise, Australia II‘s keel was designed to get around or fool the 12-meter rule, not because there is anything intrinsically good about this design.

And yet a bunch of cruising boats at the time ended up with keels like this that will catch any piece of floating debris and have large vulnerable wings, just because it was fashionable.

Watch out for the results of trends like this when buying a boat.

Don’t Overload Catamarans


People often think that I must be a multihull hater, just because I own a monohull.

Not true, I love well-designed catamarans (and tris, too) like this way-cool Chris White 42.

But here’s the key point:

To be safe, and deliver on their speed potential, cats must not be overloaded.

Check out how thin the hull of this same cat is. It won’t take a lot of weight to push this hull dangerously low in the water.

Overload this boat, and she won’t be much faster than a mono, and, counterintuitively, will be much more likely to end up upside-down than if kept light.

So to have a safe cruising cat, and to be able to carry a reasonable load of cruising comforts, we will often need a bigger cat than we might at first expect.

Water Likes Fair Curves


One of the things I look for when looking at boats out of the water is a nice fair curve of the bottom of the hull from bow to stern.

Contrast our J/109 (above) with the boat below.

The knuckle at the bow does not bother me, but check out the lump in the line just forward of the prop strut. I’m guessing that’s there to provide the buoyancy missing from the pinched stern.

I always prefer boats where the designer has focused on keeping the water happy, not the rating.

Where Bulb Keels Don’t Belong


At first glance, you could be forgiven for thinking you are looking at the keel of a full on racing boat, but in fact this is a new boat sold as a cruiser.

Who on earth thought it was a good idea to fit the boat with a bulb extending forward creating a setup to catch every stray piece of gear floating around our oceans, never mind the risk of snagging her own anchor rode or mooring chain?

You gotta seriously wonder.

The IOR Rule Has a Lot To Answer For

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Here’s a nice looking vintage Nautor Swan.

But look at the strange distortion of the stern.

You think this looks weird? Check out the next shot taken from off the quarter.

When shopping for boats, it’s worth looking for this result of designers cheating the station measurements of the IOR racing rule.

Such distortions don’t necessarily ruin a boat, but they sure as heck don’t help, particularly with tracking when sailing downwind in big breeze, just what we cruisers want to do.

Generally, boat design got better under the influence of rules that imaged the whole boat, starting in the early 90s with the MHS that became the IMS and then the ORC, still used today.