Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yacht Design

Vero Beach, FL

In yesterdays post, Cabin Arrangements, I showed the versatility that we enjoy as a result of just a couple of very simple design ideas. I am a deep believer in the importance of such design features. I'll explain why.

First, an aside. Yesterday, you saw the use we get out of the two pilot berths on the starboard side. From what I heard, those berths are what gave Westsails their name. You see, most circumnavigators go around the world from East to West. If you do so, most of the voyage is spent on port tack. That means the wind comes from the port, and the boat heels to starboard. One wants to sleep on the low side so that you're not being rolled out of bed. Since the Westsail's two pilot berths are both on the starboard side, she is said to be designed to sail West.

We believe that Tarwathie benefits from an improvement in the design over and above Westsail factory standard. In the standard design, the top pilot berth is fixed in place. Tarwathie added two wooden rails and allow the top berth to slide out to become a double bed. I don't recall seeing that feature on other W32s.

Actually, we have seen a wide variety of alternate uses for the space occupied by our topmost starboard pilot berth (where we sleep). Some owners have converted that space to storage lockers, some for book shelves, some for clothes drawers. One W32 even had a big TV up there making an entertainment center. Our view is that all those alternates give up multiple use space for single use space.

Here's the central point. Yacht design is incredibly difficult. Every feature, compromises one virtue for another. Every choice precludes other choices. Therefore, among the billions of combinations of features and choices, there are only a few combinations that find a "sweet spot." At a sweet spot all the choices and features simultaneously combine in mutually supportive and beneficial harmony. Doing that requires genius- level skill, imagination and visualization, as well as experience living on boats. Lots of big words, but I think you understand what I mean.

Therefore, when shopping for a yacht, my first bias is to be attracted to those boats designed by the acknowledged masters of yacht design.

My second bias, as a boat owner, is to be extremely reluctant to change anything substantial. There is a high probability that I may regret the change after I experience the unforeseen side effects.

For example, one of Tarwathie's former owners decided to store the dinghy under the boom and to mount the main sheet and traveler in the cockpit right in front of the companionway door. That's great for the dinghy, but when we are in the cockpit, the dinghy blocks our view forward meaning that we must stand 100% of the time when at the helm. Libby needs to stand on a cushion to see where we're going. We can never sit.

The dinghy storage also prevents putting the main sheet traveler and the main sheet up on the cabin top. Instead, we have them in the cockpit right in front of the companionway door. We hate that. Thus, a simple design change, major unintended repercussions.

We could convert back to the original Westsail factory solution, the main sheet comes off the end of the boom. However, most W32 owners changed that because it hurt sailing performance. Yacht design is difficult.

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate your description of your living arrangement and your analysis of what works for you.

    I note you are similar in age to me and my wife, but I assume you must not be afflicted with an age-related condition that we suffer from -- the need to make more than one nightly visit to the w/c. My wife and I decided we need a bunk that allows either inhabitant to get out of without climbing over the other inhabitant. We ended up with an Albin 35 CB powerboat with a good-sized island berth forward.

    Choices, choices.


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