Many naval architects can’t design a good powerboat-they squat, throw a big wake, and are tippy. Some of these office-bound designers can’t design a good sailboat, either. Now, I realize this seems strange. After all, shoeboxes can be blown downwind. But a true “farmer’ at the drafting board can somehow manage to screw it up-perhaps by putting the keel on sideways or something. Many multihull designers started out designing tennis courts, vacant lots, and parking spaces and bring their inane sense of ugliness to each compound curve they draw. But if a yacht designer fails at all of the above-if his work truly makes King Neptune bar-then he is sentenced to design motor-sailers.
What is a motor-sailer?
It is a vessel which neither sails nor motors well, while looking very ugly and extremely awkward.
Itâ€™s a boat that the Swan-owning sailboater in the slip next to you erects a privacy fence to avoid seeing.
Some MSs are so disgusting in appearance that they donâ€™t sinkâ€¦ because the bottom of the oceans wonâ€™t accept the debris. Yes, even ocean junkyards have criteria.
How, exactly, is this â€˜putridnessâ€™ of design achieved?
One, by using straight-edges instead of French curves. Two, by thinking that topsides make the boat and the higher you are, the better. (This might work with drugs but not, alas, with hull shapes). Three, by also thinking that Big Wakes and Big Egos and Big Money go together. Four, by desiring to â€˜hot upâ€™ the planet as much as possible. Five, by admiring large transoms, with large lettering, so you can read their stupid names.
How do I know all this? Because Iâ€™ve fallen victim. Why? Because I wanted a bigger boat. Why? I dunno. Maybe to accommodate my wider, older ass. Or my inflated ego. Or to hold all the money I thought Iâ€™d earn. I canâ€™t remember, exactly. All I know is that it didnâ€™t work out. None of it.
Between 2000 and 2012, I circumnavigated twice on a boat with a transom smaller than the ports in my current transom.
My current transom is so big, it blots out the sun. I had to put three sets of reef points in it before heading offshore. Topsides? I can barely see the water. We have oxygen masks in our cockpit. You could bungee jump off our bow rail. I had to go to West Marine and purchase a special â€œMS comboâ€ PFDâ€”one that first pops open a parachute, and only later (below 500 feet) inflates a life vest.
And large lettering and stupid names? Well, I named my boat GANESH. I thought English speakers wouldnâ€™t have a problem; after all, it rhymes with â€˜fresh.â€™ Not so. White folk canâ€™t pronounce it. One NYC fuel dock jockey told me, over the VHF on Channel 16, â€œYour vesselâ€™s name sounds like a Talibanâ€™s sneezeâ€¦â€
â€œHindu,â€ I said, and considered if I should get into it on the radioâ€”only to plunge onward with, â€œGanesh is a Hindu god, not a Muslim one.â€
â€œWe donâ€™t serve foreigners,â€ said the Brooklyn dock boy as he rang off.
Now youâ€™d think that a huge boat with a huge transom which is worth a huge amount of money and is a huge hassle to ownâ€”would have a decent amount of living space. And it could; but it doesnâ€™t. See, I had to repower her. But the engine she was designed for was no longer manufactured. So, right off, I had to pick a different engine. Of course, I consulted an expert.
â€œYou are no spring chicken, Fatty,â€ he started off withâ€”and I wondered how heâ€™d obtained my medical records. My doctor had recently uttered those exact words. But before I could inquire, my â€˜marine propulsion engineerâ€™ rushed on with, â€œand for each passing year after the age of 60, you should add two horsepowerâ€¦â€
â€œBut where do I start?â€ I asked.
â€œI see that you are a child of the â€˜60s,â€ he said, nodding at my tie-dyed Grateful Dead tee shirt, â€œand so Iâ€™ll be blunt. How many caps of Viagra have you dropped this month?â€
â€œEighty-two,â€ I admitted, â€œbut thatâ€™s only because its a month with more than 27 days.â€
Okay, so Iâ€™m a bit of a hedonist. Besides, its aerobic. And, hell, Iâ€™m running out of time to sin!
â€œIâ€™d say you need a 92 horsepower diesel,â€ he said.
â€œWait,â€ I said. â€œWouldnâ€™t a larger engine require more fuel and cost more money to run?â€
â€œNot at all,â€ he said. â€œLetâ€™s say you need 20 HP to push your vessel at 6 knots. Well, 20 HP is 20 HP! Whatâ€™s the big deal?â€
So I replaced the original 60 HP engine with a 92 horsepower one and only had to double the size of the engine beds and engine room to do so. Still, there was some living space left over inside my vesselâ€”not much, but some.
Alas, my range was minuscule. I barely had enough fuel aboard to limp from fuel dock to fuel dock. So I added more fuel tanks which, pretty much, filled up the main cabin, forepeak, and aft cabin.
We now sleep in the aft head, curled around the â€˜porcelain pillowâ€™ as we call it.
And the guy wasnâ€™t exactly â€˜full disclosureâ€™ on the â€œ20 HP, big deal,â€ statement. It turns out a 92 HP diesel runs too cool while lightly loaded and glazes its cylinder walls. Thus, you need to run it at 60% of its full load, if you want it to last for more than few months.
â€œWell, of course, thereâ€™s that,â€ sniffed my marine engineer as he drove off to cash my mega-check.
Needless to say, a bigger engine and more fuel weigh more, which makes my boat sit lower in the water and slows it down under sail.
This is a problem. My design waterline is now so low that you have to be PADI certified for a compression dive to see it.
And, actually, â€˜slows it downâ€™ barely covers it. I can barely tell the difference between â€˜anchor upâ€™ and â€˜anchor down.â€™
Small speed boats keep swinging up alongside and asking, â€œAre you aground?â€ and I shoot right back, â€œHow would I know?â€
I donâ€™t have a knot meter on my boatâ€”a â€˜tear-away-a-dayâ€™ calendar is sufficient. Thereâ€™s no rush. And it is a good thing I named her GANESH because she is so slow that, well, reincarnation better be true. Sheâ€™s a good boat on a long tripâ€”and so slow that even returning to my slip from the fuel dock takes a while.
Yes, we have to factor in continental drift on long passages. True, jellyfish often pass us. And, no, she is not â€˜quick in stays,â€™ which means, when tacking, we throw the helm over, have dinner/desert/coffee/sex and then straighten out the helm and sheet in on the new tack.
Once, off Cape Horn, we were passed by a glacier.
I tried everythingâ€”new racing stripe, a dollop of carbon fiber dripped in the bilge, 3DL sails from North, new sailing gloves, Harken shoesâ€”nothing worked.
Once, while being measured to compete in the Heineken Cup Regatta of Sint Maarten, Alfred, the kind and considerate measurer, said, â€œHey, have you considered starting the day before?â€
It is embarrassingâ€”having a sandbar silt is faster than my vessel can sail.
Needless to say, a 43-foot vessel with as much windage as an aircraft carrier needs a big anchor and a long, massive chain. Did you hear that recent report of an earthquake in Mill Valley? Actually, that was me dropping the hook in San Francisco Bay.
We donâ€™t encourage the use of sunblock on Ganesh. If our anchor is up, you tend to slide forward, if its downâ€”you ooze aft. Yes, my sailboat isnâ€™t much of a sailboat but its a hell of a water slide.
Not that I hoist those â€˜white floppy thingsâ€™ much anymoreâ€”not since I hoisted aboard the 55 gallon drums of antifreeze, lube oil, ATF fluid, etc, on deck.
Another factor is that spinning a larger engine requires a bigger battery bank. Iâ€™ve had to buy eight new â€˜deep cycleâ€™ batteries, which has put me in deep debt as well. Just the battery water alone is a problem to stow.
Yes, everything on a cruising vessel is related. To recharge the larger battery bank, Iâ€™ve had to add some solar cells, so thereâ€™s very little deck left. And, suddenly, shadows became a major issue.
For instance, my wind generator shadows my solar cells and makes them less efficient. Why do I have a wind generator? Because I have an aft cabin, which is really just like a giant soundbox or floating guitar that amplifies the sound so much we canâ€™t even enter the aft cabin without our Bose Noise-cancelling headphone firmly clamped to our skulls.
Why not shut off the wind gen?
Because we need the electrical power because our solar cells are shadowed by it!
And, yes, I want to weep when people hear about me and swoon with admiration for my laudable lifestyle. â€œSuch a simple life,â€ they email me innocently, â€œSo Zen!â€
But I donâ€™t mean to belly-ache. We all have our crosses to bear. And, occasionally, we have fun aboard Ganesh. I hit the starter button and my new engine roars to life. My wife tosses off our dock lines. Weâ€™re free-free-free to go anywhere we want.
â€œWhere to, skipper?â€ my wife sings out.
â€œTo the fuel dock,â€ I cry.
â€œI love yachting-per-gallon,â€ she sings back.
â€œYes, the wind-is-still-free!â€ I harmonize, â€œAnd itâ€™s a sailorâ€™s life for me!
Bio note: Fatty and Carolyn are currently sneaking Ganesh up to fuel docks in Southeast Asia at nightâ€”and draining the diesel fuel hoses.
Back in the day I was living on board at the guest dock in Seattle, trying to earn enough to put new sails on my boat and actually go somewhere. A sister ship to yours showed up on the slip next door, and not long afterword a professorial type set up a lounge chair on the poop deck and started reading a book. We exchanged pleasantries but I didn’t really get to know them until his wife the Captain showed up. She explained that they were waiting for guests to arrive before sailing back down the coast to San Francisco and their home in Berkley.
I mentioned that it might be worthwhile to tune up the rig before setting sail on what can be a rugged stretch of water off the Oregon coast. The forestay was devoid of a turnbuckle and the triatic stay to the mizzen had about a foot of sag in it. Then the story emerged. Evident they had bought the boat new from Waquiez in France and made arrangements to take delivery in the Mediterranean at a port in the south of France. When they arrived to take delivery the boat wasn’t quite ready, and after three weeks in a hotel it still wasn’t quite ready. The Captain went on the warpath, threatening to unleash an armada of American Lawyers upon the entire French Nation. Henri told her to go pound sand, having already converted the funny looking American money into Francs. Over the weekend the yard rustled up some spare rigging wire, swaged ends on it, and threw the boat in the water.
Fast forward to Seattle a year later. I set up a new forestay and did a dock tune of the rig. I suggested that we really should look at the tune under sail, so we took the boat out in a typical 15 knot summer breeze. The Professor kept pinching up so much that I couldn’t get a feel for how slack the leeward shrouds were, so I asked him to fall off. He looked at me with utter horror until I instructed him to turn the wheel 10″ to the left and then stop.
These same people had drifted across the Atlantic and through the Canal, then somehow gotten all the way up to Seattle with a rig so slack it was held in place primarily by the mast partners—- and without a clue how to sail the boat. Could it have been that they were propelled by that Fatty transom? LOL
I’ve always said it’s better to be lucky than smart!