If You Don’t Keep It Small, At Least Keep It Simple

Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen
Idle Queen dockside.  This project is just beginning.

I frequently question my decision to move to the larger Idle Queen from my last boat, Sirocco.  After all, I am still very much enamored of Sirocco, and I have long been a proponent of smaller boats.

Not many people would consider Sirocco a complicated boat in her present configuration.  She has pressure fresh water and refrigeration, sure, but her windlass is manual and her compliment of electronics is adequate but simple.  Even so, she is more complicated than my “new” boat, Idle Queen, which has only a bare minimum of modern fittings aboard.  Idle Queen is missing many of the standard items found on modern sailboats, like roller furling, a winch for each jib sheet, and more.  She has only two seacocks below the waterline.  She is lightly powered, with her engine providing just over 1 horsepower for each ton of displacement.  The cabin sole is painted plywood instead of teak and holly.  Much of her paint comes from the hardware store.  These details aren’t very “yachty”, but they help offset the added expense of having a physically larger boat when it comes to maintaining and operating her.

I explained why I am moving to a larger boat in a previous post (see here).  The additional room aboard the larger boat will allow me to carry everything I need for more expended trips away from yachting centers.  Wonderful.  The big challenge, though, is that my budget for maintaining this boat is no larger than what I had before.  If anything, it is smaller because of the money that I spent this winter having a car in this area.  Cars will keep you poor.  I plan to make up the difference by not complicating Idle Queen one bit more than necessary.

So, specifically, how am I planning on closing the budget gap?  For starters, I am going to live with the unique interior of Idle Queen as she is for a while.  Harry Heckel Jr., the original owner, built a custom arrangement down below that is far from the traditional small sailboat layout.  One of the first things that I wanted to do with Idle Queen was to change the layout to one with parallel settees in the main saloon instead of the dinette that is currently onboard.  I can eliminate a huge expense and time-sink by just keeping the arrangement the same for now.  I’ll be losing some storage space, but the current arrangement has worked for two circumnavigations so far.

The tanks on Idle Queen almost all need replacing.  The two exceptions are a little 10-gallon fuel tank, and one polyethylene water tank.  The current plan is to make up the difference with portable tankage.  For water, I will carry as many 3-4 liter water bottles as I need.  I have been doing this for quite some time now, beginning when I discovered that the fiberglass water tank on my Contessa 26 was unusable for potable water.  I bought 20 gallons of drinking water in bottles at a cost of about $20, and have had 20 gallons of cleanable, portable, re-usable water tankage ever since.  I used the same bottles on Sirocco to supplement the tankage onboard, and I see no reason to abandon the system now.  I can empty the bottles into the small gravity tank that supplies the galley faucet to produce running water.  On the diesel tankage side, the little diesel engine on Idle Queen will run for about 30-40 hours on the currently usable 10-gallon tank.  I plan to build secure below-decks storage for an additional 20 gallons of diesel tankage in the form of 5-gallon jerry cans.  If I need more tankage, I can always expand the storage scheme.

For lighting, I know that there are many sailors who, in the name of simplicity, have stayed with kerosene lanterns.  Some have even kept their boats free of any installed electrical system.  My current plan is not quite as low-tech.  LED lighting has finally come down enough in cost for me to decide to use LED lights for the main cabin lighting solution aboard Idle Queen.  There will be a minimum of wiring involved, and it will all be accessible.  I will keep the current fluorescent fixtures until they cease to function before spending money on new fixtures, and I will probably end up assembling my own lighting fixtures rather than spending on the ridiculously overpriced marine lights currently available.  A few years ago, I compared the cost of changing Sirocco over to all LED lighting versus just buying enough solar panels to run the incandescent lights that she already had.  It was much cheaper to just buy more solar generating capacity.  Now the cost of LEDs have come down enough to make them an attractive option.  I already have 50 watts of solar panels on Idle Queen.  My goal is to keep my daily consumption under what they can supply.  I will keep a couple of kerosene lanterns around just in case lightning takes out the electrical system…  Backup systems are important.

There are a few other items that I will be going without that make it onto the “must have” list for many cruisers:  items like refrigeration; roller furling; a bimini; an autopilot (IQ does have a windvane); and so forth.  If I can pick those items up for little money along the way (or better yet–free!), then it’s not like I am opposed to having them.  I just need to keep reminding myself that the most important things to take care of on the boat are keeping the hull sound and the running gear strong and functional.  Almost everything else is just budget-eating, boat-cluttering stuff that can probably be lived without.

A Little More Freeboard

Contessa 26 sailing upwind
Life on a Contessa 26 is always close to the water.

One of the things that I miss about my Contessa 26 is being able to easily reach over the side and put my hands in the water.  I can reach the water from the deck of Idle Queen, but it is a bit of a stretch, and I have to put an uncomfortable amount of my body over the side of the boat, so I don’t do it.  Instead, I use a bucket attached to a line to haul water to the deck of Idle Queen.

Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen
Idle Queen.

Besides making washing things over the side a little less convenient, there are other disadvantages to all that extra freeboard–like sluggish windward performance; more hassle getting out of the dinghy; and handling issues when the wind gets up.  No matter how you look at it, anything that increases windage is a bad thing, and more freeboard increases windage in a big way.  This has been known to designers for a long time, and is part of the reason why many old-school sailboats were so low to the water.  When Sirocco had to ride out the remnants of hurricane Irene on an exposed mooring, she sat quietly despite the whipping gusts largely thanks to the fact that she sat so low in the water.

Atkin Ben Bow Sirocco
Sirocco charging down Long Island Sound.

I have heard it said that higher-freeboard boats are drier, but that isn’t necessarily true, especially if you are interested in actually staying dry.  Once the wind gets over about 20 knots, it will drive spray a long distance into the air–much higher than the deck on just about any small boat.  There are other aspects of the hull design that make a bigger difference in how much spray gets thrown about, like the amount of flare; sharpness of entry; and whether there is a significant rubrail or not.  Closehauled in 15-20 knots of wind, Idle Queen takes more spray across the deck than the much lower Sirocco.  Dodgers, windscreens, or other shelters are more effective at providing a place on deck to stay out of wind-driven spray.  People these days seem less interested in putting on their “oilies” and toughing it out…

It is amazing to me how just a foot of extra freeboard on similarly-sized boats like Sirocco and Idle Queen can make such a huge difference in how they handle and how they feel.  The loads on dock lines and moorings are much higher on Idle Queen; windward performance is not nearly as good (though this has much to do with other differences in the hull shapes); and even the motion while seated on deck is less comfortable.  That’s right–being higher in the boat amplifies the effects of motion.  Try climbing the mast at sea if you really want to feel this effect.  (Disclaimer:  Only go aloft at sea if you can do so safely!)

A boat that is excessively low to the water will have the decks frequently washed over by waves, so there is definitely the potential to take the low-freeboard idea too far.  My point is that once past a moderate amount of freeboard, the returns paid in dryness will diminish just as quickly as the negatives, like sailing around at anchor, will pile up.

Besides, boats that are low and lean just look sexier.


Sirocco has been sold

Sirocco For Sale sign
I just took down the signs a few minutes ago.

Sirocco has been sold as of today and will soon be going to a new home.

There is an old saying about the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life being the day that one buys the boat, and the day one sells the boat, but that saying is not true for me in this case.  I had many wonderful days with Sirocco.   Today is a sad one.

The past weeks I have been working on Sirocco to make her more beautiful, but she was still completely mine and I was working for my own benefit.  It was enjoyable putting a new shine on wood that had long been left grey, and fixing little things that had stayed too long on the “to do” list.  Many days showed visible improvement.  Now, I have  a little more varnishing to do; some hardware to remount; a coat of bottom paint to put on, and some cleaning to do, but these things are all for the new owner.  It will take me a little while to get used to that new fact.

I feel confident that Sirocco is going to a good home.  Hopefully her new owner enjoys this wonderful boat as much as I have.

New Sirocco Video

Just posted:  a new video of Sirocco reaching offshore in beautiful weather.  It does a great job of showing how easily she moves through the water.  To watch this video with better quality than the “embedded” player here, and for more videos, please visit the Setforsea YouTube channel.

How I Became a Full-Keel Convert–Part Two

A full keel has either an unbroken convex curve or straight line all the way from the stem to the stern of the boat. The rudder is attached to the trailing edge of the keel.
Sirocco showing off what she normally has hidden under the water.


A year on the Contessa 26 was enough to convince me that I wanted a bit more boat.  I was enjoying the minimalism, but the Contessa was a little too small for long-term living aboard, at least for me and all of the tools that I normally carry.  I started casually looking around and found a William Atkin-designed “Ben Bow” named Sirocco.  She was sturdy, reasonably roomy, and had a lean, low profile that I just couldn’t resist.  She also had a full keel with a rather deep forefoot. This was the boat that finally sold me on full-keel boats.

At first I was a little apprehensive about how she would handle, but that fear was soon put to rest as I discovered how wonderfully predictable she was and what a joy to sail.  True, she didn’t turn as tightly as a fin-keel boat, but the penalty in turning radius was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.  Also, I had not anticipated how her full keel, outboard rudder, and low freeboard up forward would combine to eliminate the tendency that so many other boats have for their bow blow away from the wind in an instant when stopped.  Docking in a crosswind was now a much more controlled evolution.  The same with singlehanded anchoring.  Unless it was blowing a gale, I had plenty of time to stroll up the wide side decks and release the anchor after reaching my desired spot without the boat taking off across the wind.  Backing was also improved over the cutaway-keel design, with the long keel making it easier to keep the boat tracking straight when desired.

There were other benefits not related to handling at low speeds and close quarters that were pleasant surprises.  Tracking when under sail at sea was superb, and I could balance the boat to sail herself in most conditions, but I had expected that to be true.  One thing that I had not considered was how the deep bilges, outboard rudder, and near-vertical sternpost combined to put the propeller in a location where I could reach it from the dinghy.  What luxury to be able to keep the prop clean without having to dive under the boat!  I suspect that I may have also been able to unwrap a line from the relative comfort of the dinghy, but I never picked up a line in the prop in all the miles that I sailed in Sirocco, probably thanks to the protection offered by her keel.  Finally, and probably only due in part to the design of her keel, Sirocco was one of the most comfortable boats that I have ever taken to sea.  Even though I am normally somewhat prone to seasickness when I first put to sea, I was never once seasick aboard Sirocco.  That comfortable motion was a tremendously endearing characteristic of hers, but I have to also give credit to her other design attributes, including short overhangs, moderately slack bilges, relatively heavy displacement, moderate beam, etc., as contributing factors in that department.

Dreadnought 32 Idle Queen out of the water for maintenance
Idle Queen out of the water for maintenance

Now that I am moving up to another boat, I again chose a full-keel design in the Dreadnought 32, Idle Queen.  I am looking forward to continuing to enjoy the benefits of being able to inspect and reach the prop from my dinghy; having a boat that tracks well in a variety of conditions; not worrying about picking up lines and weed on the rudder and propeller; and having the option to comfortably dry out on a grid or beach if I ever need to.  The full keel design has much to recommend it when choosing an underbody for a cruising sailboat.  


How I became a Full-Keel Convert–Part One


A line drawing of Sirocco, a true full-keel boat. Sirocco is a “Ben Bow” designed by William Atkin. 

Over the years that I have been sailing, I have logged miles on a number of different craft from an International Sabot up to a steel schooner of about 200 gross tons.  Most of my time has been in small, shoal-draft centerboard sailboats up to about 20 feet long; racing keelboat designs like the J-29; and the few cruising sailboats that I have owned over the years.  I benefitted from spending time in a broad variety of different sailboats by getting a taste of how different types of boats perform in various conditions.  This has given me the opportunity to compare the merits of the different classes of boats.

Picture of a generic fin-keel boat. It is easy to see how exposed the propeller and rudder are. Having the rudder right near the stern, far away from the keel, contributes to good steering characteristics, though.
Picture of a generic fin-keel boat. It is easy to see how exposed the propeller and rudder are. Having the rudder right near the stern, far away from the keel, contributes to good steering characteristics, though.

When I was younger, I craved performance.  I wanted nothing more than to just go as fast as possible on the water.  My desire for speed eventually led me to become a windsurfing enthusiast, but that is a whole other story.  During my high-school and college years I spent a lot of time in International, and then Collegiate 420’s, a two-person dinghy.  I thought they were slow and longed to spend time in a more performance-oriented dinghy, even though the 420’s could easily plane and give a good ride when the whitecaps showed up.  When I started sailing keelboats, it was mostly the smaller J-boats (24’s and 29’s, mostly), but there was time spent on numerous other designs.  I loved the taste of performance multi-hull sailing that I experienced as fill-in crew aboard a Nacra 6.0.  The boats that I sailed in my teens and twenties were mostly well-regarded classes that taught me what a fun, responsive boat felt like.  They sailed well in a wide variety of conditions with good speed and few bad habits.  There is a reason that the one-design dinghies and keelboats that I sailed in were such popular designs–they were good all-round boats.

Picture of a boat with a cutaway keel. There is a concave shape in the profile up forward, with the keel really beginning under where the second cabin porthole is. The rudder is attached to the trailing edge of the keel, offering some protection and making it less likely to snag lines and other debris.
Picture of an Alberg-designed Cape Dory with a cutaway keel. There is a concave shape in the profile up forward, with the keel really beginning under where the second cabin porthole is. The rudder is attached to the trailing edge of the keel, offering some protection and making it less likely to snag lines and other debris.

When I finally had enough money to consider buying my own sailboat I began to consider all aspects of its use.  I couldn’t really justify spending a ton of money on a boat that was only good for racing.  By this time my sights were fixed on the far horizon rather than outright speed.  I wanted to explore the world from the deck of my own sailboat, so I decided to look for a reliable design that could take me anywhere I wanted to go.  What I ended up with was a Pearson Vanguard–a 32-foot racer/cruiser designed to the old Cruising Club of America rating rule.

Buying the Vanguard was a huge step for me in many ways.  It was the first “big” boat that I had ever owned, it was my first home on the water, and it allowed me my first significant experience with something other than a centerboard or fin keel design.

Pearson Vanguard Side Drawing
Side-view of the Pearson Vanguard, showing the cut-away in the forward part of the keel.

The Vanguard has a “cutaway” keel with the rudder attached to the trailing edge.  Looking at the profile of the boat, there is a lot of area that has been cut away, or hollowed out, making the deep part of the keel start a long way back from the bow.  This is done in an effort to reduce the amount of boat in contact with the water, or wetted surface, to make the boat faster when the wind is light.  This design achieves its intended goal of reducing wetted surface, but pays the price of introducing a couple of undesirable handling characteristics.  The one that I remember most is how the bow would blow downwind when trying to maneuver at low speed.  The high bow and long forward overhang on the Vanguard would catch the wind, turning the boat broadside to the wind very quickly.  There was no underwater surface to counteract this tendency, and the rudder was way under the boat at the end of the shortened keel. This reduced the rudder’s effectiveness by giving it a shorter lever arm for turning the boat.  Fin-keel boats don’t have a surface underwater up forward to stop the bow from blowing away from the wind either, but their rudders are placed farther back on the boat, which gives a stronger turning force and allows better control in low speed situations (especially in reverse) compared to the cutaway-keel boat.

On the positive side, I really came to appreciate some of the good qualities of the cutaway keel on the Vanguard.  The keel on the Vanguard is molded with the boat as one unit.  The shape transitions smoothly from the hull to the keel, which prevents the front part of the keel from loading up with seaweed when sailing–a real plus when there is a lot of weed in the water!  The shape of the keel also helps reduce shock loads in some grounding situations, such as when running onto a sloped sandbar.  Not having a long fin keel sticking out of the boat also reduces structural loads when running aground–in particular eliminating the point-loading at the trailing edge of the fin keel that can cause it to push up into the hull and cause a lot of damage.  Having the rudder attached to the trailing edge of the keel helps prevent seaweed, lobster and crab pot floats, and other fishing gear from getting trapped on the rudder. The keel shields the propeller as well.  I never once had a pot or fishing line caught on my Vanguard, though I often sailed in waters thick with fishing gear.  Besides making my life easier, fishermen don’t exactly appreciate having yachtsmen cut their floats from props and rudders, either…

A cutaway-keel boat tracks better than a fin-keel boat.  The Vanguard didn’t need constant, minute attention to the helm.  I could count on her to track well if I needed to adjust a sheet or otherwise divert my attention for a moment.  This is a great characteristic to have in a cruising boat.  I could balance the boat and let her sail herself for a while if I needed to go forward to attend something or use the head.  I have had some luck locking the helm down on a fin-keel boat to keep them going straight for a short while, but this technique is not as effective as when used on a cutaway-keel boat or a full-keel boat.

Overall, the cutaway-keel Vanguard was a surprisingly enjoyable boat.  I didn’t feel too handicapped by the speed penalty that I paid for the extra wetted surface of the cutaway full keel.  She still had good speed even in light airs, and offered a more comfortable motion than most fin-keel boats that I have been on.  The comfort was due in part to her keel design, but also because the Vanguard was heavier, deeper, lower in freeboard, and had a more moderate beam than the other cruising sailboats that I had experienced.  I don’t want to contribute to the myth that there aren’t any comfortable fin-keel boats out there!  Those boats do exist. They are just more difficult to find (it’s not fashionable to build relatively narrow boats with easy bilge sections these days) and still won’t offer the other advantages of a keel with an attached rudder, like weed-shedding, or a rudder that doesn’t rely solely on the stock for attachment to the boat…

Contessa 26
The Contessa 26 has a cutaway keel, but it is much longer than the one on the Vanguard–closer to a full keel.

When I went searching for a small, versatile cruiser a few years ago I settled on the Contessa 26.  This design is based on an older design than the Vanguard, and has a much longer cutaway keel.  It is getting pretty close to a full keel, but still has a concave shape to the forward end.  The longer keel eliminated some of the poor handling  characteristics of the more dramatically cut-away keel on the Vanguard.  Having a longer keel gave the rudder a longer lever arm and actually improved steering, even though there was a much longer keel to drag through tight turns.  She tracked like a dream and worked very well with her self-steering gear in all conditions.  I loved sailing this boat.  The Contessa 26 design was close enough to a proper, old-school full-keel boat that it seemed only a small leap to go all the way to a full-keel the next time that I went boat shopping…

Continue reading Part Two here. 

New Sirocco Video

Just posted a new video to the Sirocco playlist on the Setforsea YouTube channel.  I have finally figured out how to cut bad parts out of the video and add narration.  Hope you enjoy this minute of footage from what was a glorious day of sailing.  At least it was, right up until a front came through and brought 30 knots of wind from exactly where we wanted to go…

On motoring efficiency

Cavendysh and Sirocco
Cavendysh and Sirocco facing each other. Sirocco weighs three times as much, but motors in a flat calm at almost the same economy as the smaller Contessa 26.

Many sailors pride themselves on how little they can use their engines, but any boat equipped with an auxiliary will end up motoring some percentage of the time.  Being able to motor somewhere is a big part of the reason for having the engine, right?  My last three boats have each come equipped with auxiliary engines, and I have used them at times to travel a good many miles on rivers, canals, and in confined channels.  Sometimes that meant motoring all day, and I would begin to wonder just what I was getting out of each gallon of fuel consumed.  With fuel prices currently over $4 per gallon this subject is on my mind frequently, especially now that I have moved to a much larger boat.  So, I pulled out my logbooks and did a little figuring.

Here is Cavendysh on stands next to Sirocco.  From this angle it is a bit more apparent how much heftier Sirocco is.
Here is Cavendysh on stands next to Sirocco. From this angle it is a bit more apparent how much heftier Sirocco is.

The three boats that I am comparing are a Contessa 26, which weighs about 5400 lbs; a William Atkin “Ben Bow”, weighing about 17,000 lbs; and a Dreadnaught 32, weighing in at 20,000+ lbs.  They are all powered by inboard diesels.

One of the things that I had enjoyed most about my trim little Contessa 26, Cavendysh, was that she was very efficient both under both sail and power.  I figured that would be the case when I bought her.  Efficiency was one of the reasons that I chose the design.  For power, she carried a little one-cylinder Bukh diesel engine that made all of 9-hp.  The propeller was a 2-blade fixed model.  I could motor all day at 4 knots with that little one-lunger banging away and only burn a couple of gallons of diesel fuel.  Cavendysh returned about 20 nautical miles per gallon on calm water at that speed.  Pushing the throttle forward farther resulted in a big drop in economy.  She returned about 10-12 miles per gallon at 5 knots.  I motored quite a lot when I had the mast down heading south from the Great Lakes.  My efficiency through the water over 150 hours of motoring worked out to about 20 nautical miles per gallon of diesel.  That number reflects varied conditions–sometimes I was motoring into wind and chop, and sometimes I had the wind behind me (when the mast was down), but overall, that is pretty stellar economy.  The little Bukh could run for ages on just cupfuls of fuel.

A view of Sirocco with her freshly refinished bottom.  I still have to peel the tape off...  Sirocco has a full keel with a deep forefoot.
A view of Sirocco with a freshly refinished bottom.  Sirocco has a full keel with a deep forefoot.
Looking at Sirocco head-on while she hangs in the slings.  Her fine underwater lines are apparent from this angle.  The very bottom of her keel is narrower than that of the Contessa 26, which contributes to her relative efficiency.
Looking at Sirocco head-on while she hangs in the slings. Her fine underwater lines are apparent from this angle. The very bottom of her keel is narrower than that of the Contessa 26, which contributes some to her efficiency.

When I moved to Sirocco, the “Ben Bow” designed by William Atkin, I was prepared to spend a lot more for fuel.  The new boat was almost three times the displacement of the Contessa, but also longer on the waterline (28′ versus 21′) and with a much fuller keel.  The big full  keel meant a lot more wetted surface, which results in more drag as the boat has to overcome more friction with the water.  The engine in Sirocco was a big jump up too–a 28-hp three cylinder Beta diesel driving a three-blade fixed prop.  However, I was surprised to find that my mileage over the last 150 hours only dropped to 15.2 nautical miles per gallon.  That was running mostly between 4 and 5 knots, and mostly in calm water, although at least 10% of that was motoring into headwinds, which consumes a lot more fuel.  Sirocco was also capable of motoring at over 6 knots, but would burn 2/3 of a gallon per hour at that speed (9 miles/gallon).  Motoring at 4 knots in a glassy calm I could still get 20 miles per gallon out of Sirocco–about the same fuel economy as the Contessa, but much more efficient because Sirocco weighed three times as much.  I was more comfortable on the larger boat, as well, and the engine was much quieter.

This is a good view of Idle Queen to show off her long, shallow keel.
This is a good view of Idle Queen to show off her long, shallow keel.

My present boat, Idle Queen, at 20,000 lbs, is definitely the biggest and heaviest of any boat that I have owned.  She is also the most lightly powered.  Her inboard engine is a 15-hp, two-cylinder Beta Marine engine that drives a 3-blade fixed propeller.  That gives her 1.5 hp per short ton (2,000 lbs) of displacement–relatively less than half as much power as either of my last two boats, which were both very close to 4 hp per  short ton.  Would this drastically different setup change the economy of motoring in a calm?  Well, I don’t have as much data yet as I do for the other boats, but it seems that at 4 knots in a glassy calm Idle Queen gets very close to 20 nautical miles/gallon!  At 5.5 knots on flat calm water, Idle Queen seems to burn around .5 gallons per hour, giving an economy of 11 miles/gallon.  I need more data to be sure that figure is accurate, as it was taken over relatively few hours, but I have enough data to be close.  

I am surprised that all of the numbers are so similar across such different boats and engines.  I really thought that the Contessa 26 would come out far ahead of the bigger boats, but that was only true when motoring into wind and waves–hence the better overall economy of the Contessa.  Even then it was not as great a difference as I had expected.  The numbers show that moving displacement hulls at relatively low speeds in a flat calm is really quite energy efficient.  There are many factors at play here, but I think that the biggest surprise is that I can move a 20,000 lb boat in calm conditions at about the same cost per mile as a 5,400 lb one as long as I keep the speed to about 4 knots.

The next biggest surprise is that the larger wetted surface of Sirocco and Idle Queen really didn’t translate into a much greater cost per mile under power.  Modern boats are made light and with small keels and rudders to improve their efficiency by reducing wetted surface.  At least as far as economy under power is concerned, the difference is not as big as I had thought.  Granted, even the Contessa had a relatively full keel, but she had less than half the underwater area of the other boats (measured by how much bottom paint it took to paint her).

When the wind and waves come up, the smaller boat requires much less energy to keep her moving, and then her fuel economy is much better than the bigger boats.  Motoring into wind and sea is frustratingly slow as well as expensive.  Idle Queen’s fuel economy quickly drops to about 10 nautical miles/gallon with only a 12 knot headwind and small chop.  Motoring into 15-20 knots and a bit of sea will take her right down to 2 miles/gallon or so.  I have only tried this for a short while, so my figures might be off a bit, but you get the idea. 

My estimated long-term figures are based on actual volume of fuel added to the tank versus engine hours and average conditions.  Still-water economy was measured in calm water (no current) by GPS, on glassy calm sections of canal, and the fuel volume was taken by sounding the tank.

A head-on view of Idle Queen while she hangs in the slings.  Her very shallow keel is evident, as well as her almost barrel-shaped (round) underbody.  This semicircular section, along with her shallow keel helps keep wetted-surface low.
A head-on view of Idle Queen while she hangs in the slings. Her very shallow keel is evident, as well as her almost barrel-shaped (round) underbody. This semicircular section, along with her shallow keel helps keep wetted-surface low.




Idle Queen as I found her
Idle Queen as I found her.  She looks pretty good from this side.

It seems that one of the universal problems aboard small boats is not having enough room–not having enough storage space for clothes; tools; toys; spares; fuel; awnings; safety gear; etc…  Immediately after finding a storage solution for a particular piece of gear, a new thing arrives that just has to be kept somewhere aboard and the challenge of finding a place to put it begins.  I strive to keep my boat as simple as possible, but it still seems that there is never enough room aboard.  When the space is shared, such as when guests come aboard, the problem compounds.  The obvious solution to this problem is to have a bigger boat.  A boat just a few feet longer than the current one sounds about right to a lot of people.  This is such a common phenomenon that there is even a name for it:  three-foot-itis.  Three-foot-itis is when a boat owner decides that his or her current boat is inadequate, but that a boat three feet longer would be just the ticket.  There is no other solution in the owner’s mind.  A bigger boat must be found.

I succumbed to the above described boat-owner’s malady and have been working on Idle Queen for a while now.  Idle Queen is a Dreadnought 32 built by the Dreadnought Boatworks of Carpentaria, California.  She is three feet longer than Sirocco.

Deck view of Idle queen
Idle Queen as I found her–the view on deck


The space problem was just one part of what drove me to this boat, however.  Cost was the other driving force.  Everyone knows that bigger boats are more expensive, but in this case, I took a big step down.  Sirocco, my last boat, is a beautifully finished boat.  She has teak trim and bronze fittings and beautiful joinery.  Idle Queen is home-finished with plywood and plexiglass and latex paint.  I found her moldering in the back of a boatyard.  She had been for sale so long that the sign had faded and broken.  She is heavily-built and practical though.  Because of her rough-and-ready working finish I won’t feel bad keeping her going with whatever I happen to scrounge or buy when things break.  I don’t have to worry about a “yacht quality” finish.   Strong and cheap will do it.

Idle Queen as I found her--not in pristine condition...
Idle Queen as I found her–not in pristine condition…

I will start getting some more pictures up in the near future and maybe some videos to document progress on Idle Queen‘s rehabilitation.  My goal is to have a safe, strong, inexpensive voyaging yacht with this project.

Idle Queen dinette
The dinette in Idle Queen on the first day that I went to see her. It was a bit depressing below and difficult to breathe because of all the mold in the air.
Idle Queen cockpit
Cockpit view of Idle Queen when I found her. This photo does not show the pool of water that was in the forward corner of the cockpit slowly leaking into the diesel fill.

On the hard

In the slings
Coming out for a new cutless bearing and other improvements

Sirocco is out of her element for the time being so that I can get a few jobs done below the waterline.  On the list was the cutless bearing for sure, but that sort of ballooned into a bigger project that involved removing the engine all because I couldn’t get a coupling to come free of the drive shaft!  Well, there are many things that I can accomplish now that will only make Sirocco even better:  repainting the engine and engine room; replacing the engine mounts; replacing the wiring on the engine; cleaning the keel tank below the engine; cleaning the bilge, etc.  I will be busy for weeks to come!