Preview: The Three Boats I Lust After (and Why)

January 1, 2012

Walt Ansel

After 35 years of using a great variety of boats I’ve come to value their utility as much as their aesthetics. I feel boats should be used for their intended purposes because they are vessels for our dreams: escape vehicles from the shorebound life. The three I would choose are: 1) a trailer able beach cruiser for expeditions, 2) a workboat-inspired coastal power cruiser and 3) a deepwater sailing/voyaging vessel. The boats I’ve picked are unusual. They are not well known classic beauties, but designs created by very experienced mariners—thinking men who tried and tested their ideas. I feel they would perform wonderfully, would look after you, and soon become family members.

My beach cruiser pick would be Ed Davis’ cruising dory Tropic Bird. She is a 19’ double-ended surf dory with a bold sheer and a lovely batwinged ketch rig. Her roots are from John Gardner’s lines plans of gunning and surf dories; these are the working beach boats that brought you home safely. Ed has designed Tropic Bird  as a sailing/ rowing centerboard cruiser for one or two adventurers. She has flotation and steers with a cool joystick connected by ropes to a rudder-mounted yoke. Ed has done some fantastic cruising in the Bahamas with her. He has slept aboard under a tent cover, sailed the clear flats, and done some tricky surf work. He might have even ridden out a gale aboard. I like her construction: light and strong plywood topsides with a stout pine bottom for grounding. Ed built her with great economy, using many recycled materials,the best being a cast-off cutout from the cabin port light of his brother’s fiberglass lobsterboat that became Tropic Bird’s rudder blade. As they said about whaleboats, Tropic Bird is lightly borne on the sea and very graceful. Truly she is a seabird.

John Atkin designed Power Cruiser Great Bear

Power Cruiser Great Bear

My power cruiser would be the John Atkin designed Great Bear. She is best described as a Noank Lobsterboat above the waterline and a William Hand V-bottomed design below. Bear is 36 feet long, sloop rigged with a raised sheer forward and a lovely fisherman stye wheelhouse amidships. Mr. Atkin has located the galley in the wheelhouse so that the person who’s steering can smell dinner while puttering down the waterway. The chef will be treated to grand views either looking aft or off to the side since there are plenty of windows.. The little economical Ford diesel is under the wheelhouse floor and will have to be soundproofed intelligently to get a quieter ride. (As an ex-commercial fisherman, I can say that this is a must). Bear’s three foot draft and tabernacle mast should make inland cruising easy. Just remember that tree branches can break antennas! There is even a spot for a shower in the head and a doghouse with two berths aft for rowdy kids. The doghouse roof would hold a nice sailing dinghy….

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