What makes a good cruising boat? Mark responds.

BIYC racing

Mark Edwards cruises the yacht Relapse with his family- the Young design featured in the last post. He’s on limited internet access cruising in Indonesia, but had some thoughts to share in response to the questions and misconceptions about the suitability of Relapse for cruising.

I’d like to address the main comments from your readers about our yacht, RELAPSE.

A little bit of history first. I built the boat on two principals: KISS (keep it simple), and KIC (keep it cheap). The boat is composite E glass with very little carbon, and engineered to NZ survey standards- about 2.5 times ABS scantlings. The boat was designed as a race boat way back in 1989 (yes, ’89, a boat well ahead of her time). But alas, she wasn’t built until Jim Young sold me the plans in 2006 saying it would make a great performance cruising boat for today. Who could argue with the man’s pedigree, having helped many young NZ designers over the years including Bruce Farr and Greg Elliott on their career paths.

The main comments were about the size of the transom (directional stability in a following sea), immersing the bow, the twin rudders, seaworthiness and 9 foot draught.  They are all directly related to one another.

The rudders are extremely large at 1.8 m deep and 500 fore and aft, set at an angle of approximately 22 degrees off vertical at about 1.5 metres off the centre line.  As the boat heels, the rudders pick up efficiency and the leeward one is deeply buried in the water with no ventilation to stall it out. Therefore as you start to load it up it works more efficiently, not less, as would be the case with a conventional single rudder. The helm is very light so the auto pilot has very little load- we use B&G, the same one that is on the open 60s.  The steering wheels and rudders are set up as independent units on each side, linked with a bar. If any part breaks you can just step across the cockpit and use the other wheel – a useful redundancy! It’s a bit more drag for a heap of control, and on a cruising boat- drag, who cares?

Note: I don’t think it would be anywhere near as good a boat with a single rudder. The boat works as a complete package.

Relapse doesn’t have a fine waterline, and the flare / volume in the bow on deck is huge. It is not an upwind boat with a narrow foredeck and waterline, it is a reaching running boat, the flare holding  the bow up as it heels or is lifted by the sea. Running downwind we have never buried the bow, even at the bottom of a sea swell in 60 knots of wind.  We have never broached the boat, even when running an unbalanced sail plan, with wind and sea at 135 degrees (supposedly a big assed boat’s worse point of sail) and just a triple reefed main in 45 knots.

Nine foot draught? Well you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs there are some places you can’t go, but that’s a price I’m happy to pay.  In two and a half years of cruising we can count on one hand the times it has prevented us from going somewhere.

Note: put a lifting keel in, and you could draw 1.8 m – problem solved, but you have to build an interior round it.

To summarize: The boat is easy to sail, goes exceptionally well in light winds, and does high averages in the trades with the transition to planing being very smooth. With the boat not doing the traditional fast slow in the wave peaks and troughs.

A fast passage is a good passage especially to or from NZ. The crew arrives relatively fresh and has not had to weather the mandatory one or two gales a slower boat will in all likelihood encounter.

99% of the time it’s the crew that limit the seaworthiness of the boat not the design or type of boat.

from the yacht RELAPSE-
Mark, Catherine, Ash and Cameron

PS We have never had water in the cockpit.

One other point I want to call on here that mark touches on in the beginning is that this boat was built partly on the basis of KIC: Keep It Cheap. A number of comments here and on our Facebook page suggested that you had to win the lottery or have a big bank account to have a boat like this. It’s just not true. Granted, we can’t all have the skills that Mark does to built it yourself. But even if you don’t, consider this: the hardware is almost entirely second hand- gear retired from racing boats. So are the sails, and even the mast- taken from a TP52 rig. The engine is a $1500 truck engine much as it might be easy to make the assumption- the way Mark did it, this was not a high budget boat out of reach for most cruisers.

Thoughtful comments appreciated.

9 Responses

  1. My compliments to Mark on a job well done! Jim Young is a great NZ designer and designed some awesome boats. Mark is a very talented guy to put such a boat together.

    This is what makes cruising so great… There are many ways to get from pony A to point B. Seeing the vessels people use to do that are a great joy for some of us.

    All the best to the Totem gang!


  2. Our experience with our Chamberlin 13.5 sailing cat, which also had good volume and flare in the bows, was we never came even close to “burying the bow”, the closest we ever saw the the bow to the water was about a metre (deck roughly 2m above the water). Our experience also running downwind was that the transoms lifted and we were never pooped. Even though it was designed as a cruising boat for a family, we always performed well in light winds and had high average speeds, two of the features we asked for in the design, and they made a big difference to our cruising days. The other was to hold 1000 litres of water (pre-watermaker days).
    One point no one seems to have commented on with Relapse is the lack of cockpit shelter from the sun and other elements when sailing. Even though Marks says it sails very well by autopilot, someone must be on deck most of the time. Having spent many years between us cruising and in the sun, the full solid cockpit cover is a must for us.
    The fact that we only had 1m of draft was a terrific feature, making a boat with 9 ft draft something we could never imagine cruising on (mind you most, but not all, cruising done on the east coast of Australia).
    We are now building our “last” boat (really), and this is a Chamberlin Powercat, which also has bows with flare and volume for downwind motoring, and a good cruising speed, so that ocean passages can be done in safety. Fuel efficiency and solar panels for independence whilst at anchor (there will be no generator) are also a feature of the design.
    On the point of cost, even though the motors are new, many fittings and pieces of equipment have been sourced from ebay, gumtree, closing down sales and even boot sales, and they are often new and not used. The internet has made this possible, along with us all over the world reading blogs about others cruising all over the world.

    1. Hi Catherine, just a quick point that there actually is a dodger on Relapse to provide sun protection in the cockpit. It folds down and isn’t visible in the photographs. Your boats sound great!

  3. What a cool boat! It’s pretty hard to argue with success. Also love the comment about the repurposed truck engine. I would like to know if there were any modifications made for the marine environment? I can totally see us doing something like that.

  4. to marinize a truck diesel:
    – fit a water cooled exhaust manifold otherwise you really really heat up the engine compartment.
    – fit a exhaust mixing elbow to exhaust manifold
    – change the radiator to a sea water heat exchanger
    – fit a sea water pump
    – fit a marine gearbox, damper plate to flywheel and maybe a bell housing if it isn’t combined with the gearbox.
    – fit some flexible mounts.
    – don’t run it full throttle; derate it by about 50%. A truck diesel may have a 4500 RPM redline but keep it at 2800 or so and it will last a long time.

    The hardest item is the water cooled manifold. The rest is usually just off the shelf parts. It’s seldom a cost saving compared to a good marine diesel unless you get the donor engine for very cheap.

  5. The point about “keep it cheap” is an interesting one.

    We think of raceboats as being expensive (because, well, they are). This tends to make us think that anything that looks like a raceboat must also be expensive. But that’s just not the case.

    The wallet-draining carbon fibre hull, synthetic rigging and exotic ultralight hardware on racers is only there to squeeze out the last 5% to 10% of top-end speed. If you’re competing for trophies, you need all that to be competitive against other boats that have it. Still, tripling the purchase price to get all that exotic stuff only buys you another 20-odd miles a day from a boat that, if built from more conventional materials, will already be doing 200 a day.

    A cruising boat that has perhaps 80% of a similarly sized racer’s performance, but with durable, high-reliability systems, a livable interior and a somewhat beefier structural design, is certainly an appealing thought.

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