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Old 09-05-2003
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JeffH - Question on cutters

To start with I consider the Tayana 37 to be one of the better old style heavy displacement cruisers. While I am not a proponent of old style heavy displacement offshore cruisers, even for offshore work. The basic design brief for boats like these has been around for over a hundred years and I think that a lot has been learned about the behavior of boats at sea and designing boats for offshore work that this type of boat ignores. That said, on a reach and given enough wind the T37''s sail reasonably well. While there are a lot of aspects of the construction of these boats that I personally don''t like, they were well built and have held up reasonably well for what they are. I think that Bob Perry did a beautiful job of modeling the hulls of these boats. From having designed heavy displacement cruisers myself, I can tell you that it is very difficult to model a heavy displacement hull anywhere near as nicely as the T-37''s.

But in my humble opinion they are lousy coastal cruisers. Obviously much, if not most of this discussion is subjective but, to me a coastal cruiser needs to sail well in a wider range of conditions than an offshore boat. By that I mean that it should have better light air, heavy air (albeit for a shorter duration), upwind and downwind performance than the average offshore boat. An offshore boat has the luxuray of sea room or weighting a day or two. The confined conditions that a coastal cruiser operates under means that it has to be able to sail itself out of a tough spot without a margin for error. The coastal cruiser should be more maneuverable and easier to get underway than an old style offshore cruiser. By necessity an offshore cruiser needs a tiny cockpit and in the case of the Tayana one that is too small to be comfortable for hanging out. An offshore cruiser needs an interior that has tight passages, small head and galley recesses, and narrow restrictive bunks where you won''t get thrown about so that it is safe offshore, while a coastal cruisers should have more room to simply lounge. It is true that some of the Tayana 37''s (and Westsail 32''s for that matter) have coastal cruising style interiors which somehow seems nuts because you are taking a boat that is a poor coastal cruiser for other reasons and making it a poor offshore cruiser because of the interior.

Old style offshore cruisers relied on a lot of redundancy and larger safety margins which can really hurt performance. A good coastal cruiser can be gunkholed under sail. A good coastal cruiser should have a sail plan that can quickly shift gears with the often highly changeable conditions found along shore. Almost by design, old style cruising rigs are hard to power up and down. Part of that has to do keeping the equipment simple, part with the fact that the hull/keel combo is so performance restrictive that shifting gear doesn''t do much good, part had to do with the small sail plans that these boats have relative to their displacement which results from having comparatively small stability relative to their displacement and part of this results from the weights of sail cloth needed to reliably drive that much displacement in a heavy wind and sea.

Coastal cruisers should be light and airy. Offshore boats by necessity should have small and minimal deck openings.

To summarize this in a nutshell, the priorities of going offshore in a tradition offshore design shape all aspects of the boat as a system. Boats like the Tayana 37 are highly specialized and task specific and so they do their task extremely well, but this high degree of specialization comes at the price of not being very good generalists, which is what a coastal cruiser must be.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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