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welch 03-02-2004 12:29 AM

Bristol Channel Cutters
 
Have been looking at boats for awhile. Just recently came to know Bristol Channel Cutters. What are your thoughts on these?
Dave
kc0lfw

Jeff_H 03-02-2004 04:00 AM

Bristol Channel Cutters
 
I guess the first question is "Where do plan to sail this boat?" and the second is, "What do you plan to do with the boat?"

I assume you are talking about the Lyle Hess designed Bristol Channel Cutter 28. The Bristol Channel Cutters are a reduced scale, yacht-ized interpretation of an approximately 100 year old working water craft that in its day had an excellent reputation for seaworthiness. The interpretation is quite liberal and so it should be seen as a type unto itself but the basic design principles of the BCC 28 represent the best thinking of 100 plus years ago with but a few tips of the hat to the things learned since.

There are two ways to look at a boat like this.

On one hand, in their day (i.e. circa 1880-1910), these boats represented a reasonable standard of speed and a pinacle of seaworthiness. The sea has not changed in 100 years so why should yacht design? These boats have successfully ventured offshore in a wide range of conditions and so are a proven quantity. They offer quite a lot of carrying capacity and interior space for a 28 on deck boat. They are comparatively easy to handle in a wide range of conditions. They are simply rigged. The better finished ones are an absolute jewelbox, beautiful to see and touch from every angle.

On the other hand, if you are of the other mindset, we have learned a tremendous amount about seaworthiness, performance, and ease of handling in the 100 years since this was represented a highly sophisticated design. If you are in that camp, you might liken this to driving the best 1910 era automobile of that era. It would be a great car for that era but there would be a lot of shortcomings that have been addressed in more modern designs. Like any traditional design, this was a design that reflected the limitations of materials and knowlege of that era. We have better materials and knowledge and so no longer need to live with those limitations. We would no longer use 1910 methods of surgery, why would we use 1910 sailing technology?

Continuing that line of thought, these are extremely short boats for their weight, so they have all of the maintenance costs, and difficulty of handling large sails, etc of a longer boat but with few of the advantages in accommodations, motion comfort, performance, or seaworthiness of the longer design.

It is all in how you see things.

In some kind of objective sense, these boats really are about as good as a small traditional cruising boat can be. Some were owner built and so the interiors and rigging can vary quite wildly in build quality, but the hulls and decks were generally robustly constructed. Most that I have seen have been nicely constructed. The interior layouts have varied from layouts that varied from a very romantic and nice coastal cruising/liveaboard layout that probably would not work very well offshore, to about as nice an offshore layout as you could fit in a boat this length. For a boat of this type they offer a fairly high amount of performance. They have a nice slow pitching and rolling movement which is very appealing to many who venture offshore.

They are not without negatives. No matter how you look at these boats, they are obsenely expensive for what they actually offer taken on any objective scale (of course objectivity typically has little place in selecting a sailboat). Most have a tremendous amount of wood on deck and so are comparatively high maintenance for a boat this length and from my perspective would be a deal killer if I was thinking about long range voyaging. They are next to useless as sailboats in winds under 8-10 knots or so. By any modern standard they are quite slow and do not point or run very well. They roll and pitch through mercilessly large angles and can pitch themselves to a dead halt in a short chop and moderate winds. Thier high drag means carrying a lot more sail than a boat this length would typically need to carry meaning a lot more sail to trim. That is no big deal offshore when you are typically deciding which day, if not which week, you will be tacking, but makes them a bit of a pain in the butt for coastal cruisings constantly changing conditions. In most respects these boat are as expensive to maintain as 35 of so footers. Most yards that I deal with charge a premium to paint the bottoms on boats like these because there is as much surface to paint as a there is on modern 35-38 footer. Burned by having bowsprits and dinghies in davits taking up a lot of un-paid for dockspace, more and more marinas are charging by overall length so in many cases you would be paying dockage for a 36 footer and only getting the advantage of living aboard a 28 footer. Because of their high drag to length, these boats are also fitted with engines that would be adequate for a much longer boat, and so require the fule capacity of a longer boat. While the many of the interiors fitted to these boats are really neat, they are dark, cramped, and poorly ventilated when compared to the better more modern offshore designs.

I guess I would summarize it like this, if your primary concerns are aethetic, you are a very experienced sailor, you prefer spartan but beautiful accomodations, you have no concerns about finances and you are planning to spend a lot of time making long distance voyaging, then a boat like the BCC 28 might make sense for you. If your goals are mainly coastal cruising or island hopping, with a less frequent jump offshore, and you are a less experienced sailor, if you want all of the comforts of home, and you are a bit budget challenged then a longer more modern boat of a similar displacement might make more sense for you.

Respectfully,
Jeff


welch 03-02-2004 04:30 PM

Bristol Channel Cutters
 
Jeff

Thanks for your input and help. I plan on starting in the islands then move off shore as comfort level dictates. That being said I am drawn toward very salty looking boats with lots of beautiful wood. I also am a big fan of heavy displacement, full keel, sea worthy vessels.

A great sailor I probably am not but I do know what catches my eye and draws my spirit. I do realize what you mean when you talk of modern technology being employed on newer sailing craft; and for what I am setting out to do this is probably not the most ideal boat for me now. But if a boat calls to you how do you answer?

Can anyone who purchases a sailboat be called practical? I am at the point in my short life where the chance to live a dream is going to be in front of me very soon. If I do it for 1 year or 10 years the money will be well invested.

Boats are always a comprimise. The wood will have to be maintained but I do like the simple rigging. A narrow beam and short length but easily managed. I did think though having all opening ports and dual hinged hatches, plus dorades would provide good ventilation. Is this not true?

Anyway thanks for answering.

Dave
kc0lfw

hamiam 03-02-2004 05:40 PM

Bristol Channel Cutters
 
Jeff, as always, offers an expert opinion on the design. That being said, if you are truly fixed on the design, for once, you are in luck as, while, perhaps, not ideal as compared to modern designs, it does suit to your intended purposes. No what what is ever said, the purchase of a boat is first, last, and foremost an emotion decision. Hence, the number of designs out there. Please dont ever discount the views of people who are more expert than myself but, as you said, all boats are compromises. Some day, soon, perhaps, designers will mate traditional topsides with modern underbodies as they have with, for example, the "W" class boats out there. Good luck.

Keyne 05-07-2004 06:06 AM

Bristol Channel Cutters
 
Jeff H,

Given his requirements/plans for a boat, other than the astetic requirements (wood, etc) what would be a suitable boat in the used BCC price range (e.g. 100K-130K) and around 28-36 feet?


K

Jeff_H 05-08-2004 06:04 AM

Bristol Channel Cutters
 
Given his goals for a heavy displacement for its length, full length keel, traditional looks, and lots of wood on deck, (which could not be more opposite to the boat that I would recommend for his purposes on any count) I am not sure what I would recommend for him.

There are alot of boats out there that might suit the needs and tastes of the original poster. For example, to one degree or another, boats like the Baba 30 & 35, Bayfield 36, Bluewater 30, Cheoy Lee Clipper 36, Hans Christian 34, H28, Hinterhoeler Niagara 35, Mason 33, Morris Justine 36, Rafiki 35, Southern Cross 35, Southern Cross 31, Valiant 32 and Westsail 32 offer many of the attributes that he is looking for within his price range. (Of the boats on that list I would probably be inclined towards the Morris Justine.) There are a whole lot more ''character boats'' out there that I am sure I have not mentioned. Few are as true to the original working watercraft as the Bristol Cahnnel Cutters.

I am probably the wrong person to ask about boats like these. Although I have owned wooden originals of boats like these (a 1939 Stadel Pilot Cutter and a 1949 Folkboat) I really think that going offshore in boats like these in this day and age is a total anathema to me.

Respectfully,
Jeff

Tom3 05-13-2004 07:16 AM

Bristol Channel Cutters
 
I reccomend reading "More Good Boats" by Roger Taylor it reviews the Bristol Channel Cutter and then looks at Jolie Breeze as well. Taylor pretty much agrees with Jeff but provides much more detail which I think you will find useful.

Taylor also wrote "Good Boats" and at least one other book. These books evaluate 30 odd boats many of which would be of interest to you Dave.

Woodwork can always be painted that is what the original owners used to do with this type of vessel. On the other hand I own a workboat derived boat and I find myself laying down coat after coat of varnish because it looks so good I can''t stop myself.

Technology and boat design is a very interesting question. There is very good evidence that technology, racing rules and fashion can come together in ways that make more recent boat designs less seaworthy, or less comfortable, or slower than older designs. Look at "Seaworthiness: the Forgotten Factor" for a long and informative discussion on the topic.

In addition to the books by Taylor I would check out this website: http://www.macnaughtongroup.com/

They have a lot of good thoughts on boat design.

I can''t emphasize enough that you should read a lot and also look at as many boats as possible before you buy, especially if your serious about buying a character boat. There are many great boats out there, it really pays to spend the time looking.

Good luck

Jeff_H 05-13-2004 07:19 PM

Bristol Channel Cutters
 
I would like to point out that much of the points raised in Marchaj''s "Seaworthiness: the Forgotten Factor" dealt with data gleaned from studying IOR boats designed some 25 years ago. The points that Marchaj raised were taken very seriously so that the current crop of IMS based race boats do an equal or better job when it comes to seaworthiness and seakindliness when compared to traditional watercraft. Having owned and continuing to sail on both traditional watercraft and modern designs, I would say that Marchaj''s points about race boats of that era was precisely correct, but in the 25 years since the core research upon which his book was written, designers have learned a lot more about both seaworthiness and seakindliness so that (at least in the IMS derived designs) neither is forgotten anymore.

Respectfully,
Jeff

phunter 05-14-2004 08:24 PM

Bristol Channel Cutters
 
Good Old Boat has an article about Lyle Hess in this months edition that discusses the BCC.


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