Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
Thanked 195 Times in 159 Posts
Rep Power: 10
perfect cruiser for under $250k?
I am probably the wrong person to ask about Island Packets. Oddly enough this was the first discussion that I participated in when I came on this BB roughly 6 years ago. As I said then, Island Packets are a bit of a mystery to me. I understand traditional watercraft and I also understand modern yacht design. I really donít get Island Packets. They appear to be traditional in appearance and yet Island Packets are very far from the kinds of hull modeling and rigs that give traditional watercraft their character and laudable sailing characteristics. Neither are they modern boats that take advantage of advances in material engineering and aerodynamics. Instead they seem to be a strange combination of design elements that exhibit many of the disadvantages of both traditional and modern craft with few of the virtues.
What Island Packets do well is provide a lot of living space on a given waterline length, or length on deck. They manage to provide a tremendous amount accommodations and tankage in a nominally small package but of course that depends on how you define small. There is a tendency to size a boat by its length on deck. Using that metric an Island Packet puts a lot of boat in a small package.
But measured by any other system of measurement they donít fare quite as well. It can be argued that displacement is a fairer measure of size. By and large displacement governs the amount of sail area and wetted surface that a boat has. All things being equal, displacement governs the cost of a boat to build. It governs the size of the hardware and gear that is required and it governs the cost of maintaining and owning a boat. And probably more than anything else, displacement governs how much work it takes to sail a boat. On the other hand, in and of itself, displacement does not govern strength, or seaworthiness or comfort.
While Island Packets load a lot of displacement on a given waterline length, they do not offer a lot of room, or comfort for their displacement. Which brings me to the next issue, the affects of putting a lot of displacement on a relatively short waterline length. (Using displacement as yardstick, you would not think of these as heavy boats but as boats that are short for their displacement.) When you put a lot of displacement on a relatively short waterline, you end up with a boat that has a relatively large amount of drag compared to a boat that has a longer length but the same displacement. That means that it is hard for the shorter waterline boat to achieve the same speed as the longer boat on any point of sail. This is especially true at either end of the wind range, in lighter or heavier winds, and when going upwind and downwind where drag is especially important. Higher drag, the deeper canoe body, which restricts the depth of the foil portion of the keel, and a blunter entry, means more leeway and poorer pointing ability for the shorter length boat. This greater drag means that the shorter length boat needs to carry more sail area in heavier going. Higher drag means that although these boats may have a similar theoretical hullspeed to boat with an equal length waterline, their greater drag means that they will end up spending less time at or near that theoretical hull speed.
In a properly designed boat, greater length for a given displacement also means a more comfortable motion because it means a shallower canoe body which for a given draft permits more roll dampening and a longer waterline also provides better pitch dampening.
So here is where personal preference comes into play. Some people prefer to have the advantages that come with a faster boat (greater range in a given day, less motoring time, and the strategic advantages of being better able to pick your time of leaving or arriving). While for others, speed is not important. If speed is important to you then there are much better choices out there. Speed and sailing ability can be a real advantage in coastal cruising but it is not a be all and end all for everyone.
These are boats that tend to roll and pitch more slowly but through larger angles than similar sized boats. For some this slower motion is much more comfortable. For others these larger roll angles make getting about more tiring and less comfortable. This is very much a product of personal preference. There is no universally right here.
Then there is the whole quality issue. Island Packets are filled with nicely executed details. On the other hand there is a bunch of design details that really drive me crazy on these boats. It drives me crazy that a boat with the size sail plan of these use light duty, plastic sheave, blocks. It drives me crazy that the sailing ergonomics of these boats makes sail trim and sail handling so difficult. It drives me crazy that some of the IP models vent their propane tanks amidships near the waterline where they fail to meet basic safety standards when heeled. (That is a just plain basic safety item that even the high volume builders seem to get right) It drives me crazy that so few of the IP models have good seaberths or a cabin sole that can be traversed easily when the boat is heeled over. It drives me crazy that setting sail off of a bowsprit is somehow seen as a good idea. Even traditional working craft began to give up on bowsprit hung sails by the early 20th century. That bowsprit means that you pay for a slip for a much longer boat than you get to enjoy the speed, seaworthiness or comfort of.
It drives me crazy that IPís use post hung spade rudders but then fail to really take advantage of the potential virtues of a post hung spade rudder. Using a post-hung spade rudder in the way that Island Packet does makes no sense. On a properly designed modern fin keel/ spade rudder boat, the rudder is quite a substantial distance above the bottom of the keel so that it usually does not contact bottom during a grounding. On the Island Packets their spade rudder is pretty much the same depth as the keel making it even more vulnerable than the sportier spade rudders that they put down in their sales talks at boat shows. Local repair yards talk about the frequency of repairs to IP rudder attachements.
So while I know that a lot of people really love thier IPs and have gone all over the place, I really just don''t understand thier appeal. As I said, I am probably the wrong person to ask of you want a possitive response.