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  • 1 Post By Jeff_H
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Old 04-18-2012
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What's the deal with Bruce Roberts designs?

I am looking at a Bruce Roberts 35 center cockpit ketch for sale.

Boatplans ROBERTS 35

I would use it as a liveaboard with my girlfriend if I bought it. It seems to have a lot of interior space. It was homebuilt, and I know to get a survey, but I have some experience building small boats and I think I can spot whether it was done in a shoddy manner or not so Iíd rather not get thread drift on the homebuilt issue.

I have read mixed reviews of Bruce Robertsí boats in general. Some of his designs are outdated. Just looking at the hull shape and numbers this design does not look like a particularly fast or stiff boat to me, and I wouldnít expect that a center cockpit boat would be in the performance category anyway. Since it would be a liveaboard, performance is not my number one concern. But I donít want to own a bathtub either.

Does anyone know about this design, or about Bruce Robertsí designs generally?

PS I did a forum search and found mixed comments but nothing about his 35 footer.
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Old 04-18-2012
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Re: What's the deal with Bruce Roberts designs?

As you wish, i'll ignore the variable build quality of Robert's designs and its pretty much obvious he does not have many original ideas but I've known plenty of folks with Robert's designs that have enjoyed a hell of a lot of sea miles.
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Old 04-18-2012
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Re: What's the deal with Bruce Roberts designs?

Bruce Roberts is very popular in some parts of the world but I am not a fan of his work. It is not so much that I do not like his work per se. I think that for the most part Roberts designs conservative simple boats, but to me they are very dated. I emphasize this is only my opinion and Roberts has sold a bunch of these things so my opinion is not shared by everyone on this.Roberts more modern designs were probably good designs in the 1970's. But not only was the 1970's a low point in yacht design but a lot has happened since then. We understand a lot more seaworthiness, motion comfort, rigs and keel shapes and none of that is reflected in the design of the Roberts 35.

But these are not 'traditional' designs either, by which I mean, the design does not evolve from traditional working water craft and so would not be expected to have the virtues that one would expect for a more tradition design either.

From your comments I understand that you do not want a tub. I have never sailed one of the 35's. Looking at the numbers these are very heavy boats for their length. It get any performance out of a heavy boat, it takes a very carefully modeled hullform and a lot of sail area, neither of which is present in this case. Given that most of these were hand built, I would suspect that few of these boats will be anywhere near their design weight, ending up instead well over. I strongly believe that weight, in and of itself, has no inherent virtue and is a very serious liability. And when you couple that with the boats very small sail area for its weight, I would expect that this will be by definition a tub.

And while you can try to crowd larger overlapping headsails to make up for the dismal standing rig, using low efficiency large overlap headsails will make this a hard boat to sail that by the numbers probably still will not offer reasonable performance.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 04-19-2012
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Re: What's the deal with Bruce Roberts designs?

I think Jeff_H is correct. I use to own a Roberts Classic 45 and "heavy" and "non-performance" was a pretty apt description.

One advantage from the these designs is that they are often very cheap and therefore if your budget is limited you can get alot of boat for your money, ie get a 35ft boat for the price of a 30ft boat. However you have to be careful that you do not overpay for the boat ( ie it should be a lot cheaper than similar sized boats) and expect the boat to sell cheaply when it's time for you to sell, irrespective of how much time and money you have spent on the boat.

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Old 04-19-2012
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Re: What's the deal with Bruce Roberts designs?

Well I went to see the boat last night, and I was not impressed. First, the exterior of the hull was not fair. It had lots of ripples, like a mediterranean workboat but with glossy awl grip so the lack of fairness was even more apparent.

The interior was TERRIBLE. It had less interior space than a 30 footer, the fore and aft cabins were tiny with the bunks raised so far off the floor that you have to slide into the double berths. To be honest, no counting the aft cabin, it had about as much space as my Hunter 25 with headroom.

Yes this boat was the definition of a large, heavy bathtub, with little usable space. A coffin-like bathtub with standing headroom.

Yup, the earth is just a tiny bit warmer thanks to the fact that I drove an hour each way to see this boat
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Old 04-19-2012
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Re: What's the deal with Bruce Roberts designs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by peterchech View Post
Well I went to see the boat last night, and I was not impressed. First, the exterior of the hull was not fair. It had lots of ripples, like a mediterranean workboat but with glossy awl grip so the lack of fairness was even more apparent.

The interior was TERRIBLE. It had less interior space than a 30 footer, the fore and aft cabins were tiny with the bunks raised so far off the floor that you have to slide into the double berths. To be honest, no counting the aft cabin, it had about as much space as my Hunter 25 with headroom.

Yes this boat was the definition of a large, heavy bathtub, with little usable space. A coffin-like bathtub with standing headroom.

Yup, the earth is just a tiny bit warmer thanks to the fact that I drove an hour each way to see this boat
Actually, it's cool that you went to see it and came back with a report that lines up with the feedback you got above. It just underscores that those dudes up there know what they're talking about.
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Re: What's the deal with Bruce Roberts designs?

What's sad is that the owner told me about the builder. He was gonna retire, so he wanted to build this boat for his retirement (He had almost no sailing experience). He spent years building it, and when he finished his wife hated it and wouldn't go on it. So he sold it within months of its completion. Sad...

I also read on some boat builders forums many comments supporting what was said above, about the designs being mediocre to bad, and that Bruce Roberts actually bought the designs (he's not a naval architect) so they aren't even his. Apparently when you call him, he won't give any "free" advice, you have to buy a $99 lines plan just to talk to the guy about one of his designs. He is known to be terrible with feedback, and once you buy the plans you are on your own. (this is all very very different than it is with any designer worth his salt. I once called up Dudley Dix about plans for a 14' little skiff, and he spoke with me for almost a half hour. I actually had to rush him off the phone because I had a meeting to go to. I never even ordered the plans.)

Oh, and apparently Bruce Roberts has admitted that the skegs on his designs are inadequately supported (they are just attached to the skin, no interior reinforcement so they have had a history of falling off)... (look all this up on boatdesign.net, including a link to his admission on his website)

I just want there to be a record here, even if this is all heresay, as smack says, very often what you learn here is at least mostly based in fact
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Old 04-19-2012
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Re: What's the deal with Bruce Roberts designs?

Quote:
Originally Posted by peterchech View Post
Well I went to see the boat last night, and I was not impressed. First, the exterior of the hull was not fair. It had lots of ripples, like a mediterranean workboat but with glossy awl grip so the lack of fairness was even more apparent.

The interior was TERRIBLE. It had less interior space than a 30 footer, the fore and aft cabins were tiny with the bunks raised so far off the floor that you have to slide into the double berths. To be honest, no counting the aft cabin, it had about as much space as my Hunter 25 with headroom.

Yes this boat was the definition of a large, heavy bathtub, with little usable space. A coffin-like bathtub with standing headroom.

Yup, the earth is just a tiny bit warmer thanks to the fact that I drove an hour each way to see this boat
Always, well at least very often, the problem with home builders and the results they achieve. Its a rare home built boat that achieves a professional standard.

One other point and I'm not sure if this applies in the US as it does in Australia but home built boats can be a problem to insure.
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Re: What's the deal with Bruce Roberts designs?

Don't expect performance out of a boat fully loaded for offshore cruising. A taller rig, may make her a bit tender, while empty, but will work well, once she is fully loaded.
Roberts, according to his latest book, was designing skegs to fall off if they hit anything, which sometimes happened. .
He has since redesigned them, so check how solidly the skeg is attached, and how easy it would be to reinforce it.
I've been told Roberts has nearly zero personal experience in offshore cruising, owning and maintaining a steel boat, so take long someone who has, preferably someone who has owned a steel boat for may decades.
Many home built boats are far better built than commercially built ones, especially here in BC, where many commercially built ones have zero epoxy under the spray foam, zero inside welding, with the outside weld mostly ground off. .

Last edited by Brent Swain; 04-19-2012 at 11:13 PM.
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Old 04-20-2012
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Re: What's the deal with Bruce Roberts designs?

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Originally Posted by Brent Swain View Post
snip

Many home built boats are far better built than commercially built ones, especially here in BC, where many commercially built ones have zero epoxy under the spray foam, zero inside welding, with the outside weld mostly ground off. .
I should qualify my earlier post ... really I should have said home completed. Many home completed boats have shall we say "distinctive" interiors. I wasn't having a shot at the quality of construction, more the quality of design.
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