Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Good Ideas Never Go Out of Style

Many people want to focus on the newest, hottest idea on the market and throw historical knowledge to the wind. There's definitely a place for progress, but some tried and true ideas are timeless.

Yes, there are good boat designs out there and some not so good, but Sparkman and Stephens have consistently gotten it right over the years and have designed some of the best boats in the world! It's a lengthy read, but anyone interested in boat design, building or rebuilding stands to learn a great deal from Roderick Stephens' unpublished book  Rod on Sailing, Lessons from the Sea.


Monday, March 5, 2012


As anyone who's lived or even stayed on a boat for an extended period of time will agree, you can never have enough ventilation! One of the best improvements we inherited from the previous owners' modifications were opening ports. While not part of the original Andromeda design, Phoenix currently has 14 Beckson 512 ports -- 8 in the main cabin, 4 in the aft, and 2 in the head. A 15th is in the works, and will be installed in the passageway to the aft cabin.

Some people frown at the Beckson's plastic frame and prefer stainless, but so far we have no complaints. We painted the trim rings so they essentially blend into the cabin sides, and opening and dogging them down are a breeze. The gaskets are very secure, easy to put in/take out for cleaning, and all in all seem to be much better than the ports we've had on other boats. Plus replacement parts, if we need them, are pretty accessible and relatively inexpensive (as far as boat parts go).

The open ports do wonders to improve airflow down below when the weather is nice, but the main and aft cabin ports can allow some water in during heavy rains. There's nothing worse in warmer weather than waiting out a squall down below with the boat completely buttoned up and no airflow. Very steamy!

We don't really like the look of external port shields, so pretty much ruled out that idea. We did, however try to keep the rain out by adding a Beckson Internal Rain Shield in one of the ports but the results were unimpressive. The theory is that the Shield's louvered plexiglass insert will allow you to keep the port open in the rain. Well, perhaps, but the water hits the lower body of the port, bounces, and then splashes right up the louvers and into the boat! And the insert definitely cuts the airflow down in good weather, so this experiment was a bust!

external rain shield

Beckson internal rain shield
The jury is still out on our Breeze Booster Port Ventilator that we picked up for next to nothing on Craigslist. This is essentially a wind scoop for your ports, and when installed lays against and perpendicular to the cabin top. Designed more for light air days at anchor than heavy weather, it could help on those hot days, but won't really do much for us in a storm. We haven't played with it a great deal yet, but since we love our wind scoop, we figured we'd give it a try. Could be a bit more of a trip hazard than we'd like on deck, but only time will tell...

Breeze Booster port ventilator

And since we're not completely satisfied with the ready-made options out there, we've begun playing around with some custom designs that will hopefully serve both purposes and help maximize airflow regardless of the weather. It will be another B and E orginal, so stay tuned to see how this experiment unfolds this spring! 

Thursday, March 1, 2012


Many people look at us like we have 3 heads when we tell them we're doing a total rebuild on a custom ketch. Get a lot of "good luck with that" comments, blank stares, and the like. The truth is, there is something completely gratifying in restoring something that had been neglected for so long, especially when it was extremely well built in the first place! 

There are so many boats out there that are in desperate need of TLC, that are simply abandoned in marinas, rotting away until they are eventually cut up and sold for scrap or hauled to the nearest landfill. 

Call it "green living," "trying to reduce the carbon footprint," salvage, or whatever, but restoring rather than adding to the world's vast scrap heaps can be a worthy cause. This is particularly true of boats built in the 70s, before they really knew how strong fiberglass was and "ridiculously" overbuilt hulls by today's boat building standards. 

Don't get me wrong -- not every boat is rebuild worthy. Depending on the degree of damage and neglect, they may be well beyond the point of no return. The key is to try to envision the amount of time, money and effort needed to get the boat to where you want it to be, then triple it! Because that's pretty much what it will take to complete the task at hand!

Many attempt to take on project boats and quit in short order. Whether they simply chose the wrong "project," lacked the required skills (or weren't willing to learn them), grew tired of the time commitment, or just plain burned out, it's a very personal decision that is different for each individual.

Is it hard work, absolutely! Is it sometimes easier to build rather than rebuild, you bet! Can it be frustrating? Silly question. But the knowledge, experience, personal growth and satisfaction you gain as you take nothing and turn it into something is worth every ounce of blood, sweat and tears you shed in the process.

Every day is a challenge, but I'm thankful to have such a wonderful and talented partner to share the load and stoke the flames that keep us going.