FPB 78 – The Concept Evolves


The design process for us has always been an evolutionary spiral. As we get further into the project, as the pieces begin to come together, we almost always discover hidden gems that, when teased into reality, help to make a better product. The process is time consuming, occasionally drives the builder to distraction, but it’s the way we do things.

This past week in New Zealand has shown us there are ways of blending the FPB 78 capabilities to create an even better cruising machine than we had thought possible, with only small edits to our original concept.

A preamble… We are at the point in life where we want the option of having crew with us. Note: the operable word here is option. We also wanted to allocate more living space that caters to the needs of family and friends when they visit. In the past we felt the best design was one which optimized the boat for our own needs. Why sacrifice a large part of valuable volume for guests that would only be aboard for short periods of time? Since most of our clients had similar thoughts, this pattern of space utilization worked well. Our own changing view on the subject of crew and guests is what prompted the FPB 78 design in the first place and one of the things we were after was the ability for crew and/or guests to each have the ability to get away.

Which brings us to our recent awakening with the soon-to-be-launched FPB 78-1. We will start with an update on the Matrix deck. First, careful attention to weights and some unused “fudge factor” in this regard has left us with the ability to glass in the Matrix deck. Weight and VCG go up with the glass, but the ambiance, longevity, and endurance compared to the fabric-edged clearview windows is worth the performance penalty. This turns the Matrix area into interior space, which opens new furnishing/living options. The photos that follow represent a few of the arrangements we tried prior to ordering furniture. The good folks at Circa were kind enough to lend us some lovely pieces with which to experiment.


Looking aft in the photo above. In all our previous computer layouts, we had always allowed a passage between coaming and port side furniture. This is an absolute ergonomic requirement at sea. What became immediately apparent during our recent visit is that moving the port side seating outboard, as shown above, opens up the entire Matrix deck to a new interpretation. We will still move the seating far enough to starboard at sea to create our body constraining walkway, but then move it back at anchor so that the space is open.


This is looking from the starboard aft corner forward. Here we have another experiment, with the Stressless chairs outside to port. The layout won’t be final, if ever, until we’ve been cruising for a while. What we love about how the Matrix deck has turned out is the flexibility it gives us for space planning. Our present thinking is that we will end up with a couple of convertible sofas, so that the grandkids–or we–can sleep up here if so desired.


While we are on the Matrix deck here is a look at the nav station furniture carcass, prior to finishing.

Let’s move on to dinghy size, storage, and our procedures at anchor. We are used to being prepared to put to sea without delay any time we are anchored in an exposed area. We also prefer our dinghies out of the water when not in use and at night, both to reduce the chance of loss and to minimize maintenance. We are accustomed to bringing them on deck, and have worked to make this as simple as possible. A few months ago we started looking at a different approach. What if we used traditional davits to raise the dinghies leaving them outboard at anchor? This reduced risks, was dead simple to operate, and would keep the aft deck clear for other uses. We would still use the booms for hoisting on and off deck for going to sea, but once in a cruising region, the dinghies could stay on their davits with the aft deck clear. This eventually lead to what you see below.

A pair of davits on each side, and a clear aft deck. Add a permanent awning extension to the Matrix deck overhang and suddenly we have space at anchor for a table and chairs. Dining al fresco, with the BBQ and its work surface nearby, becomes the operative mode any time the weather is pleasant.


The dinghies are sufficiently clear of sea level so that in all but the worst conditions they could, if the need arose, be carried outboard underway. Gone are the days of risking ourselves to recover a dinghy too long left afloat, onto the deck,  in what has become a dangerous anchorage. If needed, simply hoist them onto their davits and put to sea.

Another aspect of the davit evolution is the ability to store the port side dink on top of the inboard rotated davit, thereby freeing the deck space below.


This is the best of all worlds. We have a 16-foot relatively seaworthy RIB, ideal for exploring and emergency use in lieu of a life raft, and a 14’ rowing dink, both stored inboard at sea, with a totally clear aft deck at anchor.

The open aft deck, and the more versatile Matrix deck, totally change the way we now look at our FPB 78. We have three distinct living zones. The great room for food prep, and as a theater with the large TV, the aft deck for dining and lounging outside, and a Matrix deck that will serve at anchor as the preferred hang out space. When the grandchildren are with us it will be their dorm, leaving the three staterooms to the elders.

The surprise on the lower (accommodation) deck has been the evolution of the annex/forepeak area.


With the storage we have aft, and the volume available below the floorboards in the forward section of the boat, there will be little need for the jumble of gear stowed all over the forepeak we are used to seeing. Rather, we expect to have a few neat coils of dock lines, and quite possibly little else. There are systems of course, but in essence we expect this forward quarter of the boat to function as a luxurious laundry room, gym, and overflow stateroom for family. Or, if our needs change, as a library, office, etc. In short, there are lots of possibilities. We are doing the minimum to start with, keeping options open for the future.


At the aft end of the lower deck, behind the engine room, what would have been called a lazarette is now a lovely workshop, with the possibility of having a comfortable crew suite if that’s the direction we head. For now we are installing a head and shower pan, but otherwise waiting to fit this out as experience dictates. In the interim, we have lots of free volume in which to play. The photo above shows you about a third of the space.The other two thirds for now, except for the steering gear, is wide open.

We were going to fit pipe berths into the workshop and annex areas, but with so much floor space available we will start with high end camping beds instead. These are very comfortable, can be used anywhere aboard, and are easily stowed in compact form. We are just starting to research this subject and if you have suggestions we’d love to hear them. An idea of what we are thinking about is below.



Are we excited? You bet! And we cannot wait to get FPB 78-1, Cochise, into its element and see what other discoveries await.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 30, 2016)

32 Responses to “FPB 78 – The Concept Evolves”

  1. Carl E Says:

    Hi Steve: Does the Matrix deck become fully part of the superstructure, i.e. able to withstand a capsize and presumably directly reachable from indoors? Slightly OT (and slightly nosy :)), but two posts back you mentioned that a FPB 64 would take almost five years to delivery, which suggests new orders?

  2. Steve Dashew Says:

    Matrix is NOT considered primary structure. That would be too heavy and too high.

  3. Carl E Says:

    Hi Steve: Does the Matrix deck become fully part of the superstructure, i.e. able to withstand a capsize and presumably directly reachable from indoors? Slightly OT (and slightly nosy :)), but two posts back you mentioned that a FPB 64 would take almost five years to delivery, which suggests new orders for other models?

  4. Steve Dashew Says:

    Hi Carl:
    The Matrix deck is not considered primary structure, and the great room below has a watertight door. Practically speaking, if a curtain is placed across the aft end of the great room roof overhang, the entranced to the Matrix deck is environmentally protected.
    In a roll over we would expect the Stamoid roof to go along with some of the glass, or perhaps some of the supporting roof structure.

  5. Carl E Says:

    Hi Steve: Sorry for the second (slightly longer) comment; I can’t delete it myself unfortunately. With regard to the big tender, you previously wanted it easy to launch for use as a life boat. The two davits seem to preclude that?

  6. Steve Dashew Says:

    Hello Carl:
    Reality meets tradeoffs with regard to dink launch cycle from on deck. The davits are such a win in general and reduce the dinghy handling issues to such an extent, that we are willing to give up the fast launch process we had hoped for. However, we expect the davits to be in use, dinks hung outboard, during a majority of all short hops and on some ocean passages, depending on weather risks. In which case the dinghy is much more quickly launched.

  7. Carl E Says:

    Are the davits at all removable during offshore passages? Also, how are they powered?

  8. Steve Dashew Says:

    Davits rotate in line with belting on the starboard side and swing all the way inboard on the port, so the port dinghy stores on top, leaving deck below clear. Davits are removable, but normally would be left in place.They ride in UHMW bearings and will turn quite easily. The dinks are lifted from the after davits, with the halyard leading to the large powered deck winch. There is a hand winch, #30, and rope clutch on each aft davit for emergency manual use, and to use as a snubber when lowering. The forward da8vit halyard is for trim, i.e. to keep the bow high and secured so the dinks will drain aft.

  9. Cattledog Says:

    Curiosity about mobile pieces of furniture and how they are secured during weather events?

  10. Steve Dashew Says:

    That’s a question, Catttledog, yet to be resolved. Things will be secured, and we have threaded inserts in the Matrix deck sole for removable eye bolts. We can also add attachment points on the coaming sides. In the great room we will probably add tie down points to the sole once we have used the boat a few weeks. Temporarily, the staple rails in the great room will provide tie down points when needed.

  11. Paul Says:

    How thick is the glass up top going to be?
    Will there be any provision to open the windows for air movement?
    Is there still going to be a head in the corner?
    Looks great!

  12. Steve Dashew Says:

    Hi Paul:
    The Matrix glazing is made up of two layers of chemically strengthened glass, 1.2mm thick each, with an inter layers of special high strength plastic. Total thickness is 4mm. And yes, there is still the head in the corner,

  13. Steve B Says:

    Will the Matrix Deck glass be hinged/sliding for breezes, or are you going for watertight? I guess watertight is a difficult option with an outside stairway.

  14. Steve Dashew Says:

    Howdy Steve:
    We use of glass on the Matrix deck is for better visibility, to get rid of tapes and zippers, and for long life. With the open stairwell and Stamoid fabric roof water tight is not practical.

  15. Evan Gatehouse Says:

    Just a quick thought about the last picture. With the workbench so near the steering gear, perhaps the steering cylinder should have a dust shield to protect it from stray debris coming from the drill press etc. I’ve seen many brand new steering cylinders lesk at the seals due to construction debris on the rod.

  16. Steve Dashew Says:

    Hi Evan:
    You are a mind reader. Both sides steering cylinders will have dust dirt shields to keep the rods/seals in good shape and keep body parts from being accidentally caught.

  17. jmh2002 Says:

    Good general common sense concepts regarding the dinghies Steve. Often not enough thought is put into tenders and how they will be managed, and this even applies sometimes on large superyachts too.

    It is easily forgotten how vital they are, how safely they need to be able to be handled in all weather conditions (especially short handed), and what a danger, a burden, or simply a huge nuisance they can become with a bad lifting or stowing setup.

  18. Steve Dashew Says:

    Agreed JMH:
    We have always considered the most dangerous thing we do aboard and FPB is handle the dinghy!

  19. Jeff Hosken Says:

    Just a thought regarding the beds. I have started to get into hammock camping instead of ground camping. My son is in Ecuador and using a hammock, which he now loves. I have a Warbonnet Blackbird XLC (website is http://www.warbonnetoutdoors.com–I tried to get a direct link but their website is down for maintenance), and the net-less model seems like it might be ideal for inside the boat. Extremely easy to store and put up/take down, very cool for the grandkids, and very comfortable for anyone–properly strung and lying on the diagonal, the sleeping surface is nearly flat (it doesn’t work for stomach sleepers, but is great for back and side sleepers). They’d probably work on the foredeck and aft deck as well, should you want to sleep al fresco. You’d have to add some attachment points to the bulkheads or frame, but that doesn’t seem like much of a challenge for Circa :), and you can stack them like bunkbeds if necessary. They’d also work on land, when you are camping in your 4Runner (even in the desert–you can make a support frame out of pipes).
    I have loved following your work and while I don’t know how I would be able to afford an FPB right now, I still dream. Best wishes with your new boat and your new baby as well.

  20. Steve Dashew Says:

    Thanks Jeff – when you get the URL we’d love to check it out.

  21. Jeff Hosken Says:

    The website is http://www.warbonnetoutdoors.com/product/travelers-no-net-ridgerunners/. The Traveler is the no-net version of the Blackbird; the Ridgerunner is what they call a “bridge” hammock, which has a spreader bar at the ends instead of the ends being gathered in a big knot. This site, http://theultimatehang.com/hammock-camping-101/, is a pretty good intro to the whole field of hammock camping. Hope this is useful!

  22. Steve Dashew Says:

    Thanks Jeff:
    If we the hammock route we will need spreader bar to keep things short.

  23. Mike Says:

    Steve, what will be the mechanism for the davits to hoist the dingy? Will it be internal to the housings? Are the davits located inside a HDMW tube to allow easy rotating? Are the davits removed at any time?

  24. Steve Dashew Says:

    Hi Mike:
    Davits will come out for maintenance, and are in UHMW bearings. Lifting can be done manually by a davit mounted winch, but more normally would be done with the Lewmat 65 kedge winch on the aft deck.

  25. Dave Says:

    In terms of the ‘high end camping beds’ that you refer to above, carp anglers in the UK would call that a ‘bedchair’. One or two things to look out for are frame construction – some are mild steel, some are aluminium. For sleeping, when the bed is flat, a third pair of legs at the head end is desirable, get too much of your weight to near the end and it’s easy to tip the bed onto its end.

    The market in the UK is moving less to beds that can be used as chairs or loungers (with the back more upright as you show in the picture) and more to something that offers good support and a very flat profile when sleeping. A couple of links that might help – https://www.avidcarp.com/Products/Beds-Chairs/Benchmark-Beds and http://www.jrc-fishing.co.uk/jrc-bedchairs-jrc-cocoon/jrc-cocoon-excel-3-leg-bedchair/1367969-0300.html#start=5

    These links are to UK tackle companies. Availability in NZ might be an issue, but all this gear is actually made in China, so you may be able to source something direct from there, maybe through something like http://www.alibaba.com/.

  26. Steve Dashew Says:

    Thanks Dave:
    Looks a lot like the REI model in the States

  27. Uwe Says:

    Hi Steve

    I have not tried those (http://fanello.ch/index.php/unsere-produkte/takeout, http://fanello.ch/index.php/unsere-produkte/travel, http://fanello.ch/index.php/unsere-produkte/rollin) myself but always thought them to be nifty for a stow away bed. And if you don´t want to use them as futons I am sure Circa can make you some collapsible frames to be stored against a bulkhead.

  28. Victor Raymond Says:

    Hello Steve and Linda,

    We have davits mounted fore and aft of the port side of our sailing yacht. We have used them just as you describe with great success. Only for the longer passages or big sea forecasts do we ship our lifeboat/tender (a Portland Pudgy) onboard. All around a great system. We also have a large removable gate that facilitates getting the tender over the lifelines. I have only fallen over once but into the dink so did not get wet!

    Love all your new concepts. Enjoy!

  29. Ken Says:

    I love the notion of making the spaces on the boat more egalitarian. You’ll get more visitors as well as stronger friendships with better crew. The trade off – less stateroom – is so trivial in comparison I don’t know why it isn’t done more often. On your other improvements its easy to see the appeal of glass on the top deck. But easy too to imagine it could become rather hot in the tropics. I’d be tempted to insulate the fabric roof. Should be possible to dramatically lower the heating and cooling loads for a minimal weight penalty. Certainly lower than the extra framing needed to make windows openable.

  30. Ken Says:

    For many years we’ve used futons for spare beds. It happens they also make terrific mattress toppers which is how we “store” them when they’re not needed for guests. Essentially they disappear. The only down side is that the thicker more comfortable ones are quite heavy.

  31. Jono Frankfort Says:

    Regarding the use of glass on the matrix deck. I am wondering about the additional stiff surface area presented by glass windows slowing the roll recovery period if knocked down. Any chance the added surface area will prevent a full recovery? With soft panel windows, you can be confident they will blow out and should not impede roll recovery. I’m with you on the aesthetics and most of us don’t spend much time worrying about a knock down, but one of the key reasons I am so enamored with your design philosophy is that you DO plan for such events. I guess I’m wondering if this choice is counter to your overall philosophy?

  32. Steve Dashew Says:

    Hi Jono:
    Water entrainment is something we’ve discussed. The reality it there is no way of knowing for sure about any of this. However, there are opening windows, the Stamoid fabric roof, and the entire back is Isenglas (soft plastic) and there are sliding plastic doors on the sides. Our guess is that some, or most of this would not withstand a roll over. We will do our best not to test this theory…