©Stan & Valerie Creighton: Fulaga, Fiji
When your voyaging takes you off the beaten path, where shore power and technical assistance is a rarity, the ingredients required for successful cruising change.
The majority of cruising yachts sit in marinas for most of their lives. Of the few that venture out, they typically go from dock to dock, never straying far from the ubiquitous shore power outlet and technical resources associated therewith. This is the user profile to which the trawler yacht industry caters. But if you are headed over the horizon, prefer to avoid marinas, and enjoy getting away from the crowd, your requirements will be totally different. Finding the correct mix of yacht and equipment is made more difficult by a lack of real world experience in the ranks of “experts”, be they marine industry professionals or other cruisers. The best results will come from seeking advice from those who have actually been out there, and lived for extended periods with the consequences of their decisions.
What we have learned in our 40+ years of designing, building, and living with our yachts, is that everything needs to be measured against a matrix of parameters that reflect your goals. In our case these are reliability, security, comfortable passage-making with high average speeds, and extreme endurance to give us an almost limitless menu of destinations from which to choose. Systems and equipment that are not on this critical path make the yacht more difficult to maintain, less reliable, waste space, and are to be avoided.
We are fortunate in having a highly experienced group of owners with whom we can kick around ideas. Once they have had a few thousand miles pass under their FPB keels, our owners become members of a “kitchen cabinet”, a form of peer review. Their questions, needs, and observations keep us sharp, and help us avoid unintended negative consequences that come from not considering every possible angle. In short, our FPB owners are a brain trust on which we depend, and we wish to acknowledge their part in refining the FPB concept.
©John & Sandy Henrichs: FPB 64-5 Tiger pictured in the Minerva Atoll, Fiji
Which brings us to the issue of system density and complexity, access for maintenance, and reliability, all of which are intertwined. The FPB approach is to maximize systems access, simplicity, and dependability, even if it costs us a bit of extra investment and living space. Our owners agree.
Since we do most of our own maintenance, the design of the systems and location in the boat makes routine maintenance so much easier than on previous boats.
-John & Sandy Henrichs, FPB 64 Tiger (After 18,000+ nautical miles and ﬁve years of cruising the South Paciﬁc)
©Pete Rossin: FPB 64-3 Iron Lady pictured in Fatu Hiva, Marquesas
The modern cruising yacht is going to have heating and air conditioning, a watermaker, various ways of generating electrical power, and a host of electronics. A “simple” cruising yacht is enormously complex. Achieving the right mix of equipment to maintain a comfortable ambiance in a reliable manner, without undue service or maintenance requirements, is the hardest task associated with creating a successful cruising yacht. Get it right, and you have the confidence to go.
I have had boats that were badly behaved at sea and I have had boats that seemed to have system failures just about every time I left the dock. The result was that I lost conﬁdence in the boats or got sick of dealing with the issues and they sat at the dock until I sold them.
Over the four cruising seasons we owned Iron Lady, we put some 22,000 nautical miles under her keel. Most of that time we were rarely in a marina and Iron Lady excelled at being on the hook without the need to run a genset.
-Pete Rossin, former owner FPB 64 Iron Lady, currently awaiting FPB 78-03
There is a rapidly escalating snowball effect of negative experience that comes with excess systems. For the optimal outcome, it is necessary to make sure that every system, circuit, and “must have” are absolutely essential.
An example of this process is choosing your watermaker. Although a watermaker is not required with FPBs given their massive fresh water capacity, it is a wonderful convenience. It also happens to be the most problem prone piece of gear aboard. A basic watermaker, including ﬁlters, high pressure pump, and membranes, plus an electric motor start capacitor, is reliable. Once you add automation to the system, which includes sensors, solenoids, and electronics, the reliability drops precipitously. Someone new to the full-time cruising game will typically opt for an automated system. Experienced cruisers will choose a basic system, or if automation is involved, make sure that there is a simple method to switch to manual operation. They understand it is more important to have a simple system that works, rather than be stuck in some port for a month waiting on a hard-to-source replacement part or technical service.
This is what we mean when we utilize the oft-thrown around phrase “less is more”.
To ﬁle under “mind blown”: access to systems for maintenance and repair. Since everyone notices and values this characteristic, the difference is more challenging to convey. Imagine all homes constructed with their light switches near the ceiling. It’s far from ideal, but it’s the best that can be done, so we all grudgingly accept the fact that using step-stools and ﬂashlights is part of living in a home. Then we move into a house with the light switches at shoulder height, next to the doorways. It takes a bit of time to grasp the full impact on our lifestyle, because with each room we enter and discover its convenience, our world is rocked anew. That’s an accurate analogy to our experience cruising aboard our FPB. What traditionally has taken 4 steps now takes only 2; over a long time spent cruising, that is huge.
-Stan and Valerie Creighton, FPB 64 Buffalo Nickel (After 16,000+ nautical miles)
FPBs are specialized tools. They are not the formula for everyone. They are not designed for sitting in marinas. They are not meant to impress the casual onlooker. And they are certainly not optimized for entertaining large groups. What the FPB concept is about is having the best cruising vehicle for long term voyaging. The way in which they’re engineered and outﬁtted is based around this task.
©Stedem Wood: FPB 64-8 Atlantis running through Hellen Reef, Southeast Palau
Safety, range, speed, comfort, livability, maintainability and the boating lifestyle were all presented in a mix I’d never seen before. I’m going farther and seeing more with more conﬁdence, comfort and security than possible with any other reasonable choice I could consider. Power or sail.
-Stedem Wood, FPB 64 Atlantis (After over 17,000 nautical miles)
Okay, let’s get off the soap box. The above was inspired by a series of emails and discussions with several of our owners about the new FPB 70. We are in the process of ﬁnalizing details, and getting their input on how they see themselves using their FPB 70 after having cruised on FPB 64s is a huge benefit. Sometimes it’s just a simple question they have, which shifts our perspective. Or there might be a speciﬁc need, such as a place to clean dive gear, that drives us in a new direction.
Occasionally, in response to a query, we’ll investigate, come full circle, and end up where we started. Take, for example, dinghy handling. This is one of the most critical systems. If done right, and the dinghies are easily and safely brought aboard, they’ll be lifted at night or when not required, keeping them out of harm’s way, reducing maintenance, and making it easier to make a fast exit from an anchorage. Between the unique FPB booms and the davit system introduced on the FPB 78, we have the best of both worlds. But there is always room for improvement. Over the last three weeks, we have explored in detail every approach to dinghy handling, from hydraulic davits to beam cranes, and come back to where we are. There are some who would say that this is a waste of engineering time. But we prefer to explore every avenue on these subjects, and make certain that we haven’t overlooked an improvement.
Time to get back to work.
©Stedem Wood: walking a beach in Palau
PS: If there is an isolated tropical beach or icebergs in your future, get in touch with Sue Grant.