Why Have We Done This?

We’ve switched to a form of cruising at which we’ve looked down our noses (well, at least Steve has) for half a century. A stinkpot, motor cruiser, power yacht, fizz boat, f***ing power boat, the dark side?

And we’ve come from a family of sailboats which power faster, and farther than any trawler, that will overhaul and pass small freighters in the trades, and make passages more comfortably and quickly than any other form of transport operable across oceans by a couple, until now. Are we spoiled? You bet!

And did we mention the pure, unmitigated rush of adrenaline which comes when you have a sailboat like Beowulf lit up on a full plane, averaging 16 to 18 knots, surfing at speeds in the high 20s, with just the two of us aboard?

But we’ve past the point where we were comfortable handling this much sail by ourselves, and we did not want to take crew. The FPB was the next step for us, and perhaps for others facing the same dilemma.

When we started this new project Linda was all for it. Steve, on the other hand, felt he was being forced in this direction by the march of time. At 62 years and counting, it was no longer prudent for the two of us to cross oceans, dealing with the spinnakers and reachers that are part of our sailing equation.

But we were not ready to give up cruising. We loved the ocean and being at sea (as long as it is comfortable), discovering new places, people, and messing around with boats. On the other hand, we’ve found that we want to visit family and friends on land with a degree of regularity, and for periods long enough that it requires a boat which can be easily put into mothballs. We also wanted to spend more time in places that are not as much fun in the sailboats on which we’ve cruised before – environmentally challenging, higher latitude destinations like Alaska, Newfoundland, Greenland, and Tierra del Fuego.

There are advantages to this new design concept. In terms of crossing oceans, after 45,000 miles we have found that we are more comfortable (no heel, comparable motion at a minimum with a much softer ride in some situations), the work load is a fraction (no sails to mess with), there are many more weather options (upwind passages are not such a drag (like the 4500+ nautical miles against the wind between Fiji and California) and we can use our weather routing skills to look for calm rather than wind).

With a boat that is oriented towards heavy weather, that has equivalent or better offshore characteristics than our sailboats, and the ability to hold station in horrendous conditions under power alone, the weather challenges of the higher latitudes become more acceptable.

There’s substantially less maintenance with the new boat (no rig or sails), and we can haul the boat for storage, put on the covers, and be in a cab to the airport within half a day.

Surprisingly we’ve found that operating costs are a lot less. True, we’ve got diesel and lube oil to purchase. But the running cost per mile is about sixty percent of what was necessary with Beowulf when maintaining her sails and rig are considered (using diesel at US$3.45/gallon as an average cost).

So we’ve found a new, possibly even better way to do what we love – cruising to far off destinations. Yes, we are giving up the thrills associated with the type of boats we’ve heretofore voyaged aboard.

But in return the FPB is a vessel that is allowing us to go places and do things we have not done in the past. This new mode of transport gives us options we simply did not have with our sailing designs.

And after 45,000 miles of sea trials and cruising, even Steve agrees that this is a wonderful way to cruise, and maybe even a better way to do it.

“…The concept deserves consideration from anyone who wants to cruise offshore over long distances.”
–Yachting Magazine
For more information on the FPB Series, e-mail Sue Grant: Sue.Grant@Berthon.Co.UK.

Posted by Steve Dashew  (January 4, 2012)

4 Responses to “Why Have We Done This?”

  1. Mark Carver Says:

    I am looking at long term cruising after I retire and love this site. Diid you ever consider sailing catamarans instead of going the power route?

  2. Steve Dashew Says:

    We started out cruising and racing cats many years ago. We looked at them again when we designed Wind Horse, the FPB prototype. We chose not to go down that road for two reason. First, the very high initial stability of a cat makes for a quick, uncomfortable motion at sea. Second, in a survival storm, if capsized by a breaking wave, the cat will be stable inverted whereas the FPB monohull will come back upright. A third, lesser issue is dock and haul out limitations with the beam of a catamaran.

  3. Luke Vickers Says:

    Wonderful! Wonderful to hear fact based BIASed opinion being changed. I know you guys loved your sails. I can imagine how trying of a transition it must have been. and what a testimonial to having THE RIGHT BOAT, to transition from sail to power, on. I have often wondered when all costs are figured including replacing sails and haul outs what the net difference in cost of ownership would be between power and sail of similar displacements. 60 percent is substantial. now the remaining questions, what are the stats on range, mile(s) per gallon, gallon(s) per hour, cruising speed… I would like to see if that cost ratio might leave enough room to represent a likely savings over a sailboat, with even a substantially less efficient motor vessel. sixty percent of total cost leaves only moderate room for a substantial increase in fuel cost. though it is probably more than one to one translation. I mean if my fuel burn is forty percent more than yours, it would probably not represent a wash on the forty percent gain in total cost of ownership of power over sail… I would guess that fuel cost is probably less than a third of total annual cost. On even a very well traveled boat. I hope that wasn’t too confusing, and, thanks in advance for your reply.

  4. Steve Dashew Says:

    Hard to comment on the cost differential of other boats per mile. The cost per mile does vary with speed, and it would have been less costly to run slower, but but Wind Horse seemed to be very happy at eleven knots, so we spent most of our time crossing oceans around that speed. Comparing the cost per mile to our sailing experience we found overall the powering to be less costly. However, it was also slower. Broad reaching in the trades Beowulf would average an easy 300NM/day – or more. Wind Horse might do 275 in optimal conditions, but never more.