A few years ago Robert K Johnson (Island Packet Yachts) solicited advice for a new product. I found this bit of correspondence while digging through my files...
Thank you for your kind and generous response to my email. Regarding your solicitation for yacht concept ideas in the spring 2013 issue of your company newsletter, here’s my $.02 worth.
I’m not a yacht designer or marine architect; I’m not even a very experienced or
accomplished mariner, but I have an idea for my own dream boat. It’s the boat
I’ve searched for all my life and never found fully realized, although I must
confess some of the early Island Packet designs and the Com-Pac boats built by
Hutchins often came pretty close. Please forgive me for not providing more
detailed suggestions as to construction, design, or rigging, but let me attempt
to communicate an idea instead.
I visualize a coastal cruiser/weekender/gunkholer optimized for roughing it on
Florida waters, but solidly, even overly built with speed, weatherliness and light-air performance sacrificed for seakeeping properties and survival in our infrequent
but inevitable gales. After all, if you’re sailing, you’re not in any hurry to
get there, right? But you never know when you’re going to need some reserve
Size? between 20 and 30 feet. Shoal draft (perhaps even bilge keels?, but certainly no centerboard, too many moving parts and structural compromises). She should be able to float in water shallow enough so that the crew can always jump out and push. She should be beamy, blunt bowed, flat soled and transomed. Traditional lines, lots of room below, plenty of space for netting and shelving for gear, but no lockers or lazarettes unless they can be integrated into the hull as structural, load-bearing elements. In other words, lots of empty space and padeyes where you can lash all the containers, bags, bins, and jugs you like, where you like, and where everything is visible at a glance when needed in a hurry. Its why God invented waterproof plastic tubs: they can always double as floatation when empty.
This boat should not look like your living room, it should look like your garage or
workshop. And she should have a big cockpit, one that can be easily rigged with
a boom tent and mosquito netting for comfortable anchoring. The vessel should be easily single-handed, but optimized for a crew of two: man and
wife, parent and child, or best of friends. The key is simplicity, in rig and
hull. Sloop-rigged, no bowsprit, and if possible, an unstayed mast. As little to
break or wear out or maintain as possible, oversize hardware and fittings all
around. Tiller steering, no tankage, wiring, or plumbing, no through-hull
fittings. Even the nav and com gear, LED running lights and cabin illumination
should be waterproof clip-ons or pocket models, powered by replaceable
batteries: easier to buy or carry spares than deal with temperamental circuitry
and generating equipment. Only an outboard motor should be considered for power. Sanitary and cooking facilities should be primitive, portable, purchasable at the local camper or RV shop, and jettisonable in an emergency. The owner can fit his boat out to his taste or needs.
The target customers would be a young couple, small family, or a pair of hardy
retirees ready to camp out on the water. Simplicity is the key, take advantage
of modern materials and construction techniques, but this should be a boat any
17th century sailor would instantly feel at home in.
I don’t know if there’s a commercial market out there for a boat like this, but I
know I’d buy one.
Yr most hum. & obd’t servant, etc
Wow! This was certainly off my radar screen! Sounds like (in a good way) a Conestoga wagon that floats and sails, a Prairie Schooner with a sloop rig
The practical thing about your no frills concept is any buyer could add whatever amenities they’d
desire (either by the factory or afterwards), so its market would not
necessarily be too narrow. I have considered a trawler concept like
this, good bones, but very basic standard equipment and level of trim and
finish, with the option to upgrade as an owner desires. The trawler market is
saturated (new and used), but I suspect we could find a niche if done
Thanks for this input Henry, who knows how all these ideas will combine to inspire us in the