Much as I love speed, and I really, really do, I’m pretty happy to get my hi-knot thrills from a powerful RIB or open speedboat. When it comes to bigger craft I’m happy to turn the wick down a little bit.
What I want is a seaboat which can steam fast and hard when you want it to, but which is happy to sedately plough on through whatever sea-state you can throw at it. This brings me to semi-displacement hulled “trawler” yachts, and this one looks just the ticket. Explore with me after the jump.
I’ve liked what have become colloquially referred to as Trawler yachts for a number of years. I find it amusing every time I see a planing hulled boat struggling against a big sea, usually trimmed with the bow pointed skywards to dry the ride and with the engines throttled back because getting over the hump and onto the plane doesn’t even appear on the most distant of menus.
In the English Channel and the North Sea, chunky waters are the rule rather than the exception, so a planning hulled boat is off to an immediate disadvantage. On a recent channel crossing from Harwich to The Hook I watched a Fairline 31 Corniche fighting just such a battle and then just a few minutes later I saw a semi-displacement hulled Nelson 42, that stalwart of genteel deepwater cruising, motoring on at the same speed with comparative grace and clearly giving their crew a far more comfortable time.
Right now we find ourselves aboard a new launch (hey, a completely accidental pun) onto the UK market for 2014, from the long established yacht-yard of Jeanneau. Aside from the preponderance of shiny white GRP surfaces, the Velasco 43 appears to have the solution to the majority of my boating needs. Under the waterline it lies somewhere between a true semi-displacement and a full planing hull, with some of the benefits of each.
Firstly, it has sufficient power. In my view of boating, extremely high cruising speeds are in no way essential; if you’re in that much of a rush what on earth are you doing going by sea anyway? I see 16 to 18 knots as a comfortable cruising speed at half to two thirds throttle and it’s nice to have reserves available for a 22 knot rush to avoid a storm or to make port before pub closing time. The Velasco 43 should have no trouble with this, and In extremis 27 knots is said to be achievable.
Secondly, the “Trawler” styling brings with it elements of workboat design that serve very practical purposes in the real world. To whit: There is access from the helm position directly onto the nicely workable side deck, which must make single handed mooring infinitely easier than having to clamber back in through the cockpit doors and through the saloon repeatedly.
Speaking of saloons, this one has all the opulence you might expect of a big, expensive yacht but with a greater emphasis on wood than on upholstery. There’s plenty of room to relax and a practical ergonomic galley area opposite the helm station so that cups of warm beverage and pieces of hot buttered toast can be passed across with ease.
There’s standing headroom throughout, it can get a bit marginal in the heads and when halfway through doorways, but I’m exceptionally cumbersome so I’ll let it off. I didn’t put the mattresses to the test, though I was growing tired, but they looked comfy enough.
Back up the managably angled companionway you arrive back at the helm, and immediately praise the panoramic view from the wide, clear windscreen. This is forward swept in trawler style, so ought to shed drips with ease. The helm station itself is robustly designed and everything appears accessible and practical and has a big, flat chart table area immediately forward of the galley. As a layman I couldn’t see any obvious built-in pratfalls. Furthermore, there are hatches inset into the deckhouse sole under which surprises are concealed:
This one, for example, concealed a small workshop area with pull-out drawers for tools and spare parts, as well as access to the pumps, filters and fuseboxes. These are also where a washing machine would live if you deemed one essential. I wasn’t able to access the engineroom but wouldn’t be at all shocked to find a very neat and practical installation of the twin 380hp Cummins diesels which thrust this thing through, or occasionally over, the waves.
Out on deck the guardrails and their stanchions seem adequately strong and high enough, and continue uninterrupted all around the superstructure. Teak decking is available and everywhere is a tread-on-able except for the sunpad (which looks like a bit of an afterthought but is de rigeur for the Mediterranean). Nowhere is inaccessible; all winches and windlasses, anchor, chain and locker are easy to get to. Again, as a layman I could find nothing that looked glaringly silly.
The ladder onto the flying bridge is near vertical, but wide and with well spaced steps and good handholds, flinging yourself up and down it should be easy in all but the worst conditions. Naturally, the flybridge needn’t be used unless the weather deserves it, nothing can be done up there that can’t be done down below, aside from one thing, of course:
Barbecues. There’s a griddle in situ directly behind the upper helm station, out of the way as it’s not something you’ll use every day, but the idea of a lower rating lightly warming a piece of near-as-dammit blue steak for me while I hold a steady course is a mighty appealing one.
And there we have it. All of what I have described are positive attributes for a liveable, usable, long term boating solution. To be fair, there are a great number of other boats in series production which do exactly the same, and there are probably many experienced seafarers who will decry my suggestions. This is fine, a lot of people know a lot more than I do.
What I’m most pleased by, though, is that with so many companies chasing the buoyant market for flashy, fast, fair-weather gin-palaces, new products are still being launched to address the needs of those who crave a little more practicality.
I’d like to see a bit more seaworthy thinking find its way onto our roads, too.
[Images: Copyright 2014 Hooniverse/Chris Haining]
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