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My wife, Joan, wrote the following letters to friends and relatives while we sailed our 50’ ketch, Hunky-Dory, across the Pacific Ocean.
Our Cruising Ketch, Hunky-Dory
From the time I was a teenager, I wanted to sail the South Pacific Ocean in my own sailboat. The dream came true during my mid 50s. During the waiting years I associated with cruising people. Because of this association my dream was able to stay alive.
Panama is the cross-roads of the world because it is the most convenient method to move a vessel from one ocean to the other. At the yacht clubs I was able to meet all types of cruising people and observe their boats. My conclusion: In the tropics, fiberglass boats cooks the occupants, there is no resistance to radiant heat. When it rains, all hatches and ports are closed, the cabin becomes a steam bath. Some fiberglass boats skin is so thin the sides are concave between the frames when they reach Panama. It is obvious some boats were never intended for ocean cruising. When repair parts are needed they must be ordered from the factory. I met one yachtsman who waited eight months for parts from Germany.
For many yachtsman arriving in Panama, this is their first ocean voyage. Some people with racing boats head back home. The stubborn one’s push on to Tahiti, then give up and go home. The reason: A racing boat is extremely difficult to handle in rough seas. Because of the fin keel they turn on a dime and one large wave against the bow will through the boat off course. In heavy seas the crew must take take care of the boat. The opposite is true in a well designed cruising boat, because of the full length keel the boat takes care of the crew. In high winds the boat is hove-to and the crew goes below and rides it out.
A full keel yacht is easy to steer, that is, stay on course with little effort. In a cruising yacht, two-thirds of the boat’s weight should be aft of center. Some manufactures try to maximize interior space. The results, when anchors and line are loaded the boat is bow heavy. Steering becomes almost impossible.
Most people want windward sailing ability. For this, comfort is sacrificed. Windward yachts require tall mast, deep keels, and narrow hull. This is a formula for steep healing and small cabin space. Reaching and down wind boats are just the opposite, short mast, shallow keel, and wide hull. The boat sails flat and there is plenty of cabin space.
My experience as captain of the Canal Zone’s 55-foot training schooner Chief Aptakisic became a source of traditional seamanship knowledge. The hull was Ferro-cement but the rigging was traditional. The advantages; low initial cost, low maintenance, repair parts are universal and available at any major seaport. The feature I liked best was the wide deck around the cabin. For traditional rigging to look right the boat must be designed for it. For looks, fiberglass boats must use modern rigging.
Designing The Hunky-Dory
Understanding sailboat design basics, I designed the 50-foot Hunky-Dory to achieve my cruising dream. The basic design was based on the St. Pierre Dory. Its graceful lines catches everyone attention.
I would give up windward ability for comfort. Our destination would be down wind, with the trade winds. The boat must be self-steering, it must take care of the crew during heavy weather, have plenty of ventilation during heavy rains, and use an outboard engine in a well for auxiliary power.
For construction, the boat was designed so I could build it by myself after work, using lumber and hardware that was available from lumber yards in Panama. Rigging was traditional gaff with galvanized fittings. Mast was wood with mast hoops. Block and tackle instead of winches. Tiller with a trim tab for light duty self-steering systems. Three-foot wide deck around the cabin.
Sailing The Hunky-Dory
At sea, my wife and I found Hunky-Dory a pleasure to sail. We set it on course and read or any other activity we choose. In extremely heavy winds, there was no problem sailing under bare polls or hove-to. At anchor, Hunky-Dory was also a pleasure. There was plenty of room below and we carried a 14-foot john boat with a 5 HP outboard motor for shore travel. Maneuvering Hunky-Dory in the harbor was another story. We barely had enough power to stay in the channel, the wind wanted to take control.