Choosing an Offshore Sailboat

Many things must be considered when choosing a cruising boat.

First, its structural integrity must be beyond question. The owner must feel confident that the vessel will look after him in all sea conditions. When the storm hits, you don’t want to be worried about vessel or hardware failure. You will have other things to do!

Second, this vessel will become your home when aboard. You will want it to be as comfortable as possible, both at sea and in port. Achieving this is a challenge to the designer, and must be done with a proper balance of many different requirements. Two primary requirements are sleeping and eating. For example, the galley must be located and arranged so that your needs are close at hand, with a gimbaled stove that can be used safely in a seaway. The berths must be large enough to be comfortable, but not so large that you are tossed about the bunk when the weather deteriorates. A forward “V” berth, though wide and comfortable in port, is the roughest location to (attempt) sleep when underway. You want to feel personally comfortable with your surroundings. The interior should reveal a bit of your personality, while maintaining a nautical sensibility.

Third, to be worth owning, your vessel to ought to make you glow with pride. What better feeling than to have a fellow Yachtsmen make a comment, “She sure is lovely”, “She not only looks salty, but she sails great!” (Who wants to buy a yacht that looks like all the others: “What make is your boat?”) Your yacht should be part of you; when you leave it, it is like leaving the dearest of friends. Her appearance, sailing ability, seakindlyness, comfort, and suitability to her purpose all should make sense to you.

Finally, you want to get to your destination as quickly and safely as possible while feeling comfortable and secure. You should be able to drive your vessel hard, at hull speed and above, for days on end without concern for your safety because of vessel failure or damage. Your vessel must be able to point well to weather, because more often than you would like, you will be sailing to windward. You must be able to confidently work on deck in any weather. When rough weather does come, or you feel the need for rest, your yacht should be able to heave to easily, until you decide it is time to set sail again.

Our BRISTOL CHANNEL CUTTER 28′ and FALMOUTH CUTTER 22′ meet all of these criteria to the fullest. Carefully read the details of their construction. Look closely at the layouts, and imagine it is your home. Imagine you had a hand at building her, because indeed you can. Our yacht is not built as a production boat with pre-formed liners and produced like an automobile. These fine yachts are built by individual order for each customer, and you have an opportunity to choose, change, add or delete as you see fit. The only way it could be more personal would be if you built the boat yourself.

These yachts are Lyle Hess designed, true Cutters, with bowsprit and full keel. The full keel begins with a plumb stem, gradually sloping to the deepest point of the keel. This design approach provides a free flowing curve that will ride up over an obstacle, unlike a cut-away forefoot. Many of the old style full keels were somewhat sluggish and did not have good windward capabilities, however, Lyle’s design gives her as much or greater windward ability and speed as other, now more common, “cruising keels” with skeg or spade rudders.

The full keel provides important directional stability, excellent stall area for heaving to, a gentle angle and wide footprint so she is easy to beach for cleaning and painting, and provides a solid protective structure on which to attach the rudder. This full keel, with the solid cast lead internal ballast, can withstand an astonishing amount of punishment in accidental groundings.

The plumb entry permits the anchor chain to be stowed further aft and below the water line. This reduces the pitching that occurs when the weight of the anchor chain is stowed too far forward. The forepeak will allow 300′ of 5/16 chain to be stowed below the waterline. An additional 300 ft. of 5/8″ nylon rope is also easily stowed forward.

Lyle designed these boats with ample safe working deck space. The side decks are wide from the cockpit through the foredeck. Shrouds and chainplates fastened outboard provide unrestricted passage fore and aft. The traditional deck space between the main cabin, forward bulkhead, and the scuttle hatch, provides a safe and secure platform for working the mast. This important area is at the same deck level as the rest of the deck, avoiding hazardous climbing onto the cabin top to work at the mast. The deck in this area also embodies the strongest possible manner in which to construct a hull, representing a thwartships beam, which cannot collapse in a worst-case scenario as cabin sides can do.

The bowsprit is not only pleasing to the eye, it moves the center of effort forward, giving better windward performance and balance. When the weather deteriorates, helm balance is maintained between the staysail and the reefed main as the jib becomes fully furled. In lighter airs, the bowsprit serves as an amazing sailplan “extension” permitting use of very large headsails without overlapping the mast.

An interesting and valuable outcome of having a bowsprit is that, with modern roller furling, a single attachment point for the jib sheet block will serve the entire range of furling positions from fully deployed to mostly furled. A track to move the sheet lead fore and aft, as is found on most boats without a bowsprit, is no longer needed. The headstay angle allows the jib sheet to meet the stay at 90 degrees, which permits even furling above and below this point.

Hanked sails are at a similar advantage. The large J measurement permits versatile sails such as bonneted (sectioned, zipper connected) lappers, which effectively triple the yacht’s wardrobe at a fraction of the cost and space of the extra sails which sloops must carry.

Belowdecks, the Bristol Channel Cutter is amazing. Owners continually have the experience of guests with much longer boats coming aboard and stating quite flatly that the BCC has as much usable space as their own 40+ footers. Moreover, it is sensible space. A relatively narrow coachroof so you will never be out of reach of a handhold; a deep, high volume hull for carrying capacity and ease of motion. Useable stowage in handy lockers. Common sense, traditional interior plans, recognized for their straightforward utility at sea and in port. Our standard interior features the well-planned galley and navigation areas near the companionway for access to the cockpit, ventilation, and lowest motion. Important sleeping provisions are amidships, at or below the waterline. Sea berths consist of a quarterberth and settee to starboard and a pilot berth to port. Lee Cloths enclose the latter two for snug safety underway.

Several designs of Salon Tables are offered, some of which fold and stow easily for sea duty. The main salon comfortably seats 6 for drinks, 4 for dinner, and 2 may live aboard comfortably in all weathers.

The forepeak is a marvel of practical application of naval architecture. It is a multipurpose area, perfectly combining a large separate head and shower with needed workspace and vast amounts of storage. Full standing headroom is 6’2” maximum with the scuttle hatch closed. Our standard interior has a workbench to port, usually extended forward to form a spare bunk. This work surface may be built as vanity space if desired, including a sink and upper cabinetry. The head itself is on centerline. Very large hanging and storage lockers are to starboard. Forward of the head is an immense space for sails; the entire area is designed so that wet sails will not dampen the whole cabin. Anchor rode is stowed under this space. A bulkhead at the Bitts separates the bows from the sail locker. Still more storage exists here, ideal for light items such as spare anchor rode and storm gear. It is worth noting that none of these combined functions interfere with each other in any way, nor do any of them deserve space in the midship parts of the yacht. Indeed, a decent workbench aboard a 28 footer!!! Owners of even 50 foot boats are incredulous.

Our options list is, in truth, endless. We are a semi custom builder and can create just about anything. We are continually involved in research on every applicable aspect of yacht construction and outfitting. Glacier Bay’s R50 icebox super-insulation is now available for the BCC. Their newest 1.25HP DC compressor system will be available for the BCC. We offer Ample Power charging and monitoring systems for state-of-the-art electrical capability. We have installed a 40GPH watermaker (!) aboard a BCC. Radar? Chartplotter? Laptop w/GPS interface? Offshore communications station? All of the above? Or absolute simplicity? What does your dream BCC look like?

If you are looking for a cruising yacht that will perform for you in all weather conditions, get you to your destination quickly and safely, choose one that appeals to both eye and heart, whose beautiful lines have been refined for over 150 years. The Bristol Channel Cutter and her trailerable little sister the Falmouth Cutter will take you anywhere in the world in safety, comfort and surprising speed.