LOA: 60'-0", 18.28 m
LWL: 55'-8", 16.98 m
Beam: 12'-7 1/2", 3.85 m
Draft: 7'-10", 2.39 m
Displacement: 26,300 lbs., 11.93 tons
been a long dream, born 35 years ago. Of necessity, the concept has remained
continually on my mind ever since. It is at odd moments that the urge to
pursue the matter overwhelms me, and to put a stop to this strange
obsession, I have decided to bring Steelstar out of the drawer and see if
the whole thing makes any sense.
I say 35 years ago because that is when I was introduced
to some different and very interesting small boats, Black Soo by Van de
Stadt, the Thunderbird by Seaborn, and the Faraman by Amiet. These
hard-chine speedsters--light and fast--held a definite appeal, especially to
me. The proof is in the numbers. Hundreds were built.
Then came Infidel (now Ragtime), my all-time favorite;
the ultimate approach to the hungry, mean, long, thin downhill racer-chaser.
What a boat! Twenty-two years later, she is still at it--faster than ever. I
love her. My conviction is now to come up with Steelstar, the embodiment of
all my feelings grown from watching these rags-to-riches kind of boats.
I have been fortunate to have developed a certain
reputation myself for some very speedy sailboats, and therefore, I
understand what makes a boat go fast.
Now with fast, there is also all the nonsense going on
about the rating rules and their total state of confusion. I may as well
consider Steelstar a cruising boat and work from there. This is not a
cover-up. I fully expect Steelstar to be the fastest cruising boat of her
size, but not a racer. Maybe she will be the closest thing these days to the
old ideas of a cruiser-racer.
The other contradiction I have is about the construction
material. I have chosen steel. Well, if I consider Steelstar the ultimate
go-fast cruising boat, why not consider the ultimate cruising-hull material?
But more about that later.
That was the evolution; now these are my thoughts. When I
begin the design of a boat, I usually start with the lines. In most of my
work, I am given a free hand, and this leads me to consider the lines
first--the shape and the envelope of it all. Ever weight-conscious, the body
is the answer to displacement, and volume is what it's all about.
The shape is simplistic, but don't be fooled by it. A
hard chine is the answer with powerboats; they all are faster than
sailboats, therefore, why not adapt something faster for a sailboat hull? I
believe that if the beam is kept narrow, the single chine is excellent. Not
only that, but also the answer to part of the philosophy of our
concept--simplicity. However, simplicity does not come easily, and I must
have spent more time on these lines than on any other boat I can remember.
The bow is elevated and sharp. The hollow waterline is
dictated by the straightforward shape. The stern will knife through the
water while the fullness above the chine will keep the deck dry. The
V-shaped bow is kept for up to 30-percent of the waterline length, and then
the flatness of the midship action takes over. Allocating two feet for hull
depth, the section shows hard bilges and moderate deadrise.
The idea is to keep the volume in the middle to a
minimum. The prismatic coefficient is higher that way, for ultimate speed.
Fair and straight lines without volume distortion are the result.
The two feet of depth is also the minimum practical
amount to ensure full headroom down below and decent accommodations
throughout. Aft of the keel, the lines follow the chine and the centerline
with very little change in deadrise. The beam is kept full very far aft, to
keep up with planing speed downwind and to control the water separation
Short overhangs are the answer for faster boats built
within a size limit. The emphasis is on waterline length, not much else. The
transom is developed to present a certain personality, with the absence of
reversed racing corners. (Why lose useful deck area?)
The freeboard is low but with a nice sheer line, and it
is sufficient for this chine boat not to look boxy with either too high a
hull, a trunk cabin or both. The reason behind it all is weight, and with
steel construction why not save weight first where it is obvious: the
The Hull Material
The material considered might seem bizarre. Steel for a
light-weight boat? But, why not? Of course we are going to get killed on the
race course with lighter-ended boats, but on the other land, we can
certainly be excused by saying that we are in a port/starboard situation by
sinking any opposition.
Well, enough of that; the boat is in steel because I
believe in this material for a cruising boat. Long overdue attention is now
being paid to steel boats by long distance cruisers and the general public.
The question of strength has never been an issue, of course. Everybody
admits to that, but lots of maintenance, and heavy, sluggish boats have been
the norm so far and therefore the drawback. Well, we are going to change
Deliberately, I chose to design the steel scantlings to
meet the American Bureau of Shipping's Offshore Racing Yacht Standards. This
is because I do not want to be accused of using plating that is too thin,
and therefore, achieving a weight advantage to the detriment of strength and
reliability, which is what we are after in the first place.
The boat is built on a combination of longitudinal and
traverse framing systems. Frames and stringers are placed judiciously to
meet the intent of the rules as well as to give us the maximum advantage
under the same ruling. The spacing of structures and thicknesses of plates
were carefully chosen to ensure the best of both worlds: a strong, light
steel boat. The material is mild steel, A.B.S. "A" grade, and the components
are readily available. I kept a close eye on standardization; an
uncomplicated order form is the result.
Besides the heaviness of steel, maintenance has been a
big concern to most people. I must admit that I do not have this hang-up
with the modern coating materials now available. Whether you have to cover
wood, glass, aluminum or steel, everybody uses the same epoxy barrier
coating paint; and they use it for the same reason, impermeability to water.
So much for the exterior and the shiny gloss. It is clear, though, that the
boat will have to be very thoroughly sandblasted and primed before getting
her final coating of shiny paint.
For the deck, I have chosen marine plywood. With steel
flanges and steel deck beams, the integrity and homogeneity of the structure
is maintained, but the weight is greatly reduced by using plywood.
Underneath the beams, another light ply is used for cosmetic reasons and to
cover the foam insulation. The result is an instant finish by varnishing or
painting and a smooth interior devoid of sharp steel edges. The coachroof is
also fabricated with plywood laminates, in sufficient numbers to avoid
beams. The use of inside hand rails and the companionway channel also add to
the solidity of the coachroof.
The wood on deck, with two layers, will be self-fairing
and devoid of butt blocks. Care will be taken to protect the edges, and the
whole coachroof and deck will be covered by a light fiberglass cloth,
epoxied and painted.
The looks of a boat are important to me, and the
purposeful aspect of this boat will hopefully prove me right. Her gentle
sheer, nicely rounded transom, sharp bow and hard chine will give away her
origins. I have tried to give her a look familiar to many, like a fast
Overcoming the prejudices against both light boats and
the material is not an easy thing to do. The convincing will come as we go
along studying the rest of the vessel.
I chose a midship cockpit for privacy and because it is a
favorite among sailboat owners. It is also a lot easier to fit a midship
cockpit properly on a 60-footer than a 40-footer. With this boat, there is
no chance of looking too boxy or too high above water, and with the length
available, the amount of spray reaching the cockpit should be kept to a
minimum. The central location seems to be right, with all weight and
controls concentrated in one place.
I got my inspiration from some of the more popular
trimarans, their main feature being their cockpit location - smack in the
middle. With all their systems and weight amidships, these small boats react
much better to the sea, and with the
heavy gear being at the deepest part of the boat, it
contributes to the stability of the trimaran. Well, the comparisons end
there, but in my mind, we have a similar problem with a similar solution.
Then it occurred to me: Why build a cockpit at all? The
inherent weakness in their construction plus the problems of drainage render
an alternative highly desirable. Therefore, we have Barient "winch chairs"
around the cockpit area - a very comfortable solution to the problem with a
great savings in cost, weight, and complications.
The tiller is placed at the end of the "cockpit" and acts
on the rudder quadrant through a rod linkage. A footrest and coaming run
between the fore and aft coachroofs on each side.
Now let's go down below. The companionway slides open,
and the galley is to port, toilet to starboard. It took me a long time to
decide what to do with these two most important features of life aboard. I
could have put the toilet further forward, closer to the guest cabin, or
placed the galley somewhere else, but common sense saved me. Looking at
these two things from a systems point of view, there was no escape but to
place both near the nerve center: the engine. Sensibly, only one head is
installed, with sink, toilet, and shower that are all very simple and light.
By the way, most of the interior is made up of wood (plywood, that is) and
is non-structural because the steel construction does not require additional
strengthening. All pieces are half thickness, and the savings are great in
terms of weight and cost. Basically, the interior is made of light
partitions stiffened by wooden cleats.
The galley has the normal combination of sink placed near
the centerline (as is the sink in the toilet area), three or four-burner
stove with oven, and an ice box with engine-driven refrigeration unit.
As we go forward, the settee area is to the left. (We are
inside the boat; I think I can say "left"). Behind the backrest, there is a
good sea berth, or, without the backrest, a double berth. Underneath, there
is a water tank, and stowage can be found forward toward the L-shaped seat.
A table sits on the centerline.
To the right, I have a combination of "pizza parlor"
dinette, doubling as a chart table and navigation area. Let me explain;
knowing where you are is certainly one of the most important aspects of
sailing, and therefore, the navigation area is of the utmost importance at
sea. So we have a full-fledged chart table with seating on either side.
Across and all along the hull is the electronic instrumentation, as little
or as much as you want. (Two meters of it if you wish, enough to satisfy a
Maxi.) When you arrive at the dock after the voyage, instead of a navigation
space with little purpose, just clear the table, and voilà…another
sitting and eating area. And if you connect it with the centerline table,
you can increase the length of your guest-list for dinner.
Forward of the saloon and past the mast is the forward
double cabin, featuring a full-size double berth, a seat, and a hanging
Do not expect to find a lot of teak or mahogany here; the
accommodations are very comfortable, but this boat is not the Queen Mary.
At the foot (forward end) of the berth is a simple curtain to divide the
cabin from the forepeak area, which may be adapted for sail stowage or what
Retracing our steps back to the cockpit, we can now go
into the aft cabin. Another sliding hatch here, and a vertical ladder takes
you down to a modest aft cabin with two berths, one single and one
convertible (same system as the saloon berth). There is also a hanging
locker and a dresser/chest of drawers. Following the lead of the forward
double cabin, there is a curtain to separate the living quarters from the