From sail to power

Selling Chasseur, our Little Harbor 54, was bitter sweet. She was a beautiful boat, sailed well, and had thousands of hours of my labor invested. Lets not even talk about the money.


We bought her about ten years ago on the rebound from five years cruising with a J-44. The J was fun to sail, not so good a live aboard. Just too much comfort sacrificed for speed. On our trip to the Caribbean on the J we had our first 200 mile day. Winds 40 knots from behind us, seas 18-20 feet, speeds in the teens surfing on the backs of the waves. Just the jib. Exhilarating at the helm, a washing machine below deck. Even in these conditions she would steer easily one-handed. You just had to remember to duck every seven seconds or so when the next wave of green water cleared the dodger. Lisa said, “..get a heavier boat”. So we went from 22,000 lbs to 75, 000 lbs.

We went from being tossed by the seas to parting the seas. In conditions that would beat us to death in the J, the Little Harbor was in her element. Give me 30 knots on the beam in 15 foot rollers any time.

But as time passed, a few changes to our lives drove some desired changes to our ride. First, our two sons left for college. No more rail meat to run up the mast to catch a lost halyard. And who was going to refasten the anchor to the roller with the bow buried in blue water? Not me. And surely not Lisa. And when I used to be able to haul the sails on deck and rig her myself, somehow the sails got a lot heavier as I aged. And as much as I loved the bright work, another two weeks on my hands and knees varnishing the toe rail was just more than I could take.

So what were we to do? An interim stop at a catamaran? Lots of friends our age doing just that. Or a motor sailor? The best or worst of both worlds? We decided to not go half way. A sunset looks as good from the back of a trawler as it does from a Little Harbor, and it is the life style we care about, not the conveyance, right?

Lets skip the four years it took to almost but not quite be able to sell the sail boat. Repeat  “almost but not quite”a half dozen times. The plan was to sell the boat and use the proceeds to buy a used trawler of similar value. A cash wash. After four years of failure, Plan B, suggested by our ever patient trawler salesman to be, became Plan A. Trade the sail boat in on a new build Kadey Krogen.

Yes, I have left out some detail. You might ask how we got from a LH54 to a Kadey Krogen. Short answer; first decision, from sail to power, then power to trawler, then trawler to full displacement ocean capable trawler, then minimum water and air draft, then good looking. Answer, Kadey Krogen. I would also insist, well built and from a company with impeccable credentials for honest dealings and excellent after sale support. Nothing against Nordhaven, a quality boat, but just not me.

So after nearly a year with Privateer, our K52, and a few tousand miles between Newport and Miami and the Bahamas, what do we have to say? First, about the boat purchase decision. Best decision we ever made. A great boat from a great company. A few things we might change, now that we know more, but nothing significant. Some day I will publish my “Design and Build Specs and Goals” for you readers to quibble over. But for now, just some initial impressions of what it is like to make the transition from sail to power. And I will summarize by saying it is a bigger transition than I had expected.

For a boat that is about the same length, and about the same displacement, Privateer is huge compared to Chasseur. Especially when docking. To begin with, Privateer has every maneuvering toy imaginable. Twin engines, bow and stern thrusters, port and starboard wing stations. So you might say, what could possibly be challenging about this? Two things. First is, from any single steering position, you can see about half your environment. The rest of the view to the dock or the Picnic boat in the slip next to you, is blocked by a really big boat. Yours. Next, this boat is affected by wind and current differently than the sail boat.  A stiff wind blows the stern out, not the bow. And current moves the boat around by some mysterious calculus that I have yet to comprehend. After a year or so, I am now getting pretty comfortable with all this. But it did take longer than expected. Good news is, Lisa is quite adept and also willing, to park the boat. She would ever park Chasseur. Quite a change.

We were at Atlantic Yacht Basin refueling before parking for the night. One long face dock. Minimal current. The dockmaster says he only has one space available and it is barely 60 feet long. We are 57 feet LOA. My response, before I even thought it through,  was, “no problem!”

Privateer parks like a Tetrus game. Slide up, come to a stop, slide sideways with both thrusters, tie up. Go a head and add some current and I will add a little throttle. No problem. Easy to say, and slowly getting easier to actually do. Moving down a narrow fairway, pivoting and backing into a narrow slip still brings on challenges, but I am getting better.

The other major difference between sail and power is a little harder to explain. I used to do a lot of offshore sailing. Ten days to here or there or wherever. The usual challenges of leaving a crowded harbor, etc. But once off soundings, with the engine off and the sails full, I could completely relax. I knew that very little could happen that would keep me from reaching my intended landfall. Norfolk to the USVI for example. I dont really need the engine. And I dont even really need the genset. Take away all my electricity, all my nav toys. Not that big a deal. I can still make landfall somewhere in the caribbean. At that point I wouldnt be all that fussy which island.

The point is, once sailing, there isnt all that much I need from the machinery or the technology to keep me basically safe and moving in the general direction of my objective. But a power boat is another matter altogether. At the vary minimum, I need at least one of the engines to keep running. And at least one probably will. I hope. Better add those stabilizers, with their attendant pumps, hoses, valves and things that blink in multiple colors, I know not why. Don’t let any oil seep out of the hydraulic steering while you are at it. Summed up, if you are a worry wort, there is plenty to worry about while running a power boat.

Power boat drivers I know seem to take a rather nonchalant approach to all this. many of them are not especially mechanically inclined, most even less so than my sailing brethren, yet do not seem to think much about what happens when something important breaks. And if you are on the ICW, no big deal. Call Tow Boat US.  But if you are offshore, maybe a bigger deal. Maybe thats why sail boats go off shore and power boats, by and large, do not.

The transition from sail to power is an evolving experience for me. I am enjoying it while still not yet being completely comfortable with it. More to follow…




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