Lately I have noticed that two themes have become more constant in my life, one being that I have way less spare time than I used to (and I never had much to start with) and the other being that when my wife and I have the time to go cruising, we enjoy more a cruise “in company” with friends than a cruise where our friends are literally cruising onboard with us. So let me explain the concept to you. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we have amazing cruising grounds literally at our doorstep with smooth, and for the most part, protected waters stretching almost 1,100 miles from our home in Olympia, Washington to Skagway, Alaska. About 900 of those miles are in wonderful wilderness with solitude and beauty surrounding every day spent on the water and every anchorage at night. We have done that cruise several times over the past 20 years, sometimes with guests traveling in the boat with us and sometimes with friends taking their own boats and traveling alongside us. And in retrospect, our favorite trips were the ones with friends traveling alongside doing what I refer to as cruising “in company”. This type of cruising affords all participants a bit more privacy and intimacy than one with a pack of people all on the same boat. There is also a very significant safety factor involved with cruising “in company” because if there is an emergency or the need for a repair, there is a vessel nearby piloted by friends that can help reduce the extra tension involved in an emergency far from help. This safety factor is one that I usually refer to as being a “good boy scout” as you hope that you never need the assistance but it’s there when you need it. It is simply the best preparation for a journey and the best reduction of all the possible fate based factors that may thrust their ugly heads into the realm of a calm and relaxing vacation.
Forgive me for this dialogue but it’s only included to give you a little bit of the mindset for this new design that we are offering up for review. Considering that cruising in company is our preferred way to cruise and that my wife and I don’t really need that much space inside the boat, I started down the path of musing on what would be the most ideal boat for the time and space that my life might allow for cruising in these busy and active times. And so out of that inspiration came the Blue Fin 48, fueled by a very slight influx of dollars from a preliminary design commission by Bill and Meri Roberts, a couple with mostly parallel daydreams as to the perfect cruising boat. Out the door went any consideration about the economics of owning and operating a vessel of a length and breadth that would normally have multiple staterooms and a cost to construct somewhat north of a million dollars and into consideration came what could and would handle a couple for cruising, do it as efficiently as possible at speeds that would cover lots of ground when needed and yet allow unbelievably quiet, smooth and comfortable cruising in anything from 8-16 knots of speed. The only thing that is really extreme about this vessel is that she is basically the layout and the accommodations that you would normally have in a 30-34 ft. boat but is set in a boat that is 48 ft. long. In other words, she will cost certainly more than the typical mid-thirty foot boat, but not as much as her over-muscled brother, and will cruise faster, smoother, and have more space for all the functions of cruising. The downsides to this design are only one; dockage and moorage fees will be the same as the 48-50 ft. skyscraper of a floating condo moored next to you. For my book, I will pay the extra expense for the moorage in exchange of being able to move thru the water at the speed and ease that this vessel would be capable of.
So let’s talk about the design a bit with the first topic being the powering options for her. My first inclination for powering her was a twin diesel arrangement with the engine boxes being set just on the aft side of the rear bulkhead to the cabin. That would allow us to use the top of the engine boxes as seats or tables in the cockpit when entertaining and believe me this cockpit would be a fine entertainment gathering spot for the group of cruisers once the anchors were set firmly and everyone had a quick freshen up after a long day on the water. Picture a pitcher of some refreshing drinks, some background music (not so loud as to drown out conversation) and perhaps some aromatic cigars being lit and puffed on with your friends around you and a whole hectic world left behind. In the twin screw version you will note that I show a couple of really comfortable arm chairs in the cockpit. I really like these folding chairs with their capability of being positioned where I want either out in the sun taking in the last rays of the day’s warmth or under the other half of the covered cockpit out of perhaps a sun too bright or some left over drizzle (remember it rains quite a bit here in the Northwest). It’s always good to have the chance to change one’s seating position and get some fresh air after a long day’s journey and comfortable chairs help with that equation. The other advantage of the twin installation is twofold, the first being the redundancy of power so that if something conspires to leave us with a powering issue, we still have a standby engine that will enable us to continue our journey until we get a chance to fix whatever went haywire on us. The second advantage of a twin installation is the maneuvering advantage that a twin has and with such a long and narrow boat, she will want to go forward far more easily than sideways and the ability of a twin installation to spin the boat either to port or to starboard is rather amazing. Coupled with the bow thruster way up in the nose of the boat, this would be a very easy boat to move about in the close confined waters of a marina or during a docking maneuver. So the twin screw/engine option is a good one and with the main door to the cabin opening into the pilothouse being on the centerline, we can have a nice balanced interior arrangement with the galley on the starboard side, the helm seat just at the forward edge of that space and a “L” shaped dinette on the port side with co/helm on its forward edge.
But it wasn’t long before economy and ease of operation cropped up in my thoughts and I started musing about a single screw version of the same boat. Could it be done on this narrow of a boat without feeling like we are missing or eliminating too much of the useful function of the twin screw configuration? After many hours of cogitating on the problem and trying out the spatial use of the areas that would result, I came across what might really be an even better option to my original twin screw configuration. Looking at the single screw layout, we see the companionway skewed off to the port side of the boat allowing enough room on the centerline for the larger and longer engine box that would be necessary. The galley is set on the port side just forward of that companionway and has a built in co/helm seat at its forward edge, an arrangement we have used successfully in our Surf Scoter and Black Crown designs many times. This may not be quite as compatible for the co/helm but look at the larger “L” shaped dinette area in the pilothouse and as a bonus, aft under the covered part of the cockpit, a mirror image of that dinette aft in the stern area of the boat. Now I can see this version would be an even better socializing cockpit or cabin area with good space to spread out a feast of eats and drinks. For the single screw I would pick the John Deere 4045 diesel which is available in anything from 150-225hp versions and would give us a top speed in the 18 knot range and a cruise speed of 14 knots with 4.4 gallons per hour fuel burn. With about 350 gallons of fuel, that would give this version a range of over 1,000 nautical miles. But slow her down to 8-9 knots and the burn rate lowers to well below 2 gph and the range would improve to well over 1,500 nautical miles. What an efficient and beautiful boat this would be to cruise in!
Soon after working on the single screw version, I started fooling around with a flying bridge version of her. Not being an immediate fan of flying bridges, I changed my tune after assisting in bringing a converted Seine fishing boat back from Alaska to the Puget Sound area many years ago. That boat had a large flying bridge with an unlimited vista and it really was surprisingly warm and dry (even in the wind and rain) with a rain shadow developed by the vertical walls of the flying bridge walls. Trying to steer on that vessel was virtually impossible from the lower helm station with its very small windows and lack of visibility. So after that trip and being “flying bridge enlightened”, this version of the Blue Fin really appeals to me. We can either steer from the lower helm on those heavy weather days or using the flying bridge upper helm in less extreme weather when really wanting maximum visibility.
I have a couple of thoughts about the focsle sleeping cabin to make, the first being having enough space to have a proper head and separate shower being one of the advantages of the longer platform of this stretched boat, and the second being the chance of either having single queen sized island berth up forward or with port and starboard single berths with the option to put in a filler between the bunks to make an even larger queen sized berth for when you are cruising with your best first mate. This latter arrangement with its dual function really appeals to me. When going out with some guy friends, we can have port and starboard berths that allow proper separation for personal space and when cruising with my wife, I can put in the filler and sleep with my sweetie with tons of extra room.
The final feature that I want to talk about is the lack of a swim step at the stern of the boat. But you should also notice that her transom folds outward and makes into an integral swim step allowing easy and safe boarding from a dingy or from a stern tie at the dock. But while running at sea, the transom is hinged up to a safe and confining normal configuration. The primary reason why I like this folding transom arrangement is the capability of sliding easily onto and into the cockpit of my 13ft Candlefish skiff. This is a large skiff for this size of mothership but capable of taking us on outings that a normal shorter dingy could not handle. It also allows us to do our cruises with the dingy in the cockpit, keeping the center of gravity and weight low and our flexibility with this design at a real maximum. For those of you that need a conventional transom, this will accomplish that function but for those of you that want a really versatile arrangement in the cockpit, then this configuration will be a real asset.
That’s enough for a really long winded write-up but I am very hopeful to get this design off the drafting table and into the water. Feel free to call me to discuss her merits in detail…. So long for now (till my next design voyage). — Sam Devlin
The Blue Fin 48 is available as study plans and as a custom build by Sam Devlin and his team.
Blue Fin 48 Specifications
|Length||48 ft. – 4 in.|
|Beam||11 ft. – 0 in.|
|Power||Inboard diesel, 150hp – 225hp|
|Speed||14 knots cruise @4.4gph/18 knots max|