Precision 18.  a modern look at an old concept.

Flood Tide
Bob Mendes on his P-18 "Flood Tide" at Lake Dillon, Colorado.

The Precision 18 is a boat small enough to be easily trailered behind today's small cars, simple enough to be inexpensive, but big enough to sleep aboard (out of the weather) and stable enough to take along the family. And finally, a boat with the lively performance and good sea manners required to make sailing her fun. The long, shallow keel, kick-up rudder, and non-corroding fiberglass centerboard are all high-lift NACA 'wing sections.' The keel allows the board to be housed completely below the cabin soleand gets the ballast down low for stability. Below deck there is ample sitting headroom for four, and a filler cushion that drops to form a 6-foot, 6-inch V-berth.

Bob's review of his Precision-18

My boat's name is "Flood Tide", which I borrowed from my grandfather.  He was a serious yachtsman, owning a series of large ketches and schooners designed by John Alden, which he raced on Long Island Sound and in the Bermuda races in the 1920's and 30's.  His smallest FT was 35', the largest I ever owned.  When I retired to Colorado 10 years ago my son and I bought a
Santana 22 which we raced on Lake Dillon.  In 1997 he moved up to J24's leaving his old dad behind and on the beach.  I decided to look for a boat which I could handle easily on my own, including rig up, launch and tow as well as sail.  My preference was for a used boat, as new boats tend to be pricey around here (Colorado) due to the shipping charge.

After checking with local dealers and sailing friends, I focused on the Montgomery 17, Compac 19, Capri 18 and Precision 18.  All were available used in the area.  Of the four the P18 seemed to fit my needs best, and I bought a 1993 model in the spring of 1998.  The main factor in my decision was that the Precision seemed to the best sailer, and this was an important quality for me coming from a good performance racer.  The Capri 18's performance is probably as good, but didn't appear to be as well made, and while the Montgomery is a fine serious cruiser, she is a bit more boat than I wanted.  I also required shallow draft, mainly for ease of launching, and all four designs fit this criteria.

The Precision has proven to meet my requirements very well, except that she is a bit of a handful for a man who is not as young as he used to be to rig up and rig down.  Most of the launching areas at our lakes have gin poles, and I use them to raise the mast, though it's not that heavy.  My son can do the job alone using just muscle with no problem.  It also takes a while to set up the rigging, organize the sails, etc, and as a result I stay in one place once I launch.  This means I've not done one of things I had intended, which was to trail the boat to several different lakes during the summer.

Regarding the P18, I like the design, which has attractive lines for a small boat.  There is a nice compromise between a roomy cockpit and a reasonably sized cabin.  On any boat this small the latter is more for storing gear and getting out of the rain, but a cozy couple could probably cruise for a few days and still end up friends.  The interior has a V berth forward, two quarter berths and a shallow footwell, but it would be silly to try to sleep four adults.  There is no attempt at providing galley or toilet facilities, and on a boat this size I think it makes more sense to bring prepared meals and not try to cook aboard.  A large cooler box under the companionway
serves also as a step into the cabin.  The boat comes with an electrical system, an overhead interior light, nav lights and space for a large battery, but I removed the battery feeling that I'm not likely to sail at night, and if I did could use small flashlight type lights.  The gelcoat seems to be good, and parts such as the bow and stern pulpits, stanchions, running rigging hardware, rudder fittings, etc, are all of good quality.  But a few things show signs of cost cutting, such as the cockpit drains being made of small diameter cheap plastic pipe.  Overall I would rate the construction quality as average to good for a production boat.  After being built for some 15 years the design is well proven and any initial bugs have been worked out.

The P18 has a conventional mast with a single spreader, external halyards, and 3/4 rig.  Most owners get a 145% genoa and roller reefing, and she really needs the larger sail in light air and the ability to reef the sail easily if the wind comes up.  The genoa and mainsail are each about 80 sqft, providing a full sail area of about 160 sqft.  Modifications I've made include leading the main halyard back to the cockpit and fitting single line reefing on the main, also led back to the cockpit.  This allows reefing the main, as well as the genoa, without having to leave the cockpit, an important safely feature if you're single handing.  The end boom mainsheet tackle is attached to a fitting on the backstay.  I would have preferred a traveler, but it would be difficult to fit one, and the standard arrangement does keep the mainsheet out of the middle of the cockpit.  The boat does not come with even basic sail controls, and I've added a backstay tensioner and a boom vang.  She sails well in light air, but needs to be reefed as the breeze picks up to keep her on her bottom and under control.  She is easily driven by a little Nissan 3.5 outboard mounted on a stern bracket, and there
is a handy sealed locker in the cockpit to carry spare gas.

Two things about the boat I didn't like were the fact that she doesn't have foam flotation, and the cockpit locker opened into the space alongside and under the cockpit footwell.   I built and fitted a 'tray' under the lid so it makes a decent place to keep gear, and sealed the lid so in the event of a knockdown water can't flood below through the opening.  To deal with the flotation issue I calculated  the volume needed to keep the boat afloat, and by sealing off the spaces between the inner liner and hull, placing closed cell foam under the cockpit footwell and in the unused space around the cockpit plus an air bag in the forward end of cabin, I'm pretty sure she would stay afloat even if completely filled with water.  I haven't tested this and hope never to have to!

DESIGN  COMMENTS, design#58    PRECISION  18 (straight from the brochure)

Jim Taylor Yacht Designs, performance racing & cruising yachts

People go sailing because it is fun, pure and simple. The problem for today's sailors is that a combination of high interest rates and increasingly scarce mooring and marina space have in many instances made boat ownership a lot less simple, and its "fun" a lot less pure!

This office shares with PRECISION BOAT WORKS the firm belief that sailing should STILL be pure fun, and that the real key to the fun is in keeping it simple! Nowhere is it written that in order to enjoy a day on the water a sailor needs a boat that costs as much to buy as a house, even more to maintain, and that requires half a football team to sail properly; on the contrary, as the explosive growth in boardsailing has shown, the purest sailing fun can often best be delivered in very small, simple packages! It is just this "small and simple" concept that lies at the heart of the PRECISION 18 design requirements: a boat small enough to be easily trailered behind today's small cars, simple enough to be inexpensive, but big enough to sleep aboard (out of the weather) and stable enough to take along the family. And finally, a boat with the lively performance and good sea manners required to make sailing her fun!

In attempting to fulfill similar requirements, too many builders have simply taken a successful racing design and installed a "cruising" interior. Unfortunately, while the long fine bow and broad flat transom of this type hullform can be devastatingly fast' when in the hands of a hot racing crew, it can also be dangerously unstable for a family boat, and is therefore completely unsuited to cruising applications. This office has recently developed four different trailerable cruising designs, with over 500 built in just the past three years. Each was drawn for a different builder and market target, but all share distinctly full sections above the waterline forward and only moderately full sections aft. The PRECISION 18 is our latest design to be developed from this basic hullform which our experience has proven to provide a reassuring margin of reserve buoyancy forward, improved ultimate stability, and especially forgiving handling characteristics, all essential elements of any good cruising design.

The long shallow keel, kick-up rudder, and non-corroding fiberglass centerboard of the PRECISION 18 are all high-lift NACA "wing sections." The keel allows the board to be housed completely below the cabin sole and gets the ballast down low for stability. The board itself weighs only 65 pounds so that it does not form a major portion of the total ballast, stability is not dangerously reduced when it is retracted, and it can be raised easily by a child with no need for a winch.

The simple fractional rig can be raised right on the trailer in minutes. The jib is of very high aspect ratio for maximum efficiency, but small enough to be readily trimmed by a young crew. The mainsail can be quickly "depowered" in puffy conditions, and it is large enough to provide good performance without the jib when desired - a big advantage when in a crowded anchorage or when shorthanded. The cockpit is a full 6'4" long with coamings high enough to keep the crew securely inside. Both seats and coamings are precisely angled for maximum comfort, reflecting our years of careful ergonomic design development. There is a generous anchor locker forward, a fuel tank storage bin to port, and a full cockpit locker to starboard.

The PRECISION 18 is designed to be a lively, well-mannered sailboat rather than a floating vacation home, but the features below are noteworthy nonetheless. There is ample sitting headroom for 4 and a filler cushion that drops to form a 6'6" V-berth that is NOT broken up by the usual awkward mast support post. There are 6' quarter berths port and starboard, not to mention a 48 quart cooler, provision for a portable head, and 12-volt battery. A forward hatch provides ventilation and an emergency exit, and the large companionway and cabin windows contribute to the feeling of light and open space.

Carefully controlling construction weight is critical to both performance and to price, but it cannot be done at the expense of safety or structural integrity. Thus the hull liner of the PRECISION 18 is engineered as a structural grid, and tooled to mate precisely with the hand-laminated hull skin. The mast support beam and chainplate loads are carried by structural bulkheads and there are rugged hull stringers to distribute the stresses imposed by trailering. The external hull/deck joint is bonded both chemically and mechanically, and the flange is protected with a vinyl rubrail.

The PRECISION 18 has been kept small in size and price, but remains big in both features and performance. She promises to deliver the fun, pure and simple!


Precision 165 from factory brochure
You might also want to consider a smaller boat, the Precison 165.  This has a fixed, shoal draft winged keel (similar to the Fox).  Here is what Lee Cop says about his Precision 165:  "The P165 has proven to be a quite capable small boat well suited to protected water sailing. The shoal draft keel allows for lots of thin water work and points fairly well to the windward. Light air performance is quite good without needing a genoa or related hardware. The helm is fairly light and responsive at all points of sail... Mast raising is a very reasonable single person effort (if properly setup). The addition of sail slugs makes the whole system work a little easier when running short handed. Typical setup time is 20-25 minutes (single handed, working smart - not fast). "  Read the rest of his review at his very complete P165 website: Lee's Precision 165 site

Precision sailboat owners page

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