Selection Criteria

I would like to write about what a long, involved selection process I went through.  How I looked at a dozen other boats.  But I can't.  You will have to go over to Jobst Vandrey's site  A Comfortable Pocket Cruiser Sailboat to read a sob story like that (especially since he ended up with a Compac 19).  Actually, my selection process was simple: I first saw the Seaward Fox in 1995 when I was an Ensign in the Navy, and freshly married, and loved it.  A little small inside, but it was a thing of beauty.  Unfortunately, I was just struggling to keep up with rent payments, and there was no way my Honda CRX (motto: "I might be able to tow a skateboarder, but only if he pushes") would pull that boat.  I ended up buying an old, beat up 1976 Tanzer 22 a few years later instead.

I spent the next 3 years dreaming of newer boats, and fixing my old boat and the reluctant 1979 Honda 100 outboard that came with it.  I collected brochures of Seaward, Precision, Compac and other small sailboats.  I kept my Tanzer 22 at a slip, and towed it twice a year with an old, beat up Dodge Caravan (which could barely handle it). I let my wife read a copy of Larry Brown's Small is Beautiful article.  She loved it, and told me I needed to buy a new boat.  Something smaller, so we could actually trailer it places easier (she was somewhat disillusioned by the amount of work required to tow the Tanzer 22 some 3000 miles cross country from Seattle to Charleston, SC).  Of course, she might have been encouraging my small boat madness to kill that insane dream I had of buying a large cruising sailboat (Nauticat 39) and living aboard (Naw, couldn't be... of course she would love to live aboard a boat... especially when I am gone at sea on deployment for 6 months at a time...).

Now the selection criteria was easy.  Buy something MUCH smaller, just big enough to weekend aboard, very easily towed, rigged and launched. Hmm, reminds me of that old favorite of mine, the Seaward Fox. Especially with the cat rig with it's free-standing carbon fiber mast... can't get any simpler than that.  People suggested the Montgomery 17 (read this great review), but dreams of one sail to rig, and no shroud lines to attach every day on the launch ramp drove me to the Fox.  I was momentarily tempted by a Precision 21 ("Look how roomy it is!"), but my good sense reasserted itself in that I wanted something significantly smaller than my Tanzer. I looked around for a used Seaward Fox with a carbon fiber mast, but could not find one.  So I ended up ordering one straight from the factory (no local dealers, and the factory is only 400 miles away).

Of course, my wife probably thinks I will sell the Tanzer 22 as soon as I get the Fox.  She doesn't realize (or perhaps she discounts them) my dreams of building my own fleet...

Sail Area
Seaward Fox
19' 9"
8' 0"
Montgomery 17
17' 2"
15' 10"
7' 4"
Catalina Capri 16
Precision 18
17' 5"
15' 5"
7' 5"
Compac 16
14' 0"
6' 0"
Compac Suncat 17
no data
Hunter 19
19' 0" 
 7' 9"
WWP 19
18' 9"
16' 9"
7' 6"

SA/Displ ratio = SA/[(Displ/64)^(2/3)        sail area to displacement ratio
D/L ratio = (Displ/2240)/(0.01*LWL)^3     displacement to length ratio
S/L ratio= 8.26/(D/L ratio)^0.311                speed to length ratio
HS= (S/L ratio)*SQRT(LWL)                     Hull speed

Note that all of the above calculations add 400# to the stock displacement of the boat to allow for personnel and gear aboard (which is a significant portion of the ship's weight on a light trailer sailor).  For heavier  displacement boats (D/L>240), wave propagation becomes the limiting factor on ship's speed, which results in replacement of the S/L ratio with the more familiar 1.34 figure.  This will not apply to most trailer sailors (except for maybe the Flicka 20).  This hull speed calculation does not allow comparison of some very important properties, such as VMG when beating up wind to some windward mark.  The boats with wider beams and higher freeboards will suffer under this comparison, due to the surface area they present to the wind.  In addition, the leeway made by shoal draft boats will also result in reduced performance.  This hull speed comparison is really only valid when predicting the boat's performance off the wind (downwind).  Amazingly enough, these numbers predict excellent performance from the WWP-19, which has been often derided as being slow.  This should be no surprise, since the WWP-19 has a relatively long LWL , and is very light weight.

The sail area to displacement ratio is a good way to compare the performance of boats in light air.  From the table above, it is obvious that the Fox is definitely anything but undercanvased.  It is also interesting that the Montgomery 17 shows up with the same number as a Compac 16, which usually is not considered to be a very fast boat.  These numbers can be misleading, however, since the sail area reported here is the basic sails that come with the boat.  Most people order a large genoa (135-150%) to provide the boat with decent light-air performance.  Most of these numbers above assume the normal jib.

What a beautiful little catThe simplistic rig at the boat ramp imaginableThe Compac SunCat 17 looks like a real strong competitor for the Fox.  If this was available when I had bought my Fox, I would have been seriously tempted.  This even makes the Fox look difficult to rig at the boat ramp.  It hs a gaff rigged sail, with a short stubby mast that you leave attached to the hinge on the mast step while sailing.  Just tilt the mast up, attach the forestay, and you are done.  The boom is attached to the mast step below the hinge, so it just stays where it is, sitting in the mast crutch. The only thing simpler would be to have a carbon fiber mast like the Fox to eliminate the forestay and shrouds. This is simpler to rig then the Fox because it has a stubby little mast (compared to the Fox at 27').  This means that the Fox mast has to be unstepped, and pulled forward to rest on the bow pulpit.  Of course, the downside is light air performance... the gaff rig doesn't achieve the height above the water where the wind is on those light-air days. A beautiful boat.

The Montgomery 17 is approaching the edge of my self-imposed weight limit for this class of boat.  You have to watch for "2 footitis" or "creepism".  The M-17 is just 250# more than the Fox.  That is not much. But wait, the Precision 21 is only 275#  more than the M-17.  And look at this, I could add just a little bit more weight and get a Seaward 23, which is very roomy (for just 825# more than a Precision 21).  Add 900# for the trailer... you have to draw the line somewhere.

Don Casey at Sailnet had some profound words on this topic: "When you have a modest, simple boat, you can sail at the drop of a hat, no small advantage for  a pastime entirely dependent on the vagaries of wind.... Smaller sails and lower stresses make smaller boats easier to sail and arguably safer for a small crew.... Small boats are handy, tacking easily through narrow waters. They can also traverse thin water. In fact, given seaworthiness, a small boat can take you everywhere its  larger sibling can go and lots of places beyond the big boat's reach. Small boats are also more economical to own, operate and maintain.... The ploy I favor is to own a boat substantially smaller than what you can afford."

Larry Brown in Small is Beautiful wrote "What does sailing really cost? Look at it this way. Divide the cost of your boat per year by the days of sailing you get in. That's what it costs. There are two ways you can improve on this picture: spend less; sail more. If you want to do both of those things, get a small boat. You'll obviously spend less. Less obviously but equally important, you'll use the boat more. Taking off spontaneously on a breezy afternoon to a nearby river or lake will seem less intimidating, more worth doing. You'll do more daysailing. If you're driving somewhere interesting, you can drag your boat along without much bother and even use it as a trailer overnight should you decide to linger. And should a pretty lake appear along your route.... "

That is what I am looking for.  A boat that is small enough that towing it somewhere for the afternoon takes but a moments thought.  There is no fear of the nightmare of rigging at the launch ramp that a larger boat would engender.  And there is something nice about a boat so small that a 2 HP outboard will power it.  So small that a quart of bottom paint will last for a couple seasons.  So small that a new set of sails will run you $400.  It restores alot of the joy to sailing, like you had when you first learned on a laser or a sunfish.  When you thought nothing of ditching school for the afternoon to go sailing on the nearby lake.  This is the feeling I am trying to recapture.  Simplicity.

Note that the Hunter 18 is the only boat on this list that is not manufactured anymore.  The closest thing Hunter now makes to this class of boats is the new Hunter 212.  This weighs in at 1800#, putting it a little bit over the top. There are also some other older boats that could easily fit on this list: the San Juan 21 springing to mind right away.

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