John Harries of Attainable Adventure Cruising, a long range cruising sailor, has many, many thousands of miles crossing oceans in his yacht Morgan's Cloud, mostly in the far North Atlantic and high latitudes of the Arctic.
Phyllis Nickel and John Harries 2008 Cruising Yacht Club of America Far Horizons Award
All that experience led him to believe that the ideal ocean going production sailing yacht simply didn't exist, and he set out attempting to devise one. Now, thanks to John’s ideas and to the design and engineering of Erik de Jong, himself an experienced long-range cruiser, it just might. It's called the Adventure 40 and John Harries tells the story:
The mission was to design a boat that would be capable of taking a couple with occasional guests around the world in safety and comfort for around $200,000. She will also be a fine weekend cruising boat for those who have to keep working at their day jobs while they plan their escape.
One of the fundamental design focuses is that the builder will provide the base infrastructure that would be difficult and/or expensive for an owner to install, like a super strong equipment mounting arch, but the owner installs all the bits and pieces like solar panels and wind generator.
This price is incredible value but, if you think about it, most every boat buyer eventually becomes a boat seller. So when measuring the real cost of owning a boat, what matters most is the delta: the difference between what you paid and resale. And the best way to assure a good delta is to build a lot of boats and create a brand, and that’s just what we intend to do. So the boat will be designed to appeal to a wide audience—the Adventure 40 is not a specialty expedition or high latitude boat.
Low Maintenance Cost:
If you think buying an ocean capable boat is expensive, try maintaining one. The Adventure 40 will be standardized, simple, very high quality, and have great equipment access, which means she will be substantially less expensive to maintain than other boats, new or used, even when you are piling the miles on.
Is there a need?
Anyone could certainly be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion that the boat is a solution looking for a problem. After all, there are tens of thousands of used boats out there and scores of companies building new boats.
But the reality is that the vast majority of second hand boats will require an extensive refit to be ocean capable that will push the total cost way over the Adventure 40 price (even if the owner does most of the work him/herself) and take many years to complete.
Worse still, such a refit has an intrinsic Catch-22: It takes years of offshore sailing and boat ownership experience to learn what you need to know to perform, or even supervise, an extensive refit efficiently…and how do you get that experience without owning an offshore boat?
So what about new boats? Surely there’s a boat on the market already that can fulfill the A-40 mission? Well, no. The boats that are currently on the market are far too complicated and/or far too expensive; and most have hull forms, interior arrangements, and rigs that are simply not suitable for offshore voyaging.
That begs the question: if the market has failed to produce a good voyaging boat for a fair price, what makes me think that it’s doable? Good question. The problem is not that building a boat with the A-40’s capabilities at the target price is that difficult.
Why production boats are the way they are: Dictates of the Market:
No, the problem is the market, which has over the last 30 years metamorphosed into one that buys wide, overly light, overly complicated boats that are designed with one criteria in mind: cram the biggest fanciest interior and the most gadgets possible in a given length. Boats that by very definition are near useless, and in many cases downright dangerous, offshore.
Given that, what makes me think we can persuade people that the Adventure 40 is a good idea? Simple, we already have. To date over 150 people have signed up as interested in an Adventure 40 with more signing up every week.
So exactly what IS an Adventure 40? Here’s the short version:
Above all, the boat will be seaworthy and by extension seakindly and fast. She will have a moderate displacement fixed fin keel and transom hung rudder on a comparatively narrow hull that will not pound going to windward and that will be easy to to steer both upwind and down. She will displace between 18,000 pounds and be about 42-feet overall.
Nothing, but nothing, will be allowed to compromise the boat’s ability to sail well, and that goes double for the interior arrangement.
The deck will be laid out for simple easy sailing offshore and will include a hard dodger for shelter and top quality blocks and winches for sail handling. In keeping with this simplicity, all halyard handling and reefing will take place at the mast.
The rig will be a simple mast head sloop with roller furling jib and slab reefed main. It will be fitted with a removable internal headstay and runners to further support the mast and carry a storm staysail.
Sails will not be supplied with the boat, but several pre-tested packages will be available from one or more sailmakers at advantageous prices. It is intended that the base boat, plus working and storm sails, will come in under the US$200,000 target price.
The interior will be simple, quite traditional (because it works), designed to be safe and comfortable offshore, and likely be fabricated by a mass production furniture maker. There will be very few drawers and some lockers may even be closed with zippered fabric doors.
This is a mass production boat because that’s the only way we can hit our reliability targets at this price. So the hull will be solid fiberglass below the waterline and cored above, with scantlings strong enough to withstand years of hard use at sea and the inevitable groundings that happen in cruising. (Run her on a rock in a swell that will pound her and all bets are off.)
The boat will be equipped with the best gear money can buy installed to the highest standards. She will have everything that you need to sail around the world—great deck gear, reliable engine, bullet proof rig, safety gear, vane steering—and not much else: no shore power, no refrigeration, no electronics. Before you head off round the world, pick up two hand held GPSs (one spare).
Want shore power, refrigeration, solar panels, fancy plotter? Go for it. The boat will be designed with a spacious equipment bay where you can install stuff to your heart’s content. There will be extra breakers on the panel and hard points in the hull for extra sea-cocks. Cable running will be easy in large builder-installed conduits with messenger lines. There will be a well insulated icebox that can easily have refrigeration added.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that you will have to spend months installing stuff before you go cruising. Like I said above, the boat will come with everything you need. In fact, you might even have a better time cruising if you don’t fill her up with a bunch of expensive gear to satisfy your wants.
Quality Control and The Standard Boat:
Every detail of the boat will be exhaustively tested by experienced offshore sailors during a prototype phase that will last at least a year and involve several ocean crossings. After that the production boat specification will be frozen. There will be no options, none, zero, zip. However, you will be able to order the boat in any colour you want…as long as it’s white.
Seriously, this is the only way for the builder to hit the price point, make a fair profit, and build a reliable boat that can cross oceans right out of the box without years of debugging and frustration.
Not A Leading (Bleeding) Edge Boat:
The Adventure 40 is all about reliability and safety. There will be no funky experimental hull form, or high-tech deep bulb keel. The only gear on the boat will be stuff that has been around and in general use on offshore boats for at least a decade and twenty years would be better.
There will be no un-stayed carbon mast, no hybrid diesel electric drive, no lithium-ion batteries, no fuel cells and no composting toilets. If you want to experiment with new technologies and be a developer, that’s great, but it’s not what the Adventure 40 is about.
There will be no dealers. Marketing will continue to be direct and sales will be direct with the builder. Over time, a network of Adventure 40 Commissioning Companies may spring up, many of whom will specialize in installing pre-designed packages of gear into the boats. The builder will keep a web site listing of these companies and owners will be able to rate and comment on their experience with them there.
So, now you're excited, and you want to know when the launch date will be, and when you can plan sailing this beauty?
John Harries is just not telling. 'There are simply too many variables and I’m a great believer in the idea that it is better to surprise than disappoint,' he told me today, 'and doing things really right takes time.'
So you'll have to 'watch this space' or follow his very practical cruising blog at www.morganscloud.com. For information and updates about the boat itself, better click here.