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So there I was, swinging at anchor in those idyllic harbors of the Virgin Islands, basking in sunshine atop the flying bridge of Sans Terre, and already I was being unfaithful to her. From rumor it was ever thus with sailors: no matter how pleased one is with his present love, there is always a new one over the horizon—the quest for the perfect ship never ends.
Sans Terre had come into my life in Hong Kong, and we had enjoyed a honeymoon cruise that stretched from the smog of California past desert vistas of Mexico to lush jungle hideaways in the Isthmus of Panama, thence out to the twisted lava and bizarre life forms of the Galap�gos before beginning a re-exploration of the Caribbean. Some 15,000 miles of open ocean lay astern, and I had neither complaint nor regret. Yet as our wake lengthened, so too did a file marked Project Home Afloat II.
On making the transition from sail to power—from three-time winner of the Bermuda Race Finisterre to a 42-foot Grand Banks diesel yacht whose profile bespoke fisherman lineage—I had written (SI, Feb. 3, 1969) that what I sought "was a marine conveyance, seaworthy, easy to handle and with range enough to undertake extended passages—at the same time one that offered creature comforts comparable to a small bungalow on the shore." Sans Terre qualified. And she also convinced me that abandoning the struggle with flogging canvas for the push-button convenience of diesel engines was not merely a time of life, as most of my sailing cronies cynically averred, but a way of life. Aboard, I enjoyed the same mysterious communion with the sea, but with more leisure for personal pleasures: skin diving, writing, reading, amateur radio, beachcombing, or just a-settin' and a-thinkin'.
My new craft would have to be larger, I told myself, for a variety of reasons. Size is not necessarily a matter of safety, as witness lifeboats surviving a foundering ship, but it is a factor of comfort, both for the individual and in the behavior of the vessel. Then, too, there would have to be space for many books, and photographic equipment, and research material, and music, and an ample cellar—pardon, bilge—for the storage of wine, the whole orchestrated to an existence balanced between creativity and la dolce vita. One thing added size was not intended to provide was people space: six aboard on long passages would be the maximum, with the goal of operational capability single-handed, if need be.
The first consideration was hull form. Experience in motorboats demonstrated that the most important feature would be ability to run off before cresting seas. Even in semisheltered waters I had watched gleaming yachts of the America's Cup spectator fleets come perilously close to broaching when homeward bound before moderate afternoon sou'-westers. Typical design consists of a sharp V-sectioned bow, theoretically to cut the water, a rounded or less extreme V-section amidships for easy motion, and a flatted stern for higher speed. The combination works in pleasant weather, but let gale-driven crests build beyond the height of the freeboard of the bow and the skipper has no choice but to run before the seas. The sharp bow sections then dive into the back of the preceding wave, the overtaking wall of water lifts and slews the fiat stern in the process called broaching, and there is the fatal possibility of being rolled over by the crest.
The one shape I knew that seemed to track in any conditions was the constant deadrise hull—the "deep-V" designed by Ray Hunt and popularized by Dick Bertram—where the same underwater form extends from bow to stern. Originally intended for lightweight powerboats capable of planing speeds, it was equally trustworthy when slowed, as I knew from running before towering mistral seas in the Mediterranean aboard my little Bertram 25, Pied-�-Terre. A 75-foot custom version weathered a whole gale when throttled back to displacement speeds in the notorious Bay of Biscay, and her crew of English fishermen compared her behavior to a North Sea dragger's. I asked myself why the constant deadrise concept could not be applied to a heavy hull. The generally accepted maximum efficient speed for displacement vessels is 1.34 times the square root of the waterline length, or 10.21 knots on the 58 feet I envisioned, with an even lower long-range cruising speed. Obviously, then, my dream ship would not be fast, but as Sans Terre had taught me, why be in a hurry when you are happy where you are?
Other deterrents to speed would be drag aft, in the form of extra-large rudders for low-speed tracking, plus protection for the propellers from the increasing debris in the world's oceans. Between the Gal�pagos and the Panama Canal something had gone thump in the night, bending a blade. I suspected a log, rolling along the hull to come up under the wheels. You worry about such things when you have no sail. But why no sail, friends have demanded; why not a motor sailer? Because I was spoiled by the performance of the true sailing yachts I had known, and preferred not to compromise; besides, original cost and upkeep are greater, and more hands are needed. Motor sailers must carry big rigs yet still retain the mechanical complexity of power craft. But not even a steadying sail? No, because I planned to rely on flopper-stoppers, proved by West Coast fishermen and adopted for yachts by Robert Beebe of Passagemaker fame.
Innumerable letters were written, magazines clipped, boats visited and notes made. An illustration in the National Fisherman of a new commercial trawler's A-frame mast struck me as ideal for housing flopper-stopper booms as well as providing an elevated platform for radar scanner and direction finder loop; a crow's nest could perch atop the cross beam, and air intakes for the engine compartment could be incorporated in the bases, safely above salt-laden spray at bulwark level. A nameless ketch in San Diego suggested the form of a self-stowing bow roller for a plow anchor. Traditionally, the number of men required to handle the ground tackle dictates the size of a crew, and my goal was to haul in the anchor on a strictly no-hands basis, even from the flying bridge by remote control. And so it went.
Finally the baby simply had to be born, but first it needed a name. There is an old sailor's maxim that a vessel named before launching will never be built, but for me the opposite is true. Finisterre had begun to take form in my mind during the 1952 transatlantic race. As I studied charts, the name of the northwestern tip of Spain captivated me with its meaning and history, stemming from the first Roman legionnaires who stood looking over the vast Atlantic. Finis terrae, they had called it, "end of the land." It seemed such a perfect name that a craft worthy of it must be created. Later, rounding the outermost bastion of England, we had passed the promontory bearing the Anglicized form of the same Roman name, Land's End, and for a long lime I had hesitated between the two. Then, I had decided upon the Latin version: now, 20 years later, the translation seemed to sum up everything I was trying to achieve.
Land's End would be beamy—I have always liked fat boats—and she would be capable of long passages, hopefully safely and in comfort, albeit at a leisurely pace. She would incorporate every navigational aid and modern convenience possible to cram aboard. As many back-up systems as possible would be provided: two diesel engines, two generators, two electrical systems, two forms of stabilizers. Not minding the soporific beat of main engines through stern exhausts when underway, but detesting generators at anchor, every effort would be made to eliminate a constant demand for electricity. Cooking would be done by propane gas stowed in vented receptacles on the upper deck, with a remotely controlled shut-off valve showing warning lights in both galley and wheel-house; large "hold-plates" in freezer and refrigerator would be engineered to require power less than two hours per day, during which time batteries for lighting and ship's equipment would be charged.