Captain Beebe's effort to bring a sea change to the sport of motorboat cruising began some nine years ago when he was finishing up a 30-year career in the U.S. Navy as a department head in the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. With retirement imminent, he began to dream of a small boat that would take him where he wanted to go, when he wanted to go.
"Long-range cruising had always meant sail," Beebe says, "mostly because a motorboat is a punishing device in any kind of sea." Yet a lifetime's familiarity with wind, current and tide charts told him there were vast areas of water where a sail was very likely to flap in its own juice, sometimes for days at a time.
"I knew auxiliary power wasn't going to help me," Beebe says, "when I couldn't carry enough fuel to get me out of those calms."
Besides, making sail is a sport for the young and the vigorous. "I've had my share of fighting a jib in a full gale," he said. "It's invigorating, exciting work, and I enjoyed it. It is also hard, dangerous work and I had reached an age when I wanted to cruise easily, comfortably and on my own schedule. Moreover," he adds, "I wanted a boat that could cruise not only the oceans, where harbors are thousands of miles apart, but the shallow canals of Europe."
Having decided that he wanted the impossible, Beebe went to work in Seattle to try to bring it to reality. Gradually the dream began to assume form. Each day, winter and summer, foul weather and fair, Beebe saw the salmon trawlers chug out to sea, their passages made easy by their makeshift outriggers. "Flopperstoppers, by golly," thought Beebe. "The trawlers of the Northwest have been using them for years. If they work for the fisherman, why won't they work for me?" The answer he got from other yachtsmen was a classic in Corinthian reasoning: they had never been used on pleasure boats before, so they obviously would not work.
"You don't say so," said Beebe and promptly got on the job. What he had in mind was not a boat with flopperstoppers stuck on it, but rather a boat intrinsically designed to accommodate the things.
After hours and hours of research, seven different designs, three full working plans and eight months' building in the Thornycroft yard in Singapore, he had his answer: Passagemaker.
It was, of course, far more than just a platform for flopperstoppers. It combined a whole philosophy of yacht construction aimed at long-distance cruising.
First of all, there was a hull designed to be at its best at cruising speed, not flank speed. "The object was to get there approximately on schedule," said Beebe, "not in record time." Then there was the question of power. The obvious answer was a diesel, big and dependable and with a fuel capacity to keep Passagemaker going for at least 2,400 miles nonstop. "There is nothing duller than steering a boat day after day without the stimulation of the changing weather you get under sail," says Beebe, and so an automatic pilot was a necessity. But what kind? "I picked this," he will point out, showing you the converted bombsight that he uses, "because it's all electric. You can fix it even at sea."
To top it all, Beebe gave his Passagemaker a big comfortable great cabin aft, a semi-enclosed cockpit guaranteed to keep one dry in all weather, a cheery galley and a roomy deckhouse.