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21 November 2013

Those Who Live in Glass Houses

T32x8 Fancy Standard

Those Who Live in Glass Houses

When the tarps came up from Andy Stoner's MARY ELISABETH (T32x12), Anke and I nearly swooned from the view!

She's what I call the standard TriloBoat design, meaning half her length being standing head-room cabin, with end curves limited to the end quarters of hull length. This, in a standard, is achieved by sides composed of a cross half sheet over cross whole sheet (with 4ftx8ft ply sheets, that means 2ft over 4ft for a total of 6ft at the sides... overhead crown adds more). 

Very efficient of time and materials. Good living space to length ratio. Sedan-like aesthetics. And the windows... did I mention the windows?

One minor drawback of the type; being flush deck, one has to go forward over-the-top. When things get woofy, it seems a long way up and far from the axis of rotation. But all things are relative... many fine boats are 'worse'. We figure we'd get used to it, quick.

That upper, half sheet can be plexiglass. In a 32ft hull, the cabin is 16ft. Windows along each side are 2ft x 16ft huge! That doesn't count the smaller end and bunk windows!

Inspired, we designed SLACKTIDE around 2ft x 8ft windows in a 'kayak' view... sitting on the floor under low headroom solved the eye-level problem. And it has been wonderful!

So now, we're looking at the standard design in T32+x8, with mid-ships stowage in a furnished interior. 

Problem to address: their 4ft height means window lower edges are above eye level when seated in standard furnishings, built on the inside of the hull. This doesn't hurt, really, but the whole point is to relax and look around.

Andy chose to raise his dinette 10in, clearing the view from there while seated. The settee, opposite, stayed low in the hole. This worked for Andy, who was looking to sleep eight. The back of the low settee folded up and locked to make an upper bunk over the one at seat height.

Anke and I - more concerned with the view - could have raised the whole sole 10in, but that would sacrifice full standing headroom, and force up/down to the forepeak bunk. But we like the bunk area to be part of the salon social space, and, while we like to sleep on the cool side, the lower level might make it downright chilly at times.

Raise the setee? That leaves a full-headroom gangway between settee and dinnette, with views from both. Hmm. Feet are left to dangle. A fold-up footrest could work, but on 8ft, would cramp the gangway. Boo.

Well... if we lower the bottom edge of the windows 6in it solves the eyelevel problem. And it grows the windows (now 2ft6in)! Only draw-back (a considerable one) is that we can no longer use efficient half sheets of plexiglass. Some of the 1ft6in offcuts are usable, but it's gonna cost us.

But OH! To sit at the table with the mornin' cup o' mud, looking round with 360deg view through those giant windows!! I call this type (with lowered windows a fancy standard.

And another consequence. The leeboardy, off-center-boards we favor are already squeezed by a standard standard (assuming blocking the view is not an option). Lowering them reduces leverage above their fulcrum, requiring tricky engineering, both of board and hull. And, when stowed, low boards can't clear the water, so clunk in any slop. 

In SLACKTIDE, we addressed the problem with travelling boards, which roll all the way aft for stowage, clear of water and windows. But they have to pull clear of the slot and they're heavy suckers! I haven't figured out any way to get sufficient, travelling mechanical advantage to help. It won't be long before they're beyond my strength to stow. The only options would be to build them lighter, or put up with blocked windows and noise at anchor.

Skegs would be our next choice, but they double our draft. Only to two feet, but that's the difference between boots and hip-waders. And that extra foot would exclude us from manys the skinny and interesting perch along the high tide marks. Boo.

On the other hand, we don't have to handle them, 'specially as we age. They raise the bottom, when grounding, a foot proud of nasty rocks. Copper bottom plating can be much lighter, saving thousands of dollars. Hmm... there's a coupla yays to balance that boo.

One perk of the design is that, since it has flush sides (and a wet-locker arrangement that can act as a mud-room... get to that later), we could cut a door into it. It may come to pass, as we get older, that we might want to haul ashore. Diminished agility to climb in and out of the boat would likely be a big part of that decision... a sole-level entry could come in handy.

Hmm. Hmm. Nice foredeck... 8ft square!.

But the bunk has to go under it and headroom is low. There's plenty for sleeping, and enough to sit and read. But kneeling would be bad for the back, if you know what I mean. Could always limit the repetoire or take it elsewhere, but it breaks up the moment. Boo.

We prefer to sleep longitudinally, rocking side-to-side on rolly nights. Oriented so, the bottom curve competes with the foot of a full-length bunk. To get more length, the bunk has to stay high (can't lower it for more headroom).

We could live with a shorter bunk (but, alas! I'm 6ft). Or we could make the bow curve slightly more abrupt to clear the foot. Or lower (bigger bow transom). Or we can add structure for more bunk head-room, such as a pop-up hatch, but that's kludgey, blocks the view and imposes on the foredeck.
And no storage (aside from the anchor well) forward of the bunk. Boo.

And such a big foredeck involves the rig. I won't go into it deeply... main point is that it pushes the foremast aft. To fill that space, one needs a high balance junk sail or some sort of foresail arrangement. If we try an unusual rig (stays'l rig, say) we'd be pretty much committed unless we had a workable back-up. Boo.

Turns out, after months of fiddling, we could address each of these problems to the point that they were no longer boos. But not quite yays, either.

We could sleep thwartships (easy bow curve, forepeak storage vs narrower bunk, reduced bunk lockers and book-space, and some discomfort in rolly conditions). We could extend the cabin 4ft forward (excellent bunk headroom and improved mast position vs fugly appearance and increased windows (already ample, now just expensive). The skegs... erm... not first choice but call it even.

But those windows... what would we sacrifice for those??? The windows held us in dithering limbo.

What we finally decided, after months of waffling back and forth, is that - for the way we live - the fancy standard would be great in harbor vs good-but-not-great underway. Great for old age vs good-but-not-great while still up-and-at-'em. Great windows vs a handful of compromises.

So, reluctantly, we decided to abandon those wonderful windows.

Boo hoo.

I could'a been a Contendah!


  1. (Posted on behalf of JOHN):

    Hello Dave,

    I´ve long noted the expanse of windows in your triloboats. I can understand their appeal to you in the highly scenic waters you sail in, and I assume you seldom have to worry about solar over-heating in SE Alaska. But I wonder about two things.

    After you built LUNA you mentioned wishing that you had insulated her. Does having large expanses of windows in your Triloboats result in a poorly-insulated hull, even though the other parts of the hull are well-insulated? Maybe you don´t need all that much insulation in the spring-summer-autumn cruising season, and maybe you aren´t cruising that much now in the winter?

    I also wondered about the strength of such large expanses of glazing, especially so low to the water?
    Do you have any concerns with those huge windows breaking, either when docking (I know, seldom happens), or if hit with a large breaking wave? I seems to me that if you ever did have a problem in gnarly conditions things could get really bad, really quickly.


    1. Hi John,

      RE Insulation -- We double-pane them. In SLACKTIDE, we used 1/4in polycarbonate outboard, and 1/8in acrylic, inboard. Her SIP construction means the gap between is 2 1/8in (0-2-1). Outboard is bedded in a "siliconized acrylic latex caulk" (DAP), and inside is mounted on 1/4in weatherstrip. The result is great insulation, even at the windows.

      I've heard from friends with as little as 1/4in gap between panes that a little bit goes a long way.

      RE Window Strength -- Polycarbonate is amazingly strong stuff, from which they make safety glasses and security panes. By the time you get up to 3/8in and thicker polyC, you're starting to get crazy strong (not to mention expensive!)... so one can ramp up to whatever level of paranoia seems right.

      We haven't taken a green wave on the windows in 6 years (two winters sailing in that time), so can't directly attest to their strength, but I feel confident. They're mounted strongly, overlapping the cutouts, and are supported by 2x2 posts that break the expanse up into 2ftx2ft- squares.

      That being said, if one were heading offshore, I'd consider ply shutters bolted outside to double/reduce the openings.

      In terms of docking, we come in with fenders forward and aft of the windows. In most cases, the guards would impact the dock well before the hull sides/windows. They give me a lot more concern, but have never been a problem. If things are too tight or wooly, we wait or warp in under full control.

      In STANDARDS at 1ft draft, the windows are 3ft+ above the WL, and 2 1/2ft+ in the FANCIES. That's about equivalent to most boats in their length that have hull mounted windows.

      So, warm, safe and pretty much out of harm's way!



About Me

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Anke and I live aboard WAYWARD, our T32x8 ketch. We sail by wind, tide and muscle in the waters of mid- to northern Southeast Alaska. We try to maximize the joys of life, and minimize the chores. ........ We live between the communities of SE Alaska, but drop in to visit with friends. Lately, we've worked, every other winter, care-taking Baranof Wilderness Lodge in Warmsprings Bay. This has given us a window on Web. ........ We're working toward a subsistence lifestyle, somewhat impeded by addictions to coffee, chocolate and cheese. ........ We think TEOTWAWKI is looming, and while we won't be ready, we'd at least like comfortable seats.