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Graceful Transition

Jan 1, 2003

Most graying sailors would love to follow the example of George Dragas, a Virginia contractor and developer who just switched from sail to power in a most enviable way. Dragas, past owner of two Hinckley sailing yachts in the 50-foot range, recently took delivery of the largest, and perhaps the most flat-out gorgeous, power yacht built by Hinckley since World War II.

The 67-foot Ray Hunt-designed yacht, Arion, headed for Florida in November and was expected to be a frequent sight in the Bahamas and Caribbean during the coming winter. "I wanted to have a boat with a lot of sailboat characteristics and I think this is it," said Dragas. "She's not just something to look at. This is a good sea boat with ocean-going capability and complete independence from shoreside support systems."

Arion is a fiberglass-hulled, deep-V-designed twin-screw power yacht with accommodations for eight plus two crewmembers. She is fast and seaworthy and fully capable of accommodating George and Grace Dragas and various members of their family.

"It was becoming harder and harder to make sailing trips with so many members of our expanding family," said Dragas. "So the pressure was on to either get a larger boat or to give up boating entirely and get a big house somewhere in the south so we could all be together. We went with the boat."

Dragas was drawn to the Boston-based design firm, C. Ray Hunt Associates, initially for a somewhat smaller vessel. Ultimately he elected to make use of the mold for a 61-foot deep-V hull and then have the hull extended to a total length of 67 feet. First, Arion's hull was molded by Lee Wilbur, a boatbuilder near Hinckley in Southwest Harbor, Maine. Then the hull, without a transom, was trucked to Hinckley where it was extended another six feet by means of a temporary mold built around her stern.

"That original mold, built at North End Marine a number of years ago, has spawned a whole series of semi-custom boats including Arion, which is the seventh hull," said Peter Boyce, project manager with the Hunt design firm in Boston.

"She's a typical deep-V hull," said Boyce. "It's the same hull that we do so much with. It originated with Ray Hunt back in the 1960s. It has about 20° of deadrise running all the way back to the transom. It's the full deep-V treatment."

Arion has her twin five-bladed propellers tucked up into prop tunnels aft, thus helping to keep her maximum draft at less than six feet. The hard chine running over the back half of her hull is clearly visible as she floats on her normal lines. Her twin rudders are relatively small since little surface area is needed for steering at cruising speeds of 18 to 23 knots.

She has trim tabs on each side of the transom, and she has reinforced hull sections where vertical fin stabilizers might eventually be added. Arion also has a Lewmar 20-hp hydraulic bow thruster that, when combined with the advantage of twin screws, makes her a highly controllable vessel at maneuvering speeds.

One design feature that should appeal to modern sailors is the degree of compartmentalization. The yacht has three full-height watertight bulkheads, including a collision bulkhead aft of the chain locker, and additional bulkheads on either end of the full-width engine room. The forward engine room bulkhead includes a metal door with dogs. In addition, Arion's bow thruster is built into a watertight compartment located aft of the collision bulkhead and under the forward guest cabins.

"This serves as kind of a buoyancy tank under the floors and below the waterline," explained Bob Riemens, project manager at Hinckley. "We find that we are more and more asked to install bulkheads in custom yachts we build," he added. "For example, we're building a custom 59-foot yawl right now which has two watertight bulkheads forward of amidships. I get the feeling that offshore sailors are increasingly worried about things floating around out there in the ocean."

Arion, which came with a price tag of better than $2 million, is amply powered by a pair of 820-hp V-10 MAN diesels manufactured in Germany. The engines, which idle at about 600 rpm and top out in the vicinity of 2,500 rpm, can put this 45-ton vessel up onto a plane and power her to cruising speeds in the range of 20 to 25 knots. Her top speed is said to be as fast as 28 knots.

"With 1,600 horsepower, she carries plenty of powerthere's no doubt about that," said Boyce. "But with a vessel like this you want to have enough power in reserve so that you can cruise at 20 knots and still have a margin of power."

The yacht's owner indicated the choice of German-made engines was his own. "I talked to diesel mechanics on many occasions, and I often heard a preference for these engines as being both lighter and longer lasting than many others. They are also very quiet and smooth. So far we are quite happy with the choice," he said.

The MANs are installed on flexible mounts, with plenty of insulation installed in the engine room and following the prop shafts back aft. "Dripless" shaft seals were provided by Tides Marine, and each prop shaft is equipped with a set of Spurs line cutters. Each engine has two alternators belted in place for battery charging. Also, the vessel has a well-muffled 20-kW Northern Lights diesel generator with a power take-off leading from one end providing power to a hydraulic pump for the bow thruster.

The owner may have turned to power boats for his yachting activities, but he has not yet forgotten the pleasures of a quiet anchorage undisturbed by engine noises. Arion is primarily a 12-volt and 24-volt vessel, with most systems, including refrigeration, being DC powered. In addition, the vessel makes use of a hefty Heart DC-to-AC inverter for light AC loads such as the microwave. Unusual for a large power yacht, Arion is equipped with a Force 10 propane cooking range.

This yacht carries only 200 gallons of fresh water in two stainless steel tanks, depending upon her massive watermaking equipment from Sea Recovery for daily water production when underway. Other tanks include 300 gallons total capacity for gray water, 300 gallons total capacity for black water.

The only design feature which could be said to limit Arion's capability as an ocean-cruising yacht is her somewhat limited fuel capacity1,300 gallons. At full cruising speed, with both engines throttled at 2,150 rpm and the generator running, the power plant uses fuel at about 65 gallons per hour. That speed, which would have the vessel making about 21 knots in reasonable sea conditions, limits her cruising range to 24 hours or about 400 miles.

She can be coaxed to do better, however, by slowing down. Cruising at 10 to 12 knots, which would have her running at the upper end of displacement speed, Arion could probably double her cruising range to about 800 miles. "She ought to at least be able to cruise to Bermuda that way," said John Deknatel, one of her C. Ray Hunt designers.

"You know these modern vessels with fine forward entry and a V-shaped stern sections with less transom drag do make excellent displacement cruisers. If you play with this boat and get it exactly right you could probably run it at about two gallons per mile, which starts to produce pretty good range."

Tony Parks, Arion's lawyer-turned-yacht-skipper, reported that the owner definitely has plans for long cruises not only to the Caribbean, but also to Bermuda and even in the Mediterranean, although the last-mentioned voyage may have to be made on the deck of a freighter.

"I can pretty well assure you that this is one owner who is doing his homework about future cruises, just as he has done with everything on this boat," said Parks. "Practically everything you see here was the result of his going out and researching various systems and items of equipment. He often educates me, and I've been around boats all my life."