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Reviving an old design

Jan 1, 2003

I read with interest the recent article by Roger Marshall on offshore sailboat design (“Shaping an offshore hull,” July/August 2000).

For anyone interested in the subject due to planning, building, or buying an offshore boat, I would highly recommend Mr. Marshall’s book on yacht design that specifically deals with offshore boats (Choosing a Cruising Sailboat published by International Marine). It is quite readable and filled with savvy information.I found myself smiling quite a bit as I ticked off each element that Mr. Marshall identified as important. My own search for a boat ultimately led me to the Dickerson 50, a design drawn for a now gone but historically important yacht builder in Maryland. The Dickerson boatbuilding company had an illustrious career, lasting some 40 years, before the late 1980s crunch and some simultaneous bad business decisions killed the business. Their most famous boat was the Dickerson 37.

In the early ’80s, Mike Kaufman and Robb Ladd, then in partnership, drew the Dickerson 50, truly a beautiful boat.My own search ultimately ended with a phone call to Mike Kaufman, and he expressed interest in updating the D50. It only existed as one set of paper plans. Kaufman and his associates put the lines into Autocad and we did a few revisions, adding a hard dodger, eliminating a bustle, and raising the coach roof just a tad. The only other change was to widen the stern sections at the transom and tapering forward to achieve better tracking, storage and buoyancy aft.

The design is classic, essentially coming off the board perfect - just needed a few little tweaks 20 years later. The boat is now in construction and is a combination of state of the art and traditional. The hull is bidirectional laminates in Reichold Hydrex 100 reinforced with Kevlar forward of the mast and carbon fiber forward, to better resist pounding. The core is ATC core cell. Bulkheads and furniture are all fir ply, to be faced in Alaskan yellow cedar trimmed with Honduras mahogany.

The entire hull, major bulkheads, and all floors, when shipped to my site, weighed about 6,000 pounds. We’ve been working diligently since, with lots of professional help and advice from Northern Marine in Anacortes, Wash., the hull builder; Mike Kaufman, the architect; and significant others in the marine trades.

The whole point of my letter is that, if you’re after a good offshore boat, there are lots of wonderful designs and nice and knowledgeable people to help you achieve your goal. Don’t overlook the designs of years ago. Some are simply beautiful, and as you go down Mr. Marshall’s list of important points you’ll discover that they pass with flying colors, or can be slightly modified to do so. I’ve found it to be an interesting and doable project. And the relationships created have certainly been rewarding. Can’t wait to see her in the water.


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