Looking for a new boat
We were cruising in New Zealand, happy as clams and enjoying the past couple years of cruising through the South Pacific… well almost happy as clams. “Dulcinea” was a 10 meter steel Sparkman and Stephens sloop, built in Holland. At the time she was 25 years old and had a few flaws. She was uninsulated, very simple, and slow. The captain had visions of a larger, faster and more modern metal boat in aluminum. Those visions became obsessions, so we came back to Southern California, sold our dear old “Dulcinea” and set off to search for the Holy Grail of cruising boats, an aluminum boat of about 50 feet. We searched the rags and ads all over the country. We drove to available offerings in the United States. We studied boats available around the world. And we found nothing suitable for cruising, nothing practical. Most had teak decks, which means there were a zillion holes in the aluminum all waiting to leak! And many had interiors cut up into three or four cabins, with two or three heads. None fit the image of our perfect cruising boat.
We wanted a rugged boat suitable for safety in the roughest conditions, well ventilated for comfort in the tropics and well insulated and heated for comfort in high latitudes. She must have an open plan suitable for one couple to live aboard in comfort, and be able to cruise without regard to limitations of storage, fuel or water. The concept was that if living aboard were not a compromise of comfort and convenience, we would be able to cruise longer without “burn out.” That is quite a wish list and became the blueprint for our Holy Grail, a 51 foot flush deck pilot house and aft cabin aluminum cutter. She sports an industrial, unpainted and low maintenance exterior with a finished high varnished interior. She has been compared to a geode, rough on the outside, a gem on the inside.
Building a Boat
With the failure of our search for the Holy Grail of cruising boats, we decided to have a boat designed and built that would become our expedition boat. Charles Wittholz, naval architect of Silver Spring, MD was assisted by Michael Kaufman, N.A. of Annapolis, and C.A. Surdike, Seattle, WA, and together became the design team that completed our plans. The hull was completed in Surrey British Columbia and delivered to our rustic shed for completion. Little did we know what was ahead. What we had at this point was a bare hull with lots of holes where the hatches, windows and ports belonged, an engine set on motor mounts, but not operational and a pile of rough lumber on the floor of the shed. And we had already spent almost half our budget! Fast forward six years of hard labor and we sailed south from San Diego with a completed Holy Grail and visions of the South Pacific in our eyes.
For the Technical Mind
Holy Grail turned out well. On the outside, she looks industrial and tough, because she was built to be a worldwide expedition boat. She displaces 24 tons, with 13,700 pounds of lead ballast at the bottom of her wing shaped keel. Draft 5’8″ to 6’0″ depending upon load. All ballast is in the lowest 12″. The rest of the keel is a fuel tank, 330 gallons with another 120 gallon day tank, total 450 gallons. The holding tank is also set in the keel. Her engine is a Cummins 4 cylinder, 80 horsepower, cruises at 60% power at 7 knots burning 1.35 gallons per hour giving her a theoretical cruising range under power of 2300 miles.
Under plain sail, Holy Grail will make 50% or better of true wind speed, beam reach to close hauled in winds from 5 knots up. Off the wind she needs bigger sails to keep up her speed.
320 gallons of water is carried in five independent stainless tanks, and is contributed to by a 20 gallon per hour water maker, making her fully independent. Holy Grail can cruise for a year or more without resupply.