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Designing from scratch

I enjoy drawing by hand, although my office only issues drawings in some form of CAD. My first step in a new design is to sketch an outboard profile and deck plan to a size and form that I think will allow for the hull shape and interior volume, fitting the practical requirements of the design.

Ellis designed the Abaco 40 without Down East ambitions, but she is bound to please fans of traditional New England styling,

I do not carry on to more accurate drawings and the calculating of technical issues until I am satisfied that the sketched shapes, proportions and general aesthetics really please me.

The beginnings of the Abaco 40 were done this way. After establishing a waterline length and hull beam that would support the volume required, I drew the bow profile and worked with the proportions of freeboard and heights of the trunk cabin and pilothouse/saloon. The camber (athwartships curve) of the deck and house tops had to be considered. The lengths of the trunk and pilothouse and the amount to allot to deck forward and cockpit aft underwent many design iterations, as did the rake of the ends of these structures.

I was also fairly fussy about the draft angle (angle from vertical) of the house sides. Naturally, the plan shapes of the deck and house must be developed somewhat simultaneously with the form of the profile. The amount of bow flare and the width of side decks were major practical issues to be considered in the plan view, as were sightlines from the helm. Whether to have tumblehome aft in the hull and, if so, how much was an interesting aesthetic consideration. The compound effect of a line curved in plan and in profile meant that 3D shape development, in my mind’s eye, was all-important to the effort.

Another important point to ponder was the practical aspect of how sound structure would be applied to the forms chosen. All of this is to say that by the time I got to precise drawings and real calculation, I’d spent a great deal of time and thought on what might be considered advanced doodling. The integrity of the design is established by this distilling of the elements.

There’s been a lot of talk and print about “Down East” style and “lobster yachts” in the past several years. It was not my intention to fit those terms in designing the Abaco 40, but I suppose there will be some who will view her as such. In any event, the design, as it worked out, certainly does please me. Her performance, efficiency, comfort and seakeeping ability are very good. Her structure, fit and finish, and systems are all first-rate, thanks to the efforts of Mark Bruckmann and his crew. And aesthetically, I immodestly believe she has the proportions and style for which I strive and which I expect will be long-lasting in value.

See related article:

A New England cruiser from north of the border

February 2014 issue