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What makes a good motorsailer? Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson, president and CEO, Island Packet Yachts, Largo, Fla.,

The design objective for any motorsailer is to combine trawler-like comforts and motoring performance while retaining the ability to perform well under sail alone. In general, the larger the motorsailer, the easier it is to meet these objectives. In the case of the Island Packet SP Cruiser, I’ve chosen the 40-foot size range, as it provides sufficient room for most cruisers’ needs for extended periods aboard in a size that can safely venture offshore when desired yet still be easily managed by a small crew.

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Comfortable seating on deck with relatively unobstructed visibility can be a challenge in a motorsailer with a raised deckhouse configuration. I resolved this on the SP with the introduction of a twin cockpit configuration (forward and aft) and a single helm station inside the forward end of the deckhouse. This provides the helm position with panoramic visibility, full protection from the elements, and the ability to join in with those in the forward cockpit or deck saloon. The aft cockpit and adjacent stern platform add even more options under way or at anchor.

Convenient sail controls can also be a challenge with the typical motorsailer deck configuration. To address this, the SP introduced the option of electric pushbutton sail sheet control on a “popular sized” boat (jointly developed with Lewmar). These controls are mounted at the helm console and at the touch of a switch trim either the main or jib. Both sails also roller furl with an electric winch on a console in the aft cockpit, so setting, furling and sheeting require a minimum of effort and make sailing almost as simple as motoring.

To achieve trawler-like motoring performance, a motorsailer should have a hull form that allows a higher hull speed a typical sailboat of the same size, with a bottom design that minimizes or eliminates “squatting” at top speed. As long as the design remains a displacement form (non-planing), these enhancements can increase cruising and top speeds by as much as 25 percent compared to a typical sailboat of similar size. In the case of the SP, top speed under power is more than 10 knots, with an 8-knot cruise with excellent fuel economy and range, especially when “motorsailing” — which, of course, is what this is all about.

Island Packet's SP Cruiser has fore and aft cockpits and pushbutton sail controls.

See related articles:

- A modern motorsailer

- The best of both worlds

- What makes a good motorsailer? Jim Leishman

- What makes a good motorsailer? Ted Hood

- What makes a good motorsailer? Mark Bruckmann and Mark Ellis

- What makes a good motorsailer? Walt Schulz

The article originally appeared in the September 2009 issue.


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