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Saga designed for bluewater cruising

Marianne and Doug Taylor hardly noticed the daily snow and sleet storms that swept through Upstate New York the winter of 2003-’04. They were on the road every other week going from their home on Sodus Bay, near Rochester, to St. Catharines, Ontario, at the southwestern end of Lake Ontario to check in at Saga Marine, where their sailboat was being built.

“We had been looking for a long time to find just the right boat, as we want to go offshore next summer,” he says. “When I heard that the craftsmen from the defunct C&C Yachts and Hinterhoeller shops were working at Saga Marine in St. Catharines, I was almost sure that was where we wanted to have our boat built.”

Allan Poole, owner and founder of Saga Marine, said St. Catharines was an obvious choice to set up a boatbuilding shop.

“We knew the labor pool was unrivaled as this area has always been called ‘The Golden Horseshoe’ for boat building,” he says.

Poole has been a boatbuilder most of his life, first in Britain for 10 years, then the United States and now Canada. He founded Saga Marine in 1995 and started production on the Saga 43. Five years later production began on the Saga 35. Both sailboats are Robert Perry designs.

The flagship 43 made its debut at the Annapolis Boat Show in 1996. The Taylors bought Hull No. 54 and named it Cloud Splitter. Base price for a new Saga 43 is about $355,000 (U.S.), with a sail-away price typically around $390,000.

The third Perry design, the Saga 48, came out in 2003 and drew accolades from marine publications (including a best in class award) and the customers who bought one.

In 2004 Poole launched the 40-foot Saga 409, which most boaters got their first glimpse of at the fall boat shows. Beyond its European styling, the 409 is built on Saga’s new proprietary lightweight, impact-resistant hull composite. The laminate of double-woven Kevlar E-glass and vinylester laid on an aircraft grade balsa core was specifically designed for ocean cruisers. Designed by Tony Castro of the United Kingdom, the 409 is a terrific addition to the line, Poole says. All boats in Saga’s line are now built with the new hull materials.

But the Taylors say they have no need for the larger boats from Saga.

“However elegant the Saga 48 is — and she truly is — and however innovative the 409 is, Marianne and I are so delighted with our 43 that I can’t even think about anything bigger or possibly better,” Doug Taylor says.

What impressed the Taylors most was Poole’s requirements that his boats had to be very safe, comfortable and still thrilling to sail.

To achieve good seakeeping qualities with a modest 12-foot beam while maximizing interior space, Saga opted for lengthening the waterline (38 feet, 11 inches) while designing a plumb bow with low drag. With 7,800 pounds of ballast the Saga 43 displaces 18,500 pounds.

Cloud Splitter should be easy to single-hand, Doug Taylor says. There are two headsails, both roller furling. The smaller one, 100 percent, is self tacking; the forward one is a 135 genoa. The inner furler handles the self-tacking jib for windward work and a custom traveler on the foredeck facilitates tacking in narrow channels.

An asymmetrical spinnaker can be flown from the bowsprit without a spinnaker pole. Mainsail hoisting and reefing can be done from inside the cockpit with a push-button electric winch.

Carrying 952 square feet of sail area, the 43 has an 18.54 sail area to displacement ratio with self-tacking jib.

According to designer Perry, “The key to the Saga rig is versatility and convenience ... the cruising couple can far better take advantage of a tall basic rig with non-overlapping headsails.”

“She’s going to be perfect for our trip south next summer, especially with the all-Kevlar hull,” Taylor says. “The boat is built for cruising and bluewater sailing with her fast Kevlar hull, 30-inch lifelines and business-like ground tackle features.”

Other features that speak to the structural integrity of the vessel include bulkheads and furniture components bonded to the hull and deck (thru-bolted hull/deck joint with polyurethane adhesive sealant); an external cast lead-antimony keel attached with a double row of one-inch keel bolts; and a stainless steel four-inch diameter rudder shaft with welded substructure.

But the Taylors also like the layout and design features of their Saga 43. The low-maintenance deck layout features stainless steel (including the bowsprit) over teak. Numerous dorade vents, opening ports and lots of hatches provide excellent ventilation. Integral storage boxes at the mast and aft stow halyards, reefing lines, winch handles and the mainsheet.

The cockpit features sculpted seats suitable for sleeping. A walkout swim/boarding platform with hinged door at cockpit sole level eliminates the need to climb over transom seats.

The cabin below is surprisingly roomy for the boat’s 12-foot beam, Doug Taylor says, starting with the full 6-foot, 5-inch headroom.

The galley to starboard features a wraparound design with a top-loading fridge/freezer and an insulated icebox, three-burner LPG stove, thermostatic oven and broiler, built-in microwave, double sinks, two opening ports and overhead ventilation system, and six utensil drawers.

“It’s a dream,” Marianne Taylor says. “The cherry joinery below and in the galley is beautiful.”

Forward of the galley is a working nav area and main saloon with drop-leaf table.

The owner’s stateroom is forward with a queen-size vee-berth bed, and its own head. The guest stateroom is aft alongside a head that has a separate shower stall. There are three optional layouts for the owner’s stateroom.

The engine compartment for the Westerbeke 55B naturally aspirated diesel is easy to access.

“I can hardly wait to do the first oil change. It’s so simple,” Doug Taylor says. “All in all … it will take us a long time just to absorb what a beauty we have.” n