Simple boats, simple systems

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Sam Devlin, who designs and builds traditional-looking power- and sailboats in the Pacific Northwest, is especially sensitive to owners loading up their boats with systems and equipment.

"You practically have to be an ABYC-certified electrician to understand how to operate some of these newer, bigger boats, much less troubleshoot them," he says. "Why would anyone really want to own one of these things? They run counter to the idea of getting out on the water."

Sam Devlin designed this 33-foot lobster boat without an inverter, 110-volt shore power or electric hot water heater

Devlin recently launched a 33-foot lobster boat he designed for a woman who will depend on it for commuting to her home in the San Juan Islands. The more the project progressed, the more Devlin realized this would be the perfect boat for him and his wife to go cruising on.

"We've found that we like cruising in the company of others but on separate boats," he says. "So we don't need anything larger. This boat has everything my wife and I need to cruise to Alaska, and it will run and continue to run for years and years without a lot of fuss. There's no 110-volt shore power, no inverter, no electric hot water heater, and none of those layers of stuff that don't work."

Still, the boat is not without comfort. It has a simple, engine-driven hot water system, a propane heater and a nifty little solid-fuel fireplace - perfect for the Pacific Northwest climate.

Preliminary estimates show the boat cruising at 17 knots while burning just 5 gallons an hour total with her twin 110-hp Yanmar diesels. "We're using conventional shafts and props, including conventional stuffing boxes," says Devlin. "Simple. No monkey business."

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