In September I promised the Figure 8 Voyage Board of Directors—a body ably chaired by my wife and comprised of her as well—that a Figure 8 vessel would be secured by year’s end. Now it is January 9, and I remain like Ishmael upon the strand searching the horizon for a ship.
Except I don’t get to the strand much. Instead I spend hours in front of the computer sifting through ads, peering deeply into grainy photos, computing ratios, sending notes to designers asking for their boat’s scantlings and whether another fuel tank can be slipped into the bilge.
It is not unimportant work, but it doesn’t feel much like progress.
I won’t say things are desperate when they aren’t, but things are urgent. Launch day is but seven months away. For those unfamiliar with projects of this kind, that may seem buckets of time. It isn’t. There is a vast amount of work to be done, and finding the boat is but the beginning.
Having examined most of the worthy metal boats that the western US and Canada are currently offering, I now feel constrained to extend my search range. To New Zealand, for example, and because I have a friend there, Chris Bennett (my co-inspector of the Fastwater 44) whose opinion I trust and who expressed a willingness to do leg work for free.
I asked for this favor because I knew in Whangarei floated a Waterline 48 of sound reputation; in photos she appeared in good nick and thoroughly up to the task. But after a morning aboard, Chris found her too fussy and with windows too large (we all have our peccadilloes, and big windows in a voyager are atop Chris’s list), but his conversation with the broker unearthed a more promising craft, a Pacemaker 40 designed by Kiwi Denis Ganley of Ganley Yachts.
The Pacemaker held immediate appeal because of its similarity to the Freya 39, a Randall favorite famous for seaworthiness and speed. (More on the Freya design here. That they are high-latitude worthy is clear in this article.) For an all-too-brief time back in the 80s Freya’s were built in glass by Gannon Yachts not far from my San Francisco home, and I nearly purchased one just prior to crewing the Northwest Passage this summer. Once back the focus turned to metal boats, and the Freya was out.
Thus this Pacemaker in steel struck a chord. While he was at it, the ever-resourceful Chris happened upon a Pacemaker owner, Richard, who had been soloing all over the south for years.
Basic Stats for the Pacemaker 40 in New Zealand
Steel, aft cockpit cutter, soft chined (?), extended fin keel with skeg hung rudder (propeller unprotected).
LOA: 39.4; LWL 34; Beam: 13; Draft: 6.5.
Displacement: 20,000 lbs; Ballast: 5,510 lbs; Sail Area: 746 sq. ft.
Displacement to Length Ratio: 227. Ballast to Displacement Ratio: 22% (after personal increment). Sail Area to Displacement Ratio: 16.26. Capsize Ratio: 1.92.
Sails: foresail furling; staysail hank on; main on track.
Plating: (reported by Richard of the other Pacemaker) Keel, 3/8ths; hull, 1/4; deck 1/8 with extra framing. Denis Ganley’s philosophy regarding scantlings, plate thickness for his many steel boats, and many other things: “STEEL, the Strongest Material.”
Tankage: 70 gallons fuel; water unknown.
Insulation: Laid in rather than sprayed, but thickness unknown.
Engine: 36 (ratio of horsepower to displacement in tons, 3.6)
Steering: wheel to quadrant.
Power: four wet cell batteries for 480 amps in the house bank.
An Apt Comparison?
It could be that the similarities between the Freya and the Pacemaker are all in my head. Certainly the differences go well beyond just hull material. For example, the Freya is nearly two feet narrower. The canoe stern of the Freya is in the Pacemaker a powerful reverse transom; the Freya’s keel is cut-away full but the Pacemaker’s is fin, and ballast in the former is a whopping 11,000 pounds to its 26,000 pound displacement, whereas in the latter it’s but 5,500 pounds to 20,000.
Still the sameness of length, general hull shape, deck house, layout and rig stand out. So too do her sailing characteristics. The original Freya was a three-time Sydney-Hobart race winner, and in the 1980s Jim Gannon of Gannon Yachts won a second and then a first overall in the single-handed Transpac’s big boat division. Less illustrious, perhaps, but nonetheless impressive was that Pacemaker-owner Richard had reportedly won an “informal race off the Great Barrier Reef for five consecutive years.”
Another similarity gleaned from my correspondence with Richard was that Pacemakers, like Freyas, are highly responsive, but with a tendency toward weather helm and tenderness. Last summer, Neil Thomson of Sausalito invited me for a day of sailing aboard his Freya, Fitzroy. Winds were a typical 10 – 15, increasing in the afternoon. We began the day with a reef in the main and never took it out.
Just so the Pacemaker. Richard attributes these characteristics in his boat to her being too lightly ballasted. He corrected much of this, he says, by removing the steel punchings in the keel, replacing them with lead and adding to her ballast by 1,000 pounds. Then, in the space he recaptured by switching to much denser lead, he added a 700 liter fuel tank. Now she is plenty stiff, he reports.
“I would definitely take my Pacemaker around the Horn,” says Richard.
Pacemaker Fitness from the Figure 8 Perspective
The Pacemaker 40 is built for singlehanding. She’s simple on deck and efficiently laid out below, and though one of the smaller yacht’s I’ve investigated, she has a reputation for speed. That her distant berth in New Zealand would require a two month sea trial ending in San Francisco Bay was not unattractive, though time consuming. More difficult was the extensive refit and modifications that would be required here or there. These included such exotic items as extending the skeg forward to protect the propellor from ice, replacing and adding ballast, fitting a hard dodger, and slipping in a new engine and more fuel tankage.
All doable. None optimal.