— By Richard Thiel
— November 2003
West Comes East
|A seasoned cruising couple comes up with a way to make a good cruising boat even better.|
What boater doesn’t think he knows how to design a boat? You spend time operating and living with boats for a large part of your life, and you believe you’ve got insight. In fact, you’re sure you know what makes a good boat. If only you could get someone to listen—or better yet, actually build your better boat.
Julio Dongo felt that way. A native of Peru, he’d owned a string of boats including three Sea Rays and a 55-foot Tollycraft, which he took from Miami, through the Panama Canal, and down the west coast of South America to Lima, a voyage of some 2,000 miles. When he and his new wife Claudia decided to move to Boca Raton, Florida, and do some serious Bahamas cruising a couple of years ago, he had specific ideas of what kind of boat he’d need. An engineer, Julio approached the task methodically. Besides attending boat shows and poring over brochures, he says he cut out dozens of PMY boat tests and placed them in a binder so he could compare speeds, ranges, and fuel efficiencies. All this research led him to a buy a Mikelson M43, even though she’s widely considered a “West Coast” boat.
Julio and Claudia loved their 43, but no sooner had they put a few hours on her than they thought they could make her even better. They felt that just a few key changes would turn a fine 43-foot convertible into a legitimate long-range cruiser that would appeal to East Coasters. The Dongos ran their ideas past Dick Peterson and Pat Sullivan, the principals at Mikelson, and to their surprise, the guys were impressed. So impressed, in fact, that they tooled an entirely new deck mold, implemented the Dongos’ other ideas, and created a new model and a new division to market it on the East Coast headed by the Dongos. And so was born the Mikelson M440 LRC (Long Range Cruiser).
The couple’s criteria for their ideal boat probably sound familiar to a lot of voyagers: a cruising speed in the 20-knot range with plenty of reserve power, a 400-NM cruising range at reduced speed, excellent engine and system access, a lot of stowage, comfortable accommodations for two plus room for two guests, and a boat that can be handled easily by a couple.
The M43 already addressed some of these issues. Like the 440, her V-drive design places the engines under the cockpit, yielding a number of benefits. Having all that iron aft enhances on-plane performance, reduces interior sound levels, and allows superb engine access via twin electrically opening 5'6"Wx4'7"L hatches (or a 2'x2' day hatch). When open, they expose not only the engines and V-drives, but the aft genset and steering gear, too. There’s stowage here as well, but the big bonus is that the space beneath the saloon—the engine room in most boats—is available for additonal stowage. (It’s accessed from under the stairs that lead down from the saloon to the accommodations level.) There’s only one minor drawback: high freeboard. Since there’s 4'6" from the aft coaming to the water, you won’t be doing much tag and release, unless you do so from the standard swim platform.
The 7 1/2-foot-long cockpit is a key component of the Dongos’ cruising scenario, but they felt it could be better utilized—especially in the tropics—if it were covered. The LRC’s extended bridge not only provides a fully shaded cockpit that can be enclosed for voyaging in cooler climates, but also adds five feet of deck abaft the bridge seating that can hold a tender, liferaft, and other gear.
This article originally appeared in the October 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.