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A Life Less Ordinary Page 2

A Life Less Ordinary

Part 2: The 50-foot Passagemaker was launched on March 18, 1963 with a crew of four.

By Jeffrey Moser — August 2005

   

Courtesy of Jim Leishman
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: A Life Less Ordinary
• Part 2: A Life Less Ordinary
• Part 3: A Life Less Ordinary

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His theory was simple: An alternative to sail power exists for ocean cruising. It’s possible for a motorized boat to cross oceans “with speed and dispatch” with an owner-operator at the helm and without a highly experienced, rough-and-tumble crew. This sounded like heresy to hardcore sail enthusiasts, but it was a sweet melody to many boaters who shared Beebe’s vision of crossing oceans in “slippers and robe,” rather than perpetually donning foul-weather gear. He wanted to cruise in comfort, arrive on schedule, and, if he felt like it, he wanted the option to diverge from his float plan on a whim.

While his military obligations would keep him occupied through the late 1950’s, Beebe continued to contribute articles to many of the yachting magazines of his day and correspond with naval architects on boat design. Of course, he also messed about on many boats, taking careful notations on propulsion, roll stabilization, and ballast. During this time he was slowly adapting design parameters that would be incorporated into his long-distance powerboat. But it wasn’t until after leaving the military that plans for Passagemaker kicked into high gear.

With input from naval architect Howard Chapelle, Beebe was ready to build his boat in July 1962. For her construction, he chose John I. Thornycraft & Sons in Singapore, because its bid was the lowest, and building it there would allow the vessel to make a long, shakedown maiden voyage home under power. Powered by a Ford diesel, she was built of wood, with a round-bilge, full-displacement form that would become the standard for so many boats that followed her. Beebe himself supervised the construction, working seven days a week for seven months and many hours afterward testing the boat in Singapore’s harbor. The 50-foot Passagemaker was launched on March 18, 1963 with a crew of four. Beebe planned to immediately head for Greece, some 6,000 miles away.

Six weeks later a well-rested, on-schedule crew arrived in Rhodes, Greece, having averaged 7 1⁄2 knots. Even with stops of up to four days, by Beebe’s estimates, she’d bested the time of the fastest sailboats in a similar run by at least 30 days. Over the next several years, Beebe, his wife, and scores of friends and family went on to cruise all over the world onboard Passagemaker.

Next page > Part 3: It is well-accepted among trawler builders and enthusiasts that Passagemaker is the blueprint, and Voyaging Under Power is the Bible. > Page 1, 2, 3

This article originally appeared in the August 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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