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|As the Screw Turns|
A confirmed blowboater takes the throttles of a Mainship 430.
By Charlie Doane, Senior Editor of Sail - October 2003
It’s true what they say about us sailboat guys. We are masochists—and proud of it. We definitely suffer from a chronic inability to distinguish fun from discomfort. We like it when the wind blows hard, we like traveling at snail-like speeds with our boats heeled over at absurd angles, and we like getting soaked with spray. I myself have spent weeks at a time on long ocean passages aboard small sailboats—eating food out of cans, bathing in sea water, never sleeping more than three hours at a time—and was absolutely convinced I was having a grand time.
So can someone like me learn to be a powerboater—that is to say, become a hedonist? I must confess it wasn’t too hard. Stepping aboard my Mainship 430 trawler from Florida Yacht Charters in Key West and settling into the palatial master stateroom, I had little trouble adjusting to the decadence of my surroundings. On sailboats, the human accommodations are secondary to the boat’s function; on powerboats, however, it seems to work exactly the other way around. Indeed, most apartment dwellers in major cities would count themselves lucky to land somewhere as spacious and as well-appointed as my trim little ship was. With two staterooms forward, the huge master aft, two roomy heads, a grand galley complete with a view, and a built-in coffee maker (not to mention a microwave, range, a big refrigerator and freezer, and trash compactor), plus a cozy saloon replete with stereo and TV, I was, as they say, living large.
Making her go was pretty easy, too. With the twin 315-hp Caterpillar 3116 turbodiesels, my Mainship made a handy 13.5 knots at 2400 rpm (the upper limit set for me by Capt. Vanessa Linsley, the Florida Yacht Charters base commander in Key West) on our first day’s run out to Sand Key. I know that’s not particularly fast when traveling in the realm of the powerboat, but to a blowboater it’s light speed. And I could tell I was getting good at hedonism when I decided to throttle back to 2000 rpm after a tiny bit of spray invaded the sanctity of the helm station. Of course, this reduced our fuel consumption, which seemed counterproductive to the spirit of the sport.
I have to say I thought being underway was a bit facile. In much the same way that I like driving a stick shift better than an automatic, what I like about sailing is that you are thoroughly engaged in the process of getting the boat to move. The more you pay attention and the more you fiddle with things, the better you go. On a powerboat, by comparison, there is relatively little interaction between you and your vessel—though I did enjoy maneuvering the boat in close quarters. Doing this in sailboats always involves a little leap of faith. Sometimes a big one. I remember an old Pearson I owned that never behaved predictably in reverse, and I would go miles out of my way to avoid putting her in a slip. This Mainship, with her twin screws, was a precision instrument by comparison.
Ialso loved the flying bridge. What a fantastic concept! On our second day out, we ran west to Woman Key and anchored as close in to the beach as we dared. The brilliant thing about having an elevated helm station, of course, was that it was very easy to read the bottom as we nosed our way in. I can’t tell you how many times in the West Indies I’ve wished I could steer a sailboat from halfway up the mast.
The flying bridge is also a great place to just hang out and chill. Just like you powerboat guys, we sailors always aspire to do this type of thing. Perched up there on the Mainship’s bridge with my feet up under the shade of the bimini with a tall, cold one in my hand, I regarded the tranquility of a secluded anchorage and decided it was definitely my idea of sublime. It also helped me cope more easily with what was certainly the most frustrating aspect of our joint power/sail adventure: waiting for the sailboat to catch up with us.
This article originally appeared in the September 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.