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The Widening Page 2

Spectator - March 2003 continued

Spectator — March 2003

By Tom Fexas


The Widening
Part 2: Palatial Interiors
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It is the same deal with boats. Today, almost any respectable cruiser can run at 20 knots. But, believe it or not, most boats are lucky to accumulate 100 hours or so a year on their engines. Speaking in round figures, 100 hours at 20 knots is 2,000 NM. Now honestly, friends, how many of us travel over 2,000 miles a season? Save for nuclear missiles and snowmobiles in Florida, pleasureboats are probably the least-used vehicles on the face of the earth. Most of us never approach 2,000 NM a season, and boats that are afloat all year in the South are used even less. Only a small segment of the pleasureboating population puts in big hours.

Palatial Interiors: $1,500 Per Year
The original Midnight Lace 44 had an 11-foot beam and returned a satisfying 2 nmpg at 20 knots (this is competitive with the oddball hull shapes such as catamarans and wavepiercers of the same size). One hundred hours at 2 nmpg at 20 knots consumes 1,000 gallons of diesel. Widen the beam by, perhaps, 40 percent, and the figure might drop to 1 nmpg at 20 knots if weight is kept in check and the hull is efficiently shaped. This equates to 2,000 gallons of diesel per season for the beamy boat. At $1.50 a gallon, this amounts to an extra $1,500 per year.

And so it comes down to this: Are the greatly expanded accommodations of the beamy boat a good trade-off for $1,500 yearly? Those of you who own boats know that in the 40- to 50-foot range, 1,500 American dollars is but a small percentage of the total operating cost per year, considering money spent on marinas, winter storage, maintenance, insurance, repairs, upgrades, etc. Hell, we all know that "boat" is merely an acronym for "Bring Out Another Thousand." While you may be cruising 100 hours or less per season, you are probably living aboard more than 1,000 hours. Is 100 hours of efficient running time worth the sacrifice in space for the other 900 hours you spend aboard? Pardon me while I reverse my coat. I sorely hate to admit it, but for most folks, I personally don't think so.

I see grace and beauty in a long, splinter of a hull, and yet there is also a certain beauty in beamy, husky hulls with "shoulders." And so please refrain from sending e-mails whining that "Fexas sold out." Live with it. We will gladly design a slick, narrow vessel for anyone who wants one. If I ever do another custom boat for myself, she will probably be narrow because I just love the way narrow hulls perform (and sliding past those blowboats is so much damn fun). If you log a lot of miles per season, you should consider a long, skinny boat because the fuel savings can be considerable. But if you use your boat like most boaters do--puttering around less than 100 hours a year--you will probably have a greater appreciation for the enhanced accommodations that a wider beam offers.

Tom Fexas is a marine engineer and designer of powerboats. His Web site is www.tomfexas.com.

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This article originally appeared in the February 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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