Reborn as a Motorsailor

Ken Sawyer is obsessed. He loves boats. He loves to sail them; he loves to take people sailing on them. And he especially loves to have Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding in Thomaston, Maine, build them. In the past few years, LM has built three boats for Sawyer, and at least two others are in the offing in the coming year – perhaps more, if he can convince other likeminded sailors to buy some of them. (Sawyer has even had LM craftsmen remodel his homes, one on Kiawah Island, S.C., and the other in Cushing, Maine, in nautical style.)


One Iron is an unusual project. It began life as a production boat, a standard Tashiba 40, originally designed by Bob Perry of Seattle. But after Sawyer found it, he had a vision of its being reborn as a double-ended motorsailer. At LM’s Maine yard, it was carved up and redrawn, again by Perry, to suit Sawyer’s specifications. It’s now, many months of work later, a pilothouse motorsailer. Unlike most motorsailers, it’s sleek, handsome and even relatively fast, especially considering its full keel and displacement of 36,000 pounds.

“The new boat is the ultimate evolution of the three prototypes I’ve built and sailed since 1982,” Sawyer said during a recent sail in Charleston, S.C., where he keeps the vessel, moored alongside his other LM, the 52-foot cutter Fairweather. (See Extending the Line Issue 144 March/April 2005.) “When I first brought Lyman-Morse this boat, they said, €˜We don’t want to do this. You’re throwing your money away.’ But it was a dream of mine, so I said, €˜Let’s do it!'”

The interior was gutted and the stern cut off, stretched and brought back to life with a canoe shape that is a joy in following seas and pleasing on the eyes.

“This is a boat you can take anywhere. You have access to both ends of the sailing spectrum – lights winds or heavy weather,” Sawyer said. “The extraordinary eye-level visibility dynamics from both inside and outside steering stations, sitting or standing, provide safe and secure short-handed capability.”

Image Credit: John Snyder

What Sawyer described was true. The large, wraparound Lexan windows offer near perfect 360° visibility, whether sitting or standing in the cockpit, standing or sitting in the inside nav station/cockpit, working in the galley or sitting in the airy deck-level saloon. The custom LM-built traveler has a low profile, so the helmsman’s view over the pilothouse is unobstructed. We tacked and gybed through the busy harbor on a glorious spring day without ever feeling we were in danger of colliding with other boats that may have been hiding in blind spots.

“The fin keel and balanced rudder allow for smart steering under power and real performance under sail,” Sawyer added as we cruised along the Battery in a gusty westerly breeze. The vessel can cruise at 8 knots under power burning a gallon and a half per hour and has tankage for a 1,100-nm range. The hydraulic steering is a nice touch and, despite lacking the playful kick of a standard cable-and-sheave system, makes for effortless sailing.

One Iron’s nav station includes a Raymarine electronic chart package, replete with a repeater in the cockpit. Down below, the boat is trimmed in typical LM fashion: simple yet elegant joinery surrounds the raised seating area. The white paint and large windows give the interior a bright feel. One steps down into the galley so the cook’s height does not interfere with the helmsman, and so the cook – especially in single-handing situations – has an unlimited view of the horizon. “I wanted this boat to be comfortable for anyone regardless of height, whether five-foot-three or six-foot-three,” Sawyer said. “Plus, because of the wraparound views, when I’m down below I can count the legs on deck to be sure everyone is still safely aboard.”

The forward cabins, with their glowing cherry finish, are cozy and luxurious.

Sawyer is building a turbo version of One Iron at LM this fall. At 45 feet, the vessel, which was also designed by Perry, will feature a fin keel, light-displacement hull and a carbon-fiber rig. “I can’t wait,” Sawyer said with a grin.  

By Ocean Navigator