The Boats I’ve Loved: 20 Classic Boat Designs
by Chuck Paine
Some 60 years ago, living in New Jersey, I bought a lovely little centerboard cabin sloop that proved completely unsuited for anything more adventurous than daysailing the state’s inland waterways. My 19-footer, with its shoal-draft underbody and undrained wading pool of a cockpit, was far too unstable to survive a running sea or a heavy blow.
Had I known then of a naval architect with the imagination and skill of Chuck Paine — alas, he was 12 at the time — I would have traveled the length of the Jersey coast to find the Paine-designed cruising sloop that sails today as the prettiest, toughest 26-footer that any single-handed sailor could have wished for.
But since it’s now too late for a western New York landlubber like me to even think about owning a boat again, Chuck Paine’s stunning new book will have to stand in as the next best thing.
Paine’s subtitle is “20 Classic Sailboat Designs.” Every one of his top picks is accompanied by photos or artists’ renditions, easy-to-decipher hull cutaways and jewels of essays covering design, construction and sea-keeping qualities, even touching on what the author candidly refers to as “blemishes” — design components that fall short of expectations. In fluent and conversational fast-paced prose, Paine has pitched his book to armchair sailors as well as to seasoned mariners in search of the perfect sailing yacht.
Not all of the boats are from Paine’s own drafting board. One is a Sparkman & Stephens Blue Jay that the author and his brother built from scratch as teenagers, and another is an 80-year-old Nat Herreshoff 12 ½. Progressing in scale from that toy-like Herreshoff, the book carries readers through over 100 pages to the final entry: the 43-foot Paine-designed cutter Anasazi, a heavy-displacement, cold-molded vessel influenced by the work of John Alden.
Despite the meticulous attention Paine pays to the mechanics of architecture and construction, he makes clear that his main goal in writing the book is to encourage readers to pick up one of the many older boats of his own creation now found in brokerage ads at what he calls “stupidly low prices.”
In 1956, I bought my 19-footer used. With a 5-hp inboard auxiliary, it cost all of $1,100. The 26-footer Francis II featured in Paine’s book would have been the craft of my dreams. The sloop is a double-ender of fiberglass or cold-molded wood. Her two-berth house provides full headroom “if you’re less than 6 feet tall,” and with nearly 2 tons of ballast, she is, according to the author, one of the most stable boats “for her size that my studio ever designed.” Of his famous “blemishes,” there are none.
What Francis II would have fetched on the secondhand market more than half a century ago is hard to say with any certainty. But it would surely have been far less than the $17,000 to $21,000 Paine says his boats of similar length will bring today. Yet, though the author argues that cost in this range is not particularly excessive, he concedes that the choice for buyers remains what it has always been: either a used boat with perhaps another $50,000 invested for restoration and refit, “or a brand new boat … for more than twice the price.”
And as Paine is quick to add, “decisions, decisions.”