Saturday, October 6, 2012
Bayfield 29 -- An early review
I've had a few weeks with the new boat (Bayfield 29, la Princesa...until I change the name in a few weeks), and I'm getting a good feel for her.
Firstly, I don't have any buyers remorse. At least not yet. I'm rather pleased with the design in general.
She sails remarkably well in light air. Not race boat fast; but certainly a lot better than I expected from a full keel, rather full body cutter. Under the asymmetrical spinnaker she would do three knots in around six knots indicated wind (masthead anemometer), and if I was willing to settle for two knots of speed (and I often am), I could probably keep her moving at that pace on most points of sail under working canvas in any but the lightest wind (perhaps I'm overstating the case; but given my experience so far I don't think by much).
She is perfectly happy in heavyish weather provided she gets a reef in the main by around 20 knots wind or so. I've had her in the high twenties pushing thirty (apparent, indicated) under one reef and both head-sails (I'm not sure if they are the original sizes or not) and there was a fair amount of weather helm; but it wasn't unmanageable or uncomfortable, although a second reef probably wouldn't have been a bad idea. I haven't explored the full range of capability yet (I JUST bought the boat); but I'm willing to bet that with the second (fairly deep) reef, 40 knots of wind will be somewhat anti-climatic (although the wave action that goes along with 40 knots might not be pleasant...I'm not rushing to find out). I find her quite stiff (a benefit of that rotund body, I suspect), dry, and comfortable throughout the twenties with probably three to four foot Chesapeake waves.
No trouble handling under power in forward. She will turn within her own length to port (edit: I THINK to port...My recollection is suddenly challenging that direction). In reverse I now understand all the full keel complaints. I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually; but I haven't yet. I back into my slip; but I am using warping lines more than engine power at the moment. It's a bit more work; but even single handed in a cross breeze I know I can get the boat in that way. I have watched some maestros under power, though, and I know it can be done with some more experience.
Cockpit and Deck:
The cockpit is deeper than I would like. It feels quite secure; but I need a huge cushion to sit high enough for good visibility (and I'm not a tiny man!). The seat coamings are practically vertical, the seat bottoms are too narrow, and the foot well area is so wide it is difficult to brace against the opposite seat. Happily, with the cushion I'm high enough I can see, and the boat is stiff enough that bracing isn't as big a deal as it could be. But if each of the seats was a few inches wider, and the foot well was 6-8 inches narrower, and the back rest was angled a bit, the cockpit would be much more comfortable. Also I find it a little tricky to have one person at the tiller while another is tending the sheets as they both want to occupy the same space. This can be worked around, and with experimentation I am figuring it out; but some more thought here wouldn't have been out of place. The cockpit also seems designed to hold a tremendous amount of water, with only two average size (1.5" maybe? Less?) drains to let it all out. Hopefully if I'm ever out in conditions likely to flood the cockpit the cabin hatches are in, and the engine room hatch gasketing is more robust than it looks. Before serious contemplation of an offshore trip I'd have to think long and hard about putting in more cockpit drainage. As deep as the cockpit is, boat handling would be a challenge with more than a couple people in it.
While we are in the cockpit, I'd also like to say that I am not a big fan of having halyards run aft. Running the two head-sail halyards aft is pointless because I have roller furling (which is pretty nice, by the way). And the mains'l halyard is almost as pointless as the main seems to often get hung up on the lazyjacks going both up and down, which requires going to the mast to guide things along. While this is probably correctable either through a reconfiguration of the lazyjacks, or a change in technique on my part, what is not easily correctable is the reefing lines which are at the base of the boom. There is little point in trying to rig them to the cockpit as it is still necessary to be at the mast to get the reefing hook into the tack (although I suppose I could try and rig single line reefing...I'll think about it). The outhaul and topping lift are also controlled at the mast. What the heck, they might as well have left the main halyard there too! I'll think about it for the next year or so, I guess, and see if it bugs me enough to make changes. This is one of those things where the current setup appears ideal for the single hander, but I find it quite the opposite. It's also a shame the boom wasn't a few inches higher as this is a headache waiting to happen (a foot higher might permit standing headroom under the dodger and bimini)!
One other gripe, although this seems to also be common across most modern designs, is that one of the shroud chainplates on either side goes through the deck. The inner shrouds are attached to the house sides, and with that near vertical orientation they don't seem to leak. The outer shrouds, though, poke a hole through the damn deck. Why? This is certainly NOT a racing boat, so a couple extra inches of sheeting angle won't matter, especially since neither head sail extends aft of the mast. If Bayfield would have just moved the chainplates to the hull side I'm willing to bet that any water leakage, even with old caulking, would be minimal. As it is I'm going to need to caulk them up when I do my winter refit. The standing rigging will need to be replaced at some point, and I may consider moving those chain plates out at that time. I need to do research first, though, as there are likely to be unintended consequences.
The good news is the side decks are reasonably wide, the life lines are high enough to be safe, the foredeck feels secure, and the motion of the boat is quite comfortable.
Moving on to the interior we have what is, in many ways, a brilliant layout. By eliminating the v-berth (which typically in small boats becomes a catch all junk room) we not only get rid of the least comfortable berth aboard, we suddenly have room for a remarkably spacious head for a small boat. It is quite comfortable. Forward of the head is a hanging/storage locker, and further forward a huge anchor locker. There is even a funny little cushioned seat in the head, which I haven't been able to find a point to; but it looks pretty cool even if I'm unlikely to ever sit on it. With the head further forward, we open up the main cabin. There is a centerline table with fold up leafs. On the starboard side is a berth that pulls out into a double, with a regular settee on the port side. Aft further is a half bulkhead that separates the galley (starboard) and chart table (decently sized to port). Partitions slide up from the half bulkhead to really separate the main cabin from what I'm calling the "working" (galley/navigation) cabin if the need for privacy and separation would arise (for instance, on a passage with sleeping crew). Aft of both the galley and chart table are a pair of quarter berths, port (a little too short) and starboard (plenty long). Four opening portlights plus the hatch in the head allow for decent ventilation. I'm 5'10" tall and I have standing headroom throughout, barely, although I have bumped my head a few times walking through the door to the head. Stowage is quite reasonable (I'm still experimenting on how best to utilize it). Water tankage is fine for a week or so (25 or 30 gallons I'm guessing); but could probably stand to be increased for any extended trips, especially considering the waste associated with a pressure water system (there is currently no system implemented for non-pressure water, although this is on my to-do list). The interior is teak, which some people like (me, for one), and others find gloomy. Build quality seems generally very decent.
Brilliant or not, I have a couple gripes about the interior as well. Well, I have one BIG gripe. Once again Ted Gozzard (or perhaps Bayfield yachts themselves) had an ergonomic brain fart. The settees, when in "couch" mode (that is, the seat backs are down), are too narrow, and it constantly feels like you are sitting on the edge of your seat. I guess this is OK for eating at the table; but not my cup of tea for just relaxing in the cabin. Raise the seat backs into bunk mode and they are as comfortable as any bunk I've personally been on. I have a few thoughts on how to make the settees more comfortable; but it will take a little experimentation. I'm going to try to avoid major surgery, or having to make new cushions ($$$); but I might not get away with that. Given that this boat will eventually be my home, though, the situation needs to be worked on a bit, and it deserves to have a few dollars thrown at it.
Ice melts fast in the ice-box. I think I'll probably turn it into dry storage and pick up an Engle or something (I'll snug it down into the starboard quarter berth or something, I guess).
The engine is a Yanmar 2GM, is about thirteen horsepower (although I can not get it up to max continuous RPM of 3400, meaning I'm not getting all the ponies), and seems to push the boat along just fine. When the wind and seas are calm I am just about getting to hull speed at maybe 2800 RPM (indicated). When the wind and waves are well up, I've been held back to as little as four knots over the ground (the knotmeter is not giving realistic numbers, so I'm defaulting to GPS...it should be correct within a quarter to maybe half knot or so, I think) at my max achievable RPM of three thousand. A few extra horsepower when the wind is blowing would not be unwelcome; but I think I'm getting an adequate amount. I think twenty horse power would have been a better choice; but not nearly better enough to consider spending the money to repower. I haven't figured out fuel consumption, yet; but it is modest. The standard alternator is 35 amps. Given the horsepower, I'm not sure if it is reasonable to go much bigger which might put a practical limit on battery capacity.
Engine access is terrific, both through a hatch in the cockpit (although I wonder what would happen if the cockpit got flooded) and by removing the companionway steps, through the cabin. My only complaint is that the oil dipstick is in an awkward location which discourages checking it daily; but that is part of the discipline. I had a cooling problem a few days ago, so I pulled the water pump off to check the impeller and replace the belts. It was easy. I haven't done any other maintenance on it yet; but outside of changing the oil (I think the old oil is sucked up through the dipstick port with a pump), most everything looks pretty easy to handle. Since there isn't an hour meter on the motor and I don't know when any scheduled preventative maintenance was last done, I'm planning on doing pretty much everything on the scheduled maintenance list to effectively reset the clock to zero before hauling in a few weeks for the winter. I may put in an hour meter at some point to help keep track, too.
I have a pair of Group 24 deep cycle batteries, in two banks. I'd like to at least double my amp capacity. It is not immediately obvious the best way to shoe-horn in more batteries, although I have a couple ideas. A tape measure will be my best friend for awhile. Given the smallish alternator, solar charging will be a good idea.
Air-conditioning! It is probably twenty years old and blows cool, but not cold air. I'm going to see if I can fix this up. As a soon to be live-aboard I believe I will replace this unit if I can't get it working better (might just need a charge, or perhaps a good cleaning). It does get hot here in the Chesapeake!
Propane on demand hot water heater. It works, and generates scalding hot water. But it seems to take awhile to get going, and the water tanks are small enough that running the faucet while waiting for the hot water to show up seems like a terrible waste of fresh water. Taking a hot shower on a cool morning is pretty damn awesome, though! (Although there are pitfalls to showering aboard). I need to redo the propane lines (it's a trust issue), so I may decide to get rid of the water heater. It will be kind of odd having a hot water faucet on each of the sinks without any hot water; but such is life. I can use my portable pump up sprayer for showers (it works well) by either solar heating the container or just boiling a pot of water.
Deck wash-down pump. The water around here is muddy. It's very cool to be able to spray off the chain and deck after raising anchor. Very cool.
Propane stove. I guess the Bayfields came with Origo alcohol stoves; but my 29 has a Kenyon two burner propane job. I'm not a big foodie and I tend to cook simple meals, so this isn't that big a deal to me. Gas is nice, though. Unfortunately, the stove is not gimballed (and it doesn't have an oven, although that is of limited interest to me), and there is no easy way to install a permanent gimballed stove without doing major galley surgery and probably sacrificing the starboard quarter berth (which isn't likely to get used much; but it might be important if it comes time to sell the boat down the road). I have a thought on how to inexpensively build a portable/removable gimballed stove sort of like the old Sea Cook stove, so when the time comes I'm sure I'll be OK. There is currently a six pound propane tank hanging off the stern pulpit. Before doing any long distance cruising it might make sense to get another.
While I have a few gripes, I find the boat meets my needs about as well, better really, as could be expected. There are always compromises; but in a sub-thirty foot live-aboard (take away the pulpit, it is probably closer to 27') I don't think I could ask for much more. I don't know if many Bayfield 29s are out doing ocean crossings; but while the design might not be the best choice for a trip around the Horn, I don't see any reason why she shouldn't be perfectly capable and comfortable for seasonally appropriate passages providing some modest updating is done; although my experience in the matter is a bit limited.
She makes me smile when I look at her, and even though she looks a little tired at the moment, she gets a lot of compliments. She is thirty years old, and as is reasonably expected, her systems and cosmetics need some attention. Getting old sucks; but I don't see any reason why “la Princesa” (I'm looking forward to the new name) can not be restored to full glory with a modest amount of elbow grease.