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The Best Boat for Sailing the Northeast

By Gregor Tarjan

Lily catboatConsider yourself a lucky sailor if you live near the shores of the Northeast. The coastal areas from New York to Maine are considered by many to be among the most varied and beautiful. History, nature and superb anchorages are there for our enjoyment. The big question is: What is the ideal boat for us Northeasteners?

LILY, a 14-foot catboat

Ideally, you would want a great looking boat that could be singlehanded easily, with comfortable accommodations and commendable performance. There are several choices – and I reckon I’ve owned them all.

Let’s start with my current boat, which is a 100-year-old design; a 14-foot Arey’s Pond catboat. Admittedly, she does not have comfortable accommodations (you can always pitch a tent) and she doesn’t like to go upwind in a breeze. But her brilliant simplicity and class, ability to actually be enjoyed in 8 inches of water, and the sparkle of her varnished wooden gaff rig make up for breaking the search criteria. As of this writing, I’ve accepted an offer on LILY and she will soon go to another proud New England owner.

FLO OUtremer catamaranMy first big boat was FLO. My family cruised on her for many years, exploring the waters from New York City to Nantucket. Although a racy, 43-foot French-built catamaran, she only drew 18 inches with daggerboards up…and her accommodations were palatial compared to my catboat. This sweet rocket was beautifully built and a true sports car, raw. Her high average speeds, often hitting 18 knots, opened up cruising grounds that would have been too far.

FLO, a 43-foot Outremer catamaran

I fondly remember one of the many Around Long Island Races with my brother and friends, often sailing twice the speed of heeling monohulls and later waking up to an Atlantic deep blue off Montauk. On short night sails up the coast, the family went to bed around 10 pm and enjoyed the sunrise docked at Mystic Seaport.

Then there was my 23-foot Tremolino – a brilliant Dick Newick trimaran – designed like a bird around Hobie 18 catamaran hulls. If you like tight spaces, you’d have loved the coffin-like accommodations. Several articles appeared about our circumnavigation of Long Island. On that occasion, we transited Hell Gate into the East River, camped out in the Great South Bay and slipped through the Shinnecock Inlet to Shelter Island.

The Tremolino was swift, and we would often take her out in the middle of winter, tearing around Port Jefferson Harbor. Gear would self-destruct, not to our surprise. The boat was later purchased by a young couple on the East End of Long Island. I hope they still have her.

AERO Farrier TrimaranAERO, a 31-foot Farrier semi-custom trimaran, was my next boat. An oceangoing weekender, she was the best boat for Block Island and even had space for my folding mountain bike. She could be folded like origami for overland shipping, transforming into an insect-like structure. Unfolded on the water, she metamorphosed into the most beautiful creature.

AERO, our 31-foot Farrier trimaran sailing machine

There was no boat in sight that could outrun her and we often averaged 14 knots, topping out at a scary and wet 20. Her accommodations were decent and there even was some privacy from our two kids in the spacious aft cabin. Initially I thought to trailer AERO to distant cruising grounds such as the Great Lakes or Nova Scotia, but once I realized how cool Northeast sailing is I decided not to bother. AERO took us through Block Island Sound to Cape Cod and beyond. What a perfect boat she was!

AERO2 ElliottAnd then there was AERO2, the very rare 25-foot Elliott 770 lifting keel monohull we owned several years ago. She was one of only 14 in the country. I wish the lifting keel worked better. I’m not a multihull-only freak, having owned many smaller monohulls from a Flying Dutchman and racing for years on my Star Class boats before being on the build team of the Stars & Stripes America’s Cup yacht.

AERO2, an Elliott 770 light air glider

We owned the Elliott 770 for only two years, as she proved extremely tender without a crew of five. In an 18-knot breeze, she would sail on her flanks while I pondered the legality of water ballast for local yacht club races. Instead, I modified the interior with carbon bulkheads and teak floors. In 7 knots of wind, solo sailing with a giant red asymmetric spinnaker, she was the most fun sailboat I have owned. Period. She fed on her own apparent wind and was often the only sailboat not motoring when during the dog days of summer on Long Island Sound. For cruising around Stratford Shoal with friends, AERO2 was a great choice.

So, back to the present. I have sold LILY and am effectively boatless. The big question is, what’s next? I needed to ask, “How and where, and in which prevailing weather conditions will I use the boat?” We all know that summer weather in the Northeast changes rapidly, varying from dead calms to sudden 50-knot microbursts. Long Islanders call them thunderstorms! So, one really needs a boat that sails well in only 7 knots of wind but can handle a gale. Isn’t that a true measure of a great boat? As Dick Newick, luminary yacht designer and my lecturer, often reminded us, “Even a barn door can sail in 15 knots of wind.” The next boat should have no bucket for a head, but must have shallow draft…a boat that can cross oceans, win regattas on Long Island Sound, or just give you a big smile on a 2-hour daysail. I was thinking of a classic 23-foot Rob Roy canoe yawl, but ditched the idea for something better.

Let’s face it, Northeasterners are the world’s busiest people. We don’t have much time for sailing, so if we find a precious few free moments with family and friends, we want to have fun for these short periods at the helm.

A 40-foot catamaran seems ideal, if expensive. The choices are very limited and the market is mostly full of catamarans that are too heavy for my liking, less than flattering to look at, and not inspiring to sail. In fact, I was hoping to own one of my own sleeker designed Alpha 42 cruising catamarans, of which five were recently built in New York, but somehow that did not work out.

The next boat should have carbon wheels that point her towards Newport and provide plenty of enjoyment getting there, a luxurious, well-built space to chill out afterwards, and the ability to sail through the night on autopilot, supported by reliable yet sophisticated navionics to take her safely to the Bahamas. I was also looking for a boat that my wife or 18-year-old son can singlehand, looks purposeful just sitting at anchor, but can also sail at 18 knots safely and very comfortably. Is this a fantasy? The boat should also hold 18 people for parties, provide full outdoor protection even in a sudden downpour, and offer the option of retreating to a pre-chilled air-conditioned interior on stifling days. Impossible? Well, I think I have found this next boat:

Bavaria NautitechA Bavaria Nautitech 40 Open catamaran. She seems to check all the right marks, and the nautical press agrees. She was the only boat to have ever won in the same calendar year both 2016 Cruising World Boat of the Year Award as well as SAIL Magazine’s 2016 Best Boats.

FLO2, a Bavaria Nautitech 40 Open. Our present boat, an ocean going catamaran

Friends in the UK recently posted a video on YouTube showing the 40 Open sailing at 19 knots. However, the boat does not lack creature comforts. She is a fast, seaworthy GT for the oceans, yet boasts German-made luxurious accommodations.

Later this year, our family will pick up our new 40 Open in the Bay of Biscay and do some exploring of small seaside towns. On our return we will cross the Atlantic via the Azores to Port Jefferson, NY. My company Aeroyacht will introduce the boat by offering sailing clinics, demos and charters. In the fall, we will premiere the 40 Open at the Newport International Boat Show and the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, after which she will charter in St. Martin. Reflecting on the diverse range of our dreamboats, isn’t the ideal choice – your present vision of the perfect vessel and whichever gets you out on the water to enjoy our coast – any boat, even if it’s only a 14-foot catboat?

Gregor Tarjan is a yacht designer and founder of Aeroyacht Ltd., a Long Island, NY-based catamaran dealership. He is the author of CATAMARANS: The Complete Guide for Cruising Sailors and CATAMARANS: Tomorrow’s Superyachts. Visit Aeroyacht.com to learn more.


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