Tim Lackey & the Modern Knockabout (Part 1)

So how does one ever end up buying a 40 year old classic one design race boat on the East coast and decide to convert her to a modern Knockabout Sloop? Well it takes one part crazy idealistic sailor, one part exceptionally skilled boat restorer and some irresponsible emailing.

I was looking for a slightly larger version of my Bluenose Sloop so I could do a little weekending in the San Juan Islands. I planned to sail without an engine so sailing performance was a must. I had looked at various newer boats but in the end I knew I wanted an old fashioned, long skinny boat with long overhangs and a great pedigree. What I wanted was a 1900's era wooden boat but without the wood. Here is how this Shields Knockabout idea started.

Mon, 22 Jan 2007

Hi Tim,

I have very much enjoyed visiting your site and reading your contributions to various forums on the web. I have been vacillating back and forth between buying a newer boat or restoring my current Bluenose Sloop. Would you know of anyone in the Pacific Northwest who performs the type of restoration that you have done? I just keep returning the fact that I prefer the designs of older sailboats but I don't posses the skills to do a quality restoration on my own.

Anyway I appreciate any help you can pass my way.

Bill Evans
Lopez Island, WA

Mon, 22 Jan 2007

Hi Bill,

Thank you for writing. Like you, I vastly prefer the look of the old boats. I certainly understand the desire to spruce one up and make her the boat of your dreams. Newer isn't always better! But a newly refurbished old boat is something special, I think. It's these old boats that get noticed out on the water and in the marina.
Interestingly, there was just a discussion on the Plastic Classic forum, which I started and still run, about the McVay Bluenose and her smaller sisters. They are great looking boats, with terrific lines--perfect candidates for a nice restoration, in my opinion. Of course the cold, hard financials never make any sense with these old boats, but if you get a beautiful, essentially new boat within the classic, inimitable lines of an older design, I think you're ahead of the game versus buying something newer that might not stir the same emotions.

I am afraid that I don't know of anyone in your area who does what I do. But my love for the old boats and a desire to ensure their longevity and enjoyment for others, as well as myself, has led me into the business of doing these sorts of restorations full time. I don't know if it's practical from your standpoint at all, but if there were any way to bring your boat out here (granted, about as far away from you as one could make it), I would be very interested in doing the job for you. I realize the inherent impracticality in this suggestion, but I would like to throw it to the winds just in case. I do have a trailer that could be made available at some point, and would be willing to facilitate a transport in any way possible.

In any event, I would be happy to talk about this in more detail with you, even as a hypothetical exercise, which I understand it may be given the potential logistics involved in transportation of the boat--or even the desire to undertake said transport. However, I believe that my particular business is somewhat unique in that I work alone, and therefore on a limited number of boats, and thus can provide those extra touches and attention to detail that can be lost sometimes in larger yards where faceless people may be working on the boat without feeling a real attachment or dedication to the project.

Thanks again, and I will be happy to help in any way I can, even if it's just general advice.


Wed, 24 Jan 2007

Hi Tim,

Wow, you are going to be trouble :). I bought my Bluenose from someone in Florida and drove across the county and back to get her so I don't think I am quite willing to repeat that exercise. Also the finances of either paying for the hauling or doing it myself just adds craziness to the whole idea of fixing up an old boat. But... What I really want is a slightly larger and faster version of my old boat. One that is big enough for overnight camping and weekending in. But I sail without an engine so performance is paramount. Most cruiser and even most day sailors need their iron genny. Most of the boats I like that sort of fit my criteria are wood (back in the days when the auxiliary engine was truly an auxiliary) but I don't want the hassles of a wooden boat. So I have tossed around a lot of ideas. One of those ideas is to modify an older design race boat to include a reasonable cuddy cabin that could allow for overnighting. Unfortunately not many (ok read none) of these type of race boats exist in fiberglass and certainly not on the west coast. But... Some do exist on your coast. So how crazy do you think it would be to modify, say, an Atlantic Class One Design race boat to add a small cabin? Sort of the opposite to what you did with your Triton day sailor project.

Perhaps you have stopped reading and are dialing 911 to get me the help I need. But my thoughts are that the Atlantic class boat has a racing crew weight of 1260 pounds and looks to have nice performance for sailing without and engine. Not to mention that I could sit and look at it for days at a time. So, could a small cabin and interior be added with 500 or 600 pounds leaving enough space and weight for a couple to go sailing and some overnight camping?

My craziness has been tried a time or two (unsuccessfully) before. Columbia created a fiberglass version of the 5.5 meter race boat thinking the class would adapt the new material. When they declined Columbia was stuck with the molds and tried to market a cruising version called the Columbia Sabre.

Unfortunately I think they made one of the ugliest coach roofs I have seen. My idea of an appropriate cabin is closer to S&S's Dark Harbor 20.

Or the Quincy Adam 17.

And I am including this six metre just because.

Bruce King then moved on to Ericson and continued the trend with the Ericson Scorpion.

Better, but still misses the mark in my view. I actually sailed one of these and it was a bit of a dog. I think they became too heavy and lost their racing feel. This is just conjecture on my part since I have never sailed on a 5.5 meter race boat. But if they sailed anything like the Ericson I would have been looking for a new class. But I will say that there is more than enough room in this boat for my limited cruising. Here are the specs for these boats and my Bluenose.

So what do you think? There have been older fiberglass Atlantics for sale in the past in your neighborhood. Is this too crazy? Should we talk more? Also, do you have any other ideas that might meet my needs for a classic, beautiful, fiberglass and fast sailboat in the 30 foot range.

Anyway let me know what you think. And thanks for getting back to me.

Cheers, Bill
ps.. Another boat that I quite like is the Knarr class boat. It is very race oriented and not quite as gorgeous as the Atlantic. It is a grown up Folkboat with limited accommodations. Here are some pics of its interior. I would be happy with this much of an interior. Bill

Wed, 24 Jan 2007

Hi Bill,

Me? Trouble? Consider it enthusiastic encouragement from a fellow of like mind, that's all. To me, there's so little that is truly logical or practical about pleasure boats that the only thing that makes any sense is to do exactly what you want to get the boat you want. Now, of course lots of folks have done this, but they frequently lack the aesthetic sense to maintain a boat's looks despite the modifications, which has led to some horrible ugly ducklings out there.

You have excellent taste in boats, I must say. There's not one in the bunch that you have mentioned that isn't beautiful, even if some of the details are lacking (like a few of the cabin trunk designs, as you also noted). I love the long, low, narrow designs like these. Since you clearly have determined that a long, narrow design like this would offer you accommodations that you feel are suitable for your needs, then I see no reason not to consider modifying one. Obviously, the accommodations would be fairly minimal, but if all you're looking for is a space out of the weather where you can lie down, then it's likely possible to make it happen without needing to create an ungainly superstructure.

Of course the practical dimensional information for the chosen boat would be required in order to determine what sort of room was available. To me, this means getting aboard one; I can always tell a lot more from the real thing than from any sort of design or concept on paper.

The Atlantic class is a beautiful design that I like very much. Interestingly, there's a good-size fleet of Atlantics in Blue Hill, ME, not far from here. I took the picture below during a cruise there in 2005:

And I also attached a closer view of one of these Atlantics.

No one ever called boats like Dark Harbors or Atlantics roomy, but there's probably enough potential space to get what you need. Obviously, you won't get standing headroom, and even sitting headroom might be a stretch. I've not been aboard an Atlantic personally, so I can only judge by the outward appearance and drawings. The overall space and size is quite similar to an Etchells or Shields, both of which I have been aboard; these boats seem like they might offer enough room for the simplest of accommodations, so I expect the Atlantic would also. It would require compromise on the interior in order to keep the cabin trunk to a minimum, along the lines of the Dark Harbor or others.

Building a boat like you propose would be a very interesting and fun challenge. The need to keep weight to a minimum, lest you ruin the performance of the boat, would necessitate more modern materials be used for the new structures--stuff like foam core bulkheads and supports. Given the crew weight capacity, I think you could, with great care, manage to build the new cabin with about half of the allotment. It would be a very different situation than I faced when I built the Triton daysailor, a boat that I knew could handle the weight of a more traditional wooden deck framing.

Since the Atlantic class is designed without an engine as a class boat, I expect that it sails nicely. Judicious application of weight in a new interior probably would be fine. There's no question that the new interior would need to be lightweight, though. It would take well to a nicely-designed and sleek cabin trunk.

In any event, the idea sounds interesting to me, and certainly is possible within the constraints of the chosen design. The practical aspects of interior volume on some of these candidates might pose somewhat of a problem--which is how boats like the Columbia Sabre and Ericson Scorpion ended up with those tall, ugly cabin trunks--but it's probably workable as long as you are willing to compromise one for the other.

Thanks for the note, and for all the great boat pictures. I hope we'll talk again soon. Now I want to go buy an Atlantic! (I won't, though.)