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S&S Swan General - What is a safe ocean going yacht?
30 May 2014 - 15:02
#1
Join Date: 01 February 2007
Posts: 234

What is a safe ocean going yacht?
During 2008 I crossed the Atlantic on a French built 47.7M yacht.
The yacht was less than 4 years old; the vang ripped out of the mast, it was attached with a small plate and 4 rivets to the mast. One day when things were bit rolly I lost my footing and fell across the saloon hitting the door to the heads with my shoulder. I pushed the door through the frame locking one of the crew inside the heads for an hour whilst we worked got him out. The hull flexed a bit allowing the door to pass through the frame.

Whilst are yachts are old and we have many maintenance challenges, the design and standard of engineering is a level ahead of many of the newer yachts seen crossing the oceans. RCD and Stability Cats are clearly not the solution. Whilst I would not want to see any prescriptive legislation, are their any better solutions?

30 May 2014 - 19:01
#2
Join Date: 02 February 2007
Posts: 126

During 2008 I crossed the Atlantic on a French built 47.7M yacht. The yacht was less than 4 years old; the vang ripped out of the mast, it was attached with a small plate and 4 rivets to the mast. One day when things were bit rolly I lost my footing and fell across the saloon hitting the door to the heads with my shoulder. I pushed the door through the frame locking one of the crew inside the heads for an hour whilst we worked got him out. The hull flexed a bit allowing the door to pass through the frame. Whilst are yachts are old and we have many maintenance challenges, the design and standard of engineering is a level ahead of many of the newer yachts seen crossing the oceans. RCD and Stability Cats are clearly not the solution. Whilst I would not want to see any prescriptive legislation, are their any better solutions?

That's a good question. There has been enormous pressure on boatbuilders to build to a price. While the S&S Swans may have had some issues along the way, the build quality and engineering is very special, and that combined with the medium displacement designs, makes for very good sea boats with big safety reserves. We had a recent experience delivering Tigris to Split from Italy this April where after a long period of calm, we were exposed to a Bora and all the loadings go up while you work on reducing sail.

That said, maybe there should be stricter regulations on key items like keel attachment and rudder strength as these things are hard for an owner to check and yet terminal if they break.  Gavin

31 May 2014 - 10:49
#3
Join Date: 01 February 2007
Posts: 234

Gavin, we have much better materials than in the 70s, we have better understanding of the design issues and the tools to checkout designs. We have better tools to manufacture craft.
Recently in one of the yachting magazines one of the experts stated that is was now possible to make ocean passages safely in almost any of the mass produced craft. When you look at many of the rallies you see craft that are clearly not designed or built for ocean passages but for sailing around the cans inshore. I was recently talking to Berthons, they seem to be promoting the idea that people now no longer want our type of craft for ocean passages. Are the expectations of the general public unrealistic, do they have the knowledge to make sensible decisions? Are the public being sold a story by the manufactures and brokers?

02 June 2014 - 07:32
#4
Join Date: 03 March 2007
Posts: 241

Hi John,

A very good question but I would phrase it differently. What does not make a good offshore cruising boat. Note: I said cruising as there are different criteria for an offshore racer.

Ok to my criteria. I have 10 but I am sure others can add.

1) Rudder with a skeg. Why? In our last crossing we saw so many boats that lost their rudders it was amazing.. All of them had non skeg rudders and had encountered fish nets or were of poor construction ... i.e. good coastal cruisers but not heavy spec.

2) Keel: mounted over a large area of the hull.. Here I am thinking of a number of high profile examples of dagger like keels being lost due to keel bolt problems. Bulb keels are great for collecting ......nets..

3) Rig: Simple.. The more swages turnbuckles etc you have the more places where things can go wrong.

4) Good hand holds inside... You already mentioned this. Some of the modern boats lack these and with their beam... it can be a long fall.

5) good pointing ability. Down wind ability is great fun but getting off a lee shore requires the ability to point. OK this is only a worry if you engine is not capable. or is it?

6) Simple systems. I am primarily thinking electronics..but things like boom and mast furling also come to mind. Salt water and electrical systems have issues.. we seem to be morphing into linked electronics.. nice high tech but I worry that SW damage to one of the units has the potential to put the whole system out..All our systems are independent.stand alone units. These are also cheaper and easier to update a single unit when it becomes outdated.

7) High end boat. You get what you pay for ..or at least we like to believe we do. We are seeing the market flooded by boats that are spacious and low priced which are attracting the coastal cruisers. Many owners successfully take them offshore and the builders claim they are offshore boats.. Problem is they are built to a budget and maybe the builder skimps a bit in areas not usually critical for coastal work to reduce the costs. Boats should be over built rather than under built.

8) Righting ability.... design of course!!

9) Well protected cockpit.. There is something about those open transoms offshore which worry me. I know of one boat where the crew would not go behind the wheel out of fear of falling out..


10) And probably the most important. A skipper who knows the limits of their boat and does not exceed them. One can push hard when sailing close to the coast.. things break motor in.. Offshore it is a different story, better to gear down and protect the boat and crew. We have seen some amazing trips in boats I think many of us would think twice about leaving the dock with.. the skippers do not push these boats but rather take it easy and take what comes.. They really do have a different philosophy. Rowing across the Atlantic... NUTS!!! more power to them!!

Saying all of this.. one is reducing the odds... e.g. you can be driving the safest car on the road and still get squashed by a tractor trailer.


Racers are a different story ... this is life at the edge and people accept this and are paid with this in mind.


My one and a half cents worth.

Mike

Storm Svale





02 June 2014 - 08:13
#5
Join Date: 05 August 2010
Posts: 162

Well put, Mike!

I would like to add one (or maybe just extend the "design" criterion: The overall shape of the underwater hull when it comes to beating into wind and waves. My experience with the modern, Beneteau-type U-shaped cross-sections is that they lift their foreships out of the water with the first wave, only to slam their flat bottoms right onto the next one. The double result is (a) an incredible noise under deck that makes you fear (even if unfoundedly) your boat is slammed into pieces and (b) a crew that is in a severe state of lacking sleep and rest after a comparatively short time. And what use is the boat once there is no fit crew to sail it?

Needless to say, the S&S Swans have different shapes with their deep bows, can take the waves smoothly and let their crew rest ... even when the going gets tough.
Fair winds,
Martin (Age of Swan)

Flying Swan ...

02 June 2014 - 10:51
#6
Join Date: 01 February 2007
Posts: 234

Guys. Some of my thoughts.
1. Long distance cruising yachts should have enough displacement to be able to have weight put in them with little effect. 1.5 tons of equipment makes little difference to handling on my 411.
2. Keel stepped mast.
3. A tube is inherently stronger. See the tumblehome on our yachts.
4. Longish keel for improved directional stability.
5. Skeg mounted rudder.
6. Lowish free board, for control in bad seas.
7. Smallish deep cockpit with large hood for protection from wind and breaking seas.
8. Cutter rigged for flexibility and ease of handling.
9. A powerful rig and enough weight to drive through seas, creates a kindly motion.
10. Engine and tanks, central and low.

02 June 2014 - 11:11
#7
Join Date: 02 January 2008
Posts: 1547

Dear John & al
Thank you for bringing up these important aspects.

In reference to safety and strength, since 1998 all new yachts have to meet the Recreational Craft Directive requirements. Yachts have to fit into one of four categories from Sheltered Waters to Ocean Crossing, and it needs to be pointed out here that not all, but only the highest Category A is deemed suitable for ocean voyaging.

Before the RCD these things were not compulsory, but many serious builders used the available knowledge, for example within design offices and classification societies, to ensure proper strength, and this gives these yachts a very long life.

Today clearly fashion and comfort in harbour are the main driving forces behind the solutions on board, and many of them are outright unsuitable for offshore conditions. It is suggested that you compare the features seen on new yachts with the items in Rod Stephen's famous check lists, or the book "Desirable and Undesirable Characteristics of Offshore Yachts", published by the Technical Committee of the Cruising Club of America.
Kind regards
Lars

02 June 2014 - 19:33
#8
Join Date: 05 August 2010
Posts: 162

Thank you, Lars!
And let me supplement the literature with two additional titles:
John Vigor, The Seaworthy Offshore Sailboat, and
C.A. Marchaj, Seaworthiness - The Forgotten Factor.

Fair winds to all,
Martin

03 June 2014 - 11:59
#9
Join Date: 02 February 2007
Posts: 202

Very interesting subject indeed.
I do indeed realy feel safe in one of our darlings, as they are definitely stronger than their crew will ever be.
But even knowing that they were racing boats when they were built, I feel a bit sorry about the influence of racing measurement rules on their design. IE the size of the foretriangle and corresponding genoas are really enormous. With age, I start wondering if I am not going to change to a cutter rig (we have been sailing our Soeur Anne for 32 years)...
Also heaving to tends to brings the boat three quarter to the wind, which is a strange position. Perhaps is it for the same reason.
By the way I also feel sorry about todays cruising boats which have to drop their anchors directly on their stem because "c'est la mode!" Racing measurement rules should not influence cruising boats design!
Kind regards to the whole family, and happy sailing.
Philippe. 41/022

03 June 2014 - 20:12
#10
Join Date: 02 January 2008
Posts: 1547

Dear Philippe
For making life easier for the crew it is suggested that you consider a smaller high aspect jib with just a little overlap, the performance will not suffer very much. The area for such a jib could be 1/3rd less, but unfortunately the jib sheet load does not drop in the same proportion, would still be about 90 % of the original. The sheet length is much reduced though.
If the mainsail is made larger by extending the foot and adding roach this helps to further unload the jib sheet.
Kind regards
Lars

04 June 2014 - 13:59
#11
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 1018

Dear John,

thanks for starting this very interesting thread and thanks to all friends who replied with interest opinions!

The more I read it and more I am happy about sailing with a Sparkman & Stephens designed Swan... and only a Sparkman & Stephens one!

I recommend Beneteau, Jeanneau, Dufur etc etc owners and sailors not to read this thread…!

Martin, would be great if you could send me a better JPG of Age of Swan, the same you posted here.

I want to be cruel: could you imagine one of the above mentioned boats taking such a wave…she would fell apart…!

Fair winds!

matteo (38/067 Only You)

25 June 2014 - 11:54
#12
Join Date: 01 July 2010
Posts: 48

Hi folks,

you‘ll all might be interested in John Kretschmer's new book "SAILING A SERIOUS OCEAN". Its about seaworthiness and ocean crossings and other things, overall a good read.

The Swan 47's S&S is featured there with a few words, but this certainly counts for all our boats:

"Flush decked, or more accurately wedge deck, the 47 is a powerfully designed and built boat. The spar section is massive, the rigging robust,and the fittings symphonies of stainless. Some cruisers may find the awkward bridge deck/cockpit arrangement off-putting, but it is all about sailing with the Swan 47. The boat is very close winded- it is an S&S design, after all- but also reaches well and really powers up under a big chute. Swans age very well because of the intelligent and solid construction. Plus there's a certain cachet that only a Swan offers, and more and more of these older classics have been converted into full-time cruising boats. Price Range: Sadly, you will still have to shell out at least $200,000 to buy an old 47 and almost $300,000 to purchase a nice one."

best regards, Michael SY VERA / 47013

25 June 2014 - 14:41
#13
Join Date: 29 January 2007
Posts: 1018

Dear Michael,

many thanks!

I have just ordered the book (it's Euro 16 at amazon) and I can't wait to get my copy!

Fair winds!

matteo (38/067 Only You)

04 August 2014 - 09:01
#14
Join Date: 03 March 2007
Posts: 241

An Update.. not a pleasant one.
I was recently in discussion with a ships engineer who was involved in the certification of yachts here in Denmark. He resigned his position because of the pressures placed on him by manufacturers and others to certify vessels which were below standard. No marks mentioned (sure we believe that) but this highlights the need to be sceptical about the certification process and quality of the new vessels out there. Political and economic pressures sometimes override safety as a well as other key areas.. environmental protection, health care.......

Ciao
Stormsvale

06 August 2014 - 21:36
#15
Join Date: 01 February 2007
Posts: 234

Philippe, I have a cutter rig set up as I sail shorthand and am getting a bit old and the joints are creaking a bit.
Heaving too with a staysail backed and mainsail sheeted hard in works very well.

John B 411 010

17 September 2014 - 03:02
#16
Join Date: 31 July 2007
Posts: 88

We have some nasty waters here in places: Queen Charlotte Sound is shallow and has large tides. The Coast Pilot says it can be rougher than the North Sea. It took me about 24 hours to sail from Rose Harbor on Moresby Island to Queen Charlotte Strait and Storm warnings were posted for Cape Scott. It was mostly a broad reach for me under very reduced sail. My boat 040-012 never pounded but creaked most of the time. I was on auto pilot all the time. Radar was set on watch. Prince Rupert traffic control wanted an update from me every two hours. There was no reported traffic. My boat did just fine - the skipper would have loved less wind and smooth seas.

17 September 2014 - 10:04
#17
Join Date: 03 March 2007
Posts: 241

Hi Peter..

Great Boat!! We love ours.

Anyway, that is a nasty chunk of water. I have sailed both the NS and Hecate. To be honest, I don't like either in a blow.. The thing with the NS is the traffic. Hecate you more or less just have you and your boat to worry about.. OK except for the logs as I recall and the big NP rollers sometimes. The NS... is a superhighway. Last trip we sailed by Rotterdam at 0100. 44 ships on our AIS...felt like a frog on a superhighway.

That creaking... is it coming from the elbows supporting the shrouds.. I had this off the Azores in a blow.. I had to do some mods to stabilise the rig as the hull and deck started to deform. Have you done the mod that many have done to stablize the rig and stop the creaking..
Fair winds

Mike

Storm Svale 40-28.

18 September 2014 - 07:30
#18
Join Date: 31 July 2007
Posts: 88

Hello Mike:
Don't give me nightmares with ship traffic! I was T-boned and sunk by a VLCC off Pt.Reyes, CA in 1990. The watch came below, woke me and said: "There is a large ship real close!". He was right. Logs are not so bad. I can't see them. A dead whale is much worse: They stink. Impossible to see when you are running and you can't smell them because they are downwind. It's only after you pass them that you offer a prayer for having just been lucky. I'm just getting into the chainplate thing. Have seen some 40s with severe bulges. Mine is very moderate. We both have no teak decks. Do you have the wood floor stringers? What did you do to absorb the rigging loads?
Pete 40-12

18 September 2014 - 15:29
#19
Join Date: 03 March 2007
Posts: 241

Hi Peter...

I hate logs... the big ones can do a lot of damage.. I heard of a fish boat that sunk near Campbell River due to one. Apparently the log got sucked down in an eddy ( massive one there we dropped into it once in a zodiac about 0.5 m hole ) during a flood tide and as the eddy weakened during the transition to slack it bobbed up into a passing fish boat breaching the hull. Even the killer whales wait for slack in there. If you are in the area ask the locals.. they have some good stories to tell about logs, Octopus, and whales just to mention a few topics.

Dead whales... stink but are softer (;-)

As for your questions. there is a thread on this from a few years back.. just search Swan 40 and you will find it. I will exit the forum to answer your questions. Stringers are wood on our lady, not sure when they switched. This is a Lars question.

Fair winds

Mike
Stormsvale..



19 September 2014 - 11:40
#20
Join Date: 02 January 2008
Posts: 1547

Dear Mike and Pete
Afraid not on record when keel floors changed from wood, feedback from owners may help.
Kind regards
Lars

24 September 2014 - 00:17
#21
Join Date: 31 July 2007
Posts: 88

Hello Martin:
Love the picture! How did you get a picture of your boat like this?
Did you hire an Albatros and give the bird a camera? Please send me a JPG ! Pretty PLEASE !
pjlange@juno.com
Thank you so much! I'll make it my screen saver!

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