The design process for us has always been an evolutionary spiral. As we get further into the project, as the pieces begin to come together, we almost always discover hidden gems that, when teased into reality, help to make a better product. The process is time consuming, occasionally drives the builder to distraction, but it’s the way we do things.
This past week in New Zealand has shown us there are ways of blending the FPB 78 capabilities to create an even better cruising machine than we had thought possible, with only small edits to our original concept.
A preamble… We are at the point in life where we want the option of having crew with us. Note: the operable word here is option. We also wanted to allocate more living space that caters to the needs of family and friends when they visit. In the past we felt the best design was one which optimized the boat for our own needs. Why sacrifice a large part of valuable volume for guests that would only be aboard for short periods of time? Since most of our clients had similar thoughts, this pattern of space utilization worked well. Our own changing view on the subject of crew and guests is what prompted the FPB 78 design in the first place and one of the things we were after was the ability for crew and/or guests to each have the ability to get away.
Which brings us to our recent awakening with the soon-to-be-launched FPB 78-1. We will start with an update on the Matrix deck. First, careful attention to weights and some unused “fudge factor” in this regard has left us with the ability to glass in the Matrix deck. Weight and VCG go up with the glass, but the ambiance, longevity, and endurance compared to the fabric-edged clearview windows is worth the performance penalty. This turns the Matrix area into interior space, which opens new furnishing/living options. The photos that follow represent a few of the arrangements we tried prior to ordering furniture. The good folks at Circa were kind enough to lend us some lovely pieces with which to experiment.
Looking aft in the photo above. In all our previous computer layouts, we had always allowed a passage between coaming and port side furniture. This is an absolute ergonomic requirement at sea. What became immediately apparent during our recent visit is that moving the port side seating outboard, as shown above, opens up the entire Matrix deck to a new interpretation. We will still move the seating far enough to starboard at sea to create our body constraining walkway, but then move it back at anchor so that the space is open.
This is looking from the starboard aft corner forward. Here we have another experiment, with the Stressless chairs outside to port. The layout won’t be final, if ever, until we’ve been cruising for a while. What we love about how the Matrix deck has turned out is the flexibility it gives us for space planning. Our present thinking is that we will end up with a couple of convertible sofas, so that the grandkids–or we–can sleep up here if so desired.
While we are on the Matrix deck here is a look at the nav station furniture carcass, prior to finishing.
Let’s move on to dinghy size, storage, and our procedures at anchor. We are used to being prepared to put to sea without delay any time we are anchored in an exposed area. We also prefer our dinghies out of the water when not in use and at night, both to reduce the chance of loss and to minimize maintenance. We are accustomed to bringing them on deck, and have worked to make this as simple as possible. A few months ago we started looking at a different approach. What if we used traditional davits to raise the dinghies leaving them outboard at anchor? This reduced risks, was dead simple to operate, and would keep the aft deck clear for other uses. We would still use the booms for hoisting on and off deck for going to sea, but once in a cruising region, the dinghies could stay on their davits with the aft deck clear. This eventually lead to what you see below.
A pair of davits on each side, and a clear aft deck. Add a permanent awning extension to the Matrix deck overhang and suddenly we have space at anchor for a table and chairs. Dining al fresco, with the BBQ and its work surface nearby, becomes the operative mode any time the weather is pleasant.
The dinghies are sufficiently clear of sea level so that in all but the worst conditions they could, if the need arose, be carried outboard underway. Gone are the days of risking ourselves to recover a dinghy too long left afloat, onto the deck, in what has become a dangerous anchorage. If needed, simply hoist them onto their davits and put to sea.
Another aspect of the davit evolution is the ability to store the port side dink on top of the inboard rotated davit, thereby freeing the deck space below.
This is the best of all worlds. We have a 16-foot relatively seaworthy RIB, ideal for exploring and emergency use in lieu of a life raft, and a 14’ rowing dink, both stored inboard at sea, with a totally clear aft deck at anchor.
The open aft deck, and the more versatile Matrix deck, totally change the way we now look at our FPB 78. We have three distinct living zones. The great room for food prep, and as a theater with the large TV, the aft deck for dining and lounging outside, and a Matrix deck that will serve at anchor as the preferred hang out space. When the grandchildren are with us it will be their dorm, leaving the three staterooms to the elders.
The surprise on the lower (accommodation) deck has been the evolution of the annex/forepeak area.
With the storage we have aft, and the volume available below the floorboards in the forward section of the boat, there will be little need for the jumble of gear stowed all over the forepeak we are used to seeing. Rather, we expect to have a few neat coils of dock lines, and quite possibly little else. There are systems of course, but in essence we expect this forward quarter of the boat to function as a luxurious laundry room, gym, and overflow stateroom for family. Or, if our needs change, as a library, office, etc. In short, there are lots of possibilities. We are doing the minimum to start with, keeping options open for the future.
At the aft end of the lower deck, behind the engine room, what would have been called a lazarette is now a lovely workshop, with the possibility of having a comfortable crew suite if that’s the direction we head. For now we are installing a head and shower pan, but otherwise waiting to fit this out as experience dictates. In the interim, we have lots of free volume in which to play. The photo above shows you about a third of the space.The other two thirds for now, except for the steering gear, is wide open.
We were going to fit pipe berths into the workshop and annex areas, but with so much floor space available we will start with high end camping beds instead. These are very comfortable, can be used anywhere aboard, and are easily stowed in compact form. We are just starting to research this subject and if you have suggestions we’d love to hear them. An idea of what we are thinking about is below.
Are we excited? You bet! And we cannot wait to get FPB 78-1, Cochise, into its element and see what other discoveries await.