Finding the Perfect Cruising Yacht

Southerly 42RS - "Tango"

Reading, down in the confines of a cozy, teak saloon, to the flickering glow of a lantern, tucked into a little Maine cove with no other boat around.  Waiting for the fog to lift on a summer morning and discussing what would the perfect boat be, for cruising in Maine, our playing ground for the last three years. Our Hans Christian Christina 43, lots of teak inside and beautiful lines, seemed like the dream cruising boat. Yet, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see outside while sitting inside the cabin, to watch the lobster boats run around doing their thing, see the fog and tide come and go, and enjoy the beautifully rugged rocky coast. Would it not be nice, on those chilly days when we decide to sail to the next bay Down East, for Gloria to enjoy the sailing from the saloon, without suffering the damp and cold, while I enjoy driving the boat around those ubiquitous lobster pots with their treacherous double stringed buoys!

Later that year, reading a sailing magazine by the fireplace at home in Vermont, the answer to this question was revealed in the form of a beautiful Rob Humphreys design built by Northshore in the UK. The new Southerly 42RS seemed to be the ideal Maine platform for us. In addition to a really “raised” saloon, the Humphreys design had some features that appealed to the sail fast spirit in me. A sleek hull, a self tacking jib for tacking up those bays and coves without starting the engine as if sailing a dinghy, a removable bowsprit for an asymmetric that could be easily rolled in and left in position, a main traveler and sheet just forward of the helm for tweaking that extra half knot out of the boat when the puffs come and go. Then came the realization of the additional benefits a lifting keel and twin shallow rudders would afford. Not only the ability to escape the crowds in Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, and to explore those other sandy coves forbidden to most sailors, but also to sail over millions of lobster pots without worries! Now that I call added value, and I was hooked.

It was a blustery May day in the Channel when we went out for a test sail. The wind had been blowing for a week and this was my last opportunity to test the boat before flying back home, after having made this trip just for that purpose. The first attempt to go out had failed earlier that week due to inclement weather. I had flown out to Finland to check out another boat, and, on my way back to the US, Robert had picked me up at Heathrow, had driven us through the chunnel to Boulogne for the test sail, and would drive me back to Heathrow that evening. So we are walking down a steep ramp to the pontoon, which is down about 30 feet at low tide, and there she is, the Southerly Blue hulled Southerly 42RS, hull number one. The wind was blowing 30 knots in the Channel and the waves were coming over the outer harbor wall despite the low tide. 

"I was determined to not buy this boat if I could not test sail it !" Well, I think the Cocheteaux’s sensed this and graciously agreed to go out if Robert captained the boat, and we did. We put in a reef on the main before leaving the marina and we were off, but not too far. Fortunately, the outer harbor at Boulogne is rather roomy, because as soon as we were out of the shelter of the entrance channel, it was obvious that we were not going anywhere, and decided to take a few tacks inside the harbor. Up went the reefed main, the jib was unfurled, and the boat was way over canvassed. So I suggested to Robert to see what she would do with the jib only and he jumped onto the mast to fight the main down into submission, while I kept the boat just off the wind with engine and jib to keep her stabilized. Once Robert was safely aft, we killed the engine and, to my surprise, the boat sailed and tacked comfortably with the jib only and gusts over 30 knots. We then headed back in and had petit fours and coffee at the saloon table, enjoying the harbor views and looking at two brave cruising boats arriving into safe harbor. The fact that nothing broke that day, and that she had felt so balanced with just the jib up, sold me on the boat. So, as Robert drove me back to England, and to the airport, I began The List of equipment and changes to the basic design.

Fitting Out Tango

We have owned half a dozen boats since we started sailing together more than 30 years ago. This is the first time we order one from the Yard, so we were bound to a steep learning curve but had complete trust in Robert’s guidance. At the top of my list was a furling boom. After seeing Robert fighting that main in Boulogne from a precarious perch two feet up the mast, and thinking I might keep this boat for a while, I wanted a furling boom and a lower gooseneck. Now it took a lot of discussion for the yard accept this, particularly because in-mast furling is so convenient and reliable. I don’t like in-mast furling because it reduces the sail area of the design, and worst, the lack of battens makes the main very inefficient, even with the new vertical battens. Because this boat has a fractional rig and the self tacking jib, the mainsail becomes the main thrust. To my delight, the yard agreed to the boom and also increased the length of the mast by about a foot.

So after some research I decided on a Schaefer boom. This design has two advantages, first, it does not protrude forward of the mast as the leading brand does, which would tangle the self tacking rig. Second, one can reef the main without heading into the wind, enough said. The yard also agreed to my request of lowering the boom. I promised John I would have a helmet for him to use during sea trials! In terms of sailing rig, we also added a variable-speed electric halyard winch (the single speed is too slow) that could be used for other things such as raising a dinghy onto the deck or pulling me up the mast. I also added two smaller spinnaker sheet winches that can do double duty bringing the self-tacking jib sheet near the helm, or helping Gloria with trimming the main on a blustery day. Finally, I upgraded to North tri-radial sails and a code zero asymmetric that should allow us to head up to about 60 degrees on very light airs.

Other design changes included transforming the forward shower stall into storage space. This generated additional space forward of the saloon for a beautiful book case. A larger refrigerator than the original one and a separate freezer were proposed at no extra cost, and the lower profile spray-hood looks great. In terms of electric specs, we increased the size and number of house batteries to 3x130 AH Trojans, and specified an AirX wind generator. The plan is to also carry a towed water generator to support the autohelm during long passages. We also installed a battery charger that can handle both 120 and 220 volts since we will be cruising in Europe before crossing the pond and an inverter. Finally, I proposed an aft arch design to hold the radar and wind generator, and to function as an in-harbor dinghy davit. The design team at Northshore did a wonderful job of transforming my conceptual design into a beautifully engineered arch that I feel nicely complements Tango’s character.

With respect to navigation, we opted for a Raymarine system, with an E80 display mounted on the cockpit bulkhead so that I can see it from my normal helming position outboard of the helm, and can operate it while under the spray-hood on those blustery or rainy days. We will have our laptop computer at the nav station functioning as a repeater for the E80 with the Raymarine software. For this reason we opted to not install the large pod forward of the nav table. We think this deletion and the new bookcase give the saloon a more open feel.

Some things we opted out of where the possibility of installing a diesel generator and a water maker. In both cases, since we mostly sail as a couple and do not use TV or microwave oven on board, we added an extra 50 gallons of water tank capacity, and with the wind generator in Maine, we can easily cruise for a week without the need to top off. For the Atlantic crossing we will take some additional water in portable collapsible containers. And so, with TANGO ready to launch, we are excited planning our year-long cruise from Portsmouth, UK, to Portsmouth, NH.

Bringing Tango Home

We take delivery end of May, and plan a two-week shake down cruise around the Solent and further west, to bring her back to Itchenor for a two week period (will it be a short list?) before taking off in early July. We plan to slowly day-hop down the coast of France in July exploring some of their rivers and islands, along the coast of Spain in August, and down Portugal in September. Then to the Canaries in October and some cruising there until late November. We opted out of the ARC as the crowds do not appeal to us, but are planning to meet up with the Shards (taking delivery of a Southerly 42RST) in the Canaries for a possible Southerly Atlantic Rally of our own.

After the crossing, we plan to slowly sail up to the Spanish Virgin Islands and the Bahamas (an ideal ground for the shallow draft), then up the East Coast in the Spring, with a mix of inland waterways and outside sailing. The Southerly is ideally suited to hop in and out through all those shallow inlets along the Atlantic coast of the US, and to explore the Chesapeake bay. Our final destination is the Northeast in June, away from the hurricane season, and looking forward to exploring Maine for a few years, exploring hundreds of shallow coves, and watching the fog and tides come and go from the comfort of Tango’s saloon.

Since taking delivery of his new Southerly 42RS, Professor Juan Florin has been enjoying his leisure time, to the full. After an initial shake-down cruise of the Solent and South West England, they sailed across the Channel and day-hopped down the coast of France, exploring rivers and islands along the way. They sailed the coast of Spain and down to Portugal and then headed to the Canaries to cruise the islands before crossing the Atlantic to the Spanish Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.

They plan to sail up the East Coast of USA with a mix of inland waterways and outside sailing. The Southerly is ideally suited to hop in and out through all the shallow inlets along the Atlantic coast of the US, and to explore the Chesapeake Bay. 

Their final destination is the Northeast in June, away from the hurricane season, where they are looking forward to exploring Maine for a few years, exploring hundreds of shallow coves, and watching the fog and tides come and go from the comfort of Tango’s raised saloon.