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by David LucasĀ - Bradenton, Florida - USA

Howard's decided that it's time to sell another one of the treasures he's made here at the shop so we took Sweet Pea out for a spin to get some beauty shots. This was actually a first for several things. This big Catboat has been finished for a while but we've never had her out when there was any wind to speak of to see what she'll do with this big sail. Howard didn't like the eight horse power Yanmar diesel that he had put in so he's changed that one out lately for a two cylinder sixteen h/p version and what a difference it made. This was also the first time the mast was raised and lowered with an electric powered winch.

This boat is a Fenwich Williams 18 Catboat designed back in the 30's when boats were built with massive lumber and people were short. They must have been because if the boat is built according to the plans there's not even sitting room in the cabin for anyone over ten years old. I built the hull using cypress strip planking then heavily glassed. Howard finished the rest of the boat but added six inches to the cabin height so it's actually usable. This boat is a lot lighter than the original and we didn't want to add a lot of ballast we would have to haul around so it has a 100 gallon water ballast tank built in up front to bring her down to her lines. It's filled and emptied with a high volume transfer pump. The plans offered two different size sails but we didn't like either, too small for the light winds we usually have here in Florida so we added a bunch more sail area. The two sets of reef points will be handy when the wind picks up.

The new engine is amazing, it's got the power to spin the big prop and really push some water. You can see on some of the pictures that we're just about on a plane. And as for the sailing qualities, all I can say is man oh man we were really blown away. The wind was only blowing about 10 and when on a beam reach Steve couldn't stay up with us in Chelsea. He was in the photo boat along with Phil. He was doing 6.5 knots wide open and we walked away from him as smooth as you like. No bouncing around or spray or excessive heeling, just smooth and steady. The big rudder and wheel steering really do the job and the weight carries her through any tack no matter how sloppy with no hesitation. The fit of the sail doesn't look perfect here because we left too much slack in the foot and head but it does fit good. In the cockpit there are four individual seats that are hinged to the sides and will fold down. We left them all down for this trip and it made the cockpit seem huge for handling the lines and moving around.

The inside of the cabin is finished off with beaded pine planks and drawers and cabinets but the most brilliant engineering achievement Howard did is the way the mast is raised and lowered. You know what a pain in the ass it is to rig a trailerable sailboat. The mast, the rigging, the sails and all the other stuff. Makes it not worth the effort and sometimes not even possible without some kind of hoist. And what if you live on or the ramp is on the wrong side of a bridge or has trees in the way, you're out of luck is what. With this system you can launch anywhere, roar out to where the sailing is and put your mast and sails and all the rigging including lazy jacks and topping lift up in five minutes and be under full sail, all by yourself. And have them lowered and stowed just as easy. Yep, you can. Watch the little video I made to see how it's done.

We all told him to ask more but Howard's willing to take $25,000 for the whole rig, including the brand new tandem aluminum trailer. I thought I'd put it out to you guys before he goes public with this just in case this is the one you've been waiting for. As you can tell from all my enthusiasm, I was impressed with good ol Sweet Pea.

David Lucas

Lucas Boatworks and Happy Hour Club

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