Alden 55

2008 October 1

Bill Cook designed this Alden 55. It's actually five inches shorter than the Hallberg-Rassy. We don't see much work from Bill Cook these days but there was a time when he designed some very fast race boats. Mr. Cook's new design is leaner, lither, than Hood's Little Harbors but with the same controlled, conservative styling that I guess has become the earmark of the American Northeast school of yacht design. I love classic styling. I also like styling that challenges the eye to accommodate what the composer Robert Schumann used to call a "Sphinx," a surprise element that stretches the observer to rethink traditional solutions without abandoning them.
I like it when designers send me hull lines. Some designers think the lines are proprietary; a secret. Of course, the first time a new design is hauled out of the water there it sits, naked for the world to see its hull lines. Young designers tell me, "But they will steal my lines!" I tell them, "Don't fear the designer who wants to steal your lines. Fear the designer who doesn't want to steal your lines." Thanks for the hull lines, Bill. The hull has a D/L of 231, an L/B of 3.48, a B/D of 39.6 percent and a DWL/LWL of 81 percent. It's fun when you can rattle off a series of numbers and almost wrap your hands around the shape they make. I wish they could have done that for me with math in high school. Bill and I had a chat about the published displacement and it may be a bit on the optimistic side.

This design is moderate in just about every way. The stern is narrow and pretty by today's standards. There is 19.46 degrees of deadrise amidships and this carries pretty much constant to the transom. Big, wide, flat sterns might be faster, but sometimes you can be tied to a dock and a wave will slap under the counter hard enough to knock your pipe out of your mouth. If you maintain the deadrise to the stern I think you can minimize this from happening. The bilges are soft as you would expect with this deadrise and the forefoot is V-ed. The overhangs-19 percent of the LOA-give the boat a nice, yachty look. The keel seems pretty far forward to me but the rudder is a nice, big deep blade. The partial skeg that shows on the hull lines drawing was eliminated on the first boat and that boat has a clean spade rudder with 13-percent balance.

I like this layout. There is no engine room and that's one of the reasons that it works so well. There is an engine space but it's confined to the centerline of the boat. This allows the aft stateroom to expand outboard on the port side to make a really nice head with a shower. There is a stateroom forward with upper and lower berths and a V-berth forward of that. There is nothing novel in this layout and that makes me think it probably works well. Of course you could probably swap out that port settee berth for a couple of Lazy Boys, then stick a wide-screen flat television behind the starboard dinette, flip on the latest "Survivor" and you'd be in heaven. I'd be comfortable in this layout just as it's drawn. If you preferred to do your own engine work I'm sure you would be better off with a bigger dedicated engine room.

Deck plans for center-cockpit boats are hard to design. You have to sneak that cockpit in where it will not intrude on the interior volume and at the same time you have to insert it into the profile of the boat carefully so you don't get the "wedding cake" look. It's nice to climb in and out of the cockpit without needing Jumar ascenders to get over the coaming. I think Bill Cook has done a good job here of giving us a good-looking center-cockpit boat. The side decks are broad, the fore deck is clear of obstructions and there is deck access stowage aft of the cockpit. The traditional transom angle allows room in the stern for a lazarette. There is a fold-down door in the transom for boarding.

I have drawings showing this rig two ways. The straight sailplan has one headstay and a staysail stay from the second spreader and this is the way the first boat is being built. This makes for a small staysail and it's really only a heavy-air sail. The other drawing shows a … I don't know what to call it. Saga called it the "Variable Geometry" rig. Tartan calls it the "Cruise Control Rig." It all sounds like "wide track Pontiac" to me. This rig is essentially the same idea as you see on the Tartan 4300 rig. You have a working jib and a reaching jib both up on rollers all the time.

It's good to see some new design work from Bill Cook.