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New boat: Presto 30

2013 January 4

It's safe to say that most sailboats with personality have an interesting backstory. Their designers, builders and owners are the type of sailors who brings their family on cruises around the world, or who read the entire Jack Aubrey series, and they bring their sense of nautical tradition to the boats they build.

That's the case for the Presto 30, a catrigged ketch from SolarWind Boats. Presto is also the name of Ralph Munro's modified Biscayne Bay sharpie. Traditional sharpies were inexpensive workingman's boats with flat-bottoms shallow drafts and easy-to-sail rigs. Munro softened the sharpie design to make it a friendlier craft for pleasure sailors. The Presto 30 traces its design back to Presto, something proudly mentioned on the 30's website.

But it's an offspring's job to build on their elder's accomplishments and the Presto 30 does that. The boat floats in a foot of water, and the centerboard and rudder kick up if they touch bottom.

The shallow draft also makes the boat trailerable, but what separates the 30 from other trailer-cruisers is the special gin pole receivers built into the boat that make it easy to sway up the mast. The masts are carbon and unsupported by standing rigging.

Co-builder John Koenig says that the masts bend off in heavy air, depowering the rig, but the sails also reef like normal sails. The booms are wishbones that cradle the sails when they are reefed or furled. Rodger Martin designed the boat with two smaller square-topped, fully battened sails for easy handling. There are no sheet winches.

That simplicity makes the boat a natural for shorthanders, or younger families who are busy enough swabbing grape jelly off decks and don't have a spare hand to grind winches while steering though tacks.

The 30's rig may be simple and easy to handle, but it "goes 8 to 10 knots in 15 to 20 knots of wind, on a reach," according to Koenig. The rig is available in an standard or performance package with 60 more square feet of sail area.

Koenig's co-builder is Paul Derecktor, of Derecktor Shipyards, and the composite parts of the boats are built by Ryder Boats. That team can customize the boat in many configurations: with a pilothouse, a shower, composting head or nearly anything else that will fit in or on the hull. The remotely controlled outboard fits in a well, but a diesel option is available.

The long cockpit fits eight people, but it may be better to use the room to stretch out after a couple of days soloing up the coast, warming up in the evening sun and reading Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, again.