2020 April 1

This junk-rigged barge-styled cruiser oozes classic charm

If you were walking the docks last weekend you probably didn’t notice the three old codgers sitting on the bench at the end of the pier. No reason you should except for the fact that the three of them represent more than 150 years of professional, full-time involvement in yacht design, boat design, naval architecture—call it what you will. 

They were three long lives immersed in boats just sharing stories. The handsome guy with the dog is me. The dog is Ruby, my constant companion. Next to me was my dear old pal Chuck Paine, the guy from Maine, the designer I would choose and trust to design me a custom boat. 

On the end was Tad Roberts. Lanky Tad has been flying just under the radar for many years. He worked with Bruce King for a while doing fabulous megayachts. But Tad’s true love is the heritage and style of the boats of the Pacific Northwest, including workboats. Tad lives on Gabriola Island in British Columbia where he rows his skiff to work each morning. Tad keeps a very active Facebook page going where he works as a historian highlighting the boats of the Pacific Northwest. 

It sounds grisly, but you could dissect the three of us and not find a single “Euro” bone inside. We are the products of our own environments. The three of us worked in the field starting in the days of hand drafting. Drafting your ideas was an important skill. It’s one thing to have a good idea. It’s another to learn the ability to draw that idea and bring it to life on paper. Hunched over a drawing board, pipe clenched in your teeth, you toiled with pen and pencil to lovingly produce an idea you could hopefully sell to a client. Today it’s almost all computer work but Tad and Chuck still produce hand drawings.

Despite Tad’s love of Pacific Northwest types, Tilikum has origins in the “barge yachts of the east coast of the United Kingdom and Holland where the water is thin and the boat is often left to sit on the mud waiting the new tide.” 

Tad gives credit to designer Phil Bolger for the inspiration for this design. Phil Bolger was kind of the Bill Garden of the East Coast, master draftsman and a man not afraid of doing it differently. Tilikum’s D/L is low for a traditional design at 168 and the L/B is 3.56 and that’s on the narrow side by today’s standards. There is 4,200 pounds of ballast and two centerboards. Most of the time you will only use the forward board upwind. You will use the aft board downwind and both boards reaching, altering how much board is down to get perfect helm balance. Draft with both boards up is only 18 inches. 

The hull lines are beautifully drawn by hand and show a lot of shape with some tumblehome aft. Old guys like Tad, Chuck and me aren’t afraid of sheer spring and Tad has given Tilikum a strong sheer that adds character to the boat. I’d be a bit concerned about a rudder as short on span as this one is. Maybe the long chord will work, and with the balance area, helm pressure should not be an issue.

Below the interior is simply laid out for four, with two sleeping on V-berths and two on the settee berths in the main cabin. The problem with centerboards is that they need centerboard trunks and these can be bulky and often interfere with the accommodations layout. Tad has integrated the forward trunk with the head compartment to minimize the conflict. It’s not a fancy or novel layout. This is not that kind of boat for those kind of people. This boat does not pretend to be anything but a 32-foot boat. The  raised deck configuration helps open up the interior volume so the boat would not feel cramped. Note the large windows and double butterfly hatches.

Yep, this is a weird rig. It’s a Chinese junk-type main, a balanced lug rig with a lug type mizzen for balance. You can also use the mizzen as a riding sail at anchor so you don’t sail back and forth across the anchorage while anchored. The configuration of the main gives you low mainsheet loads so you don’t need any winches on this boat. The low foremast is stepped in a tabernacle so it can be easily lowered and raised. The SA/D is 17.1.

Construction of Tilikum features a cedar-strip planked hull with GRP skins on the outside. You could do it with diagonal cedar veneers on the outside but this would be more work. The bare cedar inner surface would give the boat a lovely finish detail.

I sincerely doubt you’ll see any boats like Tilikum at the next boat show. Pity, but isn’t that the point?

LOA 32; LWL 31’8”; Beam 9’; Draft, boards up 1’8”, draft, boards down 4’6”; Sail area 615 sq. ft.; Displ. 12,000 lb.; Ballast 4,200 lb.; Auxiliary 30-hp; Fuel 30 gal.; Water 120 gal.; D/L 168; L/B 3.56; SA/D 17.1 

Our best estimate of the sailaway price:$660,000 

Tad Roberts Yacht Design

P.O. Box 33

Gabriola Island. BC

Canada VOR 1X0