J have always had a soft spot for long, low, fast, good-looking powerboats. And whenever I think of such a boat, Porpoise is the image that appears in my mind's eye. Oddly enough, I have never seen Porpoise in the flesh, only in pictures; the same is true of my relationship with Sophia Loren. This lack of personal contact in no way diminishes my respect for the ladies in question.
Porpoise's hull is nearly perfect; I can think of no change that would make her better. Her superstructure is nearly so. Geerd Hendel, who designed this paragon, managed to blend the two elements, hull and superstructure, into a unified whole that delights the eye, or at least my eye.
The label on the plan sheets says "Commercial Sword Fisherman," but it is difficult to visualize her lying alongside the fish wharves of New Bedford or Nan tucket, her scuppers running red with fish blood, and kegs, irons, dories, and miles of line scattered around her decks. As the pictures show, she is obviously a yacht that was designed with the emphasis on sportfishing and particularly swordfishing. The long bowsprit for ironing fish, and the unusual A-frame mast, with masthead lookout hoops and steering wheel aloft, are both geared toward taking the elusive and delicious swordfish. But it is not her bowsprit or mast that makes her design unique or distinctive — remove them and she would look better, if anything. The long, continuous flow of the sheerline, starting from a relatively low freeboard at the after end of the superstructure and rising steadily to the flaring clipper bow profile, is one element of the design that gladdens the eye. The low freeboard is made to appear even lower by the continuous guardrail at the deck edge.
The other element that contributes so much to the overall impression of the boat is the low, short deck house structure. This superstructure is very much concentrated amidship, leaving a good deal of hull showing alone at the bow and the stern. The midships handrail, with a varnished teak railcap set on bronze stanchions, and a canvas weathercloth laced between the handrail and the caprail, was designed to give one a feeling of security while walking the sidedecks. It also does much to lower the apparent height of the deckhouse. I realize that I have spent a lot of words analyzing the appearance of this boat, but beauty is so rare and nowadays so neglected in the design process that it seems worthwhile to consider.
Most modern powerboats fall into two categories of appearance. The first is based on maximum interior volume on minimum overall length, and the resulting design looks like a condominium afloat — a Winnebago of the waterways. The other is based on the Buck Rogers spaceship concept. The aim here seems to be to design something that will float, but look as little like a boat as possible. Most such boats would be improved in looks with the addition of wings. The interior decor leans heavily on the use of shag carpeting, even on the overheads.
The lines of Porpoise show a graceful hull 60 feet long, with straight buttock lines aft that enable her to be driven at 18 to 20 knots. Her displacement of 47,500 pounds is quite light for her length.
Making a powerboat go fast is not complicated in principle — keep her light, and provide plenty of power. Porpoise was built in 1951, when diesels did not provide as much horsepower per pound of weight as they do now. Her twin General Motors 6-110s put out 275 horsepower at 1,300 rpm each, a total of only 550 horsepower. But her long, easy lines, and particularly her light weight allow her to achieve 18 knots, which is quite respectable. Her lines also show a long, straight
ISQUimMi skeg, with considerable drag in its length, providing good directional stability while running.
This skeg also gives the hull a great deal of structural stiffness. One of the tough problems in this type of boat is the need to keep weight low, for speed reasons, and yet build a hull strong enough to cope with offshore conditions without losing its shape or leaking. The details of her hull structure, shown in her construction section drawing and construction plan, are very instructive and interesting. Let's examine them in some detail.
Porpoise's keel is oak, sided 5 inches, and tapering in depth from 2Vi feet aft to about 7 inches in the forefoot area. On top of the keel is a 2-inch by 7-inch oak keel apron, or hog piece, which forms the back rabbet for the garboard plank. Her bent-oak frames are only 13/S inches by 1% inches, on 9-inch centers. Planking is only l'/i-inches in thickness, but it is double — an inner layer of Vs-inch cedar covered by a 7/»-inch outer layer of Philippine mahogany. Double planking is much stiffer than single planking of the same thickness, and less apt to leak. The garboard and sheerstrake are single-thickness IVi-inch Philippine mahogany. Every other frame has a l3/i-inch oak floor timber alongside. In addition to the centerline keel and apron construction, fore-and-aft rigidity is gained by use of deep 2-inch by 9-inch spruce stringers that tie into the massive 3/2-inch-thick engine bearers amidships. There are four of these engine beds, each about 13 feet long. Attached to these beds, two stringers run aft to the stem, while two more run forward to within 6 feet of the stem. There is also a 3/2-inch by 4/2-inch spruce bilge stringer on each side, outboard of the vertical stringers.
Porpoise's deck is TA-inch teak, laid on oak beams, which in turn rest on the oak clamp and shelf at the sheer. The bulwarks, which are about a foot high, have oak top timbers that pierce the covering board, are planked with 1 Vs-inch pine, and are topped off with a 2-inch by 6-inch teak railcap. The superstructure is carefully designed to be as light as possible, with spruce framing and tops of canvas-covered pine. Mr. Hendel must have been reassured by the knowledge that Porpoise was to be built at Camden Shipbuilding Co., under the supervision of master builder Malcolm Brewer.
Porpoise's accommodations might be called spare for a 60-foot yacht. But like the rest of the design, they seem to fit the overall purpose — the swift pursuit of large game fish. The engineroom, containing the two diesels plus 860 gallons of fuel oil, occupies the middle 11 feet of the boat. Aft of the engineroom, under the open bridgedeck, is a nice owner's stateroom with two large bunks, a generous toilet room, and several lockers and a bureau. Forward of the engineroom there is a large refrigerator, a good-sized galley, and quarters for two crew — two V-berths forward and a toilet room. Opposite the galley are two bunks called "emergency" berths. So the layout provides accommodations for two aft, two crew forward, and berths for two more should they be required.
The boat can be run either from the open bridge deck in good weather, or the enclosed deckhouse in bad conditions. The layout of the deckhouse is not shown, other than a high seat across the back, but it is large enough to be a comfortable sitting-dining area. Access to the deckhouse is from the side decks on either side, through hinged doors. From the deckhouse, steps ascend to the bridgedeck aft, and descend to the galley forward. The crew can also reach their quarters through a hatch in the forward house.
Porpoise is unusual. She was not designed as an all-around boat, suitable to the needs of many. Instead, the design steadfastly aims toward one end — grace and speed at sea. Perhaps it is this single-mindedness of concept that makes her appeal so great. I would love to spend some time on the end of her swordfish stand, looking aft, watching her work her way through a long swell at 15 knots.
Further inquiries on this design should be addressed to: GeerdHendel, N.A., 144 Bayview St., Camden, ME 04843.
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