Marine Concepts, LLC

243 Anclote Road
Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
"A Pearl with 2 Sticks "

by Bud Tritschler

For thirty-six happy years I was a sloop lover - "A tall ship, and a star to steer her by" kind of sailor. Efficient sailing, I thought, required an efficient vessel, and that meant a tall mast stepped far enough aft to accommodate a very large sail in the fore-triangle, stayed to the masthead, overlapping a tall, narrow mainsail by as much canvass as the sailmaker could devise, or even with an intervening staysail, as a cutter rig, with or without a bowsprit.

The only mizzen mast and sail I encountered intimately was gracefully borne by an almost indescribably beautiful forty foot yawl. Though dimly appreciating that tiny sail for its contribution to balance and steering, I discounted it as an unnecessary contrivance because of its puny driving power. A truly split sail plan, such as a ketch or schooner, held no appeal for me because of its imagined inefficiency in driving the vessel under it with the maximum possible force. A business acquaintance whose sailing experience I respected averred that a single masted vessel "isn't much of a sailboat," and for cruising, "two sticks are imperative."

His was a unique personality, opinionated on other subjects, and sort of grumpy and argumentative, so considering that he owned an elderly ketch, I didn't take his pronouncement seriously.

A time finally came, perhaps I should call it an age, when my mate and I tired of boat yard bills and continuing inability to use our cruising sloop to an extent justifying its investment. We began a search for a new, trailerable beach boat, a low or no maintenance, self-bailing, rowable dinghy large enough to be lived on for short periods with draft shallow enough to visit the shore, easy to rig, launch and singlehand. Though there were many candidates, few met every criterion.

Without pre-conceptions, we searched as far as New England and finally chose a vessel built in a nearby Florida community, a Sea Pearl 21, a vessel unique in most ways, with leeboards, unstayed cat-ketch sail rig, water ballast and six inch draft. Her hull has the classic lines of a whale boat, flat-bottomed, narrow, with dory transom, designed in 1926 by Francis Herreschoff as an eighteen foot tender for a large yacht. But the rest of her is another story. After many recastings by several designers, she has achieved an ultimate form of sail rig and cockpit/deck design. She could not be more successful for our purposes.

Since Sea Pearls are laid-up of fiberglass reinforced resin and assembled one at a time, any variation desired may be ordered when a new boat is being purchased. When we ordered our Pearl in 1989, we simplified the foredeck. Standard equipment on new boats are spars, sails, bullwinkles, sheets, vangs, deck hardware, leeboards, rudder, tiller, anchor, rode, oars and rowing seat.

Optional extras include canvas cabin, two bimini sun covers, and a hatch cover for the large non-self-bailing deck opening between the masts. We think summer sailing in Florida would be unpleasant without some shade. There is a fiberglass hatch cover, also, for vessels stored afloat. Only the cockpit, aft of the mizzen mast, is self-bailing. Boom topping lifts are popular. A mount for outboard motor attaches firmly to the rudder housing and the motor turns with the rudder. An appropriate trailer may be ordered.

Pearls available on the used market are often in nearly new condition and well equipped. Most owners are sailors of long, varied experience who have chosen the Sea Pearl for similar reasons, and they enjoy maintaining their boats.

Rigging and Launching;
The Sea Pearl's simplicity allows easy and quick launching and retrieval. Experience quickly reduces the time required to ten minutes or less, but it is always best not to hurry, The two masts are exactly long enough to lay within the boat's length when trailering. Sails are wrapped around the masts which step, unstaid, through the deck in tubes. Neither unit exceeds 24 pounds, so they are easy to handle alone either on the trailer (which is usual) or afloat. Booms are attached to a rotating gooseneck. After the rudder, raised by its pendant, is secured with a single pin through a pintle, and motor is attached if desired, and she's ready to launch.

Trailer beds can be tilted up to allow the boat to slide off into the water, either from a slippery plank or rollers, wetting only the bottom of the tireswhich, especially in salt water, saves on springs and wheel hubs. Beach launching is common if a ramp isn't handy. After reaving their sheets, sails are unfurled by rotating the masts and outhauling their clews, and vangs are set up. Now, after dropping her rudder and at least part of a leeboard, she's ready to sail.

The Sea Pearl is a sweet boat to sail, but as with any vessel, she has her own lessons to teach. The first thing you'll notice is that she's easily heeled and responsive to weight, a trait that you'll soon get used to as confidence is gained. That's because of her narrow beam, but she has a "hard spot" at which further heeling is strongly resisted. Under sail, of course, you find her very steady. Also, her narrow beam, shoal draft and light weight requires consideration and response from her skipper when wind pressure causes excessive heeling.

In this case the Sea Pearl affords two strategies. One, of course, is easy reefing. After detaching a vang and freeing the outhaul, for each turn of the mast the sail is more deeply reefed. Experience teaches that the mainsail has the most heeling effect and should be reefed first. Two or three turns of the mainmast, only, can take a lot of the unwelcome "sport" out of your adventure. Balance requires that the mizzen should be reefed a turn for each subsequent turn of the main. This can be overdone, leaving you with too little power to overcome a rising head sea. On any heading but a beat the Pearl will handle docilely under mizzen alone. When you wish to slow down to gain time to spot difficulties or land more gently on a lee dock or shore, a mizzen alone is helpful. With enough sheet it can be let go ahead. In extreme conditions, bare poles are the way to go down the off-wind quarter.

The other strategy is water ballast. The 600 lb. Sea Pearl can be turned into a 1,000 lb. Sea Pearl by admitting about 25 gallons of water into each of two tanks, port and starboard, down low, at the turn of the bilge. In ballast, the Pearl's same "hard spot" becomes significantly harder, and choppy head seas don't slow her as much. Every Pearl sailor handles these two methods in his own way. I go off-shore without ballast only when mild conditions are expected. In protected waters, I usually rely on reefing, though I do not hesitate to fill the tanks when necessary. This is done by opening two deck plates and unscrewing the bronze plugs below. The tanks fill very slowly. To empty them, some open the plugs after the boat is on her trailer, but this makes retrieval harder. I pump them out with a portable pump, 70 strokes per side.

A big question with any boat is "when?" to reduce sail. With a Sea Pearl, the answer is "early." When the thought occurs, that's the time. When the puffs knock her over, making me start the mainsheet to get her back on her lines, often enough to annoy me, that's when. It is inefficient to be fighting the wind. A boat sails faster on her lines than off. It's no disgrace to take out a reef mistakenly put in, nor vice versa.

Leeboards are more efficient than they appear. I have sailed closely with several centerboard Pearls and have noted no significant performance difference. A leeboard is effective at the water's surface. A centerboard begins its effect at a depth of six inches. I believe a leeboard Pearl can beat, however inefficiently, in thinner water than can a centerboard Pearl. When tacking repeatedly I leave both boards down without noting any loss. I seldom drop a board to its full depth. When raked even to as much as 45 degrees, the difference in wetted surface is only a few square inches. Manipulation of the board's rake can help balance the helm. The leeboards have lead shoes and weigh perhaps forty pounds, effective weight where needed, and even more effective when the weather board is slightly extended while beating. Of course, absence of a centerboard trunk makes the hatch area livable.

The ketch rig is most comfortable for cruising because: a) a low aspect sail plan reduces unwanted heeling; b) sail area divided more equally between two masts is easier to physically handle than the same sail area all on one mast (no need for winches or other mechanical help); c) spread out sail power, fore and aft, makes the helm easy to balance (there's never strong weather helm in a Pearl, and she can often be steered with her mainsheet); d) fore and aft sail areas make the boat more manipulatable, and difficult tacks easier and more certain; e) a hauled in mizzen and cast-off main points her into the wind, and even allow her to back up. That's the Pearl's way of heaving-to.

I have found that my Sea Pearl sails better in every respect when slightly heeled. The Sea Pearl is not "self rescuing." When water is allowed to fill the boat through the open hatch she capsizes and, unless special provisions are in place, she will float forever but she cannot be righted and bailed except under perfect conditions, plus you will lose most everything that floats or isn't tied down. For serious off-shore cruising, I sail with either cabin or hatch cover rigged.

Though too heavy to be a good pulling boat, the Pearl is comfortably rowable, with her 9 ft. (3 meter) standard oars, stowed under the side decks. A stowable rowing thwart fits into molded notches. Rowing power relative to weight, with only one pair of oars, isn't great enough to overcome a strong current and in rough water, the boat must be kept level and the rower must be experienced, but rough water implies wind, which is what sails are for. A healthy adult can row in flat water for several hours if he paces himself and isn't trying for a medal. Extensive rowing would require the addition of a forward rowing position, quite possible on a Pearl. For short distances, getting to or from docks or out of some difficulty, I rely on a 6 ft. paddle, for the Pearl is "canoe-able", too.

Although I do not use a motor aboard our beloved Nutshell, I have observed others using them on their Sea Pearls. Ron Hoddinott, the founder of the West Coast Trailer Sailing Squadron, uses a Tohatsu 3.5 hp engine for auxiliary, although the more common engine on a Sea Pearl today is the ubiquitous long shaft Honda 2 hp - 4 stroke. The Honda offers the virtues of any 4 stroke engine, more torque for a given displacement, and no oil mixture to worry about. The long shaft Tohatsu, Nissan, or Yamaha 2 stroke are less expensive and simpler in design. Both engines can power the Sea Pearl at hull speed without difficulty. The 3.5 hp engines offer a bit more reserve power for punching into a head sea or against a strong tidal current. For most conditions the 3.5 is overkill, unless your idea of a good time is imitating the salmon returning to their spawning grounds by powering up stream and over waterfalls!

The engine mounts on a removable bracket that slips into a slot in the machined aluminum rudder stock. It is secured by a 3/8 in clevis pin. Both of these engines weigh just under 30 pounds and are easy to slip on and off the bracket. Pearls powered with a 3.5 hp outboard can power along at 6.5 knots in calm water, while the 2 hp Honda can push the boat up to about 5 knots. In the case of the 3.5 engines these speeds are attained without opening the throttle beyond half. 


It doesn't take much power to tow a Sea Pearl. ….now I'm getting into more technical stuff where I have no business, about powerand weight requirements, etc. But people do ask.

Other Factors;
A Sea Pearl is a big dinghy, with small sail areas. It is possible to manhandle her, off a beach, away from a pier, out of trouble. In shallow water, dropping the leeboards temporarily holds her in place. She has a seven inch high bulwark all around the deck that affords a safety element for the crew while keeping her a bit drier than comparable small, open boats. The 6'10" midship hatch makes her a good family boat, accommodates more passengers than one usually cares to carry, and in sitting down in it one has the feeling of protection. Her stepped masts reach only 19 feet off the water, allowing her to sail under many bridges. There are only five running lines: both sheets, both leeboard pennants, and the rudder pennant, which all lead to the helm. For single-handing, the Sea Pearl is a dreamboat.
Marine Concepts , 243 Anclote Road , Tarpon Springs, FL 34689 , 800.881.1525

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