by Quentin Warren
Blue Water Sailing
AN ELEGANT, GO-ANYWHERE CRUISER
When all the players and all the pieces in a semi-custom boatbuilding project come together the right way, the result gains an unmistakable edge
On a good day in the world of semi-production boatbuilding, a synergy develops between designer, builder, broker and client, one in which varied points of view and divergent goals resolve themselves in an outcome that is better for the variety of its parts. It’s what has happened in the case of the new Bruckmann 42, a lively remake of designer Mark Ellis’s 1980s-vintage Niagara 42, and a marvelous platform for comfortable cruising and blue-water voyaging. The combination of an established design, a builder whose skill on the shop floor is matched only by the openness and receptiveness of his approach, a well-versed client with a background in engineering and problem-solving, and a broker whose range of experience on the water and in the business allows him to blend all this input with clarity and panache, results in this coherent 42-foot statement.
Builder Mark Bruckmann learned the trade alongside his father Eric Bruckmann who includes among his many credentials the notable distinction of being one of the original four founders of Canada’s C&C Yachts. The Bruckmann yard run by son Mark is a small semi-custom outfit that draws on 40 years in the boatbuilding profession. It is meticulous and artful, and prides itself on the ability – nay, the commitment – to tailor product to client as well as anybody in the business. The 42 is built with the purposefulness of a one-off.
Designer Mark Ellis is virtually synonymous with Canadian sailboat production through the 1970s and 1980s, having drawn lines for the likes of Bayfield Yachts, C&C, CS Yachts, Gozzard, and of course Hinterhoeller, from whence came the Nonsuches and the Niagaras. The timelessness of the Niagara 42 and the adeptness with which it has lent itself to the current reinterpretation by Bruckmann bespeak a vessel that has acquitted itself already and only improves in the context of advanced building techniques and modern-day gear. Ellis’s emphasis as a designer has always been in the realm of manageable sail handling and creature comfort; here is a perfect example.
Dave Harris has been a successful yacht broker for over 25 years and the reason has as much to do with his innate knowledge of boats and sailing as it does with his ability to sell. His input as liason between the buyer and, in this case, the Bruckmann yard can not be stressed enough. During the construction phase of the Bruckmann 42 Sereia aboard which BWS spent time – in fact, right on through its commissioning and sea trials – Harris remained wide open to the requests, suggestions and deviations proposed by his client, and translated these positively and with can-do assurance to Bruckmann himself who saw most if not all of them through. The process, according to Sereia’s happy owner Paul Maeder, was nothing short of a “delight.”
And Maeder himself played no small role in achieving what has been, for him, just the vessel he wanted. A New England sailor who embraced cruising and offshore sailing in his post-college years while skippering a 32-foot Pearson Vanguard down to the Grenadines and back, he admits when speaking of Sereia to spending “thirty years designing this boat.” He is an entrepreneur with a pilot’s license on top of graduate degrees in engineering and business, and just as importantly he is a hands-on boat owner with practical ideas about how to shape a cruising boat around his own sailing style and the needs of his wife and two young boys. He is a veteran of at least one doublehanded leg of the Bermuda One-Two with close friend Murray Danforth. His immediate aims revolve around local cruising between Rhode Island and Maine; the long-range outlook includes a transatlantic and some time in the Med.
Why all this background? Because it begins to describe how well the Bruckmann 42 fills a niche to which any number of serious cruisers can relate. “I wanted a boat on a manageable scale light enough for me to be able to push it away from the dock,” reflects Maeder. “That meant a 40-footer, not a 50-footer, a boat under 25,000 pounds. That meant a boat light enough not to be a constant threat to my kids.” A swing through the Newport (R.I.) boat show a year ago whetted his appetite for something with fairly classic lines and good bones, but everything he saw at that level missed the mark in particularly nagging if subtle ways. Until he came upon the Bruckmann 42 Pinniped.
She had the look and feel of an oceangoing voyager, with enough charm and amenity to fit the bill in terms of coastal New England cruising. Her semi-custom status meant that a prospective buyer did not have to settle for features or even arrangements that he didn’t want, and the open book that described the builder meant that this same buyer could assume an active part in the development of the project. A rapport ensued and from that emerged the yacht Sereia.
The Bruckmann 42 fits into the continuum of Hinckley, Morris, and Shannon, a relatively conservative boat built to modern standards and designed to be sailed actively and far. It is family-oriented more than racy, elegant and pretty more than predatory and sleek. The hullform shows generous deep sections and a medium-long, 5’6” Scheel-like keel with a somewhat radically flared component at the tip. The rudder is separate and hangs on its own, minimally balanced. The combination of healthy sections and a medium-aspect foil is intended to give the 42 a comfortable motion in a seaway, which happily is what we encountered when we tested the boat in 18 knots of puffy air amid a steep Buzzards Bay (Mass.) chop.
NUMBERS AND CONSTRUCTION
Bruckmann has kept displacement down to a tidy 22,000 pounds – this without infringing on the quality of the interior, on tankage, on amenity, or on any of the other items that commonly take a hit when weight becomes an overwhelming issue. With 8,000 pounds of lead in the keel, Ballast/Displacement settles in at 36 percent, which is reassuringly stable. Displacement/Length at 286 is moderate by today’s standards; you’d expect it to be lower given the relatively light weight of the hull, but the boat’s LOA of 42’2” includes a short stainless bow platform that belies a waterline length of only 32’6”. SA/D of 17.3 is enough to make the boat move along without totally overpowering it in medium conditions, but the ability to add supplemental canvas in easygoing air by means of an overlapping genoa, a cruising Code 0 and a staysail is noteworthy.
Structurally, the 42 features vinylester resin throughout, with single-piece Corecell sandwiched between layers of fiberglass roving. At all thru-hulls and areas of point-loading, the core is tapered to solid glass and reinforced. Core is abandoned altogether in lieu of solid glass with added plies along the centerline, and foam floors with unidirectional reinforcement contribute to the structural integrity of the part. There is a molded keel sump with additional laminate to carry the externally mounted keel, and the mast step is heavily bolstered with transverse floors and longitudinal girders. The hull-deck joint features a deck flange bolted mechanically, then bonded to the hull frame on the inside right around the perimeter. The bottom is treated with an epoxy barrier coat; the topsides and deck are Awlgripped.
Execution is first-rate. To lift up floorboards – which, incidentally, are laminated of solid teak and holly, not veneered, and lock positively with the appropriate stainless hardware – is to gain access to a bilge that is clean as a whistle and carefully painted out. It is serviced by good-size limber holes and a combination of auto-electric and manual pumps. Wiring and plumbing runs are well organized and chafe-protected. The engine compartment located beneath the main companionway is fully insulated against noise and heat intrusion, and features a mechanic’s dream-come-true in the form of plentiful work space and even raised teak slats on the sole to maintain comfort and footing while servicing the vessel’s 50-horsepower Yanmar 4JH2E and its associated systems. Indeed, this is a boat developed by an owner who intends to do as much of the service work and routine systems maintenance as he can on his own. Installations are logical and access is grand.
The accommodations plan revolves around two fairly tight couples or, as in this case, a couple and their two children. Maeder had definite ideas about how he wanted the interior to work and these were duly incorporated by Harris, Ellis and Bruckmann. For example, he began the project firmly wedded to the idea of a traditional U-shaped galley at the base of the companionway on the starboard side, which is what he’d seen aboard the Bruckmann 42 Pinniped. Midway through, he gave it a second thought and iconoclastically settled on the modern longitudinal Euro-style galley that ended up on his 42 Sereia, shown in the accomodations plan on page 69. Why? “We wanted to participate in cooking and cleaning up as a family,” he remarks, “and a traditional galley kept everyone out but one. The settee on the port side of a traditional arrangement always ends up a catch-all for errant gear and turns the main cabin into a bedroom. So we figured, let’s open up the galley, stretch it along the port side, and open up the boat a bit in the process.”
This they did to great effect, and it allowed them to install an enhanced nav station in the starboard hip with an authentic pilot berth nestled in aft of that. The galley incorporates oversize freezer/reefer units, along with a host of custom appointments and storage components unavailable in the original plan.
The accommodations include a double V-berth forward adjacent to the vessel’s single head, the galley just described in the main saloon opposed to starboard by a U-shaped dinette with a convertible bench in the cabin amidships, a double berth with a hanging locker in the port hip aft, and finally the nav area described to starboard with the engine compartment in the middle. The look is bright and cheerful, with standard-finish white bulkheads and satin-varnished trim. Storage abounds beneath the settee, in cabinets throughout the main cabin, and in convenient open cubbies in the two staterooms.
Maeder’s input with regard to the rig, sailplan and deck configuration hinges on his desire to sail the boat actively with his family and to contemplate and ultimately accomplish some long-distance transoceanic voyaging. The 42 is basically a cutter-rigged sloop, with a detachable inner forestay for increased spar support and to carry a staysail, and a set of fairly vestigal runners to be used in heavy conditions. “I like what the cutter rig does,” he says. “I like to be able to reef the boat and set a staysail and keep the sailplan tight in a breeze.”
The spar features a Seldén in-mast furling section. The decision to go to a furling mast was fraught with the expectation of a performance compromise, but again, the boat was to be sailed shorthanded most of the time and from that perspective furling simply made the most sense. Lamenting the loss of mainsail roach, Maeder went to Plan B: “I asked Mark Bruckmann to add two feet to the boom so we could recoup some square-footage.” The boom, of course, sports a solid vang, and in lieu of a main traveler the mainsheet double-ends from fixed pad-eyes on either side of the cabintop. “Travelers are dangerous with children nearby,” remarks Maeder.
The cockpit is the sailing and living epicenter of the boat, and it serves the purpose handily with lines led aft, a logical assortment of winches, a well-built Bimini and dodger, and a brilliant convertible walk-through transom. The winch complement includes Lewmar 54 self-tailing primaries and Lewmar 52 self-tailing secondaries port and starboard, plus two Lewmar 46 self-tailing halyard winches on the cabintop augmented by an electric Lewmar to which virtually any line may be led for activities such as furling the sails in windy conditions or taking a crewmember aloft. The transom detail, which features removable coaming and a hinged swim platform, represents a masterful solution by Bruckmann to the problem of engineering a walk-through stern without losing the aesthetic lines of the boat or infringing on cockpit seating abaft the helm.
We visited the Bruckmann 42 Sereia on two occasions, once during her commissioning in Marion, Mass., and later for a sail on Buzzards Bay in a smoky, mid-afternoon sou’wester. On the first visit, we saw the boat with her floorboards up and her guard down, and came away impressed with the technical quality of the builder’s work. Obvious is the Bruckmann yard’s thorough attention to detail, evident in everything from the joiner work in the living quarters to the glass work in the bilge to the installation of electrics and the organization of systems. The boat comes with built-in sensitivity to the interaction of the owner, be that his desire to enjoy the boat with his family, or his desire to enjoy the hands-on experience of servicing and maintaining the package on his own. This quality is crucial to the success of a vessel intended to sail far and wide with a self-sufficient crew.
Equally crucial is the behavior of the boat under sail. As noted, in bouncy conditions the motion of the 42 is dampened and loping, which makes for a comfortable ride in the cockpit aft and certainly mitigates the stress level below, where the pounding of flatter sections would be unpleasant. We found plenty of power in the furling sailplan, and in the 18-or-so knots of air that we encountered we even rolled up a bit of main to straighten the boat out and take away some weather helm. The 42 is happy on the breeze and finds a good groove upwind with her substantial keel; cracked off on a reach, sixes on the knotmeter rocket up to easy high-sevens even under reduced canvas in this kind of pressure. The boat is solid as a rock and moves as one without creaking or working.
Were we to make one suggestion of note in our discussion here, it would involve the size and balance configuration of the rudder – as in, make it a little bigger, and give it a slightly greater degree of balance. A balanced rudder aft such as the 42 enjoys makes good sense on a boat that sails as sweetly as this one. It is more efficient than a skeg-hung rudder, and the bearing condition in the hull is arguably more failsafe given the reduced exposure of the hull itself without a vulnerable skeg glassed in. In this case we found the helm overpowered from time to time as the breeze pushed 20 true while we clawed upwind, an issue that might be addressed with a higher-aspect foil and a bit more balance forward of the rudderpost to help it out. Payoffs would include more comfort and more control at the wheel on all points of sail as the wind rises, more maneuverability in close quarters under power, and a happier, less overworked autopilot.
That said, here’s to a commendable offshore design executed with skill and refinement by a savvy yard. As blue-water boats go, in this size range the Bruckmann 42 would have to rank with the best in terms of concept, comfort, manageablity and soul.
LOA 42’2” (12.9 m.)
LWL 32’6” (9.9 m.)
Beam 12’9” (3.9 m.)
Draft 5’6” (1.7 m.)
Ballast 8,000 lbs. (3,629 kgs.)
Disp 22,000 lbs. (9,979 kgs.)
SA (100%) 850 sq.ft. (79 sq.m.)
Mast above water 58’0” (17.7 m.)
Fuel 60 gal. (227 ltr.)
Water 150 gal. (568 ltr.)
Holding 40 gal. (151 ltr.)
Auxiliary Yanmar 4JH2E 50-hp w/Saildrive
Designer Mark Ellis
Harris & Ellis Yachts
77 Bronte Road S.
Oakville, ON L6L 3B7
2265 Royal Windsor Drive
Mississauga, ON L5J 1K5
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