by Simon Day
Blue Water Sailing
SAGA 48 - A COUPLE'S PURE PASSAGEMAKER
Designed by Robert Perry and built by Canada’s Saga Marine, the new Saga 48 offers cruisers an elegant design that has been built to the best standards
In late October I was given the opportunity to sail hull number one of the new Saga 48 series on Chesapeake Bay. Over the space of two days owner Rick Palm, my girlfriend Alex and I sailed Altair from Oxford, Md., to Norfolk, Va. Unfortunately, the Bay’s infamous light winds prevailed so we were able to sail for less than half the time. However, my time aboard afforded a great opportunity to give the boat a thorough inspection and evaluation and see how she handled in a real cruising situation.
The Saga 48 is designed and built to be sailed by a couple over long distances in comfort and ease. Rick and his wife Julie chose the boat for just this purpose. They are accomplished offshore sailors, having completed a circumnavigation in 1994. With the knowledge garnered from their voyage around the globe they brought a lot of experience to their search for their perfect cruising boat. They wanted a boat between 45 and 50 feet long that a middle-aged couple could take offshore with little or no help from friends; plus, they wanted a boat that was easy to use and maintain, and one that was simple to live aboard. The Saga 48 fit their needs ideally.
Altair is the first of the new Saga 48s. She was launched in June 2003 and thus far has only sailed in Chesapeake Bay. Nonetheless, Rick and Julie plan to take off in the not-too-distant future for some more extended cruising. Rick, a self-proclaimed technophile, has fitted her out with extras such as a saltwater hose in the chain locker, an extended Bimini and large-screen chartplotters in the nav station and the cockpit.
The Saga 48 is a pure cruising boat. She was designed by Robert Perry as a platform for a couple to use for extensive cruising so functionality is at her core. From the large stainless steel bowsprit to the deep and comfortable cockpit, the Saga 48 is designed to be kind to the crew, safe, fast and easy to maintain. Altair was built from unidirectional E-glass over a one-inch balsa core.
Bob Perry is one of the most accomplished cruising boat designers of the past quarter century. His designs, such as the Valiant 40, have been successfully circling the globe for 20 years. He also designed the Saga 35 and 43 that have become increasingly popular with modern offshore cruisers. They all share a single theme, functionality. This is most prominent in the large stainless steel bowsprit jutting off the plumb bow that dominates the boats’ profiles. There is no wood on deck whatsoever, and everything from the stanchions to the primary winches are oversized. Altair is pretty in her functionality. The bowsprit and her raised saloon give a businesslike feel. There are no frills here, and she has a purposeful look about her.
The galley, dinette and nav station fit neatly under the raised coachroof
The Saga 48 is designed to be lived aboard. The cockpit is the main living space, and it is optimized for comfort and safety. The seats are long enough to sleep on and deep enough to be very comfortable and secure. The twin wheels offer great visibility and easy access to the open transom and swim platform.
There is a large locker under the starboard cockpit seat. It gives access to the engine and generator compartments and to the quadrant and steering cables. It is large enough for sails and lots of miscellaneous gear. One of Rick’s priorities in looking for a new boat was the ability to have clean decks while at sea, not only for a clean look but also for safety. Negotiating an obstacle course on a heaving foredeck is difficult if not dangerous. The cockpit lockers and the foc’sle provide plenty of space to clear the foredeck of all unnecessary gear. Handholds are plentiful and well placed.
The interior is finished in a cherry veneer that gives the entire boat a light and airy feeling. The master stateroom forward is huge and very comfortable. There is plenty of closet space and a nice desk/vanity. The adjoining head is large and has a full separate shower, which is a feature that most cruising boats overlook.
Opposite the head on the starboard side is an office and the nerve center of the boat. A large comfortable office chair faces aft toward the electronic panel, ship’s computer and navigation instruments molded into the bulkhead. This is a great feature that allows for a designated space for business in an age of increasingly mobile communications technology. The onboard office was built into both hulls number one and two but subsequent owners have opted for a third cabin in this space, thereby increasing berthing to six and providing two excellent sea berths while on passage.
OPEN AND LIGHT
Just aft of the office and up a step you enter the raised saloon. Raised saloons are becoming increasingly popular in boats of this size. They create a space that is much more open and light than traditional interiors. A raised forward-facing nav table sits directly above the office. It has a large space for charts, GPS and radar repeaters. The view from the chart table is the better part of 360 degrees. One could not navigate into a harbor from there, but it is a great place to spend time on watch at sea.
Opposite the nav table, a settee large enough to sit six people comfortably for dinner dominates the saloon. Under and behind the settee there is plenty of storage space for provisions. The water tanks and batteries lay under the floorboards. Altair is equipped with 180 gallons of freshwater and 630 amp/hrs of battery power. Every panel and floorboard can be removed to allow easy access to all wiring and different systems aboard. The dinette does not provide a sitting view through the saloon’s large windows; to make that possible, the dinette would have to occupy the center of the saloon, thereby reducing floor area and altering the traffic flow.
The galley would be the envy of many small urban apartments. Two people can work on its plentiful counter space without impeding each other and the three-burner stove offers ample cooking surface. The fridge and freezer were a touch small for my liking but worked well and provided easy access to everything.
And, finally, the aft cabin. Alex and I slept here and found it somewhat tight for two people dressing or undressing at the same time. The double berth will be comfortable in a seaway, though. There is plenty of storage space, and a Lewmar hatch above that provides ventilation and communication with the cockpit.
The weather on the Chesapeake did not cooperate the weekend we sailed south. If it wasn’t flat calm it was blowing straight on our nose. Still, we sailed Altair at every possible occasion and came away with a decent sense of her performance.
Owner Rick Palm and crew Alex Schaefer enjoy a cool cruise south through Chesapeake Bay
The Saga range has some distinct attributes. One of them is the large beefy bowsprit; the other is the simple sloop rig with double roller-furling headsails. A large 150 percent genoa on the sprit and a blade just inside—what Saga calls the “variable geometry rig”—is what Europeans call a Solent Rig. This rig, with a powerful fully battened mainsail, allows for many sailing configurations. It also allows sailors who want to push the boat the ability to have fun. The Sagas have moderate-draft fin keels and large, powerful rudders that make them quick and responsive enough to entertain even racing sailors.
We left Oxford at six in the morning on Saturday. The day was clear and cool and the wind was blowing out of the south at 10 knots. We hoisted the main with the electric winch at the companionway and unfurled the genoa. We bore away to a beam reach and managed seven knots of boat speed. When we hardened up around the point south of Oxford and sailed into the bay we were still able to make a solid five knots in the fluky eight- to 10-knot breeze. Altair cut along happily under full main and genoa. This didn’t last long. As the sun rose and gained strength, the wind shut off. We turned on the 100-horsepower Yanmar diesel and motored south. The engine running at 3,000 rpm drove Altair at eight knots all day long.
As the afternoon wore on we grew increasingly tired of the drone of the diesel and promised ourselves that tomorrow we would sail regardless. After a quiet night in a lovely, secluded anchorage, a cold southerly wind and spitting rain greeted us in the morning. With our foulies on we hoisted the main and unfurled the blade jib. Altair drove steadily through the one-foot chop at seven knots about 30 degrees off the apparent wind, happy as a clam. The feel on the helm was rock solid and responsive. The view forward to the telltales on the genoa’s luff was unobstructed, but seeing the main was difficult through the plastic window in the Bimini top.
The morning progressed with bouts of rain and sunshine peaking through the hazy gray clouds. Hard on the wind Altair had an extremely easy motion and down below was quiet as a mouse the entire time we were under way. I particularly enjoyed sitting at the raised nav table watching the water sluice by the leeward rail in total comfort.
The wind held steady from due south until noon and then slowly began to die. We were able to sail about 20 miles before reluctantly turning on the engine. I would have to be content with this short sail because the Bay would not give us any more wind that day. By the time we reached Norfolk, it had shut off completely.
Even with the little sailing time I was able to get a feel for how Altair performed and would relish another opportunity to do some more long-distance sailing on her or another Saga 48. I am sure it would offer a comfortable ride gliding along in the trade winds.
The Saga 48 meets her design criteria to a tee. She provides a couple a good, stable platform to take offshore and live aboard for an extended period. She sails well but is not too light or overpowered to become unwieldy and unmanageable in bouncy weather. The systems are excellently put together with high quality components. Bob Perry has used his vast knowledge and good sense to come up with a boat that is perfect for people who want to do some serious cruising. There are no fancy extras, just a good solid and simple design that can take you anywhere you choose and will do so safely, quickly and easily.
Displacement 30,000 lbs.
Ballast 9,850 lbs.
Sail area 1,206 sq. ft.
Fuel 183 gals.
Water 180 gals.
Price $510,000 (U.S.)
423 Lakeshore Road
St. Catharines, Ontario
Canada L2R 7K6
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