Shannon Pilot 43


SHANNON PILOT 43 • Another breakthrough concept for Shannon, combining wheelhouse comfort with aft-cockpit

Walt Schulz, president and founder of Shannon Yachts, remains committed to the cautious design mindset that has enabled almost three decades of Shannons to become icons of seaworthiness, manageability and long-distance voyaging. On the other hand, he is open-minded, flexible and smart enough to incorporate into his repertoire ongoing advancements in building technology and onboard systems, along with the ever-evolving wish list of a client base too savvy to let his boats languish in the past. The result is a range of cruising vessels with an impressive global track record and a healthy ability to adapt to modern demands.

The Shannon Pilot 43 Mk II brings the recent past and the emerging future together in any number of ways. It is not a brand-new boat per se – to be sure, the original aft-cockpit Shannon 43 from whence the hull and most of the deck are derived was introduced back in 1987, and the Pilot version itself first appeared at least five years ago – but in its current incarnation the vessel is elevated to a new level of sophistication by virtue of a yard intent on outfitting it with the latest and most reliable equipment on the market, and a client coming up from a Shannon 39 with firm ideas about what he and his wife want, not to mention an uncommon grasp of systems and technical minutiae.

Terry and Christie Rolon have big plans for their Shannon Pilot 43 KiKi. They took delivery of the vessel in the upper reaches of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay in late November, after which they departed down the coast for six months of living aboard in the Virgin Islands, familiar territory to them having sailed there in the past. They intend to return to New England before the summer to tweak the boat and address any yard issues, improvements and refits that may become apparent during their southern sojourn. Once back in the saddle, they will spend time poking about the coast of Maine before embarking on The Big One – a circumnavigation.

They approached Schulz and his talented crew after a particularly satisfying experience with their previous boat, a Shannon 39. Their decision to pursue serious voyaging created the need for a larger vessel, and a desire to make the liveaboard experience as comfortable and fulfilling as possible drove the requirement that she include a viable weatherproof wheelhouse and inside steering station. Repeat customers, as it were, appealing to Schulz for the realization of a lofty ideal.


Schulz developed the Pilot 43 with the aim of combining the refined sailing attributes of the original 43 with the wheelhouse concept championed by the Shannon Pilot 38. The wheelhouse includes a dedicated steering station, a fully outfitted nav center, standing headroom, settees port and starboard, engine access, reverse-cycle AC/heating…you name it. Proportionally, it is bigger than a typical deck saloon and in many respects it serves as the primary living area in the boat; certainly given its terrific visibility and interior volume it represents a marvelous space and a well-protected window on the outside world.

But the designer is quick to point out that “the Shannon Pilot 43 is not a motorsailer, it is a true full-rigged sailing auxiliary.” The claim is an important one because despite the presence of a substantial wheelhouse component, the sailing essence of the original aft-cockpit 43 is carefully preserved. Notable is the attempt aesthetically to accentuate the boat’s graceful sheer and to nest the abovedeck architecture as low and deeply as possible into the hull. Shannon’s Bill Ramos remarks that the new boat’s raised gooseneck results in a decrease of only 18 square feet of mainsail area, and clearly there is no attenuation of the rigging package just because 74 horses reside in the engine room below.

In fact, the development of the wheelhouse using the original deck tool as a template results in the net loss of only four inches from the cockpit; the side decks and foredeck remain unchanged. The cockpit thus retains the seagoing helm of the original 43 so sweetly reminiscent of the Cherubini 44, along with 6’6” seats and primary winches on wide coamings. In fact, there is plenty of room for a generous liferaft locker in the cockpit sole – out of the way, off the deck, but right where you want it. Visibility forward down the gangways on either side is good; so too is visibility through the wheelhouse given its generous complement of glass.

The sailing imperative is endorsed by the vessel’s non-dimensional numbers. Displacement/Length (D/L) at 261 and Sail Area/Displacement (SA/D) at 16.5 (calculated using mainsail plus 100% foretriangle) are moderate by oceangoing cruising-boat standards, comparable to the Hallberg Rassy 46, the Fast Passage 39, and the Valiant 40 – all proven voyagers. The combination of medium displacement and a healthy spread of canvas gives these vessels good payload-carrying ability and the authority to move through a wide wind range. Further, aboard KiKi each helm station – inside and outside – steers by way of its own cable and quadrant linked independently to the rudder shaft, which provides welcome redundancy there and the notion that you can really sail this boat from either location without that frustrating bane of so many dual-helm sailing vessels, dreaded hydraulic steering. Ballast/Displacement is a reassuring 36 percent.

Hull form and underbody design feature rounded sections and a recommended keel centerboard configuration that draws a cruising-friendly 4’10” with the board up and a formidable 8’ 7” with the board down. A six-foot fixed keel is offered optionally, but in fact this boat is designed around the keel centerboard and over the course of its production run most Shannon 43 owners have gone that route. It makes a lot of sense; in our light-air sea trials, deploying the board upwind had an immediate positive effect on pointing ability and the reduction of leeway, and conversely winding it in as we turned downhill produced a ready increase in acceleration and speed.

The boat shows a cutaway forefoot with enough depth in the bow sections to control pounding. Aft, the rudder is hung off a substantial skeg with an aperture for the prop. It’s the old way of doing it, but benefits include rudder protection, prop protection, and solid purchase for the shaft without the need for a strut. The keel itself is flat on its bottom surface in order to make careening viable in far-flung locales.


Shannon’s tried-and-true fiberglass technique features composite core construction for weight savings and increased modulus. The 43 is laid up in one piece with continuous transverse laminate, and the judicious use of 1708 45/45 bias roving, biaxial unidirectional filament, Kevlar/glass hybrids and epoxy resin allows for added structural reinforcement in high-stress locations such as the stem, chain plates, rudder post, bulkhead attachments, and internal hull/deck flange. The schedule includes an NPG isophthalic gel coat, ounce-and-a-half mat set in vinylester, two-millimeter Coremat to prevent print-through, and multiple layers of biaxial 2408 roving on either side of 3/4- inch closed-cell Corecell foam set in Corebond mastic from the sheer to the turn of the bilge; below this and throughout the keel solid glass is used. Full-length longitudinal stringers are glassed in below the level of the cabin sole. Internal lead ballast is cast in four molds to fit the interior contour of the keel and glassed in heavily. The flanged hull-deck joint is bomb-proof, featuring Sikaflex and 3/8-inch stainless bolts on 16-inch centers, followed by a toe rail affixed with 5/16-inch bolts on 16-inch centers and staggered to net a mechanical fastener every eight inches.

Interior construction is equally impressive. Bulkheads are tabbed over polyester fillets that keep the edges shy of the hull to avoid hard spots. In addition to the tabbing, fiberglass strands are let fore-and-aft through holes in the bulkheads and laminated to the inside of the hull, effectively “lacing” the structure in place. A mahogany subfloor grid is fastened to the structural longitudinals but is intended to remain removeable to allow extraction of water and fuel tanks non-destructively.

The cabin sole consists of 5/8-inch sol-id teak with holly splines. Furniture components are built in-house using mortis-and-tenon screwed-cornerpost construction.

Shannon is meticulous about the installation of systems and it is noteworthy that the shop is always on the lookout for a newer or better way of doing things and for the most dependable equipment on the market. Bill Ramos is never content to promote a product he’s installed in the past if a better one appears, and he is adamant about making sure that everything he does install is done so with logic and precision. One of the things he likes particularly about the Pilot 43 is the amount of space the boat provides for mechanical and electrical gear, space that Shannon has filled scrupulously according to the tenets of easy access, sensible redundancy, unambiguous identification and consistent labeling. “The equipment quota is always increasing, never decreasing,” he remarks. “It’s amazing how much room you need these days to fit it all in right. That’s one of the great things about this boat, namely that you don’t have to put things like an inverter underneath or behind stuff where you can never get at it. Everything is right out in the open.”

He’s not bluffing. The sole in the Pilot 43 wheelhouse hinges open to reveal a sprawling engine compartment in which the centerpiece – a 74-horsepower Westerbeke W-71C with a 200-amp high-output alternator on the boat we inspected – enjoys easy three-sided access, with access to the drive side aft available through the cockpit lockers. Dual Racor water-separator primary fuel filters, a 5-kw Westerbeke genset, an ESI fuel polishing system, a reverse-cycle AC/heating climate control station, bronze sea cocks with wood plugs in obvious, easy-to-access locations, auto fire extinguisher…It’s all there, with room enough to perform most maintenance and service in pressed whites if you like.

Owner input and customization have played a major role in the development of the 43 KiKi. The Rolons have been able to install a full-up dive compressor in the starboard cockpit locker, and a bow thruster forward with its own battery located nearby to avoid the lengthy wire chase. Redundant Nexus autopilots are installed aft; should the operative one fail, you simply disengage its arm and engage the back-up. A fully computerized wheelhouse allows you to feed the autopilot from a Furuno NavNet plotter with C-Map NT charts, or from a laptop-driven Nobeltec raster system – all with the flip of a switch.


The interior plan is flexible given the yard’s custom approach, and the client is encouraged to become an active participant in its design. The two prominent aspects of the boat below are, first, the expansive wheelhouse, and second the proliferation of lockers and storage possibilities. The wheelhouse provides storage beneath the settees and outboard – so much, in fact, that the Rolons were able to fit everything in the way of personal gear that they carried on their Shannon 39, stem to stern, in this area alone. The wheelhouse itself is open and airy, with bridgedeck access to the cockpit aft and companionway access to the saloon below.

The saloon features a U-shaped galley to port – in which the Rolons quite sensibly installed a trash compactor for a 4:1 reduction in rubbish volume – and a snug sitting area, entertainment center and dinette to starboard. One scheme substitutes a guest cabin with over/under berths in this starboard location. The head resides forward, opposed by a separate shower. A large double berth in the bow serves as owner’s quarters. Lee cloths installed along the wheelhouse settees facilitate sea berths up where the action is.

Topside, the rig is designed for sea duty and as usual Shannon offers variations on the sloop and cutter themes. We sailed with the so-called “Scutter” configuration on KiKi, which features a roller-furled 80% yankee flown off a headstay tacked at the end of the boat’s bow platform, and a roller-furled lapping genoa flown off a second headstay tacked just aft at the stemhead. The idea behind the Scutter rig is simple if unorthodox, and it points to Schulz’s open thinking with regard to manageable offshore sailing. You sail with the main and genoa in light to medium air when you need the drive, reduce the jib and reef as the wind rises, then furl it completely in brisk or heavy going and deploy the working canvas forward. What this does is keep the bow down in windy conditions by moving the center of effort forward, thereby avoiding the tendency to round up. In really wild weather you can furl everything and sail bare-headed or energize a convertible staysail stay at mid-deck and hoist a hank-on spitfire jib.

Deviations include putting a self-tacking genoa with a jib boom in place of the conventional genoa in the Scutter configuration, or moving into a more classic cutter set-up with twin roller-furled headsails side-by-side on the bow platform (not unlike what the Open 60s competing in events such as Around Alone and Vendée Globe use), and a conventional intermediate staysail stay aft. In all cases, standing rigging is highly spec’d, including stout sections, dual fore-and-aft lowers, and oversize 5/16” x 3” stainless chain plates gusseted outboard to transverse structural bulkheads.


Our sailing experience aboard the Pilot 43 occurred in light air and benign conditions. Thankfully, the boat sported a premium suit of sails with an enhanced-roach main, and though normal circumstances would warrant motoring through this stuff, nonetheless we were able to keep appreciable way on under sail. The entire main is visible from either helm station – through a hatch in the wheelhouse, and through a window in the Bimini – and all sail handling exercises are operable from the cockpit. It is Schulz’s contention that going forward in dicey weather is to be avoided if possible, which accounts for all reefing and furling lines led aft. Going forward, however, is facilitated by grabrails along the entire length of the wheelhouse structure.

Speaking of the wheelhouse, the obvious question in any sailor’s mind must revolve around the notions of windage and vulnerability to boarding seas.

Shannon has considered all this, the response being an attempt by Schulz to keep the outward profile as low as he can and the structure itself as well-built as possible. Of note, all of the side lights are fitted with built-in studs to which custom 1/2-inch Lexan storm units can be fitted as soon as the barometer starts to plummet. At sea, the relative size of the wheelhouse is apt not to cause a problem given the sailing attributes of the boat overall; at the dock, where windage can ruin your day no matter what you’re driving, the optional bow thruster makes good sense.

Shannon has carved for itself a well-deserved niche in the offshore sailing realm by producing sensible boats and courting a particularly conversant, well-informed cadre of owners keen on putting a lot of blue-water miles behind them. The yard is insistent about finding solutions and avoiding mistakes. Quality and support are givens, as is unwavering attention to detail. It is our feeling that the Pilot 43 is born of proven stock and represents a successful blend of comfortable offshore amenity in a sailing hull as seaworthy as they get.

LOA 47’6” (14.5 m.)
LOD 43’10” (13.4 m.)
LWL 36’9” (11.3 m.)
Beam 13’5” (4.1 m.)
Draft (fixed keel) 6’0” (1.8 m.)
Draft (c’bd up) 4’10” (1.5 m.)
Draft (c’bd dn) 8’7” (2.6 m.)
Ballast 10,500 lbs. (4,763 kgs.)
Displ. 29,000 lbs. (13,154 kgs.)
SA (100%) 975 sq.ft. (90.6 sq.m.)
Mast above water 63’0” (19.2 m.)
Ballast/Displ. .36
Displ./Length 261
SA/Displ. 16.5
Brewer Comfort 34.9
Fuel 140 gal. (530 ltr.)
Water 180 gal. (681 ltr.)
Auxiliary 74-hp Westerbeke W-71C or 75-hp
Yanmar 4JH-2E
Designer Walter Schulz & Assoc.
Base Price $594,000

Shannon Yachts
19 Broad Common Road
Bristol, RI 02809
Ph: 401-253-2441
Fax: 401-254-1202

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Author: Blue Water Sailing


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