Hero 33

A Live Aboard Freighter - Second Page

A rough sketch of a possible interior layout

The layout sketched here is just one idea. With a big rectangular space like this available you can really have a lot of fun with interior possibilities and I'd really leave it pretty much to the owner to decide. Most boats have too much shape to let the owner fool with the interior very much. The advantage of this layout is that the master stateroom has the wheelhouse for "private" access and the forward berths have access through the scuttle. Both cabins have access to the head.

Starting from the bow you have a double chain locker to allow you to anchor out while traveling or anchor safely in emergencies. The back side of this is a collision bulkhead. Not that this is much of a concern in a coastal cruiser but you might as well have it. This is followed by the galley with the stove at the forward end, plenty of counter space and cupboards over the counters on both sides. Deck prisms will provide a good deal of light and the forward scuttle provides both ventilation and a place for the cook to sit and observe the world while underway.

Next aft is the main salon. The table has a top which flips over to double the size of the table when everybody is dining at once. These settee berths are full size household single mattresses 30" wide. Removable backrests make the width more comfortable when dining.  Aft of the salon is a small office area to port, which is large enough to have a computer and printer if you want by making generous use of space under the desk and over the desk in a built in "hutch". To starboard is the head which has a full sized tub. The head fixture itself should probably be a simple portable unit with provision for a deck pump out should it prove available. In most areas there is no way to pump out holding tanks legally and you are back to some variant on breaking the law. If you do have to break the law, the best way is probably just having a Y-valve and pumping over board. This tends to break down the material a bit and there probably isn't really enough pollution from yachts to harm the environment anyway except in very restricted areas. About the worst thing you can do is fill a big holding tank and then have to pump it overboard all at once. This really will pollute.

In the aft cabin there is a full size built in double bed to starboard and your choice of drawers, hanging lockers, etc. with bookshelves over. Aft of this is a steel air and watertight bulkhead separating the engine compartment from the rest of the boat. A hatch is above and between the outboard wells so there is easy access to the engines There should also be plenty of room for tankage. One thing though: Don't try to use portable tanks as they wouldn't be legal or safe down below. No matter what you do make sure there is plenty of forced air ventilation through here.

The separate little sketch shows the wheelhouse with a door to port on to the deck. The wheel is offset to starboard a bit. There is a hatch down into the aft cabin. The remainder of the area is an L-shaped settee the long leg of which runs in under the steering station and can be used as another berth. I expect a lot of people will immediately want a larger wheelhouse. However if you start adding more weight up that high you're going to have to make the vessel wider, deeper, etc. If you want more accommodations, my suggestion is to just make her longer and add another cabin down below. This is less expensive, makes the boat faster, and gives more big ship feel for the least money.

From our personal experience this is plenty of live aboard space for four. If it isn't roomy enough for you it won't cost much to lengthen a largely rectangular box like this to add another stateroom, office space, a big library, or whatever you want. When we lived aboard we always had office areas so that we could earn our living writing and designing. My wife says Hero is an artist or writer's dream boat. These days, when you can carry an immense number of books transferred to Adobe "pdf" files and stored on one small solid state drive, you can have a large reference library aboard even a very small boat.

For absolute economy of first cost and installation nothing beats buying a couple of used outboards that your boat yard has checked for compression and tuned up. She could also have two small diesels under the wheelhouse with an aft cabin in the stern at a little greater expense. If you went with the diesels and the aft cabin, probably the ports should wrap right around the stern. The steering would be a simple hydraulic system and the other controls could be the common push pull cable systems. All of this is right off the shelf and inexpensive. The only extravagance here would be that most of us could not resist making the wheel a huge traditional wooden one for effect.

I have also shown a shallow skeg. This allows you to maneuver Hero more easily. Even if the boat were never to be moved it would make routine out of water maintenance easier.

Hero is intended to be built very quickly and inexpensively in steel. All plating in hull deck and deck structures are all either flat or cylindrical sections and are thus very easy for even an unsophisticated boat building operation to layout, cut and weld up. A hull deck and wheelhouse could be welded at minimal cost for you by a professional builder. In this type that would be a big chunk of the cost of the vessel. Much of the cost of steels vessels is in sand blasting and coating everything.  If you can do that you save a huge amount.  Then you , put in an oak sole, hull and deck liners with insulation on the back, a simple pine workboat interior, a couple of outboards and their controls and tanks, and you'd be pretty well done. Not an expensive vessel!

Although most people realize that nowadays maintenance of steel vessels is no more work than other materials it is worth mentioning here that epoxy seems to be the key to utter relaxation in maintaining a steel boat. We just had the owner of a 35 year old steel vessel we are restoring here for about half a week. We set him and a friend of his to work on the outside of his own boat which had a lot of rust spots, especially on the underbody. I think it is fair to say he was surprised at how fast you could repair the neglect of the years the boat sat before he bought it. Indeed he was so pleased with what he'd accomplished that he asked if he could take some time out to help the yard with something. He and his friend then took time to make mounts for a large sign we'd been meaning to put up on the front of our building. The best thing is to sandblast any areas which show rust and coat them with WEST epoxy with a little barrier coat additive mixed in. We usually do three coats just to build up a good surface. Then you sand and paint normally.

This brings up another point. The human eye is very good at detecting unfairness in a surface and I have often seen owners of a new steel boat view the very slight unevenness of a new welded up and ground steel hull with horror. They don't realize that the unfairness often amounts to a few thousandths of an inch! They then slather a quarter of an inch of filler all over the hull, spend weeks sanding it fair and painting and then every year spend ages patching the filler while complaining about the time it takes to maintain the boat. None of this is necessary. Accept the unfairness the first year. The second year when you do your yearly maintenance by sanding the whole boat lightly with a palm sander (not a disk sander, please!) and painting you will be startled at how much better she looks. The third year she will often look so fair that people are beginning to ask you what she's made of. In other words the very act of sanding and repainting minutely fairs the painted surface itself until those few thousandths of an inch of waviness disappear with no extra fairing work or cost at all. If we finish up this design I will write a little pamphlet on steel maintenance and its simplicity to go aboard each boat.

Hero is a bone simple little ship with a simple graceful sheer. She uses the sheer paint lines to give character. The idea was to get the maximum in shippy appearance without adding any cost. If you had unlimited funds you'd end up with something like the double ender in the Freighter Yachts section of the Idea Designs. Nevertheless a cargo mast and boom, scroll work on the bow, a fancy name board, davits for sailing dinghies and maybe a brass swivel gun on the stern rail all could be added later as the owner desired. There are various fancier sheers, secondary rails fore and aft, and other effects that could add to the romance of the freighter image but all of these would increase the cost quite a bit. These days everything's so bland that this little freighter will probably stand out as intensely romantic just as she is.

Another point to be made is that Hero could very easily be produced in a variety of lengths with little more effort than re-fairing the sheer to keep a good appearance. For anything up to a family of four it is hard to believe you'd really want anything bigger than this. If you've got four children add another 6'6" to the length to get another huge cabin.

In any case you'd find Hero less expensive to buy and own than a comparable motor home and to me the enjoyment is incomparably greater on the water.

Sitting here typing this I imagine my glee if, when we had our building shop, a client had wanted us to build one of these vessels and deliver it to Florida. Hopefully my wife and I would get to take it down. We'd have to take our cat with us, but she was born and raised on a schooner so she should adapt OK. If we aimed for a spring launch on the vessel perhaps the owner would want to come up for a summer vacation on it in our great system of enclosed bays here. Then round about the first of September we'd put our personal gear, our handheld GPS and our handheld VHF aboard, check the charts and get going. The first good day we'd probably go up to Head Harbor on the northeast end of Campobello. We'd wait there for a good weather forecast, light winds and the tide with us and then drop down the coast to Cutler or in behind Cross Island as our first day's run. This is an all outside run and for comfort's sake we'd pick a day when the wind was offshore or calm. In any case if the next day wasn't good cruising we'd explore by dinghy or on foot where we were. Given a good day our next day's run would probably go out by The Brothers Islands to either Roque Island with its mile and a quarter white sand beach or to Jonesport / Beals Island which are a really nice pair of fishing communities. (Shortly there will be some pictures of a painting Nannette did of The Brothers under Diary of a Painting on her Harbor Gallery section of this site.) We're into lobster trap country now so we'd be constantly on the look out to make sure we didn't pick one up in a prop. Of course you're better off in this vessel than most, in that the engines are arranged to make clearing a prop easy by working through the well. You can also fit prop guards to your lower units if you wish. Even with worrying about pot warp the day's runs should go well. The most economical cruising speed for Hero will be around 6 knots, at which speed she will leave essentially no wake. Maximum speed won't run over 7-3/4 knots and will use a lot more fuel, so why not cruise quietly and economically? Most people won't run more than 6 to 8 hours in a day if they want to really enjoy life but that's around 36 to 48 miles a day at the most economical speed, which is a lot of beautiful territory.

I guess I could describe the whole East Coast day by day but suffice it to say we'd continue on, picking our weather for enjoyments sake, and exploring small towns or deserted islands, or writing and painting, when the weather didn't cooperate. It's a beautiful trip, especially when you've learned enough to enjoy the process rather than just seeking the goal of getting where you are going. But I really envy Hero's owners. They can stay where they will, cruise quietly, gently and economically through any protected waters they care to and with the low on water cost of living its hard to imagine a more happy and carefree life.

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