Cruising World - - Boats & Gear -

As a marine-elec­tron­ics edi­tor and new-boat re­viewer, I’m care­ful to re­main vig­i­lantly brand ag­nos­tic. How­ever, when it comes to clas­sic plas­tics, I have an un­apolo­getic fa­vorite, namely South­ern Cross, my dad’s mod­i­fied J/44, which was built in 1990 and which my fam­ily has owned since 2001. Sure, she’s not thrilling on sub-6-knot days, but given breeze, she’s a pure joy to sail. While I’ll ad­mit that part of my en­chant­ment stems from the thou­sands of miles I’ve logged aboard her ca­pa­ble hull, the bulk of my in­fat­u­a­tion is due to the fact that her de­signer, Rod John­stone, nailed so many small but crit­i­cal de­tails (we’ll kindly over­look her less-than-ideal trav­eler place­ment), in­clud­ing great sight lines, com­fort­able cock­pit er­gonomics and easy ac­cess to in­stru­ment screens, but­tons, en­gine con­trols and crit­i­cal winches from her de­stroyer-style wheel.

While some of South­ern Cross’ elec­tron­ics may no longer be state of the art, they have served our fam­ily well, and for me, a boat­ing writer, she’s al­ways been a solid base­line for eval­u­at­ing cock­pit and nav-sta­tion elec­tron­ics in­stal­la­tions aboard new boats.

Boat de­sign and marine elec­tron­ics have ob­vi­ously evolved sig­nif­i­cantly since 1990, but the same de­sign, in­stal­la­tion and er­gonomics chal­lenges that John­stone mas­tered are still rel­e­vant for con­tem­po­rary de­sign­ers, and in some cases, have been ex­ac­er­bated by to­day’s dual helms and beamier tran­soms. With that in mind, I strolled the docks of the 2017 U.S. Sail­boat Show in An­napo­lis, Mary­land, to see

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