With more than 50 years of world voy­ag­ing un­der their keel, de­sign and voy­ag­ing leg­ends Steve and Linda Dashew re­call the past while con­tem­plat­ing the fu­ture.


T he Ne­spresso cof­fee ma­chine hisses in the back­ground as Linda makes a change-of-watch latte. The faint glow un­der the east­ern clouds her­alds an­other beau­ti­ful morn­ing at sea. We have 25 to 30 knots of quar­ter­ing breeze, seas are 8 to 10 feet, and Cochise is lov­ing it. The lit­tle diesels turn 1,600 rpm, and Cochise, our FPB 78, av­er­ages 11.5 knots while surfs ac­cel­er­ate us into the 15-knot range. We stand close to­gether in the gal­ley, touch­ing shoul­ders and thighs, at ease in our lives to­gether and with the sea. There is some­thing spe­cial about this morn­ing, and we both sense it. It is not just the ex­treme com­fort in which we are now run­ning down the Nova Sco­tia coast so late in the cruis­ing sea­son. There is some­thing more. It is an­tic­i­pa­tion. We are think­ing about the past as we con­sider the fu­ture.

We’ve been sail­ing and work­ing as a team now for more than 50 years: rac­ing, ini­tially, and cruis­ing for the past four decades. The sea is wo­ven into the fab­ric of our lives. We fell in love at first sight on Catalina Is­land, and for the next 12 years, when we weren’t start­ing a fam­ily and build­ing our con­struc­tion busi­ness, we were de­sign­ing, build­ing and rac­ing cata­ma­rans that per­formed at the outer lim­its of what was con­sid­ered pos­si­ble.

When the time came to make a change — we both felt the need — we sold the con­struc­tion busi­ness, signed a five-year non­com­pete and bought a 50-foot cruiser/racer. In Novem­ber 1976, we left on what we thought was a year-long sab­bat­i­cal. In­ter­mezzo, a Bill Tripp CCA de­sign, was lovely to look at but to­tally un­suited for long-dis­tance voy­ag­ing. Still, the al­lure of this new life­style was strong. One year be­came three, then six.

We are by na­ture tin­ker­ers, and it was not long be­fore we started chat­ting about the “per­fect” cruis­ing yacht, of­ten pick­ing up ideas from other long-term cruis­ers. As our ideas took shape, there was a sense that we might just be able to cre­ate some­thing for our­selves that was spe­cial. And we were en­joy­ing the team­work in­volved in the cre­ative process.

The 62-foot, flush-deck cut­ter In­ter­mezzo II was the re­sult. She was easy to sail and fast on pas­sage, while at the same time be­ing much more liv­able than our old boat. Her short over­hangs, cou­pled with high free­board, were rad­i­cal for the early 1980s.

When we got to the dock in San Diego, com­plet­ing our cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion, there was a friend wait­ing who wanted a boat. And then an­other, and then a group. The rest, as they say, is his­tory.

From the 80-hour-a-week con­struc­tion busi­ness to be­ing full-time cruis­ers, then to the in­tense con­cen­tra­tion re­quired to co­or­di­nate de­sign and con­struc­tion of yachts over­seas, our pen­du­lum had swung back. I was trav­el­ing con­stantly to boat­yards in var­i­ous parts of the world and over­see­ing the de­sign and con­struc­tion, while Linda ran the house, made sure the fam­ily was taken care of, co­or­di­nated with ven­dors, did the books and fol­lowed up with clients on many de­tails.

We were younger with more stamina then, had faster men­tal pro­cess­ing abil­ity and didn’t know enough to back off and take it easy. Dur­ing the en­su­ing decades, we al­ter­nated be­tween pe­ri­ods on land and at sea, never fully em­brac­ing ei­ther while com­ing up with a se­ries of cruis­ing yachts for our­selves and oth­ers.

We loved work­ing to­gether as a team, vet­ting de­sign con­cepts, work­ing through the thou­sands of de­tails a mod­ern yacht re­quires and then sail­ing each new de­sign, learn­ing from each as the years and miles ac­cu­mu­lated. A se­ries of yachts were built in South Africa, Den­mark, Fin­land and New Zealand, then it was time to go cruis­ing again.

The New Zealand launch of our 68-foot ketch Sun­deer her­alded the end of the Deer­foot se­ries, and when our daugh­ters went away to col­lege, re­turn­ing to cruis­ing was a nat­u­ral fit. We had no in­ten­tion of build­ing more yachts, but when the time came to sell Sun­deer there were a num­ber of dis­ap­pointed prospects, and a group of folks came to­gether who wanted a pro­duc­tion ver­sion. The Sun­deer se­ries was born, and we were back in the boat busi­ness.

The two of us ad­mit to be­ing what might be con­sid­ered per­fec­tion­ists. We like things neat, or­derly, ef­fi­cient and easy to live with — or on. The op­por­tu­nity to pur­sue the ul­ti­mate cruis­ing yacht has brought us back to the de­sign ta­ble again and again. Mix this with a love of the sea and the cruis­ing life­style, and you can see where it leads. By the time some­thing like 30 of these yachts were out cruis­ing, we knew it was once again time for us to go. And we needed a new boat. This wasn’t an op­tion.

Be­owulf, the 78-foot, wa­ter-bal­lasted ketch, sim­ply had to ex­ist. She was our per­fect cruis­ing yacht. All that boat, as much as 6,000 square feet of sail, and just two of us: Im­pos­si­ble, you say.

But it was pos­si­ble, and we did it, with great care and re­spect, as

Be­owulf had the power to take over the game at any point. Talk about an in­tox­i­cat­ing brew. Imag­ine your­self and your mate astride this fly­ing ma­chine, the bow lifted slightly out of the wa­ter as you plane at 14 to 20 knots to­ward your next des­ti­na­tion. We had to be alert at all times. There were no sec­ond chances, and there were knives placed at both masts to cut away sails should the need arise.

When Be­owulf was un­ex­pect­edly sold, we were cast adrift. From the ten­sion of won­der­ing if we should douse the spin­nakers at night be­fore a squall hit, to the calm reverie of bu­colic Tuc­son, Ari­zona — we were boat­less and did not like it. Of course, this led to fid­dling, to new ideas, to sev­eral years of in­tense, to­tally fo­cused de­sign work. Hav­ing pushed the sail­ing de­sign en­ve­lope to the ex­treme edge of what we could han­dle as a cou­ple, we were up for some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. En­ter the 86-foot FPB Wind Horse.

Wind Horse al­lowed us to cross oceans on our own much more eas­ily and com­fort­ably, and with even bet­ter heavy-weather per­for­mance. She could be hauled out and put into stor­age mode, and we would be on our way to our land base within a day. She made it pos­si­ble for us to con­tinue cruis­ing as a cou­ple in far more ad­ven­tur­ous lo­ca­tions than we would have done aboard Be­owulf, Sun­deer or In­ter­mezzo II. We saw 60,000 nau­ti­cal miles flow by dur­ing six years of part-time cruis­ing.

Wind Horse was such an amaz­ing magic car­pet for us that be­ing drawn back into the boat­build­ing busi­ness was prob­a­bly in­evitable. The pen­du­lum had to swing back at some point, and what started out as a cou­ple of sis­ter­ships mor­phed into an 18-yacht fleet, rang­ing from 69 to 110 feet length over­all. Linda brings a latte and espresso to the great room ta­ble aboard

Cochise. I bring the toasted bagel we are shar­ing. Nancy Mor­rell is due on watch in a few min­utes. She and Michael Mor­rell, friends and cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tors from Tuc­son, have been with us now for six weeks. One of the rea­sons we de­signed Cochise was so that we could have friends and fam­ily join us for long pe­ri­ods, with suf­fi­cient space for ev­ery­one to main­tain their san­ity. So far, it is work­ing.

We keep an eye out­side for small boats, while the radar looks for tar­gets and shows AIS sym­bols. This ac­tion plays on a ver­ti­cal 55-inch mon­i­tor fit into the face of a 36-inch-tall locker, where it does not ob­scure our view of the ex­te­rior. We dis­cuss our fu­ture. There is one prob­lem with the FPB busi­ness model. These yachts are larger and more com­plex than our sail­boats. In or­der to get what we think is the cor­rect re­sult, an enor­mous amount of time and ef­fort is re­quired, leav­ing lit­tle space for other ac­tiv­i­ties, such as cruis­ing aboard Cochise.

Cochise has taken us al­most 15,000 nau­ti­cal miles in less than a year. She is well-be­haved, com­fort­able in the ex­treme and, for us at this point in our lives, the ul­ti­mate dream ma­chine. On the other hand, we no longer have suf­fi­cient fire­power to burn the can­dle at both ends. It sim­ply is not pos­si­ble for us to build FPBs with the present level of in­volve­ment and do any­thing else well. Linda points out that, even when we are cruis­ing, con­stant con­tact has to be main­tained with the boat­yard and own­ers.

Sit­ting close, touch­ing lightly, we both know there is only one choice. We can’t cruise in a mean­ing­ful way and con­tinue with the FPB busi­ness. The pen­du­lum is swing­ing back. The three FPBs cur­rently in build will be the last. It is time for us to go cruis­ing, again.

So ends this voy­age.

U.K.-based Berthon will work with Dashew Off­shore in sup­port­ing the FPB fleet. For more in­for­ma­tion visit berthon.co.uk.









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