SKETCHBOOK

Soundings - - Contents - BY SAM DEVLIN

Sam Devlin’s fa­vorite boat de­sign changes from day to day. Meet his cur­rent ob­ses­sion.

It’s not un­com­mon for me to be asked, “Of all the de­signs you have done, which is your fa­vorite?” It’s an in­ter­est­ing and com­pli­cated ques­tion for a long­time boat­builder and de­signer. The best an­swer is that I live in a harem of boat shapes and forms, with a dif­fer­ent choice vir­tu­ally ev­ery night as I move from the con­scious day to my dreams. There is al­ways a time in ev­ery de­sign or build project when I sell my­self on the idea that I need the boat in my life. My needs and de­sires might change a day or two later, but for one de­li­cious mo­ment, each boat is as close to per­fect as I can imag­ine. I re­ally am in love with each de­sign and ves­sel.

En­ter the Rover 29. The seed for this boat was planted years ago with a book, The Guide to Wooden Power Boats by May­nard Bray, with pho­tog­ra­phy by Ben­jamin Mend­lowitz. A copy has graced my book­case off and on (I will ex­plain that in a mo­ment) since 1998, and on Page 131 is a photo of an old work­boat named Rover, built in As­to­ria, Ore­gon, in 1910. I have never seen Rover on the water, but the stern-quar­ter view of her in the book — an­chored in nearly flat-calm, dark, re­flec­tive water — is one of my fa­vorites.

Rover was on my mind as I pon­dered the rea­sons old com­mer­cial ves­sels hold such a rapt au­di­ence. I’m one of the fans: My re­stored fish­ing boat, Josephine, built in 1934, has de­tail and el­e­gance that are truly cap­ti­vat­ing.

Why not cre­ate a new de­sign that cap­tures the essence of old work­ing boats, but in a pack­age with more sta­bil­ity ( with­out the hold full of fish and ice), less length and more com­fort­able ac­com­mo­da­tions? To achieve this, I would have to throw away speed as a re­quire­ment. This de­sign is meant to be ef­fi­cient, eco­nom­i­cal, sea­wor­thy and slow — a boat for a pa­tient skip­per with time to ap­pre­ci­ate the voy­age.

At the same time, I was think­ing about us­ing this hull for sev­eral cabin con­fig­u­ra­tions and ar­range­ment op­tions so it would have wide ap­peal. I re­mem­bered the old Rover de­sign and checked my book­case for The Guide to Wooden Power Boats. It was not there.

I walked up to the house and checked the liv­ing room. No book. Then up­stairs to the small room we call the li­brary. No suc­cess. It turned out that my youngest son Macken­zie had bor­rowed the book. I ner­vously leafed through the pages un­til I got to the photo of Rover, look­ing just as she had in my mem­ory — a right proper work­boat, ma­jes­tic in pur­pose and grace.

See­ing her again helped me to fin­ish my new de­sign. I call her the Rover 29 in trib­ute to her in­spi­ra­tion. She is a dou­ble-en­der with three house con­fig­u­ra­tions, all on the same hull: H for the aft house “hal­ibut schooner” ver­sion, T for the “salmon troller” style and C for the “cruiser.”

I am most struck by the H model, which has a walka­round bul­wark for the mid- or waist deck and aft house. Slid­ing pilothouse doors on the port and star­board sides would pro­vide good air­flow on the warm days of sum­mer, and there’s enough space aft for a sim­ple gal­ley and some sort of stove to give off heat at an­chor. Two quar­ter-type berths are in the aft cabin, with the foot ar­eas ex­tend­ing for­ward and un­der the twin pilothouse seats.

A cen­ter­line wheel that you can stand at,

or that can have a pedestal seat, is in the pilothouse. Years ago, when I worked on tugs in Alaska, I learned that while it was strictly for­bid­den to sit on watch, I could back my­self up to a chart ta­ble or stool and form a tri­pod with my two legs and my butt against the ta­ble or stool’s edge. This po­si­tion kept me sta­ble and upright in rough seas. And it would work aboard my Rover.

The for­ward cabin — prop­erly de­scribed as the fo’c’sle — has twin berths with foot room be­low the waist deck and a true water closet for­ward un­der a hinged lid of counter stowage. I have an ex­treme dis­like of toi­lets on ves­sels, based on years of fix­ing the darn things while cruis­ing in all sorts of sea con­di­tions. Stay­ing sim­ple is al­ways the best choice, but this ar­range­ment on the Rover gives the fo’c’sle cabin a full head with pri­vacy.

The en­gine room is be­low the waist deck and un­der a wa­ter­tight flush hatch, with oil checks done from a door in the fo’c’sle’s aft bulk­head. More ex­ten­sive en­gine work can be done un­der the sky (you could rig a boom tent in in­clement weather) and with full stand­ing head­room along­side the en­gine.

The best power op­tion is a 110-hp Yan­mar diesel, but it would be fun to find an older, re­stored 1- or 2-cylinder banger. If I took that idea to an ex­treme, I would do a water-cooled ex­haust sys­tem plus a smooth-run­ning dry ex­haust, with the stack ex­tend­ing over the top of the pilothouse. The look would be in keep­ing with the ro­mance of boat­ing, which in my ex­pe­ri­ence comes from sim­plic­ity in the process of mov­ing through water.

Rover 29-H LOD: 28 feet, 11 inches BEAM: 10 feet, 2 inches DRAFT: 3 feet, 8 inches DIS­PLACE­MENT: 9,800 pounds (light)

The Rover 29-H model places the pilothouse aft. Seat C/L C/L W N S E Pilothouse Seat

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