Our Fleetwing

Before cockpit enclosure
(updated 8/31/2013)
After going over all our requirements in "On Chosing a Boat", we selected a Beneteau 423, a 42ft boat with two cabins and two heads with lots of room.It fared well against all our requirements.

I can handle the roller furling main and jib manually and furl both even in heavy weather without the need for a winch - all this with zero maintenance the last 9 years. The sugar scoop aft end makes simple work of getting on and off the boat via a dinghy or when swimming, what a pleasure compared to our Ericson where we had to exit over the side or, worse yet, try the aft ladder at an angle of 45 degrees to the water.

Easy on and off over the sugar scoop

If the winds pipe up unexpectedly, the boat just leans over more and does not turn up into the wind (called, "running out of rudder"). I do have to head into the wind to reef or furl up the main but I never have to leave the safety of the cockpit, a definite plus for me. I can reef or furl the jib going downwind or upwind, all manually - no need for a winch.

The shoal keel of 4ft 9in is a big plus going down the ICW! With the 55 ft high mast, we have no trouble getting under ICW bridges. We can even transit the Cape May Canal with its 55 ft high bridge if we wait for less than a high tide. I like the single wheel as opposed to dual wheels. It's less complicated and you only need one set of instruments, one throttle, etc. Down below, the engine compartment opens up with access on all four sides of the Volvo D2-55 diesel (55 hp, not the sail drive, a straight aft drive). It's a low rev, high torque design and is quieter than most diesels. Access to the prop shaft is easy and the stuffing box requires only once per year maintenance (actually it's not a stuffing box but rather a rubber boot that self-seals to the prop shaft, it hasn't leaked in 9 years - a very clever design).

Flex-O-Fold prop folded - no strut needed!
The prop shaft exits directly to the propeller, it doesn't require a separate strut and so bypasses all the chances for vibration and misalignment of an extended shaft. On the shaft I put a Flex-O-Fold prop that is more efficient in both forward and reverse than the fixed prop that came with the boat - plus it folds up for much reduced drag when sailing. It also requires no maintenance (non in 9 years). With this prop I can back up into a 2 knot current our of my slip in the Hudson River without a problem.

For anchoring I looked at independent anchor tests and simply chose the one that came out on top in holding power, setting ability and holding after a direction of pull change. The tests were run by Practical Sailor but have been repeated by others with similar results. The Spade anchor was the winner - why go with second best? We complemented it with 60 ft of 3/8 inch BBB chain and 200 ft of 5/8 inch nylon rode. I smile to myself when I hear people say they used 5/16 inch HiTest chain instead and saved a lot of weight in the bow. The 3/8 inch BBB provides a much better catenary and a more nearly horizontal pull on the anchor for better holding - or the same angle at less scope, desirable in crowded ICW anchorages. Since most ICW anchorages are rather shallow, rarely more than 15 ft and mostly 8 to 10 ft, I just let 60 ft of BBB and the rest nylon (10 - 20 ft) so I have an automatic snubber - you won't want chain directly over the anchor roller. We did go with an oversized anchor, a 66 lbs Spade instead of the 45 lb recommended for our size boat.

Easy engine access
For our trip south, we invested in a full cockpit enclosure. We can zip it up on all sides and on occasional cold days cruise down the ICW in our knit shirts while seeing fishing boats with crew all bundled up complete with hoods and coats. It's a extra blessing on very windy days where it would be a chore to be at the wheel. It's also handy in a driving rain from a sudden thunderstorm, keeps us all dry, no need for wet gear!

We have a VHF remote in the cockpit with an LCD readout so we have complete control of the VHF and the advantage of still using the antenna at the top of the mast with full power. All the instruments are Raymarine except the Garmin 492 chartplotter which only requires 12v DC to work so it can't get messed up with bad communications between units (which has been known to happen with complex setups). I also have an iPad4 with navigation software and much more (see "Apple iPad on a boat" page) for further backup. Also at the helm in addition to all the usual instruments is an engine temperature gauge, not an idiot light, so one can see if the engine is approaching overheating BEFORE it overheats. Perhaps the impeller needs changing or the strainer cleaned (suddenly sucking something found in the ICW). On the chartplotter are the AIS targets that identify all large ships, great for navigating through shipping lanes (NY Harbor or inlets!!)

This is our fifth year of going down the ICW for the winter. We leave around 9/15, come back via a rental car for Thanksgiving and Christmas and then head back down to continue on our boat to Key West for the month of February. We eventually get back to Poughkeepsie, NY by early June, great fun!