Ben Bow
A 28' 8" Jib-Headed Knockabout or Gaff Cutter
By William Atkin

A Deep Sea Auxiliary

Somewhat over three years ago I prepared designs of a small cutter rigged auxiliary which I felt would be a superior sort of craft. This was a 28-footer having a beam of 9 feet 6 inches and a draft of 5 feet 3 inches. She, like this Ben Bow, was cutter rigged and we named her Fore An' Aft. I have sailed on her a lot and she is a good little vessel, comfortable, able, and not at all slow. The cutter rig is very satisfactory but like anything else in the world of boats one has to become thoroughly familiar with its five sails spread from a single mast, just as you have to become familiar with any other rig before it is possible to pass upon the subject one way or the other.

A year or so after launching Fore An' Aft I had time to gather together a lot of data in connection with my own boats and those of other designers which I have been collecting with a view to getting the art of small yacht architecture down to a plane that would be something else than guess work and theory. It may not be amiss to mention that I have designed during the last 13 years some 227 yachts and very few of these have been at all similar. It is only during the last few years that I have been lucky enough to design and have built four boats of much the same character, these being Fore An' Aft, Magpie, Scorpio, and Sailho. All cutter rigged, all short ended with a capital S, and all built under my nose, so to speak, and all by the same builder. So I changed each in many ways to find out what happened. And I found out.

The fifth and the sixth of the same breed are now in the works; the former, however, will carry a yawl rig and the latter, another cutter, is Ben Bow, shown herewith. The latter is fully planked now and I am hoping for the best. Next summer I shall be writing these articles in her cabin.

Ben Bow's mainsail and staysail spread 491 square feet; her staysail, 72 square feet; and her jib topsail with 71 square feet more making a total of 588 square feet. This is far from being over-canvased, but, although modest in area is nevertheless very snug and easy to handle. And now we come to the mast. This stands 45 feet 6 inches above deck -- which you will agree is a tall mast for a 28-foot yacht. And so is it any wonder that folks have called Ben Bow a "mast with a boat at one end"? The tall mast permits the use of a tremendous balloon jib and spinnaker. (The plans for Ben Bow also include a 614 square foot gaff-headed cutter rig).

The cabin trunk has been kept narrow so as to give plenty of deck room -- which is needful and desirous, but then again this will make the cabin seem smaller than it really is. On deck then we have a cockpit which is 3 feet in length and a trifle under 4 feet wide, but only 9 inches deep. There is, however, nice seating room between the after hatch and the cockpit, and then as I dearly love to lie flat on the floor I shall be very comfortable and snug with the cockpit coaming coming to a height of about 16 inches above the cockpit floor. A short bridge deck, more in the nature of a panting beam, across the boat at a very vital spot not only strengthens the boat but brings the sill of the companionway door well above any water which may be shipped. The bridge deck is just 1 foot in length.

All men seem to be most interested in cabin plans and I am sorry to say that most boats are built around a cabin plan which is the wrong way in which to go about the thing. The form of the hull and its sail plan are the all important things if speed is the first consideration. For cruising the cabin has much value, as well as the comfort of the craft when the weather is bad. So you see that it is not a simple problem to build a fast boat and at the same time have the accommodations of a Leviathan. In Ben Bow I have sacrificed headroom so as to reduce freeboard and cabin height and in all my cruising days aboard her must be content with 5 feet 6 inches standing room, but since I am a little less in stature than this I shall not mind, although some of my guests may.

Beginning aft we have the engine under the cockpit and separated from the cabin by two swing doors. There is a small clothes locker each side of the cabin aft under the bridge deck which will come in handy for hanging shore clothes, etc. Then we have the two berths having water tanks under each. There is good room between the faces of the bunks, 32 inches. Behind the bunks are lockers for bed clothes. I have put the galley amidships this time, setting the stove athwartships with the sink and wash tray running along the side of the boat. There is a lot of room here under the side deck for a dish locker and under the wash tray for pots, pans, and all those miscellaneous supplies that gather themselves together on a boat. A hanging locker and desk grace the space opposite the galley and under the desk we shall have an ice box. Two very comfortable full size bunks are fitted forward; the water closet being installed under the seat between the bunks. In the extreme eyes there is room for anchor chain and small gear of one kind and another that has to be tucked away somewhere.

The lines show a light displacement craft of low freeboard and a long lateral plane, the forefoot is deep and will not fall off; the depth of forefoot allows a lot of headroom up under the forward deck as well. Most small craft are far too shoal forward and in the least chop have a bad habit of falling off when on the wind. The sections are much flatter than in any of the previous boats of this type that I have done before and while this cuts down headroom and floor space it is valuable from the standpoint of gaining stability and speed. Ben Bow carries 3,100 pounds of iron outside and 2,800 pounds inside. With water, anchors, chain, fuel, motor, etc., she will set well. Now, remember, that in a small craft it is important to have the ballast distributed so that while at anchor and with no one aboard the boat will set down by head, because the crew in a sailing craft always are aft and several hundred pounds have considerable effect upon trim.
Plans for Ben Bow are $250
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