The Wild South project started from discussions around creating a modern and practical displacement cruising launch: fast, safe, very comfortable, extremely economical and offering a long range without refuelling
Experience shows that the main obstacles to cruising under power are typically comfort on board, especially under way, and fuel costs. We wanted to create a package that would be simple and relatively inexpensive to build when compared to vessels of similar size, very low maintenance and offer much more usability.
The project has been incredibly successful. Today, years after its launching in 2005, the little ship still steams in and out of the harbour with her original owners more often than the locals care to count. She has logged several thousands of miles, returned in full-blown gales and routinely outperforms much larger fishing boats while consuming minimal amounts of fuel. She is regularly away for two weeks at a time while her owners are having a holiday on board.
Back in 2001, I was absorbed in the early stages of the hull design of the ocean-going sloop Nordkyn when we started discussing cruising under power. The interested party, a professional boatbuilder and marine engineer, had had his feet deeply set in salt water for several decades, with experience ranging from cargo ships to small commercial fishing vessels, and cruising yachts to sailing dinghies.
With this naturally came a no-nonsense, highly pragmatic approach.
“Build yourself a new boat” I said, “Foam core and fibreglass, light and easy to work with”. The idea initially met opposition, but quietly made its way for a whole year. On a mid-winter day, he walked in unexpectedly with a sketch: 11m long, 3.6m beam, a strong spring in the sheer and a classic look. We discussed minimum displacement and agreed that 4.5 tonnes loaded would be reasonable for a boat that size and the intended use. It would allow a sturdy build and a comfortable fit-out.
The tools I was using to develop the Nordkyn hull were put to work to design the underwater body and then develop a 3D CAD model including superstructure and floor elevations for the new cruising launch.
Finally, we printed the hull lines at 1:10 scale and just a few days later, unbeknown to me, some very careful model testing was taking place on the harbour in windy and choppy conditions. Following seas, quartering seas, nothing was apparently left out. “Let’s build it” was the verdict.
By early summer, the structural design, material specifications and main hull drawings were complete and construction of a male plug started immediately.
This is the most efficient scenario for a new design project: the owner is highly capable, experienced, knows what he/she wants, why, and understands the subject. We only designed Wild South because perfect conceptual alignment and understanding existed with the builder and future owner. The boat was going to be built and the project was just too exciting not to undertake it. And it still is! There are no boats like that.
So, in an era in which nearly every pleasure powerboat uses a planing hull, why retain displacement mode?
In short, because planing is very costly, wasteful and generally uncomfortable in all but large crafts unless sea conditions are dead flat. Not only an efficient light displacement vessel is infinitely more usable in all regards, but it also goes a long way further.
As far as I am concerned, you can’t win using a planing hull for cruising in a pleasure boat.
We were talking about serious cruising under power. The Foveaux Strait area at the southern end of New Zealand is renowned to be very windy, shallow and tidal, often with rough sea conditions. It is also the home of the Bluff oyster, other shellfish, a lot of blue cod and crayfish, which are all irresistible incentives for frequently heading out to sea.
Some 20 nautical miles across lies Stewart Island, a scenic, rugged and fascinating cruising ground with many bays and anchorages around a long coastline. Anchored in a bay, the feeling is often one of surprising isolation and remoteness. Located by 47º South with South America as nearest landmass both eastward and westward, some days the weather is nothing short of shocking; hidden in a snug anchorage below the treeline on a comfortable boat, the reward for cruising the area goes beyond what words can convey.
Retaining a fast displacement hull allowed allocating weight to comfort aboard, rather than carrying a heavy engine package and large fuel tanks. Foam core construction provided a stiff, extremely strong, naturally insulated and still light hull with near-zero maintenance requirements.
There are countless fantastic cruising grounds in the world for such vessels: imagine exploring the waterways north of Seattle and Vancouver all the way into Alaska and Glacier Bay National Park, Tasmania and South Australia, the Chesapeake and inland waterways of the East US Coast, the St Lawrence area, the Norwegian coast and many more.
The autonomy exceeding 1000NM under power combined with the efficiency of the hull and a shallow draft of 920mm only opens access to extremely secluded areas at a very low cost.
The hull design received a lot of attention, as always here, and has proved itself as exceptionally seaworthy. Stability is remarkable and the hull exhibits very little rolling motion without any kind of artificial stabilisation. It immediately accelerates before any following sea, even slight, and the boat is literally driven forward by the pressure of the wave underneath the low transom, without ever losing control or engaging the bow. The hull rides before the wave until it subsides and passes under.
The commercial fishermen in the area quickly discovered that the little vessel is deceptively fast and trying to race it with larger boats more than often results in watching it pull away irresistibly. Downhill, the only real competition is very large boats or planing hulls.
Experience has also shown it handles surprisingly large beam seas without even a twitch, still to my amazement today, coming from a background of fixed-keel offshore yachts. It yields to the crests without heeling noticeably or getting hit, very much like come centre-boarders board up.
While fully self-righting, it was never really intended to go out and play in breaking seas, but this hasn’t prevented it from being at sea in such conditions in quite a few occasions.
Top speed can exceed 10 knots, even in flat water, and – without any help from wave action – economical cruising speeds are found in the 8-knot range. Leaving in the morning, destinations distant by 70NM and over are easily reached before dark without great expense in fuel and so comfortably that a wide range of activities are open while steaming along. There is no such thing as waiting until getting there to do something.
The vessel offers ranges of 800-1100NM without refuelling in standard tank configuration, so it is technically capable of undertaking surprisingly long journeys. The limit is essentially the wisdom of the skipper, keeping in mind the single screw propulsion.
|Hull Length||11.2 metres|
|Hull material||Divinycell PVC foam core / Polyester E-Glass sandwich laminate|
|Engine||40-75HP diesel. Refer to design information for selection|
|Cruising speed||8-8.7 knots typical (flat water)|
|Top speed||10-10.5 knots, subject to installed power (flat water)|
|Fuel capacity||Up to 600 litres|
|Range||800-1100 nautical miles|
|Berths||1 double cabin, 3 single bunks in standard layout|
|Facilities||Cooking range, refrigerator/freezer, marine toilet, hot water and shower|
|Water capacity||Up to 300 litres|
|Optional equipment||Genset and/or inverter, solar array|
Comments or suggestions? Go to the Wild South discussion.
 Similar amounts of power in a following sea can deliver average speeds of 10.5-12.5 knots.