Stayless Cat Ketch -- Change My Mind

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Stayless Cat Ketch -- Change My Mind

Post by AgentLocke »

Good Afternoon Gentlebeings,

I can hear the groans already: "Another wannabe cruiser asking questions of the old salts". Guilty as charged, I'm not even ashamed.

As I'm sure many of you have experienced the obsession that sailing can become, it becomes very easy to scour the internet for guides on sailing, learning how to sail, sailing stories, sailing gear, and endless posts of sailboats for sail.

For my first real post here (not counting the semi-jealous comment I made to the fellow who snagged the weather worn Freedom 28 [IIRC} in Antioch this spring), I'd like to focus on why I've become obsessed with the stayless Freedom cat rigged boats and check to see whether my assumptions are as reasonable as I hope they are.

I, of course, am looking to be a liveaboard. Yes, I know that that is a pain in California, but I've never wanted to buy a house or have kids. If this becomes my money pit, I am perfectly happy with that.

That objective gives me several criteria for a boat:
1. Sturdy
2. Roomy
3. Easy handling
4. Easy/low maintenance

There are additional criteria, but they are minor and are really oriented towards details rather than kind of boat.

Sturdy: In my reading and research, I have become wary of large volume production boats. Beneteaus, MacGregors, Catalinas, etc., all seem to be oriented towards production. Their designs might be sound, and their interiors plush, but it is the construction that perturbs me. Production lines are oriented towards ensuring maximum profit out of each hull. I do not begrudge boatbuilders their profit as a strong industry benefits us all. But I do get the sensation that production sailboats are oriented towards day and weekend cruisers rather than dedicated long term live-aboards. I've seen many stories of production boats wearing out quickly. It's enough that large production model sailboats don't appeal to me as much. So small production model boats (and *maybe* one offs) are appealing.

Roomy: I'm not looking to bring aboard an entire household's worth of possessions. I live in a small apartment, and I am looking forward to trimming down my possessions when I do get a boat (with the possible exception of my rather extensive library). Roominess seems to be a function of hull size and displacement, but there is a tradeoff; maintenance costs for sailboats seem to abide by the square cube law. I have incentive to remain as small as possible, within the limits of sanity, comfort, and necessity. So boats that maximize internal volume for a given length are desirable.

Easy-handling: I need to be able to move and sail the vessel all by me onesies. Yeah, I would prefer more than that, but I can't *rely* on having more than myself to crew the boat. So boats that are easy to handle are desireable.

Easy/Low maintenance: I'm not afraid of hard work, but dammit I want to enjoy sailing and living aboard, not fret about this thing or that thing. There'll be plenty of fretting by and by, but simplicity is nice. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades, having worked construction (incl. carpentry, plumbing, electrical, etc), diesel mechanicking, wildland fire, and bureaucracy, among all of the other things I've done in life. Low or easy maintenance would mean that I could handle most repairs on board myself, and at least be useful for larger repairs. Boats that are simple are thus desirable.

Well... Simple, easy handling, beamy, small production. Does that sound familiar?

For this, and so many other reasons, my mind is focused on a Freedom Cat Ketch. I really like the F39s with a preference for the Pilothouse over the Express. I also like the F44, the F33, etc. I also really like how unique they are; not just another sloop

I'm working on getting off the shore and getting some time over water, but I wanted to see if my assumptions are reasonable and if my conclusion is sound. While I realize that asking this question on a Freedom forum is just begging for confirmation bias, I want to hear what the salts have to say about when they first considered a Freedom, why they went for it, and how well the Freedoms have performed for them since.

I hope that this post finds everyone well and in a talkative mood!

Best regards,
Last edited by AgentLocke on Wed Oct 03, 2018 1:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Stayless Cat Ketch -- Change My Mind

Post by cberdie »

I think you are pretty much on key. Production boats get a bad reputation. frequently, because when that fin keel hits bottom the floors at the aft end of the keel will crack or break. This is the way they are designed and most fin keel boats will do the same if they hit hard enough. When I bought our Freedom 40 the only thing I didn't like was the full keel. After 22 years of sailing her, I find it the best feature. You can leave the helm alone and she sails herself, (if you know how to trim her). She is not easy handling, in the marina in a wind or current, but I have singlehanded often. The Freedoms don't have many holes in the deck, which keeps leaks and soggy core to a minimum. She's for sale by the way.
Carl Berdie
Running Free

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Re: Stayless Cat Ketch -- Change My Mind

Post by Camino »

Whoa Agent Locke— that’s a lot of info you’re seeking. Too much for one post really- too many variables. Previous post is about keel type- nothing about your questions. Production boats make all kinds of keels types - I’ve sailed fin keels, modified fin keels, wing keels, etc for 25 years. I have grounded many times, as has anyone routinely sailing, with no damage to structures in the boat. Depends where you ground and how.

There is nothing wrong with production boats - heck Freedoms were production boats. It is important to know the boat type you are looking at- some production boats are weak, others are not- do the search. Boats have systems (electrical, engine/mechanical, water, on and on— the older the boat the more attention to the components need to be paid attention to hence a good survey by a competent surveyor (I.e.,spend some money here). Ongoing maintenance will cost you :D

Freedoms - singlehandling - you still need lots of sailing experience, and boat handling experience and practice- take TIme to take classes and learn seamanship.

From the post you sound like a delta or sf bay person - there are many of us in the bay and delta who may help you refine your questions.

... taking time to study seamanship is paramount.
Find a boat that you like and is in your budget. Take lessons. Learn. Sail the boat. Learn to rely on yourself... slowly. And buy one. Go from there.

I’m usually in sf bay, currently in icw Florida - next week back.

Folks here are way better than me in lining this out.. :D
Last edited by Camino on Sun Oct 07, 2018 12:57 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Stayless Cat Ketch -- Change My Mind

Post by AgentLocke »

Carl: Thanks for your reply! It's not the fin keel that worries me, its that the "economies of scale" production leads to designs that just wear out quicker. For me, there are costs and benefits to both full keel designs and fin and skeg, so that's not a big selling point for me. I might lean toward full keel a bit more because it seems like it'd be easier to heave to, but it's not that significant for me. I wish you luck on selling your boat, but as a West Coaster, the shit to pay ratio on hauling a boat out and bringing it to California from Wisconsin is a bit high for me. For now, at least. No guarantee that I won't come hat in hand at some point, eh?

Camino: It's a lot on there, but I'm only looking for a little bit of info (I edited it to highlight at the bottom). Most of what I'm trying to do with the post is to see if I'm reading things the right way:
-> It's the high production boats that skeeve me out a bit. Yeah, Freedoms are production boats, but not high production. Or so it seems. I'm not going to make any decisions without a good once over by a surveyor who knows whats what.
-> Oh yeah, I'm not going to be single-handing anytime soon! I just want to keep that option open for myself.
-> Yessir, if you can call the port of Sacramento "Bay/Delta". Maybe delta, barely...

Have fun on the ICW!! I lived in St. Augustine for years and years, ICW cruising always looked super chill.

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mike cunningham
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Location: Jacqueline, F30 #3, Discovery Bay, California

Re: Stayless Cat Ketch -- Change My Mind

Post by mike cunningham »

I saw a Freedom 25 reviewed in Practical Sailor thirty five years ago or so. I bought one based upon that review and had pretty good luck with it after I got things sorted out. The boat was one of a very small number built in South Africa. I bought her used and had her delivered up to Seychelles where I sailed her for a few years. After that I bought a swing keel Beneteau 235 on a second assignment to Seychelles. The Beneteau was also a sweet boat and still looks and sails great 25 years later. Finally I bought my current Freedom 30 in 1999 and have put a little over 20,000 NM on her in the last 20 years. She has survived some hard sailing so I think she is put together pretty well.

From all reports Freedom Yachts did a nice job building the boats and this seems to be borne out in use. I have not had any structural problems with exception of some leaks to the core, fortunately of a limited nature. Recently the original cladding on my shoal draft keel started to strip off and I had to have it all removed and replaced with epoxy. No big surprise given the boat is 32 years old now. She squeaks a lot at sea due to all the wood joinery. And I am not keen on the mast banging at the foot which I have yet to address.

Having said the above, I think you may be overstating the negatives re production boats. A lot depends upon engineering and construction due diligence. Some production boats are way better than others. In my own experience I had a pretty good impression of Beneteau albeit there is a debate about the seacocks they have used over the years and I was not keen on the swing keel I had on my boat. The owners forums provide pretty decent insight into the various issues owners experience with production and low volume boats like Freedoms.

I guess Boats are a little like cars. They almost all come out of a factory and some are built better than others. Unfortunately there is not nearly as much quality data on boats so we are left to our own devices in this regard.

Oh yea, and I have run her aground countless times, mostly in mud but twice on rocks, was able to get off OK in all cases. She seems no worse for wear but the rocks probably did not help with the keel cladding issue.
Mike Cunningham
Freedom 30 (Mull) Hull #3
Build date...June, 1986 . Freedom Yachts USA, sloop, shoal keel
Gun Mount and pole retrofitted (purchased from a Hoyt Freedom 32)
Yanmar 2gm20F , 1600 hrs fixed two blade prop
e-rud and ocean racing equipment

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Re: Stayless Cat Ketch -- Change My Mind

Post by AgentLocke »

Hi Mike,

Thank you for your experience!

I think the thing that gives me second thoughts about large production run boats specifically is that, from what I have read (and I admit no hands on experience), the focus on those boats takes into account ease of production and median use of the boat. I think the Pardeys said somewhere that a lot of boats are not designed for certain uses because the company doesn't intend for those boats to ever see certain sorts of use, be it heavy weather, heaving-to, tacking off a lee shore, etc. Which is not to say that a well-designed or maintained boat can't do those things. One of those things I try to live by is "right tool for the job". Irrespective of whether I am the right tool to go sailing, in this instance I lean towards a position of wanting a boat that is designed to do what I want it to do. Now I know it's asking a lot for a boat to be a liveaboard, with capacity for visitors and other crew, that can also be relatively easily single-handed, but that is what I see in the Freedoms, which by definition seem to be a small production run boat.

Is your F30 a full keel or shoal-draft with centerboard?

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