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Landfall! Sunrise over Cabo San Lucas,
1996, after 3 weeks at sea
Buying Anything Related to Aleutka Design/Build
News - Acquired Complete Plan Set
Thanks for visiting. This page is designed to gather enough information on the Aleutka class cruising sailboats to enable the author update the design of the original and to produce a new boat, an Aleutka 2.
Why the interest in a design that's over 40 years old? Perhaps the original designer, Dr. Letcher, would wonder the same thing. How could someone be interested in a one-off, backyard built, first attempt boat so many years later? It's an engineering challenge. What did the designer dislike about the original? How can it be updated? Does it hold its own after 40 years?
I spent 1994 re-fitting a Lyle Hess 28 for a subsequent single-handed journey down the west coast and into the Sea of Cortez in 1995-1996. The year rebuilding the boat taught me just as much as the following year sailing her 5,000 miles single handed. From building my windvane to hand-splicing the wire rigging, to a midnight collision with another yacht just north of the Alijos rocks, the lessons were invaluable. I had never sailed before the day I pushed my engineless cutter out into San Francisco bay "to see what would happen, and maybe learn to sail". Two years later I returned as an experienced veteran, knowing exactly what would happen. I didn't spend as much time voyaging as some others, but I did far more than most. I did it - most never do.
Following my return in 1996, I was the primary marine engineer for the refit and USCG certification of the s/v Kaiulani, a WIB Crealock designed coastal schooner. She was the first wooden boat to be certified under the (then) new T-boat regulations, and it was a bit of a struggle to certify a wooden vessel. We rebuilt every system, struggling with passenger vessel regulations written with steel construction in mind. The ideal passenger vessel, according to the regs, would be a steel barge with no sails and a big diesel. Kaiulani was USCG certified for 49 passengers in 1997, and I sold my Hess 28 and moved inland to Texas.
Ever since my return from the Sea of Cortez, I have wanted to acquire a small cruiser that I could put onto a flatbed and drive down to the Sea for a few weeks every year. I have even considered trailerable power cruisers like Mr. Kasten's Boojum (my all-time favorite boat is the Boojum 25). If you want to see one, there is one in the Port Townsend harbor as of Spring 2005. I'm also a big fan of the Diesel Ducks by Mr. Buehler. If I was going to cruise a 40+ footer, then he would have my business. The criteria are simple: minimalist, easy to single hand, beachable, shallow draft, built to work boat standards, affordable to build and maintain, and easy to store when not in use. The work boat standards are important - otherwise you spend more time polishing your boat than using it. A cruising boat is a tool.
In two years of cruising, I developed strong opinions about the type of sailing I will do, and the vessel that would meet those demands.
Construction must be of a low maintenance, long-lasting material. I love wooden boats, and I own 3 of them from the 1940's, but they are more museum pieces than functional craft. I ruled out wooden construction for the most obvious reason - neglect leads to rot. This new boat will spend most of its time on the hard, waiting outdoors in hot, humid conditions. Bad for any material. Fatal for wood.
Steel is too heavy for this design, and aluminum would require more welding experience than I have at my disposal. I actually feel that aluminum may be the ideal material for a trailerable cruiser.
That leaves the original fiberglass design as the best option for what I intend to do with the boat. It may be different for someone else.
My only misgiving about the design is the lack of an inboard engine. After learning to sail a 14,000 pound boat engineless, and actually rowing that boat, I have no real desire to repeat the experience. Yes, the Pardeys are correct - you can, in the calm with no tide running, row a 7-ton ship. You just can't do it very well or for very long. The most rowing I did in a single stretch was 2 miles, with a crew of 3 taking turns at the sweeps. Perhaps a very modern lightweight diesel can be fitted. Today's light diesels were not available when the Aleutka was designed. Many things have changed. Once again, the boat is a tool, and it should be the best tool for the job.
If you have any information you want to share, particularly pictures of an actual Aleutka, please email me at email@example.com. I will pay for any materials. If you know the location of plans or molds from a production shop (probably sitting out in a field somewhere), please let me know your price. I will post the info here as long as it does not violate the designer's copyright. All comments are welcome and encouraged. This is an ambitious project, undertaken part-time by a busy professional. Do not expect much progress. But that's not the point.