Reviewing A Sparkman and Stephens 48

The holidays. Five airports, four families, three American states, two babies but oodles of kiddos, dogs and cats and hikes and boomerang lessons and Shrek reruns and bike rides and obligatory feasting, and one all-out good time.
A nice break from planning an expedition.
But am now back at my desk. The rain that pummeled the bay area most of December has moved on. The sky is blue and the today is such an imitation of summer that I’ve opened the doors and windows while I write. Varied thrushes are passing through the neighborhood. In the garden, a misguided rosebush attempts a bloom.
During our holiday tour, I made but one water-directed sidetrip. Specifically, I spent an afternoon in Marina Del Rey, California, aboard Lola, a renovated Sparkman and Stephens ketch in steel being offered for sale.
Though she has become an “antique” (if you believe the classification on, she presents beautifully as a serious cruiser.What a classic yacht is Lola! Her lines, lithe and understated, her overhangs, long, her sheer, graceful, and all evocative of the wooden yacht whose age was fast closing when she was welded-up in 1972.
Actually, I call her Sparkman and Stephens out of convenience, as her lineage is complicated. It goes something like this: her original owner, during a business trip to New York, requested that Messrs. Sparkman and Stephens design for him a sturdy cruising yacht, but as they were too busy, he took plans for one of their racers back with him to his Holland home. There he had yacht architect D. Koopmans rework her lines, adding a deeper keel, skeg hung rudder, etc., after which Maasdam-Deckker welded the hull and the builders at the Royal Huisman yard did the rest.
And it could be that she has already been to the Antarctic. In her records is retained a 1985 project plan titled “The Voyage of Hero, II,” which was to be a recreation of Captain Nathaniel Palmer’s southern ocean sealing expedition of 1820. Hero, Palmer’s 40 ton sloop, was pushing toward unexplored seal rookeries south of Cape Horn that summer when the skipper picked out ahead the faint loom of coastline and thus became the first American ever to sight Antarctica.
Quoting from the project plan:
The entries from Captain Palmer’s log of this voyage, which are on file in the United States Library of Congress, provide the basis for the United States’ claim to have discovered Antarctica. While this claim has been contested by Russia and England, it certainly serves to preserve the international status of this global frontier.
No log of Ariane’s southern voyage has been found.In addition to retracing Hero’s track, the crew of Ariane (Lola’s name then) wished to plot their course according to the daily dead-reckoning records left by the Palmer.
Lola’s current owner has been busy nonetheless, and in recent years has had the boat entirely rebuilt–masts, rigging, sails, deck hardware, interior configuration, galley, tankage, electronics, wiring, battery pack and gallons of sparkling paint have been added to Lola such that the only original items remaining are her hull and beefy Perkins, and even that has been overhauled.

Basic Stats

Launched 1972.

Steel, center cockpit ketch, round bilged, extended fin keel with skeg-hung rudder.

LOA: 48; LWL 34.4 (due to overhangs); Beam: 13; Draft: 7.2.

Displacement: 34,400 lbs; Ballast: 12,000 lbs; Sail Area: 1,350 sq. ft. (racing configuration = 1,717 sq. ft.).

Displacement to Length Ratio: 377 (overstated due to overhangs). Ballast to Displacement Ratio (after personal increment): 30%. Sail Area to Displacement Ratio: 20.5. Capsize Ratio: 1.6.

Sails: foresail furling; staysail hank on; main and mizzen fully battened with nice roach, cruising spinnaker.

Plating: keel, 8 mm (5/16th”) and 6 mm (1/4″); hull under water, 5 mm (3/16″); hull above water and deck 4 mm (5/32″).

Tankage: 100 gallons fuel in two stainless steel tanks in the bilge; 100 gallons black water (?) in two stainless steel tanks in the bilge; 50 gallons water in plastic tanks.

Insulation: 40 mm (1.5″) glass wool mat, laid against hull from deck to waterline.

Engine: 85 hp (ratio to displacement in tons: 4.94). Other stats show engine at 72 hp.

Steering: wheel to quadrant.

Power: eight 6 volt, wet cell batteries for 800 amps in the house bank.

Positives from the Figure 8 Perspective

  • If I’m reading the stats correctly, Lola is both a heavy boat and quite a goer. At a displacement to length ratio of 377, she’s heavy indeed, but that number is exaggerated by her long overhangs, especially aft. If, for example, we assume an underway waterline of 39 feet, the ratio drops to a respectable 258, making her a moderate displacement boat at anything like speed. When you factor in her sail area to displacement ratio of 20.5 (and this is her smaller “cruising rig”) and a slippery bum, Lola begins to look both tough and fast. What’s exciting is that with a ballast to displacement ratio of 30% (and this after adding in my personal increment of some 6,000 pounds) she could also be quite stiff. The only other boat with similar numbers has been the recently inspected Brewer, also a ketch, with a D/L ratio of 235, SA/D ratio of 20, and B/D ratio after PI of 26%. One key difference is that the Brewer, though only two feet longer, feels positively massive. She carries an inordinate amount of her sail area in a very large main, a sail I can’t even reach over, and too little in a tiny mizzen. Compared to her Lola has a sensible distribution of sail area between main and mizzen and feels much more manageable.
  • Lola has a large, comfortable cockpit easily accessed from either cabin. Because she is missing a pilot house, she would need to have some portion of this cockpit covered with a hard dodger, butthe cockpit size suggests such a dodger would also be roomy.
  • Lola’s engine room, amidships and entered via a watertight door, is reminiscent of a ship. Not only can one give the Big Bertha Perkins a bear hug, but access to the two inch (!) diameter shaft and packing gland is … well, right there. Other systems and hoses in the engine room are logically laid-out, easily cared for and mostly new.
  • Though her engine is now quite old, the Perkins horsepower to displacement ratio of 4.94 indicates she’d have good push for the Arctic bash-and-dash.
  • Her current fuel capacity of 100 gallons is too small for the Northwest Passage, but the black water tanks could be converted to fuel and black water moved elsewhere.
  • The aft cabin could function ideally as a shop.
  • Her aft locker could easily be retrofitted to hold the required four 20# propane tanks.Ariane hull
  • Ariane hull3lola line (1280x783)Ariane sail planLola (600x477)Concerns from the Figure 8 Perspective
    • Lola’s hull is over 40 years old. Though it appears to have been very well constructed and has received extraordinary care, one should expect surprises.
    • Her insulation is minimal and of an unusual material.
    • Though the current rebuild has been done to a high degree of quality, the aim has been to return Lola to her yachting form, along the lines of those imagined by her original owner, rather than that of an expedition boat.
    • And too, I worry about the wisdom of her stern configuration in extreme seas. Does she present to a breaking wave far too much reserve buoyancy in her long aft overhangs? Or is her rather narrow entry (compare the blunt buoyancy of most sterns nowadays) fine enough to allow the wave to pass over?

    That said, Lola is an extraordinarily beautiful piece of work.