Friday, February 15, 2008

Parker Exuma 52, Sarah

Below: The Reuel Parker Exuma 52 Sarah on a nice reach. (photo from Reuel Parker's website)

In my last post I wrote about meeting Reuel Parker at a boatyard in Florida and seeing his newest 45-foot sharpie schooner coming together rapidly under his relentless boatbuilding pace. In addition to meeting him and seeing this new project, it was a delight to see one of the finest examples of his previous work afloat at the dock just a short walk away from the yard. The schooner Sarah has got to be one of the most beautiful wooden sailing vessels I've ever seen and it was a real treat to be able to take some photos of her, even if it was nearly dark out. Below is an overview as I first saw her, taken from an adjacent dock in the marina. To my eye, everything about the proportions and lines of this vessel is just right. She has it all: shoal draft, schooner rig, and traditional lines, yet is built in an easy to maintain cold-molded modern wood construction using epoxy. Modern cruising conveniences like the cockpit bimini that is so nice to have in the latitudes where she sails have been incorporated without detracting from her good looks.

After admiring her from a distance where we could take in the whole ship, my friend David and I then walked around to the dock where she was moored to get a closer look. Here is a shot of the bow, where you can see the windlass and twin sampson posts set up to handle the ground tackle needed for serious cruising.

This shot from the starboard bow shows traditional schooner twin house arrangement typical of many of Parker's designs, as well as such fitting touches as the belaying pins at the shrouds. The fit and finish of this vessel was as good as any I've seen, and from up close it was obvious that she has been lovingly maintained and is in like new condition despite the fact that she was built in the mid-80s.

Sarah's cockpit showing a gracefully rounded coaming aft and substantial mooring posts on the aft decks, something noticeably lacking in modern yachts. The old and new blend seamlessly together here though, with modern engine controls, bimini and lifelines integrated into timeless lines in a tasteful manner.

Here's a view of the stern showing the well-proportioned and practical bimini and the dinghy hung from davits aft.

Sarah is 52'-6" on deck and has a 13' beam, yet only draws 2'-9" of water, making her exceptionally shoal draft for such a big vessel. She's rigged as a schooner because on a vessel this size, this rig is low cost and easily handled by a small crew compared to a more modern marconi rig. She is said to be very weatherly and quite fast, able to sustain speeds of over 10 knots.

Sarah was built using Parkers cold-molded wood construction technique because it is fast, inexpensive, and incredibly strong. Photos and details of her construction can be found in his book: The New Cold-Molded Boatbuilding: From Lofting to Launching. The hull bottom is built with double-diagonal planking over tongue and groove fore-and-aft planking, as explained in his building method. There are no frames or floor timbers, and there is no cabin sole. You walk right on the inside of the hull, which allows it to have a flatter run for shoal draft. Watertight bulkheads divide the cabins and provide increased safety compared to other ballasted monohull vessels.

All in all Sarah quite the vessel. I'm generally a small boat enthusiast, and she's a little big for my needs, but I could adapt I suppose. Sarah is a real ship, and I do love schooners. What a great liveaboard cruiser she would be for the remote shallow water areas of the Bahamas, the Western Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

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"A boat is freedom, not just a way to reach a goal."
Bernard Moitessier - A Sea Vagabond's World


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