The long, comfortable hull shown opposite, reflecting a Seattle sunset, is the unique Oceanus, a yacht that has caused more talk among West Coast sailors than a Honolulu race winner. In spite of this, she is anything but a crack ocean racer. Rather, she is an inspired solution to a problem that is as old as pleasure sailing itself.
Bill Garden, the designer and owner of Oceanus, is a soft-spoken, extremely successful young naval architect who was a determined bachelor right up to the age of 32. And until then his personal preference in yachts was equally single-minded.
A few years back, he designed and built a schooner named Rainbird, which he had fondly thought was his ultimate desire. Rainbird was a man's boat, all natural red cedar and rubbed raw teakwood inside. Down in her cabin the traditional furnishings were dimly lit through narrow ports. In sum, she was a deep and satisfyingly dark bachelor's burrow.
"Remember Mole End in The Wind in the Willows?" said Garden reaching hazily back in memory. "That was Mole's little house where he finally took Rat? Mole had all the goodies a man could want. He had hams hanging from the rafters, ale hidden in the corners and packages of onions. That was Rainbird to me."
November 4, 1957
But all this was before Bill Garden got married. And like many a sailor before him, when he married he picked a wife who was something less than a good hand aboard ship. In fact, his bride, Aslaug Slette, had never sailed at all. When she first went out on Rainbird she felt cramped in the dark cabin—and cold when she tried to stay on deck. Bill Garden was in an old, old dilemma. Obviously, he would either have to cut down on his sailing or forgo Aslaug's company aboard, part of the time.
He brooded on these impossible alternatives at length. He talked Aslaug into describing what she wanted. "The demands a woman makes on a boat," concluded Garden in some surprise, "add up to no boat at all." This discovery was the end of Rainbird. While Garden brooded, he occupied himself in the cedar and glass home which he and Aslaug were finishing off, do-it-yourself style, by Seattle's famous ship canal. The lines of a boat calculated to get Aslaug to sea first took form on the subfloor of the unfinished living room. When Garden got bored with hammering and fitting he sketched hull designs on the bare boards. The doodlings were quickly covered with flooring before any questions could be asked, but a new hull slowly took shape in Bill Garden's head.
The new boat, he knew, had to be big and comfortable—homelike, in fact. Above all, it had to enable Aslaug to stay on deck, or as near to that as possible, in warmth and shelter. He knew that he would have to be able to single-hand this big boat to leave Aslaug free to cook and putter. And the boat would have to get from here to there at a fairly good clip so that a) she could keep a jump ahead of grim, gray weather if needed and b) because even in marriage a man like Bill Garden could never sail on a slow boat. Finally, this boat would have to fit the budget.
The strange and wonderful compromise that emerged as Oceanus proved to be 60 feet long over-all, short-rigged for easy handling. Her sheets could all be winched from the cockpit. In effect, Garden has the biggest single-hander afloat. And, to give her speed, she is as light as Garden dared make her. Foot for foot, at 29,000 pounds, Oceanus is perhaps the lightest cruising boat ever built. But the real marvel of unorthodoxy is the deckhouse. It has six large side windows, 6-foot 4-inch headroom and a white acoustic ceiling 9 feet by 12, a wood-burning stove to drive out the Northwest damp, a coffee table, divan and rattan basket chairs and a door that leads right out into a cockpit big enough to hold 10 people.
Oceanus was a success. Aslaug took to the sea in her without a qualm, and she lent her considerable talents to supplying Oceanus' décor. The cabin soon bloomed along one side with cactus plants, the windows were hung with matchstick blinds and the floor was covered with a fine-fireproof hemp rug. Oceanus headed seaward, light, airy and functional as a show-place home.
Given a set of requirements that no one has really been able to meet before, Garden has triumphed, solving some nasty problems in naval architecture in the process.
He has made a hull that is big but at the same time exceptionally light, strong but still uncluttered by bulky beams and stiffeners. Garden did it with a seamless construction method heretofore seen only on much smaller boats. Using resorcinol glue, he laminated three skins of thin cedar plywood strips, one on top of the other, over cedar ribs running lengthwise. The whole works was built upside down for the convenience of workmen at the Mon-son boatyard, where Oceanus was put together. The boat was built without conventional framing, without floor timbers, deck beams or heavy deadwoods. Less than 40 man-hours were required for the initial layout. This was a substantial saving in labor and material, and an enormous saving in weight.
Oceanus was launched upside down with a tug standing by to flip her upright. She took the flipping operation like a thoroughbred, holding her shape well even though she had no decking to stiffen the sides of her double-ended hull. She was then decked at the Maritime Shipyards with laminated plywood and covered with an unbroken layer of fiber glass. Here Garden saved more time and money by using plywood in the structure and below-decks and keeping the carpentry simple.
There was no need to apply caulking to this hull. When it was sanded smooth the glue had filled the narrow seams between the strips to form an integral part of the hull.
Garden's rigging plan called for 1,000 square feet of canvas on the 64-foot mast, enough to drive Oceanus at nine knots in favorable wind. For his engine, he picked a rebuilt Chrysler Crown rated at 110 horsepower—which pushes Oceanus along at the crisp cruising speed of 8½ knots.
"Her performance under sail was a happy surprise," said Garden, "and I wasn't aiming for anything mediocre to start with." Garden feels that Oceanus "will go farther, faster, with less effort than practically any boat afloat."
As for racing, Oceanus will probably never win any big prizes. She will hold her own, boat for boat, but with her long waterline (46 feet) she suffers under the cruising race handicap rules. Besides, Garden has never wanted to spend the money for a parachute spinnaker and other racing gear. He reiterates his point that Oceanus was designed for good living—evenings of settled relaxation in the deckhouse after a good rare steak charcoal-grilled over the ship's stove.
She is also designed to extend a trend that began with the small "doghouse" shelters built just forward of the cockpit. The doghouse has been accepted by sailors for some time. Garden believes most sailors in turn will come to want the large comforts of the deckhouse.
As for the Gardens' budget, Oceanus represents a $55,000 investment, about a third less than the usual 60-footer. And with her seamless hull and topside, and a fiber-glass covered deck, Oceanus' upkeep is dirt-cheap—comparatively. "Owning a boat," said Garden, "can be like marrying a clotheshorse woman. It's cheap to marry them, but you can't keep them up. The point is, I can maintain Oceanus myself—except for annual paint jobs.
"This is a boat built to fit my time and means," says Garden who, as a leading naval architect in the Northwest, gets precious little time to himself but obviously has enough means to enjoy leisure in his own way. "Oceanus is a reflection of all the boats I've seen, all the boats I've built and the boats I've dreamed about. When you've designed as many boats as I have—350 over the past 10 years—your mind can shoot through so many proportions and types, well, it's like writing a bestseller. So many things influence you. I guess Oceanus will have about the same effect as an auto a few years ahead of its time. Some features will be accepted, some rejected. She is the first boat that I have built that did not have a successor sailing around in my head before launching day.
"In fact," he said with the contented look of a perfectly adjusted husband, "she reflects the independence of being able to do the thing exactly as I wanted to."
LOA 60 feet
BEAM 12 feet
DWL 46 feet
DRAFT 6 feet
DISPLACEMENT 29.000 pounds
(1) canoe stern
(2) air intake
(3) three-ply laminated cedar hull
(4) laminated keel
(7) lazaret access
(8) barney post for mainsheet winch
(9) wheel (no handle grips)
(10) steering pedestal
(11) clutch control
(12) steering gear
(13) wood fin
(14) cockpit shelter
(15) safety-glass windshield
(16) main cabin
(17) bamboo curtains
(18) automatic-pilot remote-control cord
(19) basket chair
(20) gimbal table
(21) 110-hp Chrysler Crown
(22) 17-amp. generator
(23) four batteries (12-volt system)
(24) automatic pilot
(25) pilot seat
(26) bad-weather wheel
(27) acoustic ceiling
(28) engine-room exhaust
(29) dinette table
(31) steel reinforcing plates
(32) 11,000-pound iron keel
(33) 2-inch keel bolts
(34) fiber-glass-covered mainmast
(35) owners' stateroom
(36) 6-foot 6-inch bunk
(37) shoe locker and seat
(39) hanging lockers
(40) forecastle and sail locker
(41) forecastle hatch and ladder
(42) pipe berth
(43) seat (toilet under)
(44) cedar longitudinal stringers
(45) jibboom gooseneck
(46) jibstay turnbuckle
(47) roller chock
(1) 6-foot 6-inch fiber-glass dinghy
(2) hinged seats (lockers under)
(3) barney post
(4) fixed seat (90-gallon gas tank under)
(5) teak grating
(6) steering pedestal
(7) fixed seat (90-gallon water tank under)
(8) main-cabin seat and double berth
(9) plant holder
(10) wood-burning stove
(11) wood storage
(12) oilskin locker
(13) hanging locker, two sliding doors
(14) basket chairs
(15) gimbal table
(16) fireproof hemp rug
(17) hanging locker
(18) hanging locker
(19) automatic-pilot course setter
(20) door (adjustable louvers)
(21) control panel
(22) bad-weather wheel
(23) pilot seat
(24) automatic pilot
(25) dinette table
(26) foam-rubber seats
(28) bilge and cold storae
(29) wood-burning galley stove
(30) stainless sink
(31) dish locker
(32) owners' stateroom (carpeted)
(33) shoe locker and seat
(36) stainless sink (lockers under)
(37) forecastle hatch
(38) deck-gear stowage
(39) jibboom gooseneck
(40) anchor in roller chock