Why the True Grit
Another builder recently asked me why I choose the True Grit over the Coastal Cruiser or the Hercules. After I responded he replied my thoughts might be useful to others and suggested I post the on this building blog. I often hesitate with voicing my opinions about different designs. The problem is the choice of a design is usually very personal and not always rational. But boat building is one of the ultimate expressions of "self". A perfect design for my use might be totally wrong for another builder. As well, what I see as a problem with a design may well be the feature someone else can't live without. It's all about personal choice. The other designs mentioned below are very nice boats and I would love to have any of them - just not what I was looking for at this time. My intention is NOT to criticize - please don't take it as such.
My Cabin Skiff has proved to an excellent boat for its intended use as a long distance pocket cruiser. I will own the boat until I am too old and frail to push the throttle down. But as with many boat owners there is always the hunger for a bigger boat. My "need" is driven by wanting more creature comforts so my wife would more readily join me on the trips that I enjoy so much (pretty good excuse, huh!). The Skiff is a great boat but accommodations are a bit Spartan.
But the question was, "Why the True Grit instead of the Coastal Cruiser or the Hercules"? My reason for the TG over the CC was part personal preference and part necessity. First let me say that personally I like the looks of the CC more than the TG. To me it just looks more salty - more tug like with its raised pilot house. I also liked the separate shower the layout included and the fact there would be a view rearward from the helm. But then reality started to creep in and moved me towards the TG. One of the first things is the CC involves a lot of climbing to negotiate. The steps down from the aft cockpit into the saloon and then up from the saloon to the pilothouse was not a big deal but the vertical three step climb from the berth to the pilothouse was more problematic - it is basically a ladder. I am planning this as a retirement boat. Right now I could handle it with ease but what about 10 years from now? I talked to several owners of pilothouse boats and although many loved them they almost all complained of about the steps. And it was a much bigger deal the older the owner.
The layout of the CC divides the living space in to three separate areas - saloon - pilothouse - berth. All in a 27' hull. I invision many hours will be spent sitting in the saloon and I was somewhat concerned it would seem a little confining or cramped. This might be OK for short weekend use but I hope to make some long trips and could spend weeks if not months on the boat. I just felt the more open layout of the TG would give the boat a "larger" feel. My wife weighed heavy into this thought process. I really need for her to feel comfortable on the boat. Plus I thought on the CC getting natural air movement through the saloon to the seating area would be more of a challenge but very necessary on hot days.
For me another plus for the TG is the saloon floor sits higher than the CC. This it allows for storage below the deck. In the CC the floor is level with the waterline. From the top of the decking ply to the top of the keel is about 11 inches at frame #3. Since the bottom is sloped there is more room at frame #4 and less at frame #2. Also, since the hull has a slight V the height lessens as you move towards the chine so there is not much there for storage. On the TG the floor slopes from 6" above the waterline at the transom to 9" above at frame #5, which is the aft berth bulkhead. At frame #3 there is about 18" to 19" from the top of the decking to the top of the keel. I believe I will have enough space in the tow bays between frame #1 and #3 to store two folding bikes and my 8' inflatable dingy.
The extra 9" to 10" also affords the space to better handle tankage for water and fuel below deck. In addition, the water heater and such could be placed down there. I opted to set my water heater higher as I like to drain it after each trip (on the trailer it sometimes can get skunky if it sets a long time). Didn't want a thru the hull below the waterline for a drain. Setting high I can drain it even while sitting on the water.
I also reasoned that sitting more than a foot taller the CC would present a larger frontal area which MIGHT create a little more wind drag when towing. This is probably a very minor point, along with the thought extra height might catch a few more tree branches when on the trailer on country roads. My rough estimate is the TG will need about 11' clearance on the trailer.
Finally - and the deal breaker for me - I came to the conclusion the CC would not come out my shop's 10' high door and I would have to tear out structure to get it out. Plus to work on the pilothouse top I would have to remove the ceiling tiles and it would still be tight. Just wasn't going to fit in my shop. As it is I have about 6" to get the True Grit off the floor and out the door. Going to be interesting but workable.
But the TG too has some features I considered drawbacks for my usage and I also had to address them.
To get everything to fit within the TG hull took some time at the drawing board - well actually the computer. A stand-up shower was a must but I really disliked the idea of it setting right in the access area to the berth. Of all the places I didn't want water spraying was right by the bunk! As you can see I have it placed in the saloon but it made the layout a challenge as it ate up a good bit of space.
Also, the CC has sliding doors on the cabin sides but these are omitted on the TG. I am sure part of the reasoning had to do with the TG having less headroom between the shear line and the cabin top. But without the doors access to the bow would have to be either standing on the bunk and climbing out the hatch in the berth top or negotiating the narrow side decks using top mounted hand rails. Using the side decks might not have been a major problem on the short cabin illustrated in the plans but I had lengthened mine considerably. I felt making this long trek on the skinny side decks in rough conditions could be difficult if not dangerous.
In addition, since I tend to run through many river locks, I feel having easy forward access is imperative. Each time a fender needs to be set forward and one aft. Also, I have found when transitioning a lock with floating pins the best method to secure the boat is with a single line to a midship cleat. I plan to have a cleat installed just aft of the sliding door opening so the line can be handled from the doorway with out exiting the cabin. In locks without floating pins usually two lines are dropped - one for the bow and one for the stern and must be paid out or taken in as the water level changes. Again, this requires forward access. With the door I should be able to handle the forward line from there while my wife handles the aft line from the cockpit.
As result of these considerations I decide to add the sliding doors to the TG. They will be a little short and climbing out will require attention but still with strategically placed hand holds I think a workable solution.
Concerning the Hercules - again, I really like the looks but at 24' was going to be a little small for my planned usage. It can be stretched and that would make it roughly the TG size. It bugged me that it appears the table must be moved to access the cockpit. But my main complaint was the sleeping arrangements. The Hercules uses the dinette seats for bunks. This is something both my wife and I had decided we absolutely did not want. We have had small campers with that arrangement and hated it. If one of us wants to go to bed early the other has to do it too as there is no comfortable place to sit with the table dropped down. Same in the morning. Both have to get up at the same time and you have to store the bedding and raise the table before you can sit and have a cup of coffee. And trust me, you don't want to ask my wife to do that sort of stuff BEFORE her morning coffee!
Also, with the campers and our Bayliner 2452 we found sitting at the table for any length of time was very uncomfortable for us. Seat backs and bottoms are usually positioned at 90 degrees to each other to maximize space and function as a drop down bunk. This is fine for eating but poor for sitting and reading or watching TV. We always ended up sitting sideways on the seat and propping pillows and stuff behind us to get a comfortable position. That is why we prefer two separate chairs in our TG. We are planning on using armed office/desk type chairs that pivot and lean back (minus the wheels). These are more compact than normal upholstered chairs and many are very comfortable.
Over all I am pleased with how our TG's layout has worked out. I am a little concerned with the available space for the dinette in the saloon. I hope the table I am planning with fold down sides will help when not eating and afford additional space for the seats to pivot and move freely. Actually, sofa type seating would fit better and provide additional storage beneath. Plus it would add a place to lay down and nap in the saloon. But placing a table in front of it for eating becomes somewhat a problem and uses a lot of space in the walkway between it and the galley. Also, I think individual chairs with armrest are far more comfortable.
Well, that's about it. I will say I have become friends with a builder in Florida working on a CC. We are about the same point of construction and compared notes over the past 3 years through email. It has been a big help to have someone to bounce questions off whom is facing the same problems and successes. In the Winter of 08 we went down and visited and I gave the boat a good going over. It's going to be very nice! I sure do like the looks of the pilothouse!