Bob Mendes on his P-18 "Flood Tide" at Lake Dillon, Colorado.
The Precision 18 is a boat small enough to be
easily trailered behind today's small cars, simple enough to be inexpensive,
but big enough to sleep aboard (out of the weather) and stable enough to
take along the family. And finally, a boat with the lively performance
and good sea manners required to make sailing her fun. The long, shallow
keel, kick-up rudder, and non-corroding fiberglass centerboard are all
high-lift NACA 'wing sections.' The keel allows the board to be housed
completely below the cabin soleand gets the ballast down low for stability.
Below deck there is ample sitting headroom for four, and a filler cushion
that drops to form a 6-foot, 6-inch V-berth.
My boat's name is "Flood Tide", which I borrowed
from my grandfather. He was a serious yachtsman, owning a series
of large ketches and schooners designed by John Alden, which he raced on
Long Island Sound and in the Bermuda races in the 1920's and 30's.
His smallest FT was 35', the largest I ever owned. When I retired
to Colorado 10 years ago my son and I bought a
Santana 22 which we raced on Lake Dillon. In 1997 he moved up to J24's leaving his old dad behind and on the beach. I decided to look for a boat which I could handle easily on my own, including rig up, launch and tow as well as sail. My preference was for a used boat, as new boats tend to be pricey around here (Colorado) due to the shipping charge.
After checking with local dealers and sailing friends, I focused on the Montgomery 17, Compac 19, Capri 18 and Precision 18. All were available used in the area. Of the four the P18 seemed to fit my needs best, and I bought a 1993 model in the spring of 1998. The main factor in my decision was that the Precision seemed to the best sailer, and this was an important quality for me coming from a good performance racer. The Capri 18's performance is probably as good, but didn't appear to be as well made, and while the Montgomery is a fine serious cruiser, she is a bit more boat than I wanted. I also required shallow draft, mainly for ease of launching, and all four designs fit this criteria.
The Precision has proven to meet my requirements very well, except that she is a bit of a handful for a man who is not as young as he used to be to rig up and rig down. Most of the launching areas at our lakes have gin poles, and I use them to raise the mast, though it's not that heavy. My son can do the job alone using just muscle with no problem. It also takes a while to set up the rigging, organize the sails, etc, and as a result I stay in one place once I launch. This means I've not done one of things I had intended, which was to trail the boat to several different lakes during the summer.
Regarding the P18, I like the design, which has
attractive lines for a small boat. There is a nice compromise between
a roomy cockpit and a reasonably sized cabin. On any boat this small
the latter is more for storing gear and getting out of the rain, but a
cozy couple could probably cruise for a few days and still end up friends.
The interior has a V berth forward, two quarter berths and a shallow footwell,
but it would be silly to try to sleep four adults. There is no attempt
at providing galley or toilet facilities, and on a boat this size I think
it makes more sense to bring prepared meals and not try to cook aboard.
A large cooler box under the companionway
serves also as a step into the cabin. The boat comes with an electrical system, an overhead interior light, nav lights and space for a large battery, but I removed the battery feeling that I'm not likely to sail at night, and if I did could use small flashlight type lights. The gelcoat seems to be good, and parts such as the bow and stern pulpits, stanchions, running rigging hardware, rudder fittings, etc, are all of good quality. But a few things show signs of cost cutting, such as the cockpit drains being made of small diameter cheap plastic pipe. Overall I would rate the construction quality as average to good for a production boat. After being built for some 15 years the design is well proven and any initial bugs have been worked out.
The P18 has a conventional mast with a single
spreader, external halyards, and 3/4 rig. Most owners get a 145%
genoa and roller reefing, and she really needs the larger sail in light
air and the ability to reef the sail easily if the wind comes up.
The genoa and mainsail are each about 80 sqft, providing a full sail area
of about 160 sqft. Modifications I've made include leading the main
halyard back to the cockpit and fitting single line reefing on the main,
also led back to the cockpit. This allows reefing the main, as well
as the genoa, without having to leave the cockpit, an important safely
feature if you're single handing. The end boom mainsheet tackle is
attached to a fitting on the backstay. I would have preferred a traveler,
but it would be difficult to fit one, and the standard arrangement does
keep the mainsheet out of the middle of the cockpit. The boat does
not come with even basic sail controls, and I've added a backstay tensioner
and a boom vang. She sails well in light air, but needs to be reefed
as the breeze picks up to keep her on her bottom and under control.
She is easily driven by a little Nissan 3.5 outboard mounted on a stern
bracket, and there
is a handy sealed locker in the cockpit to carry spare gas.
Two things about the boat I didn't like were the
fact that she doesn't have foam flotation, and the cockpit locker opened
into the space alongside and under the cockpit footwell. I
built and fitted a 'tray' under the lid so it makes a decent place to keep
gear, and sealed the lid so in the event of a knockdown water can't flood
below through the opening. To deal with the flotation issue I calculated
the volume needed to keep the boat afloat, and by sealing off the spaces
between the inner liner and hull, placing closed cell foam under the cockpit
footwell and in the unused space around the cockpit plus an air bag in
the forward end of cabin, I'm pretty sure she would stay afloat even if
completely filled with water. I haven't tested this and hope never
to have to!
Jim Taylor Yacht Designs, performance racing & cruising yachts
People go sailing because it is fun, pure and simple. The problem for today's sailors is that a combination of high interest rates and increasingly scarce mooring and marina space have in many instances made boat ownership a lot less simple, and its "fun" a lot less pure!
This office shares with PRECISION BOAT WORKS the firm belief that sailing should STILL be pure fun, and that the real key to the fun is in keeping it simple! Nowhere is it written that in order to enjoy a day on the water a sailor needs a boat that costs as much to buy as a house, even more to maintain, and that requires half a football team to sail properly; on the contrary, as the explosive growth in boardsailing has shown, the purest sailing fun can often best be delivered in very small, simple packages! It is just this "small and simple" concept that lies at the heart of the PRECISION 18 design requirements: a boat small enough to be easily trailered behind today's small cars, simple enough to be inexpensive, but big enough to sleep aboard (out of the weather) and stable enough to take along the family. And finally, a boat with the lively performance and good sea manners required to make sailing her fun!
In attempting to fulfill similar requirements, too many builders have simply taken a successful racing design and installed a "cruising" interior. Unfortunately, while the long fine bow and broad flat transom of this type hullform can be devastatingly fast' when in the hands of a hot racing crew, it can also be dangerously unstable for a family boat, and is therefore completely unsuited to cruising applications. This office has recently developed four different trailerable cruising designs, with over 500 built in just the past three years. Each was drawn for a different builder and market target, but all share distinctly full sections above the waterline forward and only moderately full sections aft. The PRECISION 18 is our latest design to be developed from this basic hullform which our experience has proven to provide a reassuring margin of reserve buoyancy forward, improved ultimate stability, and especially forgiving handling characteristics, all essential elements of any good cruising design.
The long shallow keel, kick-up rudder, and non-corroding fiberglass centerboard of the PRECISION 18 are all high-lift NACA "wing sections." The keel allows the board to be housed completely below the cabin sole and gets the ballast down low for stability. The board itself weighs only 65 pounds so that it does not form a major portion of the total ballast, stability is not dangerously reduced when it is retracted, and it can be raised easily by a child with no need for a winch.
The simple fractional rig can be raised right on the trailer in minutes. The jib is of very high aspect ratio for maximum efficiency, but small enough to be readily trimmed by a young crew. The mainsail can be quickly "depowered" in puffy conditions, and it is large enough to provide good performance without the jib when desired - a big advantage when in a crowded anchorage or when shorthanded. The cockpit is a full 6'4" long with coamings high enough to keep the crew securely inside. Both seats and coamings are precisely angled for maximum comfort, reflecting our years of careful ergonomic design development. There is a generous anchor locker forward, a fuel tank storage bin to port, and a full cockpit locker to starboard.
The PRECISION 18 is designed to be a lively, well-mannered sailboat rather than a floating vacation home, but the features below are noteworthy nonetheless. There is ample sitting headroom for 4 and a filler cushion that drops to form a 6'6" V-berth that is NOT broken up by the usual awkward mast support post. There are 6' quarter berths port and starboard, not to mention a 48 quart cooler, provision for a portable head, and 12-volt battery. A forward hatch provides ventilation and an emergency exit, and the large companionway and cabin windows contribute to the feeling of light and open space.
Carefully controlling construction weight is critical to both performance and to price, but it cannot be done at the expense of safety or structural integrity. Thus the hull liner of the PRECISION 18 is engineered as a structural grid, and tooled to mate precisely with the hand-laminated hull skin. The mast support beam and chainplate loads are carried by structural bulkheads and there are rugged hull stringers to distribute the stresses imposed by trailering. The external hull/deck joint is bonded both chemically and mechanically, and the flange is protected with a vinyl rubrail.
The PRECISION 18 has been kept small in size and price, but remains big in both features and performance. She promises to deliver the fun, pure and simple!
Precision sailboat owners page
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