Waterline 50: Seriously Skookum
A big boat from a small builder, Isolabella is capable of taking on any ocean. And her owners plan to one day do just that. From "Yachtstyle" in our December 2008 issue.
Lewmar electric winches handle the genoa sheets, genoa furling, and the main halyard and furler. The primaries are located an easy stretch from the helm seats near the twin wheels.
The cockpit is well laid out with a large overhanging canvas dodger that's perfect for keeping the weather off the crew as they stretch out on the long, straight seats. The wheels locate the helmsman well outboard to provide a good view of the sails and around the pilothouse. This allows for a wide passage between them to the high, gated stern rail. When they're sailing, a 12-foot RIB hangs from davits here, and on cruises, a couple of crab pots are lashed to the pushpit but ready for quick deployment to catch dinner in some still anchorage. A couple of steps down the stern is where on many boats you'd find something called a swim platform, but on this boat, designed for the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest, there's a dock, instead, that's the perfect height for boarding the dinghy.
Underfoot, the deck is covered with Flexiteek, a synthetic teak look-alike that's glued over the painted steel. Clear, wide side decks encourage crewmembers to venture forward of the mast.
Holly and Jeff maintain an apartment in Redmond, Washington, near where she's a program manager at Microsoft. They also have a house in Olympia that they're slowly finishing while Jeff takes care of his real-estate development projects. They spend as much time as possible on the boat and cruise year-round. The pair has a solid sailing background, and Jeff showed he was a man after my own heart when he maneuvered Isolabella from her tight slip at Van Isle Marina, eschewing use of the bow thruster. That was my first hint that this big steel boat was more than just a floating condo.
When I put the boat through her paces under power, I liked what I found. She motored smoothly and quietly, hitting an easy eight knots at 2,200 rpm. With the engine in reverse, she stopped in surprisingly good time. I put the boat beam on to the 12-knot breeze in the smooth water of Tsehum Harbour, stopped her, and backed down, first with the wind on the port side, then to starboard, expecting the windage from the furled genny to make the bow blow to leeward. I was pleasantly surprised that it didn't-another hint of good things to come once the sails were set. The big skeg-hung rudder provided excellent control.
Off the Sidney waterfront, we set the sails with the push of a button or two and put Isolabella on the breeze. The Lewmar/Whitlock steering system gave me good rudder feedback as the boat accelerated on a closehauled course. The 12-knot breeze was enough to give the boat about five knots of boat speed-not bad for a big, heavy boat.
When the breeze picked up to 15 knots, Isolabella showed that she'll be capable of fast passages when she gets offshore. Holly and Jeff plan to spend more time on the boat as they get closer to retirement. Alaska is in their sights, then perhaps a cruise through the Panama Canal and up to Maine before looking for more territory to explore. "We've been told not to bother with Hawai'i," says Holly. "But we definitely want to see Australia's Great Barrier Reef."
They were discussing names for their new boat in an Italian restaurant when Holly and Jeff caught sight of a poster for a Mediterranean seaside spot, Isola Bella, which translates loosely into "beautiful island." From that, the boat's name jumped out at them, and it certainly describes this skookum, go-anywhere yacht.
Andrew Burton is CW's associate editor.