For several years, the design gurus at what is today Pearson Composites have been developing a line of boats that have two main purposes: to be a pleasure to sail and a pleasure to gaze upon. Named and loosely styled after Captain Nat Herreshoff’s favorite personal boat, the Alerion Express series also embraces a tenet strongly expressed by L. Francis Herreshoff in that their purpose doesn’t require that anyone spend a night at sea in them; they are, after all, daysailers.
At the Miami Strictly Sail show last February, the Alerion Express 33 was introduced; it’s the fourth in the series and right on target for the designer’s objectives. It’s beautiful to behold, both from aboard and afar, and it sails like a dream. It’s not inexpensive ($235,000), but at today’s real-estate prices, it runs out far less than a bungalow with a water view.
A glance at the spec sheet reveals the secret to the boat’s sailing potential. It’s more slender by nearly 2 feet than modern cruising boats the same length; it’s low to the water, which keeps the sail plan low; and it has a deep enough keel to give real meaning to its 45-percent ballast ratio. On the water, it behaves accordingly.
Of course, a daysailer in the purest sense really needs for amenities only a cockpit and perhaps a cuddy wherein to stow loose gear and a picnic hamper. Still, if without compromising its primary purpose it can accommodate a small crew for a night in a magical anchorage, so much the better. And if that means no standing headroom below, so be it-plenty of room for that on deck or in the companionway with the hatch open.
Just in case a fine weekend lures you into sailing beyond the bounds of your home harbor, the Alerion Express 33 has a small Isotherm DI 40 DC refrigerator to keep the beverages and cold cuts cool and a single-burner Kenyon KISS butane stove on which to heat up a can of soup or water for the morning coffee.
Forward of the little galley, a toilet, concealed under a hinged teak bench, faces a varnished vanity. This area and the V-berth can be shut off from the saloon by closing the cabin door and a panel above the fridge.
The decor is, appropriately, “Herreshoff,” with white panels offset by teak trim varnished to a deep luster and navy-blue upholstery-a timeless combination that creates a relaxing atmosphere with a hint of luxury. Anyone nostalgic for the warm cocoon feeling so markedly absent from most of today’s cruising boats will find solace here.
Cozy as the interior is, the exterior is where you expect to be most of the time. The cockpit is set up for singlehanding-this is a boat that lies in a slip or on a mooring awaiting its master’s whim. Between the companionway and the command station, a pair of lavishly cushioned benches accommodate passengers, seated or supine.
All the running lines are trimmed from the helm-a 36-inch wheel that’s in easy reach of the helmsman’s preferred perch on a coaming-and an electric winch provides the muscle where needed. The full-battened mainsail has lots of roach to harness the steadier wind aloft unimpeded by a backstay-the tall, carbon-fiber mast is engineered to stand up without one. Lazy jacks and single-line reefing help tame the sail should you stay out too
long when the sea breeze builds up on an incoming tide.
The mainsail is the boat’s driving force, but it gets a measurable boost from the self-tacking jib that’s set on a patented Hoyt jib boom and is as tweakable as the mainsail: The sheet provides macro trim; the “flattener,” similar to the outhaul on a roller-furling main, controls draft; and the boom prevents the leech from twisting off as the sheet is eased. A pair of gas springs mounted under the foredeck oppose the sheet, pushing the boom out as the sheet is eased and opening the sheeting angle. (Want to clear the foredeck for anchoring action? Let the boom push itself out to starboard.)
A little wind goes a long way on the AE 33, and in under 10 knots, it topped 6.5 knots upwind. Off the wind, the big main pushed it at a lively pace. No gentle sailor will miss the clutter and flutter of a spinnaker.
While a daysailer needs auxiliary power only to take it to where the wind is, the 20-horsepower diesel will do that at hull speed (if a little noisily), ensuring, too, that this boat will get you home with dispatch after you’ve squeezed the very last out of a dying breeze.
Both the hull and deck are infusion molded by Pearson Composites using the SCRIMP system, giving the Alerion Express 33 heirloom potential while serving a variety of sailors, among them those whose cruising days are done, or are yet to be, or those who simply like to sail a simple boat.
Alerion Express 33 Specs
LOA: 33′ 0″ (10.06 m.)
LWL: 26′ 4″ (8.03 m.)
Beam: 9′ 3″ (2.82 m.)
Draft: 5′ 0″ (1.52 m.)
Sail Area (100%): 495 sq. ft. (45.98 sq. m.)
Disp.: 8,700 lb. (3,955 kg.)
Ballast: 3,300 lb. (1,497 kg.)
Water: 11 gal. (41.7 l.)
Fuel: 18 gal. (68.2 l.)
Mast height: 46′ 0″ (14.02 m.)
Engine: Yanmar 3YM20C 20 hp with sail drive
Designer: Garry Hoyt, Pearson Design Team
Price: $235,000 sailaway
Newport R&D, (401) 683-9450, www.alerionexp.com
Jeremy McGeary is a CW contributing editor.