In the late 1900's, an air force officer named Hal Paris flew from Taiwan to Seattle to see Ed Monk, the famed naval architect. Paris, who some say flew the U2 spy plane, wanted plans for a boat he could build in Taiwan for export to the U.S.
As the story goes, Monk pulled drawings for a wood 34-footer from a file drawer and said something like, "Why don't you try this in fiberglass."
Paris, apparently wanting to profit from the growing Taiwan boat-building industry, took the plans and built the boat. It was called the Roughwater 35, and from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, a family of Roughwater yachts was built.
Paris and Monk have been dead for many years now, and the Taiwan shipyard that built these boats has long been out of business. Few records remain, questions abound, and the boat is still not widely known.
But Roughwaters live on. Quietly.
Owners love the boats. They are sturdy, reliable, and salty looking, and all have appealing pilothouse steering. But because they do not number in the thousands, Roughwaters are a wellkept secret. That means they are affordable, almost cheap.
In its search for budget-priced, quality boats, PMM arbitrarily looks for yachts that can be purchased and refurbished (if necessary) for less than $150,000, yet provide safe, comfortable family cruising. Roughwater is a winner in this category.
The best looking of the Roughwater family, in my opinion, is the 35-foot aft cabin model. Expect to pay $30,000 to $50,000 for one in decent condition. Sexier and more yachtylooking, although sharing the same styling, are the Roughwater 37, 41, and 42. Market prices for them range from $50,000 and up for a 37, from $70,000 for the 41, and to more than $100,000 for fine 42s. Expect to pay higher for those that are in top condition and well equipped with the latest equipment.
Before the company faded away, Roughwater had built many models. They include:
A trailerable 29-footer, built of wood in Korea by Hyundai. Some have been spotted by those who know the fleet. At 6,500 pounds, it would take a hefty truck and trailer to move one. They were powered by the four-cylinder, 80hp Ford Lehman diesel.
The 35 aft cabin. Some were all wood, most have fiberglass hulls and wood superstructures. In a few of the early 35s, the pilothouse had no aft bulkhead and was therefore open to the weather, an arrangement that didn't last long. (This boat and all others were built in Taiwan by the C.C. Chen yard.) The model will sleep six in cozy fashion, but have only one head. A single diesel engine, usually the Perkins 6.354 or the 120hp Ford Lehman will push the boat at about nine knots. In December, 1972, when it was introduced, the fiberglass version was priced at $26,500.
The 36 sport fisherman. Built on the same hull as the 35, this version has a large cockpit instead of an aft cabin. Accommodations forward are the same, including galley, dining table, head, and V berths in the forepeak.
The 37 aft cabin. Brawny and faster (16- knot cruise), with a more stylish appearance, sporting a flying bridge, and usually powered by turbocharged Perkins engines.
The 41-footer, with a roomy saloon, separate galley, two heads, and a comfortable master stateroom with cozy double beds aft. It carries the big Perkins or a 250hp Detroit Diesel engine.
The 42. A step toward the true yacht market, she is much different than the 41, with two big Detroit Diesels, a queen bed aft, and a full-sized refrigerator in the galley.
Roughwater also built a few sailboats from the Monk design, as well as a couple of 46-footers stretched from the 42-foot hull, and several 58- foot yachts derived from plans for a Chinese tuna catcher. Some 46-foot models have been marketed under other names, including Mikelsen.
Critics liked the boats when they hit the market.
"If, as some car enthusiasts claim, the Checker is the real unsung hero of the automotive world, then the Roughwater 41 is certainly the seagoing version of the Checker. The Roughwater is a straightforward, no-frills, no-nonsense approach to boating...it's just an honestly good boat at a reasonable price." (Sea Magazine, September, 1975.)
"The Roughwater 41 is hard to beat, particularly considering the quality and price. And, best of all, it won't go out of style next year." (Motorboating & Sailing, September, 1975.)
The Roughwater Man
J. R (Jim) Roberts, who lives on a small island in Puget Sound, more than 30 miles south of Seattle, has owned a 1979 Roughwater 41 since 1994. Because of his interest in all Roughwater boats, Roberts has become the unofficial historian of the family.
Taking time from his auto sales business, Roberts has created a web site (roughwater.com) with which he shares and seeks information about the boats. He agrees they are affordable.
"Their existence is a closely-held secret. Not many even know what a Roughwater is," he says. "In my opinion, it still is the best value."
Most Roughwater boats were delivered to the west coast of the U.S., although some apparently were also sold in Asia. Today they can be found from Alaska to Southern California, in Mexico, and in Florida. With their distinctive Monk styling (reminiscent of the work/fishing boats that were his first creations), a Roughwater would turn heads in East Coast marinas.
Roughwaters came along as the Taiwan industry was learning how to build fiberglass boats. Probably because one yard made them all, Roughwater boats seem to have fewer problems than many built by other Taiwan yards in the 1970s.
Typically, they need improvements to their electrical systems. But their fiberglass hulls are sound and apparently not susceptible to serious blistering. Some have ventilators in the pilothouse that leak in rough seas unless properly blocked shut. Wood deckhouses on any boat may rot, particularly under windows and where they join fiberglass, but Roughwaters do not seem to be unusually prone to water damage.
There is a small but vigorous market for Roughwaters. Advertisements for them pop up in magazines, newspapers, and on the Internet.
No one knows how many were built. Ed Monk, Jr., said his father simply sold the use of the plans and did not collect royalties for each boat built. So they didn't keep count.
Jim Roberts knows how to decipher Roughwater hull numbers, and estimates that at least 220 of the 41s, and 120 of the 37s were built. The Roughwater line continued for nearly 15 years, so it might not be improper to estimate that several hundred more probably would be added to the list if production totals for other models were known.
It shouldn't be hard to find one. But recognizing that aging is hard on any boat, it may take longer to find the perfect Roughwater.
On the West Coast, many recognize the Roughwater as a Monk design, even if they are unable to identify the boat by name.
Obviously derived from workboat designs done in the early years of his career, the Roughwater has a graceful shear line (some call it a banana shear), a gently flaring bow to knock down spray, a raised pilothouse set well aft, and a long trunk cabin for the saloon.
A semi-displacement boat capable of planing speeds, she nevertheless has a round bottom aft (no chines) and is prone to roll.
"But it's a slow roll," says Adele Iverson of Seattle. She and her husband, Ben, have owned the 35-foot Barnacle since 1982, and twice have taken her to Southeast Alaska along the Inside Passage, which offers plenty of opportunities for rolling.
Similar design elements are seen in other Monk boats, including the 29-foot Voyager line he designed for Tollycraft, and in the 50-foot Tryphena, which he built in 1970 for his personal use.
In Jim Roberts' collection is an advertisement for a 40-foot Monk boat, built by the McQueen yard in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1958. Inch-for-inch, she looks just like the Roughwater 41, which first appeared on the market in 1973.
These designs keep popping up because they work, both for pleasure and commercial boating. Roughwater advertised a commercial fishing vessel based on the 35-footer, but it's not known if any were built.
Monk died in 1973, and design modifications for the 37, 41 and 42 were the work of his son, Ed, Jr., who today has a naval architectural office on Bainbridge Island, a few miles west of Seattle in Puget Sound. The younger Monk is better known for design of the entire fleet of Ocean Alexander yachts, and for a number of large, one-off luxury yachts.
Roughwaters, Monk says, are "simple, easy driving" boats. In some ways they were crude when compared to boats built today, but they were "workmanlike" and reliable once any mechanical problems created by the shipyard were fixed, Monk adds.
Problems were few, remembers Bob LaPocca, of Oxnard, California, who sold new Roughwater boats at Marina del Rey in Los Angeles. "I spent less than $300 a boat on warranty work," he says. "They were well made and sold well in California."
Back in the early 1980s, Ben and Adele Iverson of Seattle were perfectly happy cruising in a converted 38-foot Coast Guard picket boat. Then their son called to say he had come across a boat they "had to see."
It was a 1975 Roughwater 35 that had sunk. She had been anchored in shallow water and when the tide dropped, the boat grounded, rolled over and filled as the water rose.
"I said, 'no, we have a dandy boat,'" Adele recalls. "But the next day we went to look." And they bought it.
Ben began repairs. He remembers that it took two or three months to make the boat right again. Adele says it was more like a year and a half.
The boat, equipped with a turbocharged, 185hp Perkins diesel, first was owned by the state of Alaska, where she was used by wildlife enforcement officers. (LaPocca sold three Roughwaters to the state of Alaska.) The Iversons are the third owners.
Barnacle is in great shape, partly because of the Iversons' attention, and partly because she is kept under cover. They run the engine at 1,600 rpm, which kicks her along at about eight knots. She will do 10 knots, but fuel consumption increases significantly.
The Iversons sleep forward in the V-berths. Aft of that space is the saloon. A convertible settee and dining table and the head are on the port side. The galley is along the starboard side.
Step up to the pilothouse. The wheel is to the right, and there are doors to port and starboard that lead to side decks and aft cockpit. There's a pilothouse seat for guests, plus good space for observers and charts.
A stairway leads down to the aft cabin, which has a pair of single beds. The Iversons have installed a freezer in the space between the beds, and store charts in that stateroom, too.
Barnacle has an autopilot, VHF radio, and radar. On a recent trip, they brought her safely home through dense fog.
Like all wise boaters, they try to avoid dangerous cruising conditions. But they have been out in the rough stuff and find that the Roughwater does well. Crossing Dixon Entrance on the way to Alaska one year they were caught in a tumbling sea.
"We'd slosh around," Ben remembers. "It was kind of fun."
David Crosby, a Sylvana, Washington, consulting engineer, owns a 36 Roughwater, which, as we know, is a 35 without the aft cabin.
A previous owner hired the younger Monk to design a fly bridge, which Crosby finds "a really nice addition." It also has been refitted with hydraulic steering, an autopilot and a bow thruster. "Really nice," Crosby adds.
"It is a rolly boat," he says. "I suspect it might be dangerous if it lost power in six or sevenfoot seas."
On a trip up Clarence Strait in Southeast Alaska, his boat was taking green water over the bow, so he tucked into the wake of a 100-foot fish buyer where the seas were much calmer.
On another cruise westbound in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, Crosby encountered eight-foot swells topped with four-foot breaking seas. He kept going because it wasn't safe to turn around.
Crosby doesn't like the ventilation holes cut in the brow of the pilothouse and the trunk cabin. With heavy green seas coming aboard, water would leak into the boat, damaging electronics. He has since made covers to end that problem.
He paid $62,000 for the boat to an owner who said he had spent $125,000 on improvements.
Why did he buy the Roughwater? "The boat truly was in bristol condition. It was the right price and had the equipment I wanted."
Following a careful plan, he bought the boat in winter and in the following summer took her to Southeast Alaska. Yes, he would recommend the boat to others.
Try A 37
Roughwater launched its first 37-footer in 1981 to attract boaters seeking speed and a flybridge. She offered both, plus new styling that put her a generation ahead of the 35 in appearance.
Introduced with the 200hp Perkins T6.354, the 37 in later years was given even more punch with selection of the 250hp 8.2-liter Detroit Diesel. Buyers could have one, or two, of the big engines.
She is arranged much like the 36, roomier with more storage space but still with only one head. The yacht measures 39.5 feet overall and has a beam of 11 feet 7 inches.
With lots of power from twins, the 37 can easily top 20.
Joe Weber and Joy Gamble of Issaquah, Washington, bought a 37 early in 2000 after talking with Jim Roberts and other Roughwater owners. They were impressed by the testimony they heard, "Not to mention the fact that Roughwater boats are the most undervalued on the market," Joe says.
Their Morning Star has a glass hull and a wood deckhouse; the previous owner spent about $5,000 fixing soft wood as a condition of the sale.
She has a pair of 8.2-liter Detroit Diesels, and can hit 23 knots while cruising effortlessly at 16. They have changed upholstery, had the engines checked, and the hydraulic steering rebuilt.
As Northwest boaters, Joe and Joy watch the weather carefully. "I've had her out in about sixfoot seas and it was not a problem. From what I've heard from others is that Roughwaters are pretty good when the going gets rough."
The flybridge on the 37 is good looking, but controversial. Ed Monk, Jr., has advised some owners that Chen built a much heavier structure than the architect originally designed. The extra weight of the bridge, and of passengers and equipment, may add enough top hamper to change roll characteristics unfavorably, Monk says.
Joe Weber said his boat has ballast and he finds no problem with the added weight of the bridge.
John Wilkins of Juneau, Alaska, owns a 1984 37-footer equipped with a single Perkins diesel. "She has my trust and admiration," he says, but he plans to remove the flybridge to make the boat handle better in stormy Alaskan waters.
In an email to Wilkins in late 1999, Monk said the addition of rolling chocks along the round bilge would reduce roll, but the only way to add to the stability of the boat would be to reduce weight aloft.
Summing up his 37, one owner says: "She's not a fancy boat, she's not an expensive boat. She's an eight, on a scale of one to ten. She is not as good as the best Taiwan boats, and compared to the Grand Banks, she's a six.
"But if you are not hung up on an absolutely pristine boat, the price is great."
Roughwater introduced its 41-foot pilothouse to the market in 1973. It was a wood boat and sold for $39,000. By 1980, the company was building it in fiberglass. And by then the boats cost more than $100,000.
Soon, a bigger and more glamorous 42 hit the market.
Because of their huge interior spaces, the 41 and 42 are popular for living aboard. The 42, especially, with a queen bed in the master stateroom aft and a full-sized refrigerator, probably has more liveaboard advocates than the 41. With a pair of turboed Detroit Diesels it also appeals to those looking for speed.
Both boats have similar layouts-V-berths and a small head forward, a large saloon amidships (including a settee to starboard, a dining area and galley to port), the pilothouse above the aft end of the saloon, and the master stateroom and head with shower a few steps down and aft.
The trunk cabin brow drawn by Ed Monk, Sr., and used on all Roughwaters for years, disappeared when Ed, Jr., drew lines for the 42. Three small windows on each side of the 41's aft stateroom became one long slender window on the 42. Monk wrapped a dodger around the sun deck on the aft cabin to make it more comfortable.
Many other styling changes make the 42 a strikingly different boat, although it obviously remains a Monk and a Roughwater.
In 1994, Jim Roberts owned a 34-foot Bayliner. He went looking for something better, bigger, and with covered moorage. He was willing to spend up to $150,000.
"A friend called and said here's a boat to see. I said, 'what the heck is a Roughwater?'"
Roberts spent hours on the phone with the woman who was trying to sell the boat following the death of her husband. Then he and his wife, Susie, went to look.
"When we saw it, I thought it was not the best looking boat. But we went inside and we just melted." They paid $100,000 for the boat and its covered mooring space. He figures the boat alone cost about $80,000.
A veteran auto salesman, Roberts easily slides from a dispassionate discussion of the Roughwater 41 to a pitchman. Then he catches himself in the selling mode, grins, and apologizes. But he still believes it's the best buy on the used boat market.
Today, the Roberts' boat, Sea Estate, rests in her large, well-lit boat house in Tacoma, Washington. The interior is original and the curtains and upholstery look new, despite the efforts of two young daughters and a Weimaraner.
The forward V-berths belong to the girls. With large berths and space to park books and toys, and the adjoining head, the forward stateroom is a private place for the kids.
Sea Estate also carries Roberts' library, in which he is accumulating all the information he can find about Roughwaters. While cruising, he stops and chats with the owners of every one he finds. He searches diligently for hull numbers, seeking information that eventually will help determine how many were built.
Last summer, cruising near Victoria, B.C., he received a radio message from a passing Roughwater. The owner was looking for "the Roughwater guy." Roberts was pleased to chat with him.
During our discussion aboard his boat, Roberts' cell phone rang. It was the owner of a rare 58 Roughwater responding to a message Roberts had left much earlier. Before hanging up, he had its hull identifier and an invitation to visit.
The 41 saloon has 73 inches of headroom, enough for most folk, but not for all of us. The raised pilothouse is compact, almost cramped, but offers excellent visibility. Roberts is trying to decide how to rearrange it, to pull the radar and other instruments together in a logical cluster near the helm. There is little space to roll out a large NOAA chart.
The main entry in the 41 and 42 is through a cockpit door to the after stateroom. This forces owners to keep the bedroom neat.
There is a window/half-door on the starboard side of the saloon; they appear on other Monk boats, as well. Stepping down through them from the side deck requires agility and flexibility.
John and Lisa Worthington daily test the generous spaces of the 41; they live aboard in South San Francisco with their three children, Sarah, 8, Webb, 3, and Lily, 2.
They bought Resolution, a 1984 model, more than four years ago, while Lisa was pregnant with their second child. Moving aboard was a huge step, but it seems to work.
Separation of spaces make the 41 a good liveaboard. The two older kids share the Vberths and small head. Mom, Dad and baby share the aft cabin and the large head and shower. The expansive saloon, with dining space separate from the food prep area, is a delight for Lisa because it gives the children room for play and other activities while she prepares a meal.
The engine room on the 41 is beneath the galley area. Ahead of it is another large belowdecks storage area they call the basement. It has plenty of space for all kinds of household stuff.
The boat has been reliable, with only minor mechanical problems, and John says, "I've not paid a dime to anyone to work on the boat."
John and friends delivered Resolution from San Diego to its new moorage in South San Francisco. Being a military family, they went prepared: everything was tied up and buttoned down, they rented an emergency pump (just in case) and plotted their courses for the 700-mile trip.
The first leg was from San Diego to Catalina, with plenty of fishing planned. "The wind came up in the afternoon, with popcorn seas to eight feet," John recalls.
Wind was coming around both sides of an island, pummeling them from all directions. He slowed the boat to five knots. But the turmoil continued.
More than once, "the boat was standing straight up," John says. "Often we had to put our hands on the ceiling to keep from going airborne."
John was feeling good about the boat's performance in the wild seas until the engine quit. He had a sea anchor on the bow, ready for use. But he was the only one who knew how to deploy it. The wind was gusting to 40 knots. "I told everyone to put on life jackets and said I was going to go below and change fuel filters."
The engine restarted and the crew regained control.
"I have been to Catalina many times and I never, ever, saw it that rough before. We never knew what was coming."
They had done a good job preparing. Nothing broke, nothing spilled, no cabinets or drawers popped open. He is confident the boat will take anything that comes along.
As for the rest of the trip north? "It was great."
When John and Lisa decided to live aboard, they wanted a trawler-type boat. Their emphasis was on a boat with good natural lighting and ventilation, a lot of storage and one that was seaworthy. They wanted a boat with good lines, with some wood on the exterior, walkaround side decks and an area for fishing.
"This boat had it all," John says.
A 42 In Florida
Steve Lescher of Punta Gorda, Florida, had owned about 25 boats before he bought a 1987 Roughwater 42 for $110,000 two years ago. "This is the first of them about which I say it will be forever," he says.
The first thing that impressed him? The 78 inches of headroom in the saloon. He stands six feet three and earlier had rejected a 37 Roughwater because he couldn't stand straight.
Air conditioning, which is necessary for comfortable cruising in Florida, was a plus. Also he liked the big saloon-with a couch, chairs, table, TV, stereo-and the galley with a fullsized refrigerator, an ice maker, stove, and builtin microwave. The queen bed in the aft stateroom looked comfy.
Finally, he was impressed with the boat's speed: She has twin 220hp Detroits, and on the sea trial, she popped onto plane faster than expected. She cruises easily at 15/17 knots. At 2,900 rpm, the twins burn a total of 14 gallons per hour and push the boat at an average of 16.5 knots.
"We fell in love with it."
As a bonus, the boat had experienced little use. The engine clocks showed only 700 hours.
Lescher loves to go bluewater cruising off the coast of Florida and occasionally runs into poor weather. "I'm thrilled with the way it handles in rough water," he says.
A Personal Word
I've got to admit to having a soft spot for the Roughwaters.
More than 20 years ago, the Lane and Dermody families chartered a Roughwater 35 named Osprey for a long Labor Day weekend. My experience until then had been limited to a 20-foot runabout, but the charter was possible because John Dermody had decades of seagoing experience.
It was a long, rainy, windy weekend. We were blown off one anchorage the first night and on the second the small harbor was so jammed with boats that by morning anchor lines were crossed and twisted. Thankfully, John knew what to do.
We put four adults and three teenagers aboard the Roughwater. Someone must have slept on the deck. We got along well, cooking on an oilburning Dickenson stove and navigating with only a compass at the helm. The experience was so pleasing, despite the weather, that in about a year we bought a 32-foot Bill Garden-designed cruiser.
Back to the present. Over the past year I've been noticing a Roughwater 35 in my marina. Early this summer, swarms of people began sandi ng, scraping and painting the pilothouse.
Finally, I walked over to meet Jerry and Sharyl Parkin, the liveaboard owners. We talked about their purchase of the 1974-model boat for $42,000 a year earlier. One of them mentioned that the second owner had bought the boat from the original owners (a couple of guys) who had chartered it for several years decades back. Bingo! The boat in my marina more than likely was Osprey, the boat we'd chartered for a wet weekend so long ago.
Even though we try to steer a straight and narrow course, the boating world seems to move in circles.
Prices I have quoted come directly from recent buyers, indicating the general range for Roughwaters. Prices will differ across the country. Published price guides may not be much help.
Power Boat Guide, normally an excellent resource, has not included data on Roughwaters in its current issue, although earlier editions featured them. Ed McKnew, co-publisher, said they may be restored to the book in the future. McKnew shared his files on the Roughwater with me; they provided valuable background information.
The N.A.D.A. appraisal guide for older boats seems to be way off on Roughwaters-its prices are much too low. It's probably better to talk with owners, old and new, to develop an understanding of price structures. Classified and brokerage ads are also helpful.
The Final Word
The Roughwater family seems to offer something for everyone, from the simple, sedate, and relatively slow 35-footer to the 42- foot speedster. Regardless of size or speed, these boats allow us to do what we enjoy doing most-go cruising in comfort and safety.
Their design is distinctive and consistent through the family (except for the 58).
Although the 42 begins to show traces of the styling Ed Monk, Jr. has brought to today's market, the classic pencil of his father is strong.
Anyone buying any older boat does so with caution. Even well-built craft suffer with time and exposure to weather. I recently saw a 41 Roughwater whose wood deck and framing were falling apart, but the owner was moving ahead with repairs.
Careful surveys of hull and machinery are critically important. With Roughwaters, special attention probably should be focused on electrical wiring and the condition of the wood superstructure.
It would be good, too, to find some expert help in assessing how a Roughwater can be updated cosmetically and electronically without sacrificing the original design. And at what cost.
It's unlikely that another Roughwater ever will be built. So they will remain distinctive on our waterways.
Thanks in part to the Internet, Roughwater owners are coming together as a family, too. Look for summer get-togethers in small harbors or pleasant marinas. And with people like Jim Roberts at work, some day we'll know more about Hal Paris and C.C. Chen. And we may even know how many were built.