So many of our life experiences these days involve leaving home with a simple task in mind, only to be bombarded with thousands of stimuli that distract us. I often find that, when running errands, I completely forget my reasons for going to the market in the first place, or I come out with a basket full of stuff that I neither needed nor intended to buy.
Now, imagine the life of a boat designer and the origin of a new design. Most typically, we are hired to respond to the wants and needs of our customers. That approach to design is quite linear, as the only true task is taking what is in the customer’s mind and translating it to paper.
But there is another way to approach the design game—to venture into a design without a customer. Without that list of requirements, the designer is walking into the superstore of his or her boat-creating mind and bombarded with way too many possibilities and options.
The design I am showing here is very much a result of visiting the superstore of my oh-so-cluttered mind. The Devlin 37 started with a single line on paper (a sheerline, if I recall accurately). Next, I drew a waterline below the sheer, and then a plumb line for the bow. Just a few black lines with an infinite number of possibilities about what she could and would ultimately become. In a couple of hours, I had something that I could wrap my head around.
Then, this project was sidelined by paying work. It was relegated to my DUC-K file: “designs under consideration or killing.”
I shook out the Devlin 37 out recently and worked on her for several design sessions, to finalize her. I was so overcome by curiosity that I decided to reverse the image. Back in the day when I was drafting on paper, I would have to hold the drawing up against a window to create backlighting that let me see the image from the other side. Today, this process requires a simple keystroke on the computer.
It’s an exercise worth doing. To me, reversing a design always makes it appear completely different. Looking at the D-37 in reverse, the sheer was all wrong. She was too proud in the bow. And, with her springy sheerline, the stern appeared very low.
So, I raised the stern freeboard to balance her large, plumb bow, which became much more attractive to my eye. I did retain the ethos of the build: a single-stateroom, displacement-speed, fuel-efficient design that should be a stable and seaworthy vessel. I gave her a pilothouse and galley-up arrangement, with a berth and head down below in the fo’c’sle. She is one level from the cockpit to the helm, with walkaround side decks protected by the roof overhang. This roof, in addition to providing shelter, has plenty of room for solar panels or dinghy stowage.
The arrangement works well for a cruising couple. I like the single-stateroom design because, in my experience, cruising “in company” is much more enjoyable than cruising “with company.” If friends or family want to join my wife and me, a dinette can convert into a double berth. If grandkids want to come. there are always sleeping bags. Would they want to sleep in those conditions for long? No. And that’s the entire point.
With the galley-up arrangement, I can make a pot of soup or a sandwich, and keep an eye on the road. The autopilot will be a valuable companion, and the fact that this is a slow, full-displacement boat will also ensure that I stay safe.
I would expect fuel economy to run at about 1.75 gallons per hour with a cruising speed of 7.5 knots; that pens out to 4.3 nautical miles per gallon. Even with fuel costs at today’s stunningly high rates, it means the average fuel needed for a 1,500-mile round-trip would be 304 gallons. With 420 gallons of total tankage, I could do that trip easily without refueling and still have a bit left in the tanks.
The engine I would put in her would be the 105-hp John Deere 4045, a four-cylinder, heavy-block diesel. For the Deere, parts are affordable and almost universally available, and the slow-turning engine is easy to sound-deaden in the engine room. Access is through two sole hatches. Worrying about headroom while checking fluids or working on the engine would not be an
issue, as standing with the hatches open would allow for unlimited headroom, and full access around the engine block.
This article was originally published in the November/December 2022 issue.