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So Long, Sternbidextrous Life

The double-ended Tyee 33 underscores why two sterns can, sometimes, be better than one.

I woke up a few nights ago in a cold sweat. In the dark of night, it came to me that I was a fraud. Not the grimy sort of fraud, but nonetheless, still a fraud. The truth is that I am a double-ender guy. It just sort of crept up on me, and now I’m admitting to my sorry lot in life.

Before now, I had always thought I was sternbidextrous, meaning I liked all sorts of sterns, but I now realize that I am hampered by a firm prejudice toward double-ended designs. Of the half dozen boats residing under my stable roof, half fit the definition of a double-ended design. If I add up the length of the whole fleet, the double-ended models make up 64 percent.

Wouldn’t you think one of my friends would have warned me over the years that I was leaning way over the balance point? Warning bells might have sounded to wake me from my malaise. Now, it is too late to change course.

A double-ended boat has both a stem (forward) and a stern post (aft) where the lines of the boat come together to a point or, on occasion, an arc (this should properly be called a fantail, but still fits the definition). These boats are missing the quite often abrupt termination of a transom-type configuration where the boat looks like a giant chainsaw chopped it off at the stern. Those transom-type vessels might have a larger cockpit and allow for a larger cabin, but the lines of a double-ender can very often look exactly right. A designer would have to try hard to make a double-ended boat look crude, while the transom--stern boys have a hard time making their boats look anything but crude.

Thinking back, I believe my bias toward double-enders started about 25 years ago, but there may have been some double-ender contact when I was a wee kid. My bias was definitely honed in Seattle at a place on Lake Union called Fishermen’s Terminal, one of my favorite spots in our nearest big city. On many an afternoon, I have walked the docks, eyeing the best examples of our North Pacific commercial fishing fleet. I did this biweekly walk for several months while I was racing in a series with my friend and sailmaker Doug Christie. If I finished early, I would buy a cigar and walk the docks, puffing away while looking at the boats. Around quitting time, Doug would close the sail loft, and we would have dinner and drinks, tell stories and discuss the next day’s race into the wee hours.

Suffice it to say that a couple of months later, I owned my first double-ender: Josephine, a freshly retired commercial fishing salmon trawler, one of the tenants of Fishermen’s Terminal. She was beguiling, and I had been obsessed with her lines for years.

The second double-ender came along just a couple years later, while I was visiting with boat designer Bill Garden, then living in British Columbia. My youngest son, Kenzie, and I were walking through Bill’s boatbuilding shops on his island, Toad’s Landing, and there was the cutest little boat chucked into the larger shop bay. Her name was Owl. Both Kenzie and I were smitten, and in just a few months, we were quite a bit lighter in our wallets.

All of which leads us to the design of this month: a true double-ender in its purest form. The Tyee 33 is a salmon fishing boat without the fish hold in her midsection, and without a deep belly. Since there is no need for the capacity to carry ice and fish, we can reduce the hull depth, broaden her beam and keep her feeling a bit more stable with a slightly higher center of gravity, but with more stability in her hullform.

This little double-ender, at just about 33 feet in length, is right in the sweet spot of size, having enough room for two people to cruise comfortably while being able to stretch in a pinch to accommodate a good friend or relative for a couple of days. She would excel in being not too big, but also not too little for singlehanding.

One reality that a few of us more adventurous sailors encounter is our mates’ lack of glee about hairy crossings that must be navigated to get to the good cruising grounds. One potential way to rekindle enthusiasm is to have a boat that can easily be singlehanded through the rough patches, letting our mates join back up when we get to more sheltered waters. For us out here in the Northwest, floatplanes can be chartered economically for this purpose. Just worrying about my own safety and the boat’s safety is a bit cleaner of an operation anyway, and avoids the potential divesting of one’s nest egg by a half count if everything goes bad.

Two layouts for the fo’c’sle arrangements: one with port and starboard berths, the other with a large double berth and enclosed head.

Two layouts for the fo’c’sle arrangements: one with port and starboard berths, the other with a large double berth and enclosed head.

You can dream about your own ideal accommodations and layout, with a couple versions to choose from. Both share the cockpit’s fish-hold engine box that allows good access to the engine and wonderful access to stowage. (I love to beachcomb, and having a boat that can take on my finds without cluttering the deck is wonderful.) Those with a penchant for the workboat side of things might consider putting the head back in this compartment. A toilet seat nicely warmed by the engine heat can be a real comfort on a cool spring morning.

A couple of fo’c’sle arrangements are shown. The off-center double berth with an enclosed head has good stowage for duffels and stores. The other fo’c’sle arrangement has separate bunks with large over-berth shelves (plenty large to handle the grandchildren). The latter arrangement, to my mind, offers the best potential night’s sleep because anchor checks won’t disturb the other sleepers. A diesel heater alongside will make this cabin warm and cozy in the evening.

She is a simple boat, double-ended of course and modeled after the tough little salmon trawlers that still spend as long as six months of the year fishing up north each spring, summer and fall. Care would be manageable with good, simple, workboat-type finishes over a tough wood-and-epoxy hull. What more could a skipper wish for?

LOA: 33ft. 2in.
Beam: 11ft. 6in.
Draft: 3ft. 7in.
Displacement: 13,100 lbs.
Propulsion: diesel inboard up to 150 hp