Multichine 28 - Cockpit chat

We already reported in an earlier article that the MC28 project was developed with the intention of building one of these boats for ourselves, since its affordable cost and its simplicity of construction fitted like a glove with our wishes of owning a comfortable and reliable sailboat to live aboard, or to sail to wherever we wished to go, while being within our kitty to build it up to the highest standards of quality, either in construction, or in equipment.

Things worked out exactly as planned. We built the MC28 Fiu with our own hands, which resulted in a boat that we knew how every single detail was made, which brought us a tremendous confidence on her capabilities. Fiu ended up being the boat we liked most among the many we had built and owned along the many years I had been involved with yacht design and boat building. We lived on board her for more than two years doing thousands of miles of offshore sailing, always having the peace of mind of sailing in a boat we trusted.

Selfie taken before the gopro age. This photo was taken during my return trip from the northeast of Brazil, singlehanded, after taking part in the 2004 Recife to Fernando de Noronha Offshore Race.

The most striking difference from the next photo is the fact that I wasn`t using the Bimini. Since it was attached to the dodger by means of a zipper, I used to disassemble it during the crossings, so I could survey the horizon at every twenty minutes or so, standing up in the cockpit and checking if any ship was coming on a collision course, in spite of having radar and radar reflector on board. Photo: Roberto Barros

Multichine 28 Fiu in 2015, now belonging to a third owner. The boat is as good as new, even though it had been launched fifteen years ago. Courtesy: Alexandre Rabello.

This well-succeeded story didn`t happen by sheer luck. Conceptually, the project was developed with a firm assuredness of what should be achieved. The boat had to be functional from the forepeak to the transom, having not even one inch of lost space in its interior, one compartment never stealing the functionality of the next one.

We pointed out in an earlier article that the MC28 was designed around a galley, this having been the contribution of my wife Eileen, who were by then our interior layout consultant, especially about issues related to the galley arrangement. There are plenty of other boats of about the same size with accurately thought interiors, the MC28 being simply one of them. However, in the case of the MC28, the solutions adopted were optimally resolved, to the point of becoming one of our most successful designs.

As we already told, the interior layout was decided taking the galley as a starting point. Notwithstanding, the part of the boat abaft that area had also to become as functional as the galley. In spite of the aft cabin entrance hall being placed where headroom is maximum (1.85m), so actually not being part of the cockpit area, the well insulated owner`s cabin with its large double berth, lots of storage space in a sequence of lateral bins and a long bookshelf, made this compartment a perfect nook to spend the night. I vividly remember the chilly winter nights we stayed there, when we felt like being hosted in a Swiss chalet up in the Alps. When it rained heavily, the sound of the drops falling on the cockpit seat above were like music in our ears. The smart trick which made the difference when designing the aft cabin was creating a 700mm wide deck bridge abaft the companionway hatch, which allowed the person sleeping with the body under the cockpit sole to sit on the berth`s head, leaning the back against the cabin fore-wall without feeling as though being tucked inside a drawer. This design detail was also successful outside the cabin. This bridge created a transverse bunk that could be used on starry summer nights as an enticing place to sleep. Since this bridge isn`t frequently found in other projects, many had questions about the convenience of this solution, arguing that it could hamper the access to the interior. Presently with the class approaching the two hundred units, either sailing, or under construction. It became more than well proven when in use that going out of the cabin, or getting in, didn`t represent any difficulty. Even when the boat was sailing close-hauled in a long tack this deck bridge could be cosy, if one lied there with the head to the windward side.

But it was inside the aft cabin where peace was absolute, never minding how the sea conditions were. Natural ventilation, possessing three sources of fresh air, was quite efficient. In the case of the MC28 Fiu, I didn`t install a hinged door, substituting it by a curtain, which, when partially, or totally opened, ensured an efficient flow of fresh air inside. The flux started in the collision bulkhead which separated the anchor well from the central cabin, where an inspection port, which was to be kept permanently opened, except if having to face a hurricane force storm, provided a minimum of ventilation to the whole interior. There were two other sources of ventilation, an opening port in the cabin side-wall and another in the transom bulkhead, which was primarily intended as exhaust outlet.

MC28 Aity aft cabin. One of its strong points is the impossibility of falling from the bunk in bad weather, since the upholstery goes from side-wall to side-wall. Courtesy: Arapuan Fernandes

The aft cabin was my favourite nook onboard Fiu. There were a profusion of bins along the wall that limited the bunk width at portside, with plenty of room to store our personal belongings in them. On the upper part of these bins there was an ample bookshelf where I kept my most precious books, those which I was afraid a "friend" would ask to borrow, never giving it back. I loved to stay there reading, sometimes, especially in winter, sitting in the berth`s head with my backs supported by the cabin`s front-wall, having the blanket extended up to my waist.

Only once the aft cabin was not as snug as it used to be. It was when we invited an American couple for a prolonged weekend trip to Ilha Grande, the lush green paradise sixty nautical miles west of Rio de Janeiro We left Marina da Gloria in Rio (the base for the 2016 Olympic games for the sailing classes) in the early evening, so as to save time for spending later on in that fantastic destination. The wind was favourable, blowing from east, as is usual in that region. The cockpit chat began at the first moment, so fond were our expectations for the holydays ahead. However, as soon as we left the flat waters of the bay and reached Copacabana Beach, the boat started to roll in the rhythm of the swell, the husband got quite drowsy and went to lie on the passage to the fore-deck alongside the cabin trunk wall, there staying as if he had passed out. Since his wife stayed with us in the cockpit, and we were sailing under a starry sky of a beautiful tropical night, we kept chewing the fat for the next five or six hours until getting very close to our destination.

However, it was written in the stars that we were still to have to endure dire straits in the next few hours. A tropical storm with hurricane force winds coming out of the blue without the slightest warning hit us mercilessly in a matter of minutes, so suddenly that I don`t remember having ever seen anything like that before. Perhaps that could have been a tornado, so quickly did it happen. The sky became pitch black in a matter of minutes, and the wind shifted from east to west with no lull in between. Since it was absolutely impossible to beat that storm with the wind on the nose, since that was out of the question sailing against those gale force winds, what was left for us to do was to change course one hundred eighty degrees and return home running with the wind. The boat was skimming over the wave crests surpassing the twelve knots on the GPS, fortunately without difficulties with steering control, since the MC28 rudder, being slightly oversized, is quite efficient. Thanks to the system employed in the foresail, using s.s. Wichard hanks instead of furling gear, being in the shade of the main, in a matter of seconds we had the jib on the deck lashed to the strop fixed in the pulpit for that purpose. The main sail, however, was a different story. Even though the luff being held by slugs sliding on the mast groove, it was much more troublesome to be lowered. We had to try to change course at least to a beam reach so that it could flap sufficiently to allow us to bring it down. After receiving quite a few slashes on our faces, finally it was lashed to the boom, unfortunately not before having jammed the traveller system, so many furious jerks it had to stand. For safety reasons I asked our guests to go down the soonest possible and find shelter in the most secluded place on board, the shrine of the aft cabin.

With the boat gliding at more than twelve knots, all the way gained towards our destination was being lost at an alarming rate. When we were not anymore under the shelter of Ilha Grande, a mountainous island, the seas became menacingly high, forming huge white caps. Since our guests were well protected in the aft cabin, I had the necessary peace of mind to bring the boat back home with no worries. However time was ticking and no signs of the storm abating, what only happened when we were arriving at the marina. Only then I went down into the cabin to see how our guests were doing. It was then that I realised that a "tragedy" had taken place down below. Since the sudden drowsiness of our friend was just seasickness, when jumping into the shelter of the enclosed aft cabin, he felt the need of plenty of fresh air, and spent his last resources of energy to reach the foot of the berth in order to open the transom porthole installed there. When the seas became vicious, the breaking white caps began to flood the cabin, soaking the blanket and all other bed clothes. The way our friend was feeling miserable, all he managed to do was collapsing under the wet blanket and stay there as a moribund.

No sooner we entered Guanabara Bay spirits improved almost instantly. When arriving at our jetty we all gave a hand to tidy the mess, drying every inch of the cabin. Fortunately the upholstery was made of totally waterproof acrylic cloth, so that no damage was left to be fixed. This was the sole time that any water entered into the aft cabin.

If at the portside we had the owner`s cabin of our dreams, at starboard things were in equal footing with the other side. The boat`s heads was also as complete as we could wish for a twenty-eight foot sailboat, actually being more spacious than most series produced sailboats of about the same size. There is a compartment abaft the heads extending to the transom long enough to store sails and any other bulky equipment, including oars, boat`s hook, awning, etc. Anyway, it is the MC28 trademark to have the whole interior to be used for maximum benefit of the crew.

The MC28 heads is very ample and functional for a twenty-eight foot sailboat. That lacework white carpet shown in the left side of the photo is covering the grated floorboard over the shower sump. The shower nuzzle is shown at the right side of the photo.

Our MC28 was intensely used while she belonged to us. At that time I regularly issued log book entries which were published in our site, either about the cruises accomplished, or about our daily life aboard. The highlights of those stories were the two round trips to the northeast of Brazil, altogether representing about four thousand miles sailed, three thousand of them singlehanded. I never tried before accomplishing such long journeys singlehanded, since my first choice had always been cruising in the company of my wife Eileen, as she couldn`t participate on that occasion, I accepted the challenge of going alone, and those two crossings taught me many lessons. Actually I made very little use of the cockpit. At every twenty minutes, or so, I went out, staying standing up on the cockpit floor to inspect the horizon in search of any ship coming on a collision course. Besides I might have passed about two hours each day in late afternoons, simply enjoying the fact that I was there, frequently sipping a beer, until dusk often presented me with gorgeous sunsets. During the rest of the time my tasks were performed inside the cabin, consisting in the routine activities, like cooking, navigating, entering in the log book, etc, or yet enjoying my leisure time reading a good book or listening to some good music. Notwithstanding, the memorable occasions spent on that cockpit happened in the company of my family, as it was the case of the birthday commemoration of my granddaughter Juliana, when she completed four years of age, a few months before the office shifted address from Rio de Janeiro to Perth, Western Australian, in the year of 2007. For that party I built a cockpit table which had two pins on its aft side to fit in two eyes welded to the pushpit, and a removable leg forward which fitted in a collar bonded to the cockpit floor. That night we had twelve guests occupying every corner of the cockpit, seven sitting around the table, the rest of us tucked on the coamings, while Eileen stayed at the companionway conducting the party as a maestro in a concert. It was then that arrived an unexpected guest, an English solo sailor whose boat was lashed to a jetty not far from ours. For lack of physical space it was offered him a place in the transom scoop, where he had to stay standing up to be integrated with the other guests.

When the office changed address a few months later, Fiu was sold to the Brazilian/Canadian sailor Roberto Roque, who also made fantastic cruises with her. Now the boat has a third owner, Alexandre Rabello, and for sure she will be up to a new set of adventures, probably as exciting as the earlier ones.

Click here to know more about the Multichine 28.