Seaworthiness of Freedom 39 Cat-Schooner

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by folotp, Dec 29, 2011.

  1. folotp
    Joined: Dec 2011
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    folotp Junior Member


    I would be interested in opinions on the seaworthiness of the Freedom 39 Pilothouse cat-schooner (not the Freedom 39 Express which is a cat-ketch version). How suitable is it for offshore cruising with a short-handed crew? Some areas of interest:

    1- Comfort in heavy seas.

    2- Suitability of the cat-schooner rig. Ability to adjust to different conditions while keeping the boat balanced.

    3- General design: stability, roll resitance, deck layout, cockpit, cabin design…

    4- Build quality.

    5- Extreme Weather: Leaving the experience and skills of the crew out, what are opinions on the suitability of this boat's design, rig and build to safely cope with, and withstand to extreme weather (50* kn plus winds, 20 feet plus waves…)?

    6- Is the strength of the cabin trunk (pilothouse) and of the large deck saloon windows of any concern?

    Any other comments more than welcome.


  2. Boston

    Boston Previous Member

    you might post a few pictures if you have a particular boat in mind.
  3. Tad
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Location: Flattop Islands

    Tad Boat Designer

    First this boat was not intended for offshore cruising, she would be a fine coastal cruiser and maybe quite a nice liveaboard.

    1) Not very, wide shallow hull with high VCG and deckhouse well above the center of motion. I will say uncomfortable and snappy roll.

    2) Short of sail area in the working rig, design SA/D something around 15.5 is rather low by today's standard. Could perhaps set a huge mizzen staysail flying from the main mast head....but that's not very shorthanded friendly. Heavy weather reefed options look pretty good with multiple reefs in either sail, should be easy to balance.....

    3) Wide beam gives good initial (low angle) stability but poor high angle stability. Huge deckhouse will provide lots of buoyancy at high heel angles if the windows stay intact (which is unlikely offshore). Narrow decks make it hard to get around but no shrouds to clamber around. No place to store a dinghy and no cockpit dodger. Main hatch way offset, downflooding angle is reduced on that side, but the hatch is up high so less likely to flood. Huge windows are very vulnerable.

    4) Tillotson-Pearson produced reasonable quality production boats (built to a price point) not overbuilt for offshore use.

    5) Not suitable for all the reasons above.

    6) Yes, very much so......

    Good luck....
  4. masalai
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    Location: cruising, Australia

    masalai masalai ... Is that what interests you?

    - - Where do you intend to cruise?
    - - In what climatic regions?
    - - How much cruising experience do you have?

    - - In cruising I look for "weather windows" as that is important - Why bash your head against a wall? ...
    - - Cruise via the long route and go coastal, as it is often more interesting - Something to see and islands, creeks and lagoons to explore - "gunk-holeing" is fun...
    - - Time is not really significant, Your next significant destination cruising region will still be there later... That festival will run again next year if it was a worth while thing to do...

    - - In cruising, consensus is that some 80% of your time is at anchor exploring and learning and absorbing the culture... The last of the flâneur—that of "a person who walks the community in order to experience it" but can also include a "complete philosophical way of living and thinking" so as to absorb, observe, experience and understand the culture and learn from that experience, as opposed to introducing/imposing your own views/standards.

    - - Are you an accumulator of stuff, things, souvenirs - in that case maybe a shallow draft Chinese Junk with modern rig (genoa) for downwind sailing on roller reefing.
    - - If you appreciate travelling light and simple and your souvenirs are digital photographs, maybe a light-weight catamaran is appropriate (shallow draft and able to rest on its bottom with one centreboard and kick up rudders on a hitch-hiker rig - flat cut genoa to each bow is an excellent downwind/reaching tack fast passage maker)

    - - In the tropical regions the weather is fickle with heavy storms (stay secure up a small creek tied to mangroves) or in the doldrums (motoring and sometimes motor sailing with a friendly downwind breeze)...
    - - Learn to interpret global met data - Fit electronics to receive met data globally (or at least in your cruising area)
    - - Try as many different styles of boats as you can find in various bare-boat charter fleets and remember most are "barges" to have the space to accommodate as many people as possible .... Crewed charters may offer better performance boats (but usually lots bigger than necessary)
    - - Tropical cruising DEMANDS shade and shelter from the occasional downpour from the 3pm tropical island diurnal thunderstorm

    (none of this steering out in the open with the wind and salt spray romanticism, and compulsory wet weather gear during your watch - - unless you are a 'round-the-bouys-weekend-racer' in which case you need a DIFFERENT style boat.... "Horses for courses.....")

    - - Live-aboard cruising demands 'smaller is better' as operating costs are significantly less... Cater ONLY for the size of your immediate family, as the additional expense of running a FREE motel for friends and extended family is going to be a waste of your money on your part...

    - - Is not the idea of "going cruising" to get away from it all and escape the craziness of your shallow and meaningless existence feeding the corporations?

    - - I have found around 40 ft loa is a nice compromise... Carefully select the boat of your dreams using the needs of your cruising region in mind... based on YOUR experience and understanding...
  5. folotp
    Joined: Dec 2011
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    folotp Junior Member

    Masalai: Yes, this is the model that I am talking about. We are looking for a boat to do extended family cruising, maybe circumnavigating. You are absolutely right about spending 80% of the time at anchor which is why the deck saloon is interesting. It would be a good place for home school for one thing.

    Tad: Thank you. One correction though, the sail area to displacement ratio is 18.39 (displacement 18,500 pounds and sail area is 804 square feet). Given that it seems to be a fine boat to live aboard 80% of the time, is there anything that could be done to improve its seaworthiness for those few offshore passages? Or is it simply not advisable to go offshore with this boat?
  6. Tad
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Location: Flattop Islands

    Tad Boat Designer

    Original design review states 650 sq. ft sail area, displacement 17,000 pounds, ballast 6000 pounds. The profile drawing shows about 2.5' of overhang aft (waterline intersects top of rudderstock) while the pictures show immersed transom.......So you're design ratios become meaningless because the boat is way overweight (very typical) and waterline much longer. I would not be surprised if she is 22-23,000 pounds (or more) now.

    Worse boats than this have sailed around the world. Generally I would say this would be a fine boat for cruising the east coast and living aboard in Florida or the Caribbean......beyond that it's up to you, for higher latitudes and ocean crossing I would recommend a better boat, narrower and deeper with better cockpit protection.

    The biggest gains in seaworthiness lie with your education and experience with your particular boat. You need to learn how to prepare yourself, your crew, and the boat for heavy weather. You need to practice heaving-to and other heavy weather tactics. Then you need to play the odds and not (no matter what the schedule says) head off into a winter storm.......
  7. folotp
    Joined: Dec 2011
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    folotp Junior Member

    Tad, I am curious where you are taking the design specifications from. According to this Freedom Yachts brochure from 1986, the sail area is 818 sq. ft.

    And here's the sail-plan:

    I have posted a question on the forum about the the strength of the Pilot House. Does the reply seem to make sense? Is it still a concern for offshore use?
  8. Tad
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Tad Boat Designer

    From a design review by Bob Perry published in Sailing Magazine prior to 1986.

    My comments on the strength of house and windows are above.

  9. Eric Sponberg
    Joined: Dec 2001
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    Eric Sponberg Senior Member

    Pierre-Andre sent me a private message to contribute. I was the Chief Engineer at TPI at the time the Freedom 39 schooners were tooled up and started construction. Our engineering department probably wrote up the laminate schedule for the boat, although I don't have a specific recollection of going through the process. I do remember meeting Ron Holland who happen to be in town long enough for a brief visit to the plant. At any rate, we would have used balsa core laminates for the hull and deck that would have been similar in schedules on the Freedom 44 that was developed at about the same time. I designed the masts according to the process that we had then.

    All of the Freedoms were considered to be offshore cruising boats, and so were engineered on their laminates accordingly. I don't think we ever intended that the boats should be treated lightly and/or restricted from offshore use.

    As with any boat, it should be surveyed by a competent marine surveyor prior to purchase. There are issues that crop of on balsa cored boats, and so these should be considered and looked for. The same is true for the electrical and mechanical systems--that is where most of the concern is anyway on any boat as they are complicated and do require regular maintenance. The interior arrangement was developed for the anticipated market--yes, it was production boat building for the masses, so there wasn't a specific consideration given to whether the owners would go offshore--but that wouldn't stop one from doing so if they chose. Certainly the strength was there--other features are a matter of opinion and/or style.

    The masts, of course, were designed to the stability of the boat plus a safety factor. The building process that TPI used does lend itself to surface circumferential cracking on the masts, so one should be aware of that. Slight cracking can be ignored for awhile, but if a lot of cracking, or deep cracking occurs, these should be repaired (a never-ending inquiry across my desk).

    As for the sailplan, I have three different brochures, and they all have different sail areas: 650 ft^2, 744 ft^2 (from Sail Magazine review by Keith Taylor), and 818 ft^2. Displacement was published either as 17,000 lbs and 6,000 lbs of ballast, or 18,500 lbs displacement and 5,300 lbs of ballast. The last numbers are probably the most accurate, although I cannot confirm them independently.

    Probably the best evidence for suitability for offshore cruising is going to be the people who have actually done it in this boat. There was a book written in 2001 by Ian Tew, "Sailing in Grandfather's Wake" in which the author traced "his grandfather's wake" in a Freedom 39 PH. I have not read the book, but it is available at Google Books:

    This design was created back before computers, so we don't have as good a handle on overall stability that we do today. One would have to retrieve the hull lines (probably lost) and take some on-board measurements to confirm its performance numbers. That is difficult to do at that this stage, and so that is why owner testimonials are probably the better bet for assessing the suitability of the design for cruising.

    I hope that helps.

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