Boating NZ: October 1998 - Rebecca HayterThey wanted long distance range at a respectable speed, "without carting loads of diesel everywhere", and the windward ability that only a big engine can provide. And so they got their wish. Auckland boat-builder/designer Richard Edlin is usually better known on the racing scene: the 26ft Mix T Motions, the 32ft trimaran Red Alert and the twin set Edlin 10.5m performance/cruisers, Voodoo Lounge and Crewtial Fix. Edlin's sojourn into motor sailers is a definite bearing away from his usual course but it demonstrates his knack for creative solutions in meeting the clients' wishes. At 27 years old, Edlin has run his own successful boatbuilding/design business for five years and grew up with the McKenzies' eldest son. Dave and Liz McKenzie were long time owners of a 45ft Hartley Tahitian ketch and during a five-week cruise to the Bay of Islands, they perfected their wish list for their next boat. It included deck and saloon on one level. open transom, and l0kts boat speed under motor. They wanted to retain the pilothouse configuration for its comfort with a view and ability for all crew to be together while underway.
Racing does not enter the equation - the boat doesn't even carry a gennaker or spinnaker. Cost, of course, was another influence. "We were trying to build the biggest boat for the budget," says Edlin. The hull construction in sheet plywood, glassed inside and out, cut down on materials cost and labour since the boat was built with pre developed panels from computer lofting. Plywood carries some restrictions in shaping so Thistle Dhu is multi-chine, which enabled further savings in labour hours. Deck construction is sheet ply and the cabin top is ply/glass/foam/glass for strength in the absence of deck beams. Berthed stern-to at Westpark Marina, Thistle Dhu is boarded easily by a generous duckboard which leads through the walk-through transom, to the cockpit with seating either side and fridge/freezer console in the centre. Given the single level from duckboard to saloon, at this point you could still be on a launch.The cockpit's only two winches are well forward in the cock-pit and inboard, on pedestals running athwart ships but the most unusual part of this configuration is the twin helm stations smack up against the bulkhead. Once underway, helming definitely feels unusual. Vision ahead is through the large window into the saloon and then through the for'ard pilothouse windows. If the sliding door is open and latched in place to starboard, that side has three panes of glass to look through. The tinted glass reflects the boat's wake going the "wrong way" so it looks as though you're going backwards - trust me on this. While this would be unacceptable on a harbour cruiser/racer, Thistle Dhu will spend much of her time under autopilot on the ocean waves. On fine days, the helmsperson perches on the side-deck although the pilothouse limits visibility to leeward. The unusual cockpit layout meets the owners' requirement that all sailing and steering work is well out of the way of guests on board, in anticipation of chartering - Thistle Dhu is built to extended limits specification so she can take charters to Fiji.