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Lots of boats come to Oriental, some tie up at the Town Dock for a night or two, others drop anchor in the harbor for a while. If you've spent any time on the water you know that every boat has a story. The Shipping News on TownDock.net brings you the stories of the boats that have visited recently.

Dream of the Fuel Efficient Cruiser
August 22, 2014
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im Coward’s passion is improving the fuel efficiency of trawlers and pleasure cruisers. He says, “there’s no reason power yachts should be heavy, lumbering beasts which constantly demand to be fed.”

Jim decided to do better. He would build a super fuel efficient 50 motor cruiser. He had no offshore boating experience. He did have a garage. Using common tools and materials, he built his version of the perfect cruiser. Her name is “Audacity”.

audacity xenocraft
Audacity in her slip at Whitaker Pointe Marina.
audacity xenocraft jim coward at helm
Jim Coward at the helm of his moored craft.

The 50-footer is the prototype of a class of vessels Jim calls the Xenocraft. The vessel is 50 feet long and draws 20 inches. From outrigger to outrigger, she is 21 feet wide. She looks more personal jet than trawler. He says, “in the future, gasoline will cost $8 or $10 per gallon, and only the very rich will be able to afford to go boating.”

Jim felt the boat’s long, lean lines would make her efficient. This would allow people of moderate means to own and operate a large cruising vessel. It would also lighten the boat’s environmental impact. Audacity is designed to run on two 6 horsepower outboard motors.

 xenocraft audacity helm
Jim prepares to go below. The console, steering wheel and windshield are off a Bertram power boat. Though not presently hooked up, the controls will lead…..
xenocraft audacity outrigger outboard
…to an outboard motor mounted between the main hull and each outrigger. Here, the starboard outboard. The port engine is currently not mounted. Audacity does not have a rudder. Instead, when both her outboards are hooked up, Jim says they will be used to maneuver the boat.

Jim grew up in Savannah Georgia. As a teenager, he built small boats – rowboats, catamarans, sailboat and trimarans. He was interested in efficient designs, hull shapes that were easily moved through the water with a minimum of energy. He avoided sailboats. “I was interested in mechanical simplicity,” he says. “Going to sails and rigging defeats simplicity.”

He dreamed, one day, of building a large boat that could go a long way on a little bit of fuel. Instead he went to Georgia State.

At State, he got his masters in Public Administration and completed most of his doctorate in Political Science. His dissertation was on the political sophistication of the American electorate. He says his committee denied his dissertation, “because they viewed my beliefs as too radical.

“What I learned from my thesis,” he says, “is that the American electorate isn’t very sophisticated.”

xenocraft audacity jim coward cross beam outrigger
Audacity has some features that might appear unsophisticated. The cross beams that connect the main hull to the outriggers – and support the outboard – are made of aluminum box beams. Three of the 2” by 6” beams are bolted together to make a single outrigger. Jim says the advantage to this system is if the cross beams ever break or suffer metal fatigue, they are easily replaced. Rubber mounts in the hull act as shock absorbers.

In hindsight, he thinks it worked out for the best. “If I’d gotten my PhD, I’d have taught at a community college somewhere. I wouldn’t have had a chance to build a boat.”

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Posted Friday August 22, 2014 by Bernie Harberts

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