North Wind 58
For 75 years now, Sparkman & Stephens has been celebrated for its body of design work that underpins hundreds of capable, long-lived, oceangoing sailboats. North Wind Yachts is a high-quality boatbuilder based in the commercial port of Barcelona, Spain. Together, the designer and builder of the North Wind 58 have created a passagemaker that blends oceangoing scantlings with the grace and elegance of a fine yacht.
During a dockside inspection of the North Wind 58, I was particularly impressed by the custom-fabricated metalwork that ranges from a rugged stem fitting and anchor roller to the functional and handsome stainless-steel galley counters. I would add further high marks for the excellent mechanical installation of the Mercedes diesel (though a Yanmar is standard) and drivetrain, which features an Aqua Drive shaft coupling; when running, it's as smooth as butter. I quickly came to see that this yard employs a staff with a wide range of talents. The installations of the hydraulic anchor windlass, bow thruster, and furling systems are additional examples of competent craftsmen at work.
Before we got under way, I wondered if the 58, her sleek-looking deck-saloon lines notwithstanding, might behave like a slow motorsailer. Any doubt was dispelled the moment we set sail. Her big rig, substantial sail plan, and new keel, mast, and rudder turn this high-volume cruiser into a passagemaker that's not afraid to perform. The 7-foot-8-inch draft and the rig height will keep the boat out of the Intracoastal Waterway, but this is a sailboat designed and built to go to sea--a job at which it excels.
On the wind, with a reefed main and a double head rig, the boat loped along at 8.7 knots, and the motion induced by the short, steep chop of Chesapeake Bay was comfortable. Unlike a raceboat, in which speed trumps all other attributes, seakindliness is essential in a cruiser, and that derives to a large degree from the motion of the vessel in a seaway. The North Wind's moderate proportions and balanced ends eliminate pounding and allow those on deck and below to function effectively, even when the boat's beating to weather. The deep spade rudder afforded smooth steering and positive control even when the heel angle increased during 10-knot jumps in the apparent wind. The heavily built, well-supported rudderstock reassured me that although S&S, one of the last holdouts advocating skeg-hung rudders, has embraced freestanding rudders on cruising boats, they've done so with the hefty belt-and-suspenders scantlings for which they're famous.
The boat's reaching ability is another strong suit. Its directional stability is good, and whether hand steering or turning the helm over to the autopilot, the easy-to-balance sail plan and positive steering characteristics make this 58 a very easy boat to control. Gusts would come and go without unduly affecting heel or overwhelming the steering. The double head rig allows a shorthanded crew to furl the genoa and move the center of effort (CE) aft at the same time that the reefing of the mainsail is moving the CE forward. The result is a balanced sail plan; even at hull speed, the steering remains easy. These same characteristics would play out well in open-ocean sailing when the boat accelerates off steep wave faces.
The 58 is available in a sloop or ketch rig, and either can be fitted with carbon spars as an option. In-mast furling is standard, and although there's a trade-off in efficiency under sail, it affords a decided convenience. A bow thruster and electric sheet winches are also part of the package, another effort to make a large vessel more friendly to a shorthanded crew. Each of these labor-saving systems has a manual backup in the event that the power goes out; effective ongoing maintenance will lessen the likelihood of having to do without the furling, reefing, and sheeting aids.
Alejandro 0034 629 648 162
Javier 0034 609 686 830