An Atlantic Packet

What would a sailing passenger vessel look like? One intended to make quick passages between New England and northern Europe. A craft that could keep a schedule and carry a dozen passengers and some light cargo. One that could survive and thrive on the North Atlantic year-round. A vessel that provides intercontinental communication without burning fuel.

I’ve always thought that Harrier’s hull form would be a great starting point to develop a large ocean-going craft. This packet has a similar long double-ended form drawn out further and given a shallow fin and skeg rudder.



This comparison of their lines highlights the differences brought about to deal with the effects of size and a change in the task each boat is asked to perform. Length has the greatest effect on stability. That’s why longer boats and ships can be narrower than their smaller cousins. There are also differences in payload. Harrier has no need for headroom or cargo capacity and there’s a great benefit in an extremely shoal hull for a beach boat/camp cruiser. The packet needs the added room of a deeper hull and the security of a long, ballasted keel.


A packet like this would make crossings in about fifteen days, in the right conditions, maybe twelve. I could see runs from Portland, Maine to Shannon, Ireland where passengers could make rail connections to take them across Europe and beyond.

This accommodation profile suggests a possible interior layout. There are six cabins and a crew berth space and head forward. Aft is a salon and galley and more heads. The wheelhouse has a spacious seating and eating area also and there’s a heating stove in a cabin/lounge right at the center of motion just aft of amidships. It’s intended to provide a combination of private sleeping compartments and useful public spaces.

This is the antithesis of a cruise liner. Passengers are not here to consume and be diverted. They take care of themselves under the watch of a crew of three. I find the social possibilities of this endeavor intriguing. What would it be like on a passage? With whom would we share two weeks at sea? How would we occupy ourselves? What is the nature of travel when it is undertaken in this way?

There are a pair of electric motors powering two folding props to deal with near-shore calms and harbor currents. The square-topped fully battened ketch rig with its two reaching spinnakers has plenty of power and is easily handled. This packet will do best reaching where planing speeds can be attained. This rig will also sail well closer to the wind.

This is far from a completed design. It is an exploration of a concept. It raises more questions than it answers. Perhaps the most important of these is how it brings us to look at design and its implications in a different light. We are conditioned to salivate over innovations. We expect that we should overthrow whatever stability we have found in a way of doing things just because someone has thought of something new. We worship the disruptive nature of the fruits of Progress.

This design, all my designs; ask whether we can find a valued purpose for our time on the water. Can we imagine a different way of living with boats that is not destructive and disruptive? How can we use the power that boats have over our imaginations; and the qualities they provide us with; in ways that bring us together and help heal the fragmentation engulfing us?

These designs are challenges. Not dares. They challenge us to imagine how we can use boats to help us integrate our lives. How boats can aid us in living with purpose. How boats inspire us to rise to the occasion.

It’s not always best to follow a “Build it and they will come!” model. Sometimes it’s better to ask, “If we built this what would it mean?”




6 thoughts on “An Atlantic Packet

  1. The term ‘Sustainability’ gets tossed around so frequently that the term itself loses substance. But in the form that the word first became popularized a few decades ago in the architectural community, it went beyond the use of materials and constructs, and wrestled with maintaining the humanity in our existence.

    Concepts like your Atlantic Packet speak to the broadest sense of sustainability, from its renewable resource hull, to its renewable resource propulsion, to its maintenance of the human inter-connectedness between humans sharing the task of crossing the sea and between humans and the the natural world.

    It is easy for me as a sailor to look at this as a sublime example of the art of yacht design, but as you have posed your design brief and thought process, it is also a sublime philosophical statement.


  2. You are very welcome. I must admit that I was captivated with the sociological implications of a trans-Atlantic passage maker in which at least some of the the ‘passengers’ were active participants in the work of making the passage successful, and all were their own ‘Entertainment Directors’. I saw this real world, up close and personal voyaging, as a strong contrast with our popular culture in which most people’s idea of ‘adventure’ happens on small electronic devices.

    I was so captivated by the human factor, that uncharacteristically, I did not comment on the specifics of the design. I am particularly taken with the hull form as shown in the lines drawings, One of the challenges of a sailing trans-Atlantic packet will be to create a vessel that is sufficiently stable, and also so gentle in its motions, that people who are unaccustomed to life at sea can feel comfortable and safe in all conditions.

    With that in mind as I look at the hull form, I am impressed that this is a shape that should progressively build form stability with heel angle, but which at no point will that form stability suddenly increase. Similarly it appears to be a form which should effectively dampen roll and pitch while not generating excessive heave.

    This mix should result in both the perception of stability, and in sufficent actual stability to feel reassuring. It is a hull form which should produce a motion that is free of the kind of sudden accelerations, which can make people uncomfortable or exhausted. Its shape should result in a motion, and the reserves of stability and buoyancy that would be easy on its crew, and passengers.

    You know me well enough to know that I could always quibble and tweak around the edges of any design, but at the heart of it, I really appreciate the results of this unique blend of ideas.


    1. Jeff,

      It’s great when someone can read Lines Plan. And you’re one of the best!

      I’m glad you’d like to “quibble and tweak!” It certainly needs it. Most people don’t understand what brings a potential design to its point of fulfillment all happens after this stage. There’s so much left to do.

      Of course, the way I see it, it only makes sense to enter that stage when a design concept can be married to particular people and a particular set of circumstances. You know this and that’s why your contribution to Designer & Client was so valuable.

      If we ever find the right circumstances to carry one of these concepts further I’d love to ask for your involvement!

      Here’s to that day!



  3. Tony,

    It would be an honor to ride shotgun and a whole lot of fun. I miss those old days.

    I agree entirely with your point “Most people don’t understand what brings a potential design to its point of fulfillment all happens after this stage. There’s so much left to do.” That’s the reason that schematic design is such a small part of the overall fees.

    I also think that designs are improved by meeting the challenges involved in having a real owner.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Two keys to relevant design:

      After the concept is proposed, “There’s so much left to do.”

      “…designs are improved…” I’d say haven’t matured at all until they “…meet the challenges involved in having a real owner.”

      I’d just add that we need to question what the concept of ownership entails as well. Writing checks and making demands are not ownership; if by ownership we mean responsibility to a purpose.



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