Alaska in a box Good at DIY?
Then buy the plans, build her yourself and save big bucks!
For a marine writer who normally reviews production boats, the ‘one off’ Alaskan 41 was a concept that took a little getting used to. But at the end of my day with the boat building team behind the Alaskan 41 it all made sense.
The size of the project, the man-hours involved, the construction techniques used and the impressive final result, is testament to how good this process of acquiring a boat can be.
Rob Shenn and Andrew Kiernan were the blokes behind this boat project and they were both very proud of her, as they should be. Quite simply the Alaskan 41 we tested was an immaculate vessel and her leading edge Schionning design delivered exceptional on-water performance.
I get the feeling that once she is sold (the asking price is $820,000) it’s going to be a day of mixed emotions for this boat building duo who have put many thousands of hours into her construction.
Designed by Schionning
The Alaskan 41 is a power cat designed by Schionning Marine, based at Lemon Tree Passage near Port Stephens. Jeff and Brett Schionning are behind the designs (mostly cats between 8 and 17.5m) that are built all over the world.
Rob Shenn, who works for the Schionning’s, explained that they have sold around 400 sets of plans with roughly 300 boats already on the water and 100 still under construction. Many of these are owner-builder projects, the others are professionally built, but the choice is yours and Schionning can recommended builders in most areas.
The Schionning lines, or more accurately curves, are a standout part of their design. The curves ‘in all the right places’ are achieved through composite methods of construction that use DuraKore Strips and DuFlex panels. The technology behind the process is complex but put simply they used laminated end-grain balsa as a core, bonded and sheathed with epoxy materials. The vessels can be constructed using foam core and many choose that, but Rob explained that balsa has a better “point loading” compared to foam cores and he feels it’s a more versatile material.
The result is a light and extremely strong hull that can be shaped like a moulded boat. If you are keen there’s a wealth of information on the Schionning Marine website www.schionningmarine.com.au. As specialists in this field they can supply all the plans in kit form with pre-cut materials that get you to the finished shell stage.
The DuFlex prestrip composite technique was developed by ATL Composites in Queensland, the rest of the process is derived from the Gougeon Brothers ‘West System’ in that it combines the craft of traditional timber boat building with the strength, weight and durability of composite construction using epoxies and various laminates.
Many Schionning designs are built around the world, but this Alaskan 41 was built right across the road from their head office. Once the boat was completed the vessel was transported by truck using unique inflatable lifters to a local launching ramp.
Her length overall belies her presence on the water as her beam and above water volume exceeds an average 40ft mono-hull. Compared to a mono-hull cruiser, the Alaskan’s saloon is a vast room with a view in all directions. Finished in light timbers and with a galley that features unique drop down windows to access the aft outdoor areas, light and natural ventilation are abundant. The L-shaped galley is home-sized and features an icebox and a fridge. A 4kVA generator, electric stove, air-conditioning and water maker ensure that this vessel is a good passagemaker. The big surprise is a circular pantry near the door that can store far more than you would expect.
The port hull features an en-suite double berth and a large single berth, while the starboard side features another en-suite, double berth, a navigation/office area and another head for day guests. Deck hatches keep the areas well illuminated by day while halogen lights add a pleasing ambiance at night.
The vessel’s exterior is immense with walkways, wider than you’d see on some 60 footers, leading to a bow area that’s large enough to hold a decent party. The high wrap-around bow rail will keep the crowds onboard safe and sound.
The engines are accessed from the rear deck area that deserves to be called a veranda. It features a built-in barbecue, twin sets of steps leading down to the swim platform and good lighting. There’s also plenty of storage in the bow and aft of each engine.
Performance & handling
On the day of this test the conditions were perfect and we had no trouble getting this big boat out of the marina. But I get the feeling that her light hull and big above waterline volume, would mean that only an experienced single-hander could get her out of a tight berth unscathed in a breeze.
The hulls are a canoe-style and only 830mm wide, so theoretically they should produce maximum displacement speed. To stop the canoe sterns digging in when the power is applied, they are finished with an aft running plank that definitely works.
Out on the water, this vessel was quite quick. She made short work of the open water found in Port Stephens and maintained a level planning attitude across the entire rev range. Fuel consumption at cruise speed was around 1.8lt per nautical mile, giving her a range of about 560 nautical miles from the 1000lt fuel tank. If you drop the cruise speed to 6 or 7 knots the range goes up to 1100 nautical miles and that’s economical cruising in anyone’s book! With such a substantial range, who knows where the Alaskan 41 might end up. Plus, with only a 0.68m draft, you can get into some very shallow waters indeed.
During this test we cruised around at 16 knots but this boat winds out to around 22 knots, which is useful once you get so faraway that you might need to get away from pirates!
Given that the flybridge is the only helm on this vessel, perhaps wider stairs set at a gentler angle would be more convenient for the less nimble than the current steep, but well finished stainless steel ladder arrangement. Once topside, the bridge was well setup, offering the skipper good visibility and a social seating arrangement with lounges forward of the helm for passengers. The helm featured all the relevant engine gauges and a Navman 8120 chartplotter/sounder that also provides fuel flow data.
Well, I’m sold! If I ever want to go powerboat cruising and have a spare 200 grand or so and the time to build my own, there’d be few vessels that could compete at this level. The Alaskan 41 has an exceptional build quality, offers good efficiency and space to keep everyone comfortable. The only problem is you won’t be able to arrive and leave unnoticed because the sleek Schionning design beckons a second look.