By Captain Jeff Grossman and Captain Jean Levine, AMS
It was a beautiful Florida winter day on Biscayne Bay just after the Miami Boat Show. Sunny skies and a warm, light, easterly wind set the stage for our test sail of the new Seaward 46RK. This yacht is quite distinctive, with a retractable keel and twin rudders, and packed with ingenious design features. As we cleared the Rickenbacker Causeway, we raised the full battened main, set the 100% self-tacking jib, and glided smoothly a bit shy of 6 knots with 8 knots of true wind just forward of the beam. With light air and 100% jib, there was little heel and the 46RK had fingertip steering.
Tacking was easy, with the helmsman just turning the wheel until she was on the new tack while watching the self-tacking jib come over on its own. We tacked through 90 degrees sailing at 5 knots in the light wind. We hardened up to close-hauled with the apparent wind at 13 knots and 30 degrees off the bow with only five to 10 degrees of heel. The retractable keel was set at halfway down, as were the twin rudders, yet the 46RK tracked with almost no leeway.
Off the wind we unfurled the colorful gennaker and broad reached in only 6 knots of apparent, making 4.3 knots with no heel. The retractable keel offers a quick way to reduce wetted surface area, allowing the 46RK to maintain good speed off the wind in light air.
Nike Hake, designer of the Seaward 46RK, noted that there are skegs in front of the props to protect them when beaching and these, combined with the twin rudders, allow her to both track and maneuver well. The 46RK has rack-and-pinion steering, which is bulletproof but usually stiff, yet on the 46RK it was smooth and the helm had a very balanced feel.
In Miamarina, the 46RK showed off catamaran-like maneuverability, turning around in the tight fairway using only her twin Yanmar 54hp engines and not even touching the bow thruster. The twins allow very smooth operation in their best power/efficiency range. At 1200 RPM we made 5.4 knots with the engines so quiet we barely knew they were on. Powering up to 2400 RPM, the 46RK easily did 8.1 knots with the engines still at a comfortable sound level.
Biscayne Bay was calm, so our only experience with waves involved taking the wakes of Miami power boaters. In the wakes, the 46RK handled like a much heavier boat, taking them with little pitching and smooth roll damping. Yet, when sailing and tacking, the 46RK handled responsively like a smaller and lighter boat.
RETRACTABLE KEEL AND TWIN DAGGER RUDDERS
In yacht design, there are many tradeoffs, one of which is often swapping the windward performance and stability found with a high aspect ratio fin for the shallow draft desired for cruising in waters like South Florida and the Bahamas. Seaward Yachts has addressed this challenge with the retractable keel (RK) design pioneered in their successful 26RK and 32RK models. The 46RK cleverly hides the sleeve/housing for the keel as part of the main saloon forward bulkhead and inner bulkhead for the forward head. The keel is raised and lowered using an electric winch, with the equipment located well above the waterline to resist corrosion.
With the solid lead ballast in a trailing bulb at the bottom of the keel, the 46RK remains stable with the keel up or down. The keel housing is built with laminate integral with the hull and deck, and is two inches thick at the foot. Thus, there is no chance of water intruding into the cabin and the keel is supported along its entire vertical length as opposed to only at the bolts like a traditional keel. Seaward uses ultra-high-molecular-weight (UHMW) material inside the keel housing to provide low friction, high resistance to abrasion and very high impact resistance. The construction keeps the keel housing intact in worst case scenarios like grounding at high speed. The use of UHMW also makes for smooth yet tight operation and the keel can go from full up to full down in about 45 seconds.
A shallow draft keel is of little use if the rudders are fixed, and the 46RK addresses this with twin dagger rudders. The rudders are buoyant, so they are easy to lift. Lowering is also easy and can be done in seconds—just kick a lever free, push down until the desired stop is reached, and swing the lever back into the locking position.
Below decks, the 46RK is bright and airy with full pilothouse windows, liberal use of port lights, and—rarely seen these days—deck prisms! The interior layout is as unique as the keel system, with a mezzanine-like raised area just inside the companionway. This area has the twin engines set underneath and a captain’s chair on top offering 360-degree panoramic views through the pilothouse windows. With a flat screen display mounted in front of the chair, the autopilot remote, and all of the electrical panels and meters alongside, Captain Kirk would be right at home taking command.
From the raised pilothouse, the saloon steps down both to port and starboard. To port, tucked just outboard of the companionway, is an aft-facing nav station. Moving aft is the port stateroom, which can be converted from a double to a single, or to storage space.
Forward from the nav station is the main saloon with the galley along the port side and the dining area to starboard, followed by the forward stateroom.
The forward stateroom is the master and has a spacious feel with an island queen berth, large hanging locker and clever vanity tucked on the port side. The master stateroom has an en suite head with separate shower stall and vacu-flush toilet and one of those beautiful deck prisms that brings sparkling sunlight into dark places.
To starboard of the raised pilothouse area, the cabin steps down into the aft double stateroom, which also has an en suite head. The galley has many interesting features, including handsome cane covered cabinets that allow air circulation while offering a warm look, a large top-loading deep freezer to go along with the large refrigerator, and a double sink.
Seaward even includes an espresso machine and icemaker with the 46RK galley setup! There are far too many clever, well thought out features on the 46RK to list them all. A few of our favorites are a sump in the fuel tank plumbed with a drain to allow removing any water that might have gotten in the tank, “foot stools” that fold up at the port and starboard aft cockpit seats, line stowage compartments at each winch built into the deck mold, and windlass control at the helm station.
The Seaward 46RK has a plumb bow and a moderate beam and displacement. The hull is constructed with solid fiberglass below the waterline and composite-cored topsides and deck. The deck is vacuum-bonded to the headliner, so it is strong and light. The 46RK’s uniqueness extends into the deck layout, which has been configured to make it easy for a couple to handle.
Sight lines are good from the helm station, and all sail controls are led to the cockpit, with a power winch for the main halyard and electric furling for the jib. Stainless handrails are everywhere, and along with wide side decks, they make moving to the foredeck more of a comfortable walk than a chance to practice one’s ballet skills.
The 46RK has been designed with distance cruising in mind and has good stowage, including a large forepeak locker with volume for bulky items. The 46RK rig sports double spreaders with moderate aft sweep, twin backstays, discontinuous standing rigging, and—on the vessel we sailed—Sta-lok fittings connecting the stays to the turnbuckles. The chainplates are bolted to the inside of the hull. The traveler is mounted on a stainless traveler arch that frees up cockpit space and yet still makes it easy to access.
Yet another unique feature is that the mast is stepped on a tabernacle, which will be integrated with a system that will allow owners to lower and raise the mast without the use of a crane. Seaward Yachts is advancing state of the art sailboat design.
They are pursuing creative solutions to age-old compromises, while maintaining a high level of quality and attention to detail.
We were impressed with the sailing characteristics, build quality, and fit and finish of the RK46. This is a vessel we would happily sail across the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas and on to points over the horizon.
Jeff grew up sailing in the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. He has been actively sailing for more than 45 years. Jean has been sailing since she was 12, first on the Chesapeake Bay and then in the Caribbean on vessels ranging from Sunfish to 80’ schooners. Jeff and Jean have extensively cruised the Caribbean and Florida on their current boat, a Skye 51. Both are 100GT Masters and ASA Certified Sailing Instructors.
Visit www.twocansail.com for information on their seminar series.
Draft (board up) 2’5”
Draft (board down) 7’6”
Disp. 23,000 lbs.
Ballast 7,500 lbs.
Sail Area 1006 sq. ft.
Mast height (above water) 62’
Engines (as tested): Twin Yanmars 54Hp each
Fuel 180 gals.
Water 180 gals.