Unless a boat wants to get seriously large — and seriously costly, usually the Spirit-of-Tradition narrative is better told with more-modest sloops, yawls, and the occasional ketch. That does not mean that the modern-classic schooner does not exist. It’s just that you need to poke around a bit to find the schooner-ish themes of beefy “main sail” back where most mizzens are; and the smaller “foremast” where most mainsails are updated with today’s tools.
One of our favorite such modern-classic schooners was made just around the corner in Brooklin Maine, by Brion Rieff. He built Experience from a Neils Helleburg 2007 design, that in turn was a reboot of John Alden’s vintage schooners, from the dawn of the 20th Century. Boston’s MIT Museum has an excellent archive of Alden’s schooner work. And it’s intriguing to study what Helleburg was trying to re-explore with Experience. Even though this boat is a relatively modest 40 feet on the water line, the boat carries a serious displacement of 50,000 pounds, of which 19,000 (!) is ballast. Oofta. And all that bulk means there’s all sorts of space in the main cabin trunk, the deck house, under hard dodger up on deck and finally the cockpit and fordeck.
Jack Aubrey, Horatio Hornblower or John Paul Jones each would be comfortable with Experience’s lush and courteous design.
But underneath all pomp and filigree, that’s good enough for the Lord’s Admiralty, Experience is a pretty darn contemporary boat. Her back bone is a complex wood laminate. Her floors are reinforced with metal, and her frames are a complex web lamination. All of which is covered with a state of the art cold molded wooden layup. And finished with modern running rigging and tools.
And yes, those lovely period looking spars, and gaff rigged foremast, are made of ultra-modern carbon fiber. Finally, somebody who gets that materials have nothing to do with pedigree.
Experience sums up to a relatively restrained and simple 50-foot schooner. And for full on, long term sailing, there is no experience quite like this one.
- Length Overall: 50.33 ft
- Waterline Length: 40 ft
- Beam: 14.4 ft
- Draft: 6.74 ft
- Displacement: 50,000
- Ballast Keel: 19,000
- Inside Ballast: 0
- Sail Area: 1,508 Square Feet.