About the boat

Beetle is a N/M 45 IOR two ton sailboat, somewhat modified by me over the years for singlehanding.

courtesy of Latitude 38/LaDonna

courtesy of Latitude 38/LaDonna

1983 Morgan N/M 456 tall rig deep keel
Designed by Bruce Nelson for Charlie Morgan (Morgan Yachts)
LOA 45′
beam 13.8′
draft 8′
displacement 21,000 pounds, 50% ballast ratio (was 60% with lead ingots set in the bilge). Boat goes to weather quite well with that much ballast, the trade-off is reduced cargo capacity.

The hull originally featured the IOR-tuck at the rudder stock and had a basic trapezoid rudder on a stainless steel stock.  I modified the hull form by filling in the IOR-tuck to create a clean flow for the water under the hull, and replaced the rudder with a carbon-over-divinycel elliptical blade on a carbon stock.  The rudder change also required changing ou the rudder bearings, the replacement bearings are Whitclock roller bearings.

Electronics & Navigation


The nav station electronics arrangement. The radio box is hinged to swing out for access to the rear, the panel on the left is hinged to swing down for rear access.

Icom IC-M506 vhf radio – this radio is set up for NMEA-2000 though currently everything on Beetle is NMEA-0183, the microphone is external and therefore replaceable – the mic connection is mounted vertically down below the SSB radio.  I have a spare VHF microphone as the rubber cables have failed at the junction between the hard plastic end fitting and the plug.

Icom IC-M802 SSB radio – the SSB is mounted beow the VHF radio, with the external speaker to the right of the SSB.  The microphone is inherently replaceable, I carry a spare microphone.

Daiwa SWR cross needle power meter – velcroed in place below the SSB radio, the only in/out cabling to this meter is the heavy antenna cable via a PL-259 connector into and out of the meter on the way to the tuner.  The meter is used to verify the SSB transmitter is working (power output needle) and that little to no power is reflecting back from the automatic tuner into the transmitter (reflected power needle).  What you want to see when tuning the SSB is the output power needle move a lot and the reflect power needle move not at all (though it usually moves a tiny amount).

Furuno GP-39 fixed mount gps – the picture above shows the older GP-31 stand-alone GPS receiver; the GP-31 did not survive the 2019 GPS week number rollover so I had to replace the receiver.  I went with the GP-39, another stand-alone GPS receiver.

Mounted behind the electronics back-board is a ShipModul NMEA-0183 multiplexor to rout the GPS data is sent to four devices via a ShipModul multiplexor to the VHF, SSB, B&G instruments above deck, and the nav station laptop computer.


Mintaka Duo recording barograph.

I removed the Weems and Plath analog barometer and replaced it with the Mintaka Duo recording barograph.  This instrument is more accurate and precise than the analog barometer, plus it is a barograph and I can call up pressure change over time – super helpful to observe Lows and Highs moving by.

Ample Power Energy Monitor II (EMON II) – this is essentially a highly precise and accurate digital volt meter that I use to display battery voltage (house and start batteries), and current movement in/out to/from the houe bank.  You could do the same thing with a good quality Fluke volt meter, as battery voltage is your best indicator of battery charge state, at least for flooded lead/acid batteries.

AIS – Vesper Wachmate touch, with it’s own GPS antenna.  The masthead VHF antenna is shared between the VHF and AIS via a Vesper VHF/AIS antenna splitter.  The splitter gives priority to the VHF radio, yet allows the masthead antenna to receive/transmit AIS signals.  I normally monitor VHF 16, when someone starts transmitting the AIS can lose targets – so far that has not been a significant issue.

Furuno 4kw 24″ radar and chart plotter (Navionics chart chips)


B&G Network displays in their instrument pod at the companionway.

B&G Network instruments – depth, NAV repeater, speed, analog wind point, data repeater (normally left at True wind speed upwind, Apparent wind speed downwind), compass.  I particularly like the large, simple numeric value display as these are easy to read and interpret from across the cockpit.  The steering wheel is 13 feet aft of the displays, large numbers are helpful.  These are also rather old, at some point I will have to upgrade the instruments – but thankfully not yet.

HP G15 laptop on Windows 7 running the following softare:

Coastal Explorer for cartography
Sailmail and Airmail for email over SSB radio
Stan Honey’s WindPilot Alpha autopilot control software

Iridium GO! with an attached above-deck marine antenna, it interfaces to the nav station laptop’s Airmail and Iridium software running on the cell phone.

Samsung Note 8 cellular telephone – this is both my shore-side computer as it’s easier to transport than a laptop, and also the handset for the satellite phone via the Iridium GO!.  I used to have a Note 2 phone, but it died outside a laundromat in Kauai.

Backup laptop computer: Dell Precision M4100 workstation

Inverter 1000 watt.

Pelican cases for the backup laptop and hard drives/backup electronics (radio microphones, autopilot parts, etc.).

Self steering
Alpha Spectra pilot with WindPilot software (running on laptop).  This is the primary autopilot, it is quiet, powerful, and has a three-axis accelerometer to help the pilot stabilize course corrections based on the tilt of the compass sensor.  When the pilot is interfaced to the laptop the pilot can be controlled to steer to true wind angle,

backup Alpha Spectra pilot mounted starboard side

3 backup Alpha rams –  the autopilot ram is the one mechanical device that is constantly working, and they do go out.  Carrying the ram is not enough, you also have to know how to change out the ram offshore when the boat is bouncing around, definitely something I’ve done before.

ComNav 1500 pilot with hydraulic ram, plus spare ram and motor.  This autopilot is the stupid one that makes a lot of noise and drive the boat through anything.  The spare ram and hydraulic Octopus pump is on board for when this ram goes out.

Monitor Windvane, spares kit, multiple spare air-paddles.  Works well upwind and reaching, not so well downwind and particularly prone to over-steering when the boat is surfing under spinnaker.  One way to manage downwind sailing is to add a bungee cord that pulls down on the air-paddle counterbalance weight, from the cockpit I can adjust bungee tension such that the Monitor can steer the boat and then the bungee will snap the air-paddle back upright when the apparent wind speed drops to a minimum at the bottom of the wave.

Anchor and Windlass
Rocna 25kg primary anchor + 225′ 5/16″ G4 chain + 300′ 5/8″ nylon three-strand

Fortress FX-37 + 45′ 5/16″ G4 chain + 350′ 1/2″ nylon three-strand.  The anchor is stored dismantled in a special bag, the chain lives in a canvas bag strapped to the base of the mast, and the extra rode is forward in the sail locker.

Maxwell VW2200 electric windlass.  This is a vertical capstain and chain gypsy on a central shaft, the windlass is mounted horizontally just below deck level inside the chain locker, the motor is inside the boat and protected from water intrusion.  The gear box is a splash-oil design and there are two angles at which the gear box will splash oil when mounted horizontally, one of them fit into the chain locker design.  There are two on-deck foot switches for up/down purposes.  I always power down the anchor using the windlass, it’s slower than releasing the brake but lowering the anchor with the windlass provides complete control of the chain’s movement.  The chain runs out through a chain stopper, over a modified bow roller – modifications were to fit the bow shape and later, when I changed anchors to the Rocna, to fit the anchor.

Snubber is three-stand 5/8″ nylon done up with three legs.  In use one leg goes to each bow cleat through anti-chafing gear, and the longer central leg is tied to the anchor chain via rolling hitch.  Using a metal chain hook causes damage to the chain’s galvanizing, and the metal hook can bend and then no longer work correctly – tying the snubber to the chain avoids those two issues.

Dinghy and outboard motor
Achilles SPD-310E hypalon inflatable with 5 solid boards that make up the floor.  Hypalon is softer and handles the sun better than PVC whereas PVC is hard and handles barnacles better than Hypalon.  In the Pacific Northwest barnacles are a bigger concern than sun, down south the sun is a bigger concern than barnacles – I went with Hypalon.

Mercury 9.9 HP 4 stroke outboard.  This is basically a Tohatsu 9.8 4 stroke head with some tweaks to the exterior by Mercury; all of my Nissan 9.8 parts work on the Mercury motor.  I wrecked the Nissan 9.8 when the dinghy was rolled by a small wave in Bahia Santa Maria and the motor spent several minutes drifting back and forth in the sand – there was sand entirely through the engine.  Sourcing a replacement motor in Puerto Vallarta turned up the Mercury 9.9, and that motor has worked well for the dinghy.  I no longer run the dinghy in through surf with the motor attached – oars will work for that occasion.

Rudder and emergency rudder


Emergency rudder installed at the dock for fitting.

The emergency rudder is a complete back-up rudder designed to keep the boat moving well if the main rudder is lost or disabled.  The blade is a simple trapezoidal shape constructed of carbon and epoxy over divinycel.  The casette box into which the blade is set is uni-directional carbon laid up over the blade, a thru-bolt is used to prevent the blade from lifting up from the casette.  The tiller arm faces aft as the backstay hydraulic ram interferes if the tiller faces forward.  Control lines lead from the tiller arm to outboard corners of the deck, then forward to turning blocks and into a tiller arm that sockets into place in the cockpit.



Life raft at Sal’s Inflatables in Alameda California, inflated for inspection.

The liferaft is manufactured by Zodiac, it’s sized for 6 people and they have to be good friends to all want to hang out inside.  It’s a double-tube, double-arch design with a thermal floor (not inflatable floor but rather a mylar lined foam floor), with a front ‘porch’ for boarding.

Mast and Rigging
The mast as a custom-built aluminum triple spreader spar built by Buzz Ballenger (Ballenger Spar Systems, Watsonville, California).  The mast is a Santa Cruz 52 extrusion in two parts with the join such that a disassembled spar would fit inside a 40′ container, the masthead is a Santa Cruz 70 masthead (large, strong).


Assembling the masthead of the new spar, this is the fitting normally found on a Santa Cruz 70 – everything sure looks shiny!


Spar assembly completed – Buzz delivered the rig as a tube as two boxes of parts, plus spreaders. Assembly took perhaps two weeks of evenings and weekends to put together.



Turnbuckles attached to the port side chain plate. The turnbuckles are taped such that water can not trap in the turnbuckle body. With a triple-spread rig the forward turnbuckle is the D1, next up is D2, D3, and finally the cap shroud is furthest aft.

The standing rigging was changed to Dyform stainless steel  as a replacement for the original Navtec nitronic-50 rod.  The primary reason for the change was facilitating shipment of replacement rigging – rod rigging can be coiled into 6-8′ diameter coils, far too large to fit in a small plane and expensive to ship, it also turns out that Dyform is signficantly less expensive that rod.  The Dyform (aka compact strand) will roll up into 30″ diameter coils and can be shipped in a normal-sized box that will fit into most any aircraft.  Turnbuckles are Alexander Roberts open body bronze, the fittings are swaged where possible and mechanical fittings where not (such as headstay base to fit through the roller furler extrusions).

There are three Navtec hydraulic rigging cylinders on the boat – backstay, outhaul (ram is located horizontally inside the boom), and the boom vang.  The vang cylinder does double duty as a boom lift, the cylinder is charged with Nitrogen to push the boom up when vang cylinder load is released.

The spinnaker pole cars are Forespar stainless steel articulating pin-style, the cars run on a simple ‘T’ track and adjust via a 3:1 block and tackle.

The spinnaker poles are 4.5″ and 4.0″ diameter aluminum poles with Sparcraft bearclaw end fittings.  The poles have a trip line at the inboard and outboard ends, useful for singlehanded jibes.  Spare aluminum sleeves, drill, rivet gun, and rivets are carried to allow repair of the poles should they break.


Spinnaker and jib halyards in 7/16″ Spectra War Speed. The spinnaker halyards have the donuts threaded on while the jib halyards have the balls threaded into place – in the dark you can tell which halyard you have by feel as the shapes are quite diffferent.

Running rigging is primarily Samson Spectra cordage as Spectra has low weight, low stretch (unlike Dacron), and can bend around sheaves without breaking (better than Kevlar and Vectran).  I buy the line in full spools and make up my own halyards – that’s why most everything is the same color and you have to look at the clutch locations to know which line you’re preparing to tug on.

The main sail runs on an Antal track attached to the rear of the spar with machine screws.  The halyard is a 2:1 in 3/8″ Samson Warp Speed, using a 2:1 halyard reduces compression on the spar by 1/3, reduces load on the halyard tail sufficiently for the Antal clutch to hold the load, and makes it significantly easier to hoist the sail by hand (there are no electric winches on the boat).  I went with the Antal track because the cars are a simpler design than Harken – Harken uses ball bearings in their cars and if the ball bearings the car is not captive on the track, Antal uses an oil-infused fiber bushing material and the cars are captive on the track.  Anyone that has ever had the ball bearings fall out of a cracked Harken car will understand what I am talking about.


Spectra Ventura 150 MPC watermaker.  This little watermaker has worked well for me, it was not inexpensive and required an additional thru-hull installed to bring in the sea water.  On the outside of the hull is a bronze sea strainer/scoop that would normall mount facing aft, for the watermaker the scoop is installed facing forward as otherwise the small 12v pump that pulls in the water cannot overcome the venturi suction created by water flowing past the flush thru-hull hole.

Sailrite Sewing Machine

I carry the sewing machine on board, along with cones of thread, a few square yards of sail cloth, a small roll of Sunbrella, and a few other odds and ends.  I’ve built a lot of things with the sewing machine, including a small pram-style dodger (and rebuilt it twice), mainsail cover (twice), cushion covers, sheet bags.  I’ve even repaired a couple of sails while underway, though that was not easy as I end up with the machine on the cabin sole wedged in place by my knee and working the patch through the machine in between hitting waves.  I changed out the small 110v AC motor to use a 3/4 HP

Hard Dodger


An earlier version of the hard dodger, this one has extensions outboard to the deck that were eventually removed to keep the dodger flush with the cabin top – that worked provided I moved the cabin top winches inboard and bought shorter winch handles.


The dodger under construction, lots of vacauum bagging and sanding to keep the weight down and get the desired shape out of a one-off bit of construction.

The hard dodger started life as a wire-frame model constructed of 1×2 wood, then built up at Arne’s shop using DB glass and epoxy over divinycel with a lot of sanding, then painted.  It’s bolted to the cabin-top and can be removed for getting really large things through the companionway, such as the engine.


Final result, painted, installed with plexiglass windows. The sliding top part of the dodger is evident in this image.


The sails have been built by Hood Sails (Robin Sodar, Sausalito California loft) over time – I did not (and could not) afford to order the whole lot at once.  Beetle had an entire racing inventory when I was racing the boat, I have removed some sails to make room for cruising goodies and to simplify rigging a bit.

Sails on the boat:

mainsail, 2+3 batten (top 2 are full length, lower 3 are partial), 3 reefs with each reef set to remove 25% of the sail’s surface area, Vectron cloth, cross-cut panel layout, loose footed, leach cord is over-the-head 2:1.

spare mainsail (I keep the older main on the boat after receiving a new one).

Trisail – heavy cross cut Dacron, sets on the same track as the mainsail, sheets to the aft deck corners without requiring the boom.

no. 2 genoa (125% LP), cross cut panel layout, Vectron cloth, UV cover, foam luff, no. 6 luff tape for the roller furler.

spare no. 2 genoa (this is the older racing no. 2, tri-radial panel layout in Spectra cloth), UV cover and foam luff, no. 6 luff tape for the roller furler.

no. 4 jib (85% LP), cross cut panel layout, Vectron cloth, UV cover, foam luff, no. 6 luff tape for the furler.


Vectran stay and soft hanks on the storm jib. The vectra stay is kept in the sailbag with the storm jib already hanked on, hoisting the stay means the sailing is ready to use.

storm jib, cross  cut panel layout, Dacron, Spectra sofft hanks to fit onto a Vectra stay.


Butterfly jib (aka downwind twins), two 155% tri-radial nylon hi-clew jibs sewn to a common no. 6 luff tape.  This sail is used for sailing deep in the tradewinds.


spinnakers – full size 0.5 oz AirX tri-radial, full size 0.7 oz tri-radial AirX tri-radial, and shy kite 0.9 oz AirX tri-radial.  The shy kite is built smaller with narrow shoulders fur use in higher winds.   Three spinakkers are in ATN spinnaker socks.

Windseeker – a lightweight staysail that has hits own small furler, works great when there is very light air and flat water.

Engine and Propulsion
The original engine was a Perkins 4-108 diesel, when that engine started to die I repowered the boat with a Yanmar 4JH5E 50 HP naturally aspirated diesel.  There are two engine control panels for the motor, the panel with the key switch is mounted below-decks because the key switch makes the panel not sealed and therefore water can get through to the rear of the panel and short out the panel (it’s happened).  The above-deck panel is sealed and can start/stop the motor, but the key switch must be activated at the below-deck panel first.  I replaced the stock RPM gauge (which is measuring alternator pulses to work out what the engine RPM might be) with Aetna gauges and a pulse counter mounted on the flywheel casing – these gauges actually measure what the engine is doing by counting flywheel teeth as they whiz by.

Transmission is a Hurth 150 V-drive mounted to the motor using a custom plate fabricated by Bosun’s Locker in San Diego.   The original transmission went through two sets of clutch plates and at that point rather than another rebuild I purchased a new transmission through Dr. Diesel at Foley Engines.


Propeller is a 3-blade MaxProp feathering unit and that propeller is a significant improvement over the Martec 2 blade folding props I used while racing the boat.  One detail with the MaxProp is to force the blades into a trailing-feathering condition when shutting the engine off, do this by revving up the engine with the transmission in forward gear and then shut down the motor, then immediately lock the transmission in reverse.  If you don’t do it that way the prop can feather in reverse, at which point the blades feather in the reversed position and will lock open, creating drag.

Transmission/throttle control lever is a Spinlock single-handle control unit that sits flush with the cockpit sidewall, the control accepts any standard winch handle (convenient) and that handle can be removed while sailing – pulling the handle out makes it impossible to catch a line on the throttle control.


The fuel filter setup – this is mounted aft directly in front of the aluminum diesel day tank. Pair of 2 micron Racor filters mounted to the left, yellow handle switches between them, vacuum gauge on the manifold. The white Reverso gear pump pulls fuel from a reservoir/main tank and through the Racor filter – the filter is on the vacuum side of the pump – and on into the day tank. The reservoir tank selector valve is down low between the ganged filters.

Diesel is stored in three tanks: a main reservoir tank port and starboard, and a 22 gallon day tank aft.  Fuel is pumped aft from one of the reservoir tanks, through a Racor 10 micron filter, into the day tank.  The day tank is mounted such that it is physically above the engine’s fuel intake pump (a little jerk pump as far as I can tell), this means that gravity feed of diesel to the motor continues even if the jerk pump fails.  The draw from the day tank is from the bottom, fuel passes through a ganged Racor filter manifold with 2 micron filters and on to the motor.  The ganged filter manifold has proven to be most useful in that if one filter is clogging up with debris, as evidenced by increasing vacuum registering on the vacuum gauge, I can switch over on-the-fly to the other filter and while the motor continues to run I can replace the clogged filter. Filtering the fuel on the way into the day tank means I have to clean out the day tank less often than I would otherwise.


One response to “About the boat

  1. What a fine Boat Rob!

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