Features June 1, 2000 Issue

Beautiful Block Island 40

As mentioned in this month’s editorial, Migrator Yacht Co. has changed hands. After 17 years and 17 boats, Eric Woods sold the firm to Dennis Walsh and Marty Niemiec, who moved the molds to their yard in New Bedford, Massachusetts. A few East Coast dealers have been signed up, which represents a change from the direct sales approach taken by Woods.

We take special note of this for several reasons. The BI 40 was one of the first fiberglass auxiliary sailboats built, launched in December 1957. A number of well-known yachtsmen of the day made it their first fiberglass boat, and they acquitted themselves well in events such as the Newport-Bermuda Race.

Designer Bill Tripp gave her a lovely sheer and graceful overhangs. A centerboarder—draft is just 4' 2" board up, 8' 10" board down—she seems equally at home offshore and gunkholing. The BI 40 is a classic, a hall of famer if there ever was one. Few if any boats like this are still being built in glass—anywhere.

These are semi-custom boats, à la Hinckley, Alden and Morris, with tough, Airex-cored hulls and beautiful interiors. Base price is about $275, 000, going out the door at around $340,000 with sails, electronics, Espar heater, and everything else you need for comfortable cruising.

Sales haven’t exactly been scorching, and the reason is painfully clear—not enough interior volume. As Eric Woods told us during a recent visit, “People come down the companionway and ask where the aft cabin is.” There isn’t one, though a quarter berth can be arranged.

Today, too many people buy boats based on space belowdecks, forgetting (or not knowing) the compromises made elsewhere for the sake of more berths, more cabins, more headroom. The BI 40 has generous beam at 11' 10", but her freeboard is low compared to more modern boats. She sits in the water, rather than on it. But that gives her space in the keel for tanks, and a kindly, comfortable motion. Max beam is not carried nearly as far aft as in so many more modern boats, but tapered gently. And two-stick rigs aren’t favored much anymore, though people like Garry Hoyt, who labors hard to make sailing easy, chose the yawl rig for his Alerion Express 38.

The yawl rig allows a variety of sail combinations, from “jib and jigger” when much of any mainsail would have you on your ear, to flying a mizzen staysail in lighter stuff. With sail area divided into three sails, no one is too large to making trimming a chore.

We have long felt that this is just about the perfect cruising boat for a couple. Top quality construction. Timeless good looks. Room for all the amenities, from watermaker to heater, electric windlass and nav station. Balanced sail plan. In a world of KIAs, Daewoos and Hyundais, the Block Island 40 is a Mercedez-Benz.

Specs- LOA: 40' 8", LWL: 29' 2", Beam 11' 10", Disp.: 20,000 lbs., Ballast: 7,800 lbs., Draft: 4' 2"-8' 10", Sail area: 738 sq. ft.

Migrator Yacht Co., 173 Popes Island, New Bedford, MA 02740; 508/984-0900; email: mniemiec@ix.netcom.com.

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