Boat Review February 1, 2003 Issue

Seaward 25

A trailerable pocket cruiser introduced in 1984 by Hake Yachts, this pricy plumb-bowed sloop is made for exploring the shallows. It's laid out for a cruising couple or young family.

Nick Hake graduated from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in 1974, then pulled up stakes and left the cold Great Lakes winters for sunny Miami, where he became head chef at Horatio's restaurant in the tower of the Coconut Grove Hotel. While working nights in that occupation, he began building boats for profit, starting with molds and dinghies. Of those times, he says "It's what I wanted to do. I love boats and always wanted to be self-employed."

Within the year, he was ready to take the plunge into full-time boatbuilding, so he hung out his shingle and set up shop. In the ensuing eight years he built 2,000 dinghies before introducing a 17-foot sloop he called the Slipper. Eventually stretched to 18 feet, the boat was renamed The Fox, to distinguish it from a competitor's daysailer called The Hen.

Five years later Hake introduced a 22-footer, and named his company Seaward. He eventually stretched the 22 into a 23, which he still builds; then, exhibiting a case of one-foot-itis, made a 24-footer. That one he stretched to 25 feet—and that boat is the subject of our story. It's built in the Stuart, Florida warehouse that Hake established in 1984. along with its 18, 23-, and 32-foot siblings.

Designed for simple handling and good perfor-
mance in shoal waters, the Seaward 25 has a
plumb bow, a sturdy anchor platform, and a bit
of tumblehome.

All of Hake's boats are shallow-draft designs for trailer sailors. He's in the process of building tooling for the prototype of a 45-footer for his personal use that will be put into production after testing in the Caribbean. It, too, is designed with a shallow draft for gunkholers.

Since its formation, the company has produced 2,000 dinghies, 1,000 Foxes, 300 23-footers, 591 25-footers, and 41 of its relatively new 32- footer.

In 1993 Hake was approached by a group of Philadelphia lawyers who owned a conglomeration of other businesses, and he sold them the company. However, after two years, the economics of the boatbuilding business wore thin with the investors. When they offered to sell the company back to Hake for pennies on the dollar, he again assumed ownership. "I learned how much I missed the business," he says. "Now I have the luxury of managing it as a non-starver, compared to some other builders."

Of his designs Hake says, "I have no interest in racing, but I do want to go fast. I want to design and build boats that will go as fast as possible, within the context of boats that are gunkholers."

He categorizes the Seaward 25 as a "pocket cruiser for adult audiences. I designed a boat that is the target boat I would build for myself for cruising in Florida's waters and in the open sea down to the islands. I built it for the stuff I do."

The hull is designed with a nearly plumb bow and stern to maximize waterline, and performance. The company's brochures are misleading here: The LWL is published as 23', but is 23'8"; the LOA is 26'9". However, the length on deck at the headstay is nearly identical to the LWL, the difference accounted for by the anchor platform.

Hake describes the hull shape as having a "spherical tumblehome," with soft chines and bilges, as compared to flatter sections on other boats. Considering her displacement of 3,600 pounds, of which 1,200 pounds is ballast, and 280 square feet of sail, the design produces a tender performer.

He says she performs best when heeled 10 degrees, and that sail should be shortened when the wind pipes up to 15-17 knots. Sailing a test boat in 8 knots of breeze with a full main and 135% genoa, we were within Hake's recommended heel angle and the helm was balanced.

Of the relatively high topsides and bow, he says "they're designed that way because I don't want water coming over the bow. I don't like to be wet."

Underwater appendages are a shallow, 2' 1" deep, 8-foot long fixed keel, and a fairly small, low-aspect transom-hung rudder. In a modification from early models, Hake added a 26" wing to the aft part of the keel in 1989. The wing helps increase the keel's profile when heeled, and, according to Hake, improves upwind perfomance.

The Seaward 25 has been on the market since 1984 in various models, and is continually evaluated with an eye to improving performance or livability. It was last redesigned in 1995.

Curbside, this boat's appearance and hints of her personality seem to change with one's point of view. Viewed from the forward quarter, her most striking characteristics are a plumb bow, a high, sloping sheer line, and beam carried well aft, with a bit of tumblehome near the cockpit.

In profile, she looks workmanlike. A moderate sailplan on a single- spreader 7/8 rig balances a cabintop extending far enough forward of the mast to carry headroom into the forward cabin without appearing top-heavy.

Her profile is accented by the anchor platform, four shiny stainless steel ports, and bow and stern pulpits. Call her gracefully workmanlike, or purposefully fair, depending on your point of view.

Deck Layout
Since she was conceived by Hake as a "sailboat for mature audiences," the rig, layout of deck gear, and cockpit size are straightforward and uncomplicated. Though wheel steering is an option, and space is available for installation of cockpit speakers, she's a far cry from a dockside entertainment center. The wheel diameter is 24", which allows easy movement for helmsman and access to the stern gate. However, after our test sail we concluded that we'd prefer steering with either a tiller or a larger wheel, so steering from the rail doesn't wear out the triceps.

With 46" of clearance between the wheel pedestal and companionway, and 25" wide cockpit sole, she'll seat four on seats and two in aft corners. Seats are 15" wide and backrests 11" high, adequate for most adults. Moving around in the cockpit while underway will be a greater challenge if she's equipped with a tiller.

With the mainsheet located mid-boom, the trimmer operates at the companionway. Primary winches are close at hand, so the helmsman can steer without interfering with crew; conversely, the controls are close enough to allow relatively easy singlehanded sailing.

Halyards are led aft through stainless turning blocks to Ronstan rope clutches and an Anderson #10 winch. Replacement of primary winches with Anderson #16 self-tailers is a $650 option.

The starboard lazarette is 28" deep, 34" inches wide, and more than 6 feet long—adequate for storage of an inflatable dinghy or spare sails. Space for a 6-gallon fuel tank is located under the aft starboard seat. Whether equipped with a one-lung diesel or outboard, this is a good idea that other builders of boats this size would do well to emulate. The tank is easily accessible, portable, saves space belowdecks, and reduces production costs.

There's no locker to port since the space below is occupied by a quarterberth. The seat lid raises to provide access or ventiliation to the berth.

A recent change from wood to Delrin runners for companionway hatchboards means the hatch has decreased friction, maintenance needs, and cost, and greater weather resistance.

The deck is surrounded by 22" pulpits and a 20" tall lifeline. Movement underway was unimpeded, except by a dodger that narrowed the space between the cockpit and toerail. Shrouds dead-ended at the top of the cabintop and stainless steel handrails on the cabintop all provide excellent handholds. The nonskid has a very aggressive pattern that provides grip on a wet deck and adds to her appearance.

At the bow, a stainless steel strike rail forward of the hawsepipe protects the deck from being damaged by ground tackle. The anchor well, a compartment isolated from the forward cabin, holds 20-30 feet of chain and 150 feet of line. It drains overboard. A single 10" stainless cleat, larger than those found on most similar-sized boats, is on the foredeck. A Bowmar bow hatch is 17" square.

As on many boats with deck-stepped masts, electrical connections may create problems. The wiring connections at the butt of the mast can be damaged or kicked loose, but maybe that goes with the territory.

The backstay is attached to the stern pulpit, and this concerned us: It was hard to see how to get good headstay tension, and with mid-boom sheeting we thought there might even be mast stability worries. Hake says the mast is so stiff that bending it is not worth trying. As for strength, he provided photos of a boat suspended from a crane with lines attached to bow and stern pulpits.

Hake espouses two principles that affect his approach to designing spaces belowdecks. The first places function ahead of form: "We use every inch of space we can, and design so everything can be removed and the interior hosed out for cleaning." That's a worthy objective, certainly more easily accomplished on a 25-footer than a larger cruiser. Solid doors, however, are installed for privacy in the forward stateroom and head.

Second: "We use no carpeting, cloth, or Formica, because they tend to absorb moisture and odors, peel, chip and tear, and are hard to clean." The company will, however, install wood battens on the hull in the cabin for owners wishing for a warmer feel.

Arrangement of spaces belowdecks is straightforward. The galley runs fore and aft to port, opposite the head; a short settee to port sits opposite a 6- footer to starboard that converts to a berth. Other sleeping accommodations are in the bow and a quarterberth in the port quarter.

The dining table is mounted on the bulkhead and secured with an eye and hook, but has no legs. It is deployed by being unlatched to a horizontal position and moved horizontally on a stainless steel bar until situated amidships. At that point, two adults on both sides of the table can dine. It's a good arrangement, except that when not in use, the wire securing the table to the bulkhead forms a loop that could catch an unsuspecting passenger. Add Velcro and the problem is solved.

Headroom in the cabin is 5' 6", but slightly higher in the galley when the hatch is open.

Operating space on the galley counter is 19" x 15" inches, and the space in which the stove is mounted 25" x 42"—adequate for the preparation of typical sailing meals. The galley may be equipped with a one- or two-burner Origo alcohol stove. The ice box is big enough to hold two large ice blocks.

While there are bunks for four, real privacy will be hard to find, as on any boat this size. It's best for a couple, or a couple with one or two small fry.

The forward cabin has a 7' V-berth that is 57" wide at the head. Clearance between the top of the cushion and the deck is 39", so there's room to dress while seated on the cushion without banging the deck. A vanity to starboard is 30" x 16"; storage is in a hanging locker to port and shelves lining the hull. Fresh air comes from three vents.

Like most quarterberths, this one is designed to double as a storage area. The berth is 80" long and 32" wide, outfitted with a thin pad. When not in use, the pad can be rolled up and stored in straps attached to the hull. However, a crewmember intending to sleep frequently in the space will benefit from a thicker pad.

Interestingly, the designer's intent is for two crew to sleep athwartships when the port and starboard settees are united across the center of the saloon to create a double berth.

The head is a small, enclosed space with a sit-down shower, Jabsco toilet, and one opening port. There's no sink, and pressurized hot water is an option.

If installed, a diesel is located below the companionway steps, with 270-degree accessibility from the cabin. Access aft is from the starboard cockpit cocker, or by removing a panel in the quarterberth.

Common complaints about the boat are the lack of engine and ice box insulation.

"Those are legitimate," Hake says. "We had to sacrifice somewhere, so the thickness of insulation in the ice box is between 1-3/4" and 2-1/2". But it's been improved in the last year. We can always add insulation to the engine box, but that adds a lot of weight."

Hake estimates that 500 man-hours are spent in the construction of each Seaward 25. Based on our inspection of four boats, three used, it appears that his crew is doing good work.

The lamination schedule for all Seaward models is substantially the same: following the application of a gelcoat, vinylester resins are employed in the skin coat. The next step is the layup of 1.5-ounce chop-strand mat applied with a chopper gun. "I know some people don't like that," says Hake, "but it's an effective way of assuring that there's resin on both sides of the strands."

The balance of the layup includes a layer of 2 mm Coremat, which helps prevent print-through from the main laminate, followed by 1.5-oz.mat, 34-oz. triaxial cloth to add density and strength, and 1708 biaxial or 34-oz. triaxial mat. There's no wood or structural coring in the layup of a hull.

In the deck, PVC foam and Coremat are provide structure and sound deadening, and the headliner is a solid fiberglass structural member vacuum-bonded to the deck.

Deck hardware is tapped into 1/8" aluminum plates bedded in the fiberglass lamination, which has been tested to 14,000 psi, Hake says. "The aluminum has been tested to withstand 20,000 psi."

The hull-deck joint is bonded with a slurry of polyester putty impregnated with talc and fibers, and fastened with stainless steel bolts on 6" centers. The keel is constructed of a hollow fiberglass structural mold into which a slurry of resin and lead are added. It is attached to the hull with 5/8" threaded rods embedded into the ballast and bolted, glued, and glassed to the hull.

The company fabricates most of its stainless steel parts, including shiny, precisely fabricated stainless steel ports, and four-bolt cleats.

With such a long production run, there are some differences in construction details and quality between model years. Prospective buyers should consult online discussion groups for specifics, for example the Seaward Yachts Forum linked through

With assistance from Karen Trusty of The Sailing Life in Portland, Oregon, we sailed a two-year-old Seaward 25 on the Columbia River. At 6' tall and weighing 165 pounds, the owner of the boat claims that he can rig and launch the boat by himself in only 1-1/2 hours.

Once underway we learned that she turns in a boatlength, despite the length of her keel, and backs in a straight line once the helmsman compensates for prop walk.

We sailed in 8-10 knots of wind, flying a 135-percent genoa, the maximum recommended by the designer, and full mainsail. The helm was responsive, and the boat quickly accelerated with the occasional puff of breeze.

In a steady breeze we sailed at 4-5 knots on a reach. Hardening up and pushing to within 45 degrees of the wind, speed dropped by about a knot. We couldn't record precise speeds because of a dirty speedo impeller. In fact, it was hard to get an accurate feel for her performance altogether, because the river current flows into the prevailing winds. However, sailing cross-current on a beam reach, she showed good speed, helm balance, and tracking. We'd like to take a longer sail to weather in open water.

She did provide a comfortable ride, especially when compared to water- ballasted trailerables, and was easy to sail with little muscular effort.

Optional powerplants are an outboard or 9- or 20-horsepower Yanmar diesels. Most boats are equipped with the1GM10, but owners in areas with stronger current and bigger seas voice the opinion that the larger engine is a better choice.

Characterized by Hake as a "Volvo," there's no arguing that the boat is priced in the upper stratosphere, compared to similar-sized trailerables.

Base price for the Seaward 25 is $34,000, FOB the factory. Add a wheel ($1,900), mast crutch ($210), 25 gallon portable head ($375), one-burner Origo stove ($250), Yanmar 1GM10 ($7,100), galvanized double-axle trailer ($3,600), instruments, and other accessories, and the price escalates by 25-40 percent.

Of the price, Hake says, "First, stand back and look at the boat. It's very nice to have people stop you wherever you go and say 'nice-looking boat.' We pay more for one of our ports than the production builders pay for all of theirs, and ours are worth it.  Same for our 4-bolt  cleats, stanchion bases, winches, blocks. Our glasswork is several steps better. We recently made our trailer people use 2" bearings, 6-ply steel-belted tires, and the best brakes you can put on a trailer."

We examined four of the boats, one new and three used. We found the workmanship to be consistent. Gelcoat surfaces were smooth and free of printthrough. We saw no evidence of crazing. Except for normal wear and tear, a well-maintained boat appears to stand up well to normal use. Construction is certainly solid, and the hardware first-rate. We still aren't sure about the backstay connection, but do acknowledge the picture of the boat being suspended by the pulpits.

The basic hull design and rig are well-suitedfor coastal sailing, real gunkholing, and fairly easy trailering. The cockpit, deck, and running rigging layouts are simple and workable for a singlehander. The layout belowdecks shows a sensible mix and weighting of elements—an enclosed toilet and a workable galley in a boat this size are pretty fair accomplishments. The "camper" elements—portable fuel tank provision, ability to access the quarterberth from the cockpit, large ice-box space with the sacrifice of insulation—seem to us wise choices, considering how the boat will likely be used.

For most potential buyers, her greatest drawback will be price. Water-ballasted, trailerable 25-footers (her competition) sell for significantly less, assuming the use of outboard power. They aren't built as robustly, and will depreciate faster and farther, but they get the basic job done. The extra $300-400 per foot that Hake charges for the Seaward 25 might, for the devoted cruising couple in Florida, the Bahamas, or anywhere there's shallow water to be explored, be worth the difference in the long run.

In the used-boat market, the resale value of a five-year-old Seaward 25 is typically between 85 and 90 percent of its original price. At press time, there are 12 used Seaward 25s advertised for sale on the Internet. Asking prices range from $13,500 to $53,900, with the average around $42,000.

Hake Yachts, Inc.

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