Rovings December/January Issue 146

from Professional BoatBuilder magazine No. 146
Compiled by Dan Spurr

Joystick Evolution

“We really like this boat.”
“What do you like about it?”
“We feel very comfortable running it and maneuvering it because it has a joystick.”

joystick488Steve D’Antonio (ALL)

Above right—Shepherd “Shep” McKenney, shown here sea-trialing the Seakeeper gyro system, previously had popularized joystick engine controls by developing an effective system for The Hinckley Company’s Picnic Boats. His prototype controls (above left) were eventually miniaturized and standardized for production and installation in Hinckley’s powerboats. Top left—The JetStick control handle on a Hinckley Picnic Boat. Joystick engine controls are now available not only on jet drives and pod drives but twin outboard engine installations as well. For many boat owners, the ability to move the boat slowly sideways takes the fear out of docking.

That recent exchange with clients who are looking for the right cruising vessel is typical of the impact joystick controls are having on the decision making of many would-be boat buyers. The fact that a boat may have been ill suited in a multitude of ways to their needs was, to them, secondary to the value of easy maneuverability and diminished anxiety over boat handling, especially at the dock. That explains in part why joystick controls have become an increasingly common option on custom and production recreational boats.

The popularization of joystick control systems can be credited to The Hinckley Company of Southwest Harbor, Maine, and one-time part owner Shepard “Shep” McKenney, who developed the boatbuilder’s immensely popular Picnic Boat. Despite a veritable chorus of dissenters, McKenney believed in its design, consulted with naval architect Bruce King, built the prototype, and stayed the course.

He then addressed what he perceived as an inherent weakness of the Picnic Boat and most jet boat designs: maneuverability at low speed. Operating a vessel with waterjet propulsion, particularly in close quarters, has been likened to riding a unicycle while juggling; the boat is in a constant state of disequilibrium. (I’ve piloted early Picnic Boats that were not equipped with the joystick and can attest to this challenge.) In 1998 McKenney brought in experts to implement the joystick control, now a standard feature on Hinckley Picnic Boats and many other vessels.

McKenney described the Picnic Boat and the joystick control concepts as pivotal, life-defining moments—along with meeting his wife and purchasing his farm in Maryland. He stressed that the joystick and many other ideas were successful because they are counterintuitive and had nothing to do with focus groups or what potential customers thought they wanted. McKenney doesn’t get the credit he deserves for introducing joystick controls to the recreational marine market, and I suspect he’s fine with that; he has moved on to other challenges, like the Seakeeper gyro system (see “The Stability of Spin,” Professional BoatBuilder No. 113).

Hinckley’s success with the joystick proved that boat owners will pay for it, and the vessel need not be driven by pods for it to work well. In fact, The Hinckley Company’s first joystick predated the pod drive as we know it by nearly a decade.

For the past several years, joystick controls have been adapted to virtually any conventional shaft line propulsion system—a common propeller and shaft—with two requirements: The shift and throttle controls must be electronic rather than traditional cables; and the thrusters, if equipped and inter­faced with the joystick control system, must have adequate power and endurance to derive the greatest benefit from joystick control. While joystick-controlled conventional shaft line drives cannot azimuth independently like pods, they are nevertheless able to provide near pod-like control.

Features that many in the industry believed were available only on pod drives are in fact possible with any of the popular joystick control systems. These include the ability to move laterally, which is ideal when pulling away from a crowded fuel dock; 360° rotation; holding a vessel’s heading; and holding a vessel’s position, a feature available when interfaced with a GPS. Additionally, because joysticks rely entirely on an electronic interface, multiple units can be installed in various locations.

At the moment, the two most popular marine diesel-engine-transmission manufacturers, ZF and Twin Disc, offer a joystick control system (several outboard systems are also available, with engines that can steer independently). ZF’s is called JMS, or Joystick Maneuvering System, and is used with the company’s Smart Command electronic controls (see “In Gear,” PBB No. 134). Twin Disc’s, called EJS, for Express Joystick System, is used with their QuickShift transmissions (these offer rapid shifting ability without the traditional jolt) and EC 300 series electronic controls. The ZF product can be retrofitted to existing systems, while Twin Disc prefers that their product be installed on new-builds.

Glendinning Marine Products (Conway, South Carolina), the well-known manufacturer of electronic engine controls and shore-power cable systems, is planning to introduce joystick controls that will interface with any of its shift and throttle systems, including retrofits.

Upon learning that a wide range of vessels could benefit from joystick controls and their many features, my clients are now in a position to cast a much broader net in their boat search. Joystick controls can and should also be considered for refits and repower scenarios. Ultimately, as a boat builder or yard, you may needlessly be losing business because your customers are under the misconception that to have a joystick they must convert to a pod drive.

—Steve D’Antonio


Memories of Alex Kozloff

Engineer, sailor, motorcyclist, and all-around good guy Alex Kozloff died August 17, 2013, at the age of 89. His friend and sometime collaborator Jim Antrim files the following remembrance.

Alex Kozloff and Robie HarveyCourtesy Jim Antrim

Alex Kozloff, left, and his C-class catamaran teammate Robie Harvey celebrate at Kozloff’s 80th birthday party in 2003.

I met Alex in 1984 when I began consulting for Orcon. Orcoweb unidirectionals were among the first available. The sales staff called a meeting and flew in their product rep, Alex Kozloff, “at great expense and inconvenience” (to quote a favorite Kozloff phrase). A common interest in fast boats, high-tech composites, and motorcycles forged an instant friendship.

Alex was the first American to win back the Little America’s Cup. Since the first race in 1961 the cup had been in foreign hands. Starting in the early 1970s, Alex designed and built a series of C-class catamarans, and one of the dozen or so that he built is believed to be the first all-carbon boat. The Australian defender for the 1976 series, Miss Nylex, was wing-powered; but wings are heavier than soft sail rigs. Analysis told Alex that a lighter soft-sail boat would have an advantage up to about 14 knots. Weather history for the course in Australia showed typical winds of 10–15 knots, so he opted for a soft-sail rig. The series was tied 3–3; but light air prevailed on the last day and Kozloff’s all-Kevlar Aquarius V won the cup.

“A the K,” as I called him, decided on a D-cat for his next project. Having derived that it had the highest tensile strength-to-weight ratio of any fiber, he used Kevlar for all the tensile elements on Invictus. The crossbeams were bent and sprung to pre-tension the Kevlar water stays. The world’s first composite chainplates—a Kozloff invention—were Kevlar tow wrapped over a thimble.

Carbon CopyCourtesy Jim Antrim

Carbon Copy, built in the early 1970s, is believed to be the first all-carbon boat.

When Michael Faye’s 120′ (37m) KZ1 was challenging for the America’s Cup in 1988 against Dennis Conner’s Stars & Stripes catamaran, they needed a multihull to tune against and hired Alex and Invictus. I had the good fortune to sail with Alex for a few days in those thrilling David versus Goliath trials. As I write this, the final races of the America’s Cup are under way, sailed for the first time by two magnificent catamarans, foil-borne at that. Alex was so thrilled that this was coming.

“Hey, baby!! What’s happening!?” was the standard Kozloff greeting. Alex was simply the most upbeat and positive person I ever met. It was impossible to be in a bad mood in his presence. Alex’s one curse word was mothergrabber. “Let’s fasten this mothergrabber to that.” Though the word is far more funny than foul, I don’t recall him ever using it to describe a person. Alex never had a bad word for anyone.

Inquisitive enthusiasm and a zest for life were Alex’s defining characteristics. With his magnetic personality, thirst for knowledge, and childlike joy for any cool toy, it is no surprise that Alex was surrounded with a network of brilliant and interesting people. He admired talent in others and was a born networker.

CAD systems were developing in the 1980s. Alex used CAD to design Invictus, which got me intrigued with the notion of switching from pencil. In 1989 I visited Kozloff Enterprises in Irvine, California, and learned CAD by looking over Alex’s shoulder for a weekend. This was in the days of 5-1/4″ (133mm) floppy disks. The CAD software was on five disks, which had to be loaded every time you ran the program.

Alex and I collaborated on numerous design and engineering projects over the years. One of the earliest was a blimp gondola built entirely from composites. Another early engineering project was carbon crossbeams for a big cruising cat. We used an early finite element program for both of those efforts. Each run produced a printout on 11″ x 17″  (279mm x 178mm) paper in a fanfold stack about 1″ (25mm) thick.

Catamarans, trimarans, airplanes, foils, wings, wing masts, sails, propellers, lightweight composite engineering, human power, electric power, efficiency—these were the satellites in the Kozloff universe.

Starting circa 1993, Alex began a long consulting relationship with Duffy Electric Boats of Newport Beach, California, designing layouts, steerable electric drive pods, and the like. In 1996 Duffy decided to build a showplace boat, and throw down the gauntlet to other electric boat companies by establishing an electric boat record from Newport Beach to Catalina Island and return. Thus began the Duffy Voyager, the best-known project that Alex and I designed together. The Voyager was an extraordinary 62′ (19m) trimaran with a displacement of about 3,800 lbs (1,721 kg), of which 2,400 lbs (1,087 kg) were batteries. With all that torque from the electric drive, she would leap forward in eerie silence when the throttle was floored.

Kozloff was a lifelong airplane pilot. For a time he got involved in hang gliding, a passion that came to a close when he augered into a house on a steep hillside. After recovering, he began to think about a more substantial airplane. He moved into a hanger at Santa Paula Airport and began building a composite Pulsar.

When the Pulsar was finished, Alex named the plane Crystal, after his pet cockatoo, and decided to apply a decal with the bird’s image. Just one decal…covering the entire plane! Another Kozloff first: no paint—all vinyl wrap. Alex calculated that it was half the weight of paint, one-fifth the cost of airbrushing, and one-tenth the application time. After finishing the plane, Alex stopped in Tucumcari, New Mexico, on a return flight from the Oshkosh Air Show. After a long taxi in the high desert heat, the landing gear collapsed. The hot runway had exceeded the Tg of the resin.

In 2003, Alex invited his many friends to his 80th birthday party in the hanger at Santa Paula. The airport is a never-never land for boys who never grew up—they just got cooler toys. Fabulous airplanes everywhere of every vintage; Indian motorcycles, Harleys, Moto Guzzis; antique cars, racecars; CNC machines, milling machines, lathes; and refrigerators full of beer. The man danced continuously for hours on his new plastic knees.

Alex leaves behind his beloved wife Billie, his two children Karen and Steve, and a trove of happy memories for everyone who met him.


Dick Newick,
Multihull Pioneer Passes

alex-dick400Aaron Porter

Alex Kozloff, left, and Dick Newick, right, appeared at IBEX 2012 in Louisville, Kentucky, and found much in common to discuss after a seminar on multihulls.

Revolutionary multihull designer Richard Cooper (Dick) Newick died on August 28 at age 87. It happened quickly, without much fuss, not unlike the way one of his wonderful creations crossed the sea, yet he transcended Bill Lee’s notion that “fast is fun.” Sailing his creations reflects his life’s raison d’être: Fast also is enlightening.

His boats clearly merged vehicle, dwelling, and art (see “Intuitive Dynamics,” PBB No. 122). Dick’s approach was always primarily about getting in touch with nature rather than providing mariners with a barge upon which they could load the trappings of a shoreside life. He would no more want to pack into one of his boats generators, dishwashers, and flat-screen TVs than he would have thought it appropriate to strap a trunk full of designer clothes onto the back of an albatross. For him, the sailing experience should leave behind “modern inconveniences” in order to be able to taste the sublime state of being that comes with getting totally in synch with wind and waves, to become, as nearly as a human being can, a sea creature.

His unique aesthetic and other innovations were immediate and live on within whole new paradigms. When he began his career designing kayaks at the ripe age of 12, conventional boat design was rooted in things like hydrostatics, vessels built to withstand the sea, and Western tradition. For Newick, along with a handful of colleagues, statistics were irrelevant; dynamics were the only thing of import. Boat structures had to be strong enough, but not to dig into and resist the sea, rather instead to dance with it, to glide along the water-air interface with as little resistance as possible. He found his traditions not in European land peoples who sometimes took to the sea, but in Pacific islanders whose lives were integrated with it, one of whom, he mused, he might have been in a prior life. This, along with the yachting establishment’s general reviling of multihulls, freed him to approach design tabula rasa. What had been done was irrelevant; what worked was all that mattered.

Three Cheers and Dick NewickCourtesy Dick Newick, inset Steve Callahan

Dick Newick, inset, was inspired by the fast, lightweight multihulls of Polynesia, in particular trimarans and proas. On his innovative 46′ (14m) Three Cheers, shown leaving St. Croix in 1972 for the start of that year’s OSTAR, a “wing aka” spanned now-trademark Newick canoe hulls.

Today, even the America’s Cup yachting elite have embraced multihulls thanks to Newick, et al. We take for granted the streamlined contemporary aesthetics Newick had been incorporating into shockingly curvaceous forms since the 1960s. Now, refined engineering approaches like finite element analysis can find roots in Newick’s instinctual engineering of boats working in the real world of wind and sea. Not only did he invent a whole new type of boat with his Atlantic proa Cheers!, he was also a frontiersman in touring kayaks, developing the day charter business, the renaissance of working sailing vessels, employing canting rigs to reduce heeling forces, and applying lifting hydrofoils to hulls. He leaves us also with common sense, such as his guidance that from three basic elements of a boat—high performance, expansive accommodations, and low cost—one may choose two but not all three at the same time.

Shortly before his death, Dick visited France, where Cheers! and other “classic” multihulls of his design live. There, he was surprised to be “received like royalty.” Certainly, had Dick lived in France, where sailing is a national obsession, or had he been willing to design for mass demand instead of awaiting those who shared his vision to find their way to his door, he would have died a rich man. It was never riches he sought primarily, though.

His interests far surpassed boat design. He leaves behind his wife Pat, daughters Lark Blair and Val Wright and their families, all of whom he adored. He shared with notables like Olin Stephens an immense talent for boat design, and a gentlemanly countenance, a thoughtfulness, consideration, and grace that appears increasingly rare. He was a generous mentor and inspiration to a whole new generation of designers including Nigel Irens, Walter Greene, Roger Hatfield, and many more.

He also remained deeply concerned about social issues. Following his work with Jim Brown and benefactor Phil Weld when they created a working trimaran named SIB to aid emerging nations with appropriate technology in an oil age, Dick recently designed a sailing cargo boat for The Kingdom of Tonga, which was seeking final funding for the project at the time of his death. Even his raceboats embodied his desire that people learn how to derive fulfillment and pleasure from treading lightly upon the planet.

Dick Newick’s life and career remind us that one’s passion, even for the most esoteric endeavor, can have widespread relevance, and one need not compromise one’s values or vision. Although we will miss the man and designer, as his boats skitter along the sea they will continue to carry his spirit, offering us an exhilaration that is, perhaps, best described as allowing our souls to take flight.

—Steve Callahan


Small Idea, Big Impact

Gibbs SlaughterCourtesy Gibco Flex-Mold

Gibbs Slaughter, who died last August, invented the Flex-Mold system to enable repairers to replicate nearly 100 nonskid gelcoat/fiberglass deck patterns.

Boat show goers may well remember the husband-and-wife small-business owners of Gibco Flex-Mold manning their table in Miami, Annapolis, and just about any other city where the business of boating was transacted. Owner of a marina and yard on Eagle Mountain Lake outside Fort Worth, Texas, Gibbs Slaughter took a vexing problem as old as fiberglass and solved it. To wit: how to repair damaged nonskid patterns on boat decks. His mind began ticking when a customer brought in a Bayliner with deck damage for repair.

According to J.B. Currell (MAS Epoxies), who bought the company from the Slaughters shortly before Gibbs’s death last August, at age 74, many deck patterns were taken from the diamond pattern on the lens of fluorescent lights. Slaughter developed a step-by-step system to replicate the pattern and apply it to gelcoat as part of the repair process.

But he wasn’t keen on this diamond pattern, feeling it was too sharp on skin, and not wide enough. So he developed his own patterns that maximized traction, had easy-to-clean channels that wouldn’t hold dirt, and flushed well. He also began taking molds from dozens of other patterns that boatbuilders created for their boats (Walter Schultz of Shannon Yachts took his from the large diamond pattern on his truck bed liner). Today the company’s website lists 81 patterns; some Gibco owns (the 100 series); some are owned by their creating companies, like U.S. Marine, and some are available to—and bought for new construction by—builders around the world. “It saves time for builders,” says Currell. The AN Series, for example, is sold in 4′ x 8′ (1.2m x 2.4m) sticky-back sheets that the builder cuts from a template and applies with adhesive to a plug.

Flex-Mold SystemDan Spurr

At right, a small section of the mold is aligned and taped to the deck; gelcoat is applied and the mold rolled forward, creating a wave of gelcoat. At left, the mold is flush with the deck. A release agent allows easy removal.

The molds are available in rubber for a few pulls, and G4 with polyester for multiple pulls.

The repair process requires some concentration and practice, the steps for which are well illustrated on the company’s website. Essentially, one masks off the damaged area and preps it with sandpaper, aligns a section of the Flex-Mold over the area, tapes one end, folds it back and applies gelcoat, and then rolls the Flex-Mold down, creating a “wave” of gelcoat out in front. When done properly, no air is entrapped.

Gibco Flex-Mold, 6657 E. Peden Rd., Fort Worth, TX 76179 USA, tel. 817–236–5021, fax 817–236–5020, website


Owens Corning OptiSpray

optispray400Owens Corning

OptiSpray from Owens Corning is a multi-end roving with improved sizing that allows the fibers to run through a chopper gun faster, thereby reducing the amount of resin in a laminate.

IBEX (the International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition and Conference), sponsored by this magazine and the NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association), is a great place to see new marine products and processes. Owens Corning, the inventor of fiberglass as we know it in this industry, touted a new roving for spray-up processes. OptiSpray was actually introduced in the fall of 2012, so the company has had time to get it into shops in various industries across the country.

One of the companies that switched to the new gun roving is Regal Boats (Orlando, Florida). Pat Wiesner, vice-president of engineering, is quoted in a press release as saying, “When we trialed the material, the first thing we noticed was the speed of the glass wetout. We were able to reduce the resin by 3% to 5% compared to the gun roving we used previously.”

Owens Corning’s Bryan Minges says the improvement is achieved by developments with the sizing used on the fibers, making them “slippery” and able to pass through the gun faster. Other benefits he cites include reduced blade wear, which cuts material costs. Master Spas (Fort Wayne, Indiana) says it has saved 30% on blade costs since it switched to OptiSpray gun rovings, which, not incidentally, are made from boron-free E and E-CR glass reinforcements sold under the brand name Advantex. Their advantage is better performance under corrosive conditions.

Owens Corning, 1 Owens Corning Pkwy., Toledo, OH 43659 USA, tel. 800­GET.PINK, website


A Foam-Cored Plywood-and-Aluminum Hull?

Symphony Boat Co. LaunchDan Spurr

The first boat produced by Marcel LaFond’s Symphony Boat Co. in Duluth, Minnesota, is this 20′ (6.1m) launch/runabout rushed to IBEX too late to enter the Innovation Awards competition in 2013.

One would think that a trade show for boatbuilders would be full of…boats. At IBEX that is not generally the case, as its focus is on materials and processes. At the 2013 event in Louisville, however, there were at least six boats by my count: a demo runabout in front of the Expo Center for Dr. Shrink demonstrations, a 34′ (10.4m) hybrid motoryacht called the Greenline 33 (10m), a couple of pontoon boats, a demo wakeboard boat for marine stereo equipment, and perhaps the most unusual, a boat called Overture from the Symphony Boat Co. of Duluth, Minnesota.

Owner/builder/designer Marcel LaFond was a late arrival at the show, having towed his 20′ (6.1m) boat south from the recent Newport International Boat Show. He was anxious to draw some attention to the first launch of his new company. A lifetime career in the marine industry had prepared him for this moment. After college he enrolled in The Landing School (Kennebunkport, Maine), where he earned two certificates, in boatbuilding and design, and served as a teaching assistant. He then worked at Burger Boats (Manitowoc, Wisconsin), followed by Tollycraft Yachts (Kelso, Washington), Carver Yachts (Pulaski, Wisconsin), and then Cirrus Aircraft (Duluth, Minnesota). For some, the time comes when they feel compelled to do their own thing, and 2013 was LaFond’s.

Hybrid composite sandwichDan Spurr

After a lengthy career in the boating industry, LaFond started his own company, utilizing what he calls a “hybrid composite sandwich” of foam core and skins of plywood and aluminum.

If this varied work experience wasn’t enough to inculcate LaFond with new ways of looking at forms and materials, perhaps growing up in one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian houses did. In any case, LaFond built his launch from what he calls a “hybrid composite sandwich,” in which he vacuum-bagged and infused a foam core to plywood on the inside and 5052 aluminum alloy on the outside. The hull is made up of four pieces, and the transom is built over a jig. Trim is solid mahogany. Weight without motor is 996 lbs (452 kg). In sea trials, a top speed of 44 mph (71 kmh) was achieved with a 115-hp (86-kW) outboard motor.

LaFond’s intention is to build custom boats, and he swears he’s coming back next year to compete for an Innovation Award. Go, Marcel, go!

Symphony Boat Co., tel. 218–213–0698, website


No Tin, No Copper, No Solvent

Pettit PaintPettit Paint

Pettit Paint recently introduced the latest member of its Hydrocoat line of ablative antifouling bottom paints, the Eco, which it says will give “multi-season” protection, thanks to a biocide called Econea. Because Eco has no copper, it can be applied to bronze and aluminum drives.

The quest for an environmentally friendly antifouling bottom paint has challenged and vexed paint companies for decades, ever since the 1980s when tributyltin (TBT) was determined to be extremely harmful to sea life, and chemists saw the writing on the regulators’ wall. Oversight began in the U.S. with the Organotin Antifouling Paint Control Act of 1988, and TBT has since been banned by the International Marine Organization. Along with the general movement away from nasty solvents and toward water-based formulations, paint companies large and small have tested biocides to kill, retard, or repel organisms—vegetative and animal—that like to adhere to hull bottoms.

The latest product to come across our desk is Hydrocoat Eco, from Pettit Paint. Following last year’s release of Hydrocoat SR, a “dual-biocide, water-based, multi-season ablative bottom paint,” the new Eco formulation incorporates an organic biocide called Econea (a marine-growth inhibitor also found in Interlux’s Pacifica Plus bottom paint), and a “slime fighting inhibitor.” “Unprecedented multi-season protection” is promised. Because there is no copper in it, Hydrocoat Eco is safe to use on bronze and aluminum drives, including jet and IPS drives and outboard motors. It’s available in five basic colors: white, blue, red, green, and black, in quarts and gallons, for spray, roller, or brush.

Like the other Hydrocoat products, Eco is an ablative paint, meaning movement through water is necessary for maximum performance. For boats that have been sitting at the dock for extended periods, Pettit’s Tom Maellaro recommends cleaning the hull surface with a soft sponge.

Pettit Paint, Kop-Coat Marine Group, 36 Pine St., Rockaway, NJ 07866 USA, tel. 800–221–4466, website

The end.