A Leisure furl boom by Marten Marine, New Zealand, lets you hydraulically hoist and lower the mainsail via a push button on the bulkhead near the companionway. Buyers may also specify a hydraulic furler for the headsail, but that seems like overkill to me, because you can easily unwrap the headsail using the electric primary winches and furl it via the electric winch on the starboard side of the coachroof. The furling line runs beneath the deck. The jib sheets through a block on the adjustable tracks, one on each side deck just outboard of the lower shrouds, to the primary winches right forward of the helm on the cockpit coaming. This location lets the helmsman tend the jib without engaging in acrobatics. To tack, simply turn the wheel, let go the leeward jib sheet as the boat approaches the eye of the wind, take a few wraps on the new leeward primary and push the button to trim. Toe on the release button to ease the main a bit so she'll accelerate on the new tack, and trim to your new course.
Don't let these powerful sailhandling devices fool you-she's a spirited and tactile sailboat. Although Fontaine has earned a reputation for designing beautiful superyachts, such as Pamina, Anakena and Surama, he hasn't lost his sensitivity to a yacht's feel-the type of communication we normally associate with small boats. Steering the Friendship is an authentic yachting experience. The wheel is "a virtual tiller," Fontaine says, because the Whitlock drag-and-link system has a one-to-one ratio-a single 360-degree turn from full lock to full lock telegraphs the rudder's intentions with as much tactile sensation as any tiller. In no time at all, I was steering the 40 by Braille, the rudder telling me through the wheel what the boat wanted. (On the down side, the steering also transmits the prop wash to the wheel.)
Under way in winds of 12 to 15 knots, the Friendship 40 is as stiff as a Calvinist minister. Fontaine developed the 40's underbody from the whaleback shape that Ted Hood made famous in the heavy-displacement Little Harbor cruising yachts. Her stability comes from a generous beam, a slightly harder turn of the bilges than Hood's original whaleback, and a nearly 50 percent ballast ratio. The 40 is a pure centerboarder, but doesn't rely on her board for stability. You can sail her to windward with the board fully housed, though you want to be careful of the sail area you spread when you do. Sailing with the board retracted lets a confident helmsman worry into shallow anchorages, auxiliary silent, drop the anchor and backwind the main to set it.
In the spacious cockpit, a comfortable bench stretches fore and aft on each side, providing seating for six (or more) adults for a daysail, or four for dinner under the stars at the drop-leaf table. The helmsman's perch is a crescent-shape bench that fills the after end of the cockpit. On each side of the wheel, the cockpit sole angles up, leaving a flat surface parallel to the waterline when the boat is heeled at her optimum angle. It's a great place to plant your leeward foot as you stand behind the wheel.
At the end of a daylong sail, raise the centerboard and drop the hook in a shallow cove for drinks and a casual dinner. The anchor is cached in the forepeak and deploys from a module that rises from a locker in the foredeck; the system keeps the anchor out of sight, yet ready to drop at a moment's notice. After dinner, you may lounge on the cockpit benches or retire to the saloon to stretch out on one of the settees to read. If you don't feel like sailing back to the slip later in the evening, snuggle into the island berth forward and let the yacht's gentle motion rock you to sleep.
Unlike the Hinckley DS42 and the Morris M36 day boats, the Friendship 40 gives you full standup headroom throughout the interior and stowage for all the clothing or stores you may need for an overnight or several days of cruising. Time spent below is every bit as pleasant as that spent topside. To complement the scenery of your anchorage you have top-quality teak joinerwork, the wonderful arched tongue-and-groove overhead and comfortable seating.
Back at the slip, you slide the 40 into place with well-planned bursts of her saildrive and bow thruster, plus tweaks of the rudder. She'll make an expert of you after the first try-but the pleasure she gives will, I would guess, never grow old.
Contact: Friendship Yacht Company LLC, (401) 682-9101; www.fontainedesigngroup.com.