From: The Telltale Compass vol. 5, No. 11, Copyright 1974
A newsletter of information, evaluation and opinion for yachtsmen.
Issue 41, Sept. 1974
(This article was written by Timothy Carman's father-in-law Victor Jorgensen who says: Victor was not an easy guy to impress and he loved these boats. As one with an interest in photography, you might be interested to know that he was a pioneering photojournalist and worked with Edward Steichen as a Naval Aviation photographer in WWII.)
THE HERITAGE - A GOOD LITTLE SHIP-There are a great many complaints these days about the quality and sturdiness of small craft-both sail and power—and there is little question that the better part of the objections are justified, particularly among the mass produced factory boats. But here and there around the country are yards, usually small, still doing an honest job that not only is a credit to the traditions of boatbuilding, but also provides a boat able and willing to take care of her crew as any good little ship should.
Several years ago we ran across one such in our own neighborhood and in the interval have watched with interest the progress of several of them from mold to water. Truly a small yard this one is run almost singlehandedly by a 50-year-old graduate industrial engineer, Howard Renner, who has done many things in his career from fabricating refrigerator doors to working in commercial shipyards and to designing, building, racing and winning in outboard hydros and runabouts, but whose abiding fascination with small boats leaves him happy only when he is messing about with them.
The boat he builds is a small, 20-foot auxiliary masthead cruising sloop on the clean lines of the traditional knockabout, designed for Renner's firm that he calls Howie Craft Plastics (5210 S.W. Madrona Street, Lake Oswego OR 97034) by Captain Andrew Davidhazy of Seattle, with no attempt to meet anyone's rating rules but solely with the intent of building a cruising boat rugged enough to take the perils of the sea and yet able and easily handled.
The result is the Heritage, as the class was named. She has the traditional good looks that attract even the untutored eye in every anchorage; a ruggedness in construction that is rarely seen in modern craft, and under sail she has the feel of a boat half again her size.
Her accommodations, which are laid out to berth four in the standard boat, also give a feeling of a larger boat even though we believe most sailors would agree that she could cruise only two in comfort for any extended time. Four aboard might be bearable for a weekend, but after all, she still is what the English like to call a vest-pocket cruiser. Nonetheless, she lacks few of the amenities, having a small, deep stainless steel sink, a stowage place for a stove, and space for a portable type refrigerator beneath one or another of her quarter bunks.
But perhaps her most novel feature is the location of the standard head which is tucked into the keel beneath the cabin sole and covered by two hinged hatches. One hatch is over the head itself, and the other opens up what Renner calls "the pit" which, besides providing leg room for the head, also gives 5'8“ headroom in the cabin "so you don't have to fight to get your pants on." Such headroom in a vest-pocketer is rare indeed, and neatly answers the most pressing problem for those who prefer to stand to dress. Otherwise, her sitting headroom of fifty inches is more than adequate for cabin activities.
While her layout is traditional, the 6'5" quarter berths with their four or ﬁve inch foam mattresses are properly sized to provide sleeping comfort at sea, and stowage spaces beneath bunks and the fitted dresser and cabinets are ample enough for extended passages. Ventilation is good on the standard boat with a large forward hatch and two opening ports in the cabin sides, but several owners also have added dorades to increase the air flow in the cabin when battened down.
Afloat, the Heritage has a saucy traditional look despite the fact she is built from fiberglass. Her substantial teak toerails, cockpit coamings and trim offset the plastic look, as does her spruce mast stepped on the cabin top in a stainless steel tabernacle.
Still, her kinship with the current crop of small fiberglass cruising craft is one of material alone as even a quick comparison of displacement indicates. While such comparisons are indeed approximate, as most boatmen know, the differences here are so large as to be indicative of the differences in construction. The Heritage with a displacement weight of 3300 pounds for her twenty feet with 1200 pounds of lead ballast in her keel—a difference of 2100 pounds which, broadly speaking, is the weight of her hull, gear and fittings - is a far cry from the widely popular Cal 20 or the Ensenada 20, both of exactly the same length over all. The Cal lists a displacement of 1950 pounds with 900 pound ballast while the Ensenada shows only 1600 pounds displacement and a ballast of 550 pounds, a weight difference for each of 1050 pounds, or one—half the Heritage's. Even the Santana 26 with displacement of 4150 pounds and 2000 pound ballast comes in at only fifty pounds more in the weight comparison.
While the Heritage has none of the light Mickey Mouse type fittings so common these days—her bow and stern cleats are eight and six-inch bronze WilcoxCrittendens on the Herreshoff pattern, and her inlet cast bronze bow chocks Renner makes himself, as instances—much of the weight difference is in the hull layup itself. And even a cursory prodding indicates the difference. We couldn't find a single spot that deflected despite heavy pounding with a rubber mallet which is more than can be said for more common boats that quite often evidence a scary deflection under hand pressure alone.
Some of the modern boat designers claim that such heavy layup as the Heritage uses is needless because of the inherent strength of fiberglass, but Renner will have no part of that theory.
"Sure," he said, "you can build a boat on the eggshell principle and if you have no troubles she will work fine. But since the beginning of time, man has tried to build boats to withstand the Ultimate Wave or that ultimate disaster that always is abroad at sea. True, he never has succeeded completely, but that is no reason to put to sea in an eggshell that only needs a little knock to shatter her strength integrity. And that's exactly what a lot of these buckets are eggshells. Even a collision in a light breeze will hole some of them. I've repaired enough of them to find that out."
But not the Heritage, and Renner has a couple of favorite stories about incidents when the Heritage was subjected to the ultimate test, albeit far from deliberately. One involved an owner coming into his berth at a concrete pier under full power. As he throttled back to slow his approach, the throttle linkage—one of the owner's own design and building—|et go and, caught in a spot where he couldn't turn, he dove below to kill the engine. But before he could reach it, the Heritage hit the pier square on, and drove up on it until her after deck was under water and the point of her keel was in air. A doubled two-by-ten inch facing stringer on the pier was pulped by the impact but when they hauled the Heritage later, the only damage found was a bit of scraped bottom paint and a couple of long scratches in the gel coat along the forefoot.
ln the other case, a Heritage owner drove over the foot of an unmarked abandoned marine railway, again, under full power. The two steel rails flipped the Heritage on her beam end with a crash that her owner said sounded like a torpedo hit, and then she bounced clear. Hauled shortly after, the only damage was scraped paint and only a minor scratch on her gel coat.
“That isn't exactly the Ultimate Wave," Renner grinned, "but it is the kind of thing even the most careful cruising man can run into in strange waters. With a lot of the present day buckets, he will have to walk or swim home. I aim to build the Heritage so she brings him home intact."
And so he does. While it is impossible to compare fiberglass hull layups because most manufacturers carefully withhold such information, the Heritage's is impressive. The basic layup, all hand done of course, is a layer of 9-ounce fibergalss cloth behind the gel coat for impact resistance and a smooth unpatterened surface, followed by five alternate layers of one-and-a-half ounce mat and 24-ounce woven roving, and finished with another layer of 9-ounce cloth to give a smooth finish to the inside of the hull. That results in a 3/16 to a 1/4 inch thickness to the hull in its thinnest spot— amidships between wind and water. The keel and bilge areas get additional layers building up to an inch-andan-eighth on the bottom of the keel and three-quarters inch at the garboard with the tapered layers carrying through the turn of the bilge. Extra layers also go into the areas around the chain plates which are secured to an H-shaped stainless frame to spread the load, and at the transom.
The deck and cabin top are similarly laid up with six layers encasing half-inch end grain balsa that provides both stiffness and insulation, and the deck and hull are married before being removed from the molds. Renner does not use any of the usual bolt, screw or rivets to join deck and hull, but lays up a fillet inside around the entire sheer which ends up three-eighth-inches thick and feathered down into the topsides and across under the deck for about a foot. Since the molds have been perfectly matched and are locked together, this leaves only a thin line at the joint outside which is ground smooth and covered with a teak sheer batten. None of the ten Heritages Renner has built—he is starting his eleventh—have leaked ever at the deck joint, a common problem elsewhere, nor have they had hull leaks.
In Renner's shop—a sort of Topsy-grown place that started out as a suburban home garage and then was extended a number of times in its career as a paint brush and then a furniture factory—he has none of the cranes or Travellifts that make life simpler for larger yards. It doesn't phase him, although his usual practice in moving the hulls after they are removed from the molds would give most boatbuilders a case of the trembling horrors. He simply rigs a six-by-six timber athwartships under the deck at the forward and after hatches, hooks chain hoists to the baulks and hauls away. The boat ends up entirely supported by the deck and hull join, a strain that few boats will withstand. . Not a one has shown any signs of the minutest crackling, he reports.
And that maneuver is done with the Heritage's 1200 pounds of lead ballast already in place. Renner has about fifteen castings of different sized chunks of lead to make up the ballast, the heaviest single piece being about 90 pounds, and these are grouted into the keel with resin and glass fibers to bind them, then covered with half-inch plywood which is followed by four layers of mat and roving carried up on the hull sides to permanently seal in the lead. Renner claims that by his calculations he could turn the Heritage upside down and shake her thoroughly without the ballast moving and, from our inspection, there was no reason we could find to argue.
The Heritage is a displacement boat, relatively heavy for her size, but under sail handles with the feel of a much larger boat. During our time aboard, we had everything from a flat calm to a fresh breeze as the afternoon sea winds filled in. There was little to fault. In extremely light air that barely joggled the telltale, she moved along smoothly and as the wind increased, she kept pace with boats half again larger, no doubt thanks to her easy lines. As the breeze built, probably hitting somewhere around sixteen or seventeen knots in the puffs, she drove with authority under main and genoa, occasionally dipping her rail in the puffs, but feathering easily. While not the stiffest boat we have sailed, when the Heritage had her rail down she hardened noticeably. She balanced handily and even in the lightest stuff came about quickly and positively. All told, she was a pleasure to sail with none of the nervous quirks that her lighter sisters usually evidence.
Aside from the question of taking such a small boat to sea—we are past the point of contemplating it, the Heritage no doubt could go . . . and has . . . with safety. Everything in her is built to take it including such things as the now-rare bridge deck, a properly drained cockpit, bronze seacocks on her through hulls, and fittings that are, if anything, oversize, and every one carefully backed with plywood blocking. While for a long distance ocean passage, we might want a shorter rig, her high aspect rig instills confidence and certainly makes for a handy sailer in more protected water.
Most of the Heritages that Renner has built cruise the sometimes wicked waters of Puget Sound, although one of them homeports in San Diego and that boat has ranged far in ocean passages. On one occasion, her owner, who also is a radio ham, called Renner while he was jogging along under storm rig off Baja California in a full gale.
“You could hear the wind screaming over the phone," Renner related.“lt was enough to curl your hair, but he was having the time of his life and no troubles at all even though the seas were running twice the length of the boat and better: When he got around into the Gulf, he called me again and told me he had gotten through without losing a thing, not even a teacup, although several larger boats near him had come to grief, three of them with their whole rigs by the board."
The Heritage isn't a cheap boat by any means, and on that subject, Renner has an almost pat saying that still makes sense.
"I can build ‘em good, and I can build ‘em cheap," he grins. “but I can't build ‘em good, and cheap."
Even so, the first boat he launched in 1967, which still is sailing and, except for a few nicks in the woodwork, looks as though she were fresh from the yard, cost $8500 finished. Today, because of the increasing material costs, the same boat finished is priced at $12,000 including a 5-horse Westerbeke diesel in place of the 8-hp Palmer single cylinder gas engine that was fitted in the first boat. Despite being less power, the Westerbeke has proven satisfactory, Renner said, and is perfectly able to drive the boat at hull speed with a fuel consumption of two quarts an hour. ln any case, as with most small yards, Renner is willing to sell the boat at any stage of construction and today the basic hull and deck with keel, engine mounts and rudder fitted costs $2700. In fact, the majority of the boats he has built have left something for the owner to finish, he says, with most opting to complete the less vital interior joiner work which also gives the owner the opportunity of fitting out his boat to meet his precise needs, or his prejudices.
Summed up, though, we had to agree with the lead-off claim in Renner’s brochure which says quite simply: "The Heritage was built to be a little ship."
So she is. A good little ship . . . something of a relief to see these days.