The Hutchins Compac 23 is a great small cruising sailboat with many of the amenities found on much larger boats. The shoal draft makes it a great West Coast sailor. Its classic design and abundance of wood give it an appealing look. Fixed keel design means no through-hull opportunities for leaks (bilge stays very dry).
We have owned this Compac 23 since 2003. She was purchased from a man in North Port who was no longer able to sail her. I don't know much about her history other than that.
Bottom paint 1 year old
Com-Pac 23/3 by Quentin Warren
At a small construction facility nestled amid the industry friendly outskirts of Clearwater, Florida, Gerry Hutchins builds little cruising boats the way he has for 20 years: He goes to the shop everyday and immerses himself in the business. From the venerable Com-Pac 16 designed by Clark Mills in the early days of the operation, of which close to 3,000 have been built so far, to the open-water Charlie Morgan designed Com-Pac 35, the largest and most recent monohull addition to the fleet, his boats speak to trailerable- and small-boat sailors with focus, consistency and levelheaded poise. Island Packet's Bob Johnson joins Morgan and Mills on the roster of designers whose work has played a part in the company's evolution. And a current foray into multi-hull production has resulted in a Bill Symons project, the Com-Pac C-Cat.
The newest version of one of Hutchins' more popular models is the Com-Pac 23/3 designed by Clark Mills. It's a nicely executed, trailerable cruiser with a sturdy hull, fixed ballast in a long shallow airfoil keel, a sensibly balanced sail plan and a strong, well-supported rig. Contributing to its understated classic look are a sweeping sheer line and a charming spoon bow. Wide decks of contrasting molded-in non-skid and the occasional accent of oiled teak handrails and cabin strakes combine with traditional round bronze portholes to elevate the boat into something quite visually appealing. Below, a two-cabin layout with a slide-away galley unit provides both the versatility you need for overnight cruising and the volume you need for moving about and storing provisions and gear. It's hard not to like what Gerry Hutchins has done in 23 feet.
Construction and Execution
The hull is laid up by hand with a vinylester outer skin and a solid schedule of biaxial and tri-axial glass. Structural reinforcement is provided by the grid of longitudinal and transverse frames and stringers built up out of plywood and glassed into the hull while it is still in the mold. The keel cavity is filled with about 1,300 pounds of concrete right up to the top, then glassed over to accept the teak and holly cabin sole. As a result no bilge per se occurs amidship, though a sump to collect errant slosh occurs aft of the companionway and is serviced by a manual gusher pump. In addition, there are no thru-hulls below the waterline to worry about (except in the case of the 23D, an inboard-diesel equipped version), which is in keeping with Hutchins' insistence that this boat be, above all else, sturdy and seaworthy.
The deck and cabin structure are molded in one piece. Side decks are cored with closed-cell foam, while the cabin top is solid glass reinforced with an interior FRP headliner that is installed with adhesive putty while the whole deck element is still in the mold. The hull-deck joint consists of outward-turned flanges on hull and deck, bonded all the way around with a marine adhesive sealant and fastened mechanically with machine bolts and nuts. A vinyl rubstrake is applied to the joint to finish it off and protect the topsides. Gerry Hutchins makes no bones about the thoroughness of his approach. "You know," he says, "these days in this high-tech environment we feel like a dinosaur sometimes. But the bottom line is, what we do here is still, to my mind, the most solid, foolproof way to build a boat."
And the integrity of the product is underscored by the varied experiences of Com-Pac owners. One, the owner of an earlier version of the 23 bought a decade ago, has this to say about the resilience of the hull: "I live on the southern Chesapeake Bay and with the exception of an annual bottom painting I keep the boat in the water year-round. In almost 10 years of everything from up to four inches of ice at my dock to keel-in-the-mud low tides, I have yet to have the first gel coat blister. The performance of the gel coat on the Com-Pac has been trouble-free and literally unbelievable."
There isn't a lot on which to report in the way of mechanical and plumbing systems in this boat because essentially - and to the delight of anyone who has to take care of them - they don't exist. As stated, there are no below-the-waterline thru-hulls on the standard boat. An optional diesel inboard would change that picture, as would the installation of a speedo and transducer if your appetite for sailing instruments is so inclined. Auxiliary power is provided by an outboard hung off a bracket on the transom, and a dedicated that accepts a six-gallon gas can is built into the cockpit area. The major serviceable items below include a two-burner alcohol stove and a sink unit with an integral 11-gallon freshwater tank.
Happily there is an electrical system which includes basic navigation lights, cabin lights, a distribution and switch panel and a secure battery box. Topping up is possible by way of one of those six- to eight-amp magneto chargers built into certain brands of outboard, or back on land off a conventional charger plugged into an available source of AC.
For a boat that can sit on a trailer and take to the highway, the 23/3 is equipped with an array of items that make it a decidedly nautical event once it's floating on its own. There is just enough teak and mahogany aboard in the form of trim pieces, the tiller stock, the bow platform and the whatnot to downplay the plastic factor without conferring a maintenance nightmare. A divided chain locker in the foredeck keeps the rode organized, at the ready and out of sight, while the roller at the end of the bowsprit secures an anchor in place. The rig, convertible in its deck-stepped tabernacle, becomes positively businesslike one it is raised with eight sturdy stays in place and the halyards systematically led aft through deck blocks, organizers and line stoppers. The cockpit is comfortable and secure with room for two people on the high side, molded coamings around the sides and a bridge deck aft of the companionway to offer protection from belligerent seas. A hefty stainless stern rail and bow pulpit anchor the lifelines and add to onboard security.
In more esoteric terms, the whole concept of the boat suggests an appreciation for practical cruising under sail. For a 23-footer, it is exceptionally easy to move about on, with wide uncluttered decks and a subtle, quite tenable camber in the cabin top area. It has a classic wave-piercing hull form, with a narrow bow and nicely V'd forefoot moving aft to a relatively flattened stern section. The keel, a modified long shoal fin was designed by Gerry Hutchins himself in lieu of Mills' original idea for a centerboard; Hutchins wanted the ballast as low as possible and the boat as foolproof and trouble-free as possible, all of which he achieved with an integral molded keel, integral ballast and no sensitive moving parts. The ability to remain stiff and weatherly in a breeze and to win the occasional confrontation with that mysterious ledge at low tide are key to a cruiser's comfort and peace of mind.
The 23/3 is a small boat with the ability to deliver some welcome big-boat perks. That it is trailerable only adds to its versatility, but in essence it is apt to serve you just fine sitting on a mooring out there all summer waiting for you to hop aboard on a moment's notice and sail away - you know, just what your neighbor's 40-footer does for him.
Observations and notes on the Com-Pac by Larry Brown
Gary and Priscilla Prahm were kind enough to offer us their brand new Com-Pac 23/3 for a sea trial in Cotuit Harbor on Cape Cod's southern shore. A storm front was on the way. We stood on the beach with the window whipping our pants deciding whether to go out or not.
Gary and I started off very conservatively. In a gusty 20 knots of wind we left the mooring under power with no jib and a reef tied into the mainsail. My own background in lighter boats suggested such a prudent approach, and for the owner, who had never reefed the boat, this was a learning experience. When the sail went up and the motor was shut down, puffs buffeted the boat but heeled her so little that before long we were beyond safe; essentially we were bored. Being bored in small-craft advisory conditions is a significant luxury.
Up went the jib and the 23 rushed along impressively. She kept her good manners, though, and when I jumped into an accompanying powerboat to take pictures Gary had her in full control; she looked very shippy indeed. In crowded harbors or channels one might wish to do what we did next: We dropped the jib and flew the full mainsail only. The boat remained under full control, ultra simple to sail. In short, the 23 is an ideal beginner's cruising boat. Apart from ramming something, it's hard to see how anyone could get into trouble with it. Moreover, it encourages a sailor to press on despite the weather.
Topside the cockpit has generous back support, a nice deep footwell and two large lazarettes for life vests, fenders, coolers and odd gear. The side decks facilitate getting around and on the non-skid (done in a pleasing buff) provides good grip without being hard on bare feet. Happily, there isn't a fitting aboard that is apt to make you wince and wish for something stronger.
The rigging is inherently and sensibly redundant for a boat this size: forestay, backstay and a total of six shrouds. Although the Com-Pac 23 is trailerable, at 3,000 pounds she is not intended to be a pop-in, pull-out boat. I think the manufacturers would be the first to agree that if someone is seeking rapid rigging and launching this may not be the best choice. On the other hand, what you put up on this boat is designed to stay up, in any conditions. The Prahm's 23 rode at a mooring, an ideal arrangement for a boat like this. Below, wood veneer lines the cabin trunk. Fiberglass ceilings are set off by varnished wood stringers. Bronze opening ports add warmth and elegance. The joiner work is clean and solid. If this is not the level of cabinetry one expects in the gold-platers, it sure is a good suggestion of it - and at a far lower price. Well done.
With three opening ports per side plus a forward hatch, the interior of the boat breathes well. A soft, flexible cowl on the foredeck vents air into the V berth, too.
The main V berth provides plenty of room for my 6'1" frame to stretch out in. An unusually tall man would have to improvise. The quarter berths allow comfortable sitting and permit a family of four to sack out for limited cruises. A couple, moreover, could adapt this boat for serious voyaging. The galley is tucked under the cockpit on either side and pulls out on smoothly running drawers: stove on one side, sink on the other. The companionway steps are part of a sloping cabinet. It's convenient for storage but unfortunately it occupies space you'd probably rather retain for standing in the hatchway; in fact a companionway dodger could offer an owner standing headroom right at the galley area. Personally, I'd prefer a steeper ladder leaving more open standing space.
My first reaction upon venturing below was disappointment over this boat's lacking a permanent galley, but on second thought it occurs to me that many owners will do little cooking onboard and the roll-away galley drawers maximize sitting room interior space. The layout is actually a sensible approach executed well. Overall, it's a cabin one can feel good in. Several owners with whom I spoke like to hang out on their boats at the mooring simply to read, enjoy a drink and watch the world go by - kind of a floating front porch. The cruiser gets all that and more: a solid hull and rig, reassuring stability in a seaway and a reasonable turn of speed. Base price at $16,995, it has many of the qualities you'd seek in a larger boat - for a lot less than you'd pay for one.