Coaster 23Written by Andy Adams
Photographs by John Lund

I don't doubt for a minute that the Coaster 23 represents the shape of things come for many boaters. A semi-displacement design with small diesel and excellent small boat cruising range, the Coaster is a John Lovett and Dick Chudley creation.

Three boats have now been completed and delivered while several others are in the works. Because production is low volume, some owner alterations can be incorporated, but the boat we tested was relatively close to the basic design and its optional equipment was typical of what most buyers will want.

The boat is being built by RFC Marine Ltd. of Sidney British Columbia, with Philbrooks Ship Yards, of Victoria, BC doing the glasswork. RFC Marine had long been the sales agent for the Albin 25, now no longer in production and not really competitive in this country with the Canadian dollar so devalued. This was likely the deciding factor for RFC in entering production with their own boat, and it seems to have been rather timely, considering the cost of fuel.

Coaster 23 - the helm is comfortableThe Coaster 23 is aptly named: it is very well suited to use on the coast. I expect that several will end up in com-mercial use, as this is where boats roots lie, and it is very much up to this type of work. We are mainly concerned with pleasure use rather than commercial, however, for that reason, economy of operation will take first priority with some buyers. When fuel becomes more expensive and perhaps harder to find, owners of Coaster 23s will still be boating.

Dick Chudley very much wanted to keep the attributes of Albin - semi-displacement hull, small diesel power, good cruising range. Putting a new boat into production allows some freedom to adapt best for local conditions and this was foremost in his mind. When Coaster 23 was designed, an ample cockpit was drawn in so the boat could be conveniently used for fishing and sunning.

Coaster 23 - just enough room to steer comfortably while sittingThe Coaster is weather proof as one could easily expect and should enjoy a long and healthy life even if neglected. Virtually all outside are fibreglass, curved for best drainage and highest strength. The cabin windows are safety glass in flat panes mounted in aluminum frames and gusseted to resist weather. All the fittings are a light weight, high strength marine finished aluminum alloy. It’s adorned with some of the best teak joinery work I’ve seen in some time. Roof mounted grab rails, bulk heads and a swimming platform are among the exposed teak and they are beautiful, carefully shaped and generally solid teak that's firmly mounted. Some interior panels are teak veneer and Arborite is used in high wear areas such as counter tops.

The cabin of our test boat was all off-white fibreglass and didn't have the optional sheer stripe, which made it look high and round like a big bath tub toy. The cabin windows are rounded in the corners and the cabin roof is quite curved as well; actually, I couldn't find a single hard corner or sharp edge anywhere: Everything was rounded and filled to be flush and smooth for safety and strength. I wish I had a dollar for every time I've cut my head, hand or foot on other boats where less attention has been paid to this.

Hand rails on the cabin top were teak, as were the runner tops for the sliding hatch roof - call it a sun roof if you will. More than a third of the cabin roof slides open if you undo two catches and push back on it. During the test, the sun was out but the weather Coaster 23 - Headwas cool, and with the cabin heat on and the roof open, we had the best of both with warmth and sun. The slider rails and gutters are drained properly and are quite large and rounded so that you can hang out without leaning on a sharp edge. Very neat and apparently well weatherproofed too - certainly far better than a folding canvas top for this climate.

There are three panes in the windshield and two wipers are offered as standard equipment. Our test boat had the $60 optional third wiper for the centre pane and all were well placed so as not to interfere with outward vision. I'm sure the wipers are quite effective but they are absolutely hilarious in operation because, although all three are on one switch, they aren't synchronized at all and each goes its own way. The action is mind-boggling when you throw the switch. Dick Chudley intends to place each on a separate switch in future so that the wipers can be “parked." As it stands, one is always hanging straight down.

Coaster 23 - galleyLike everything else, the deck is curved for drainage and is non-slip over most of its surface. There is a lexan deck hatch for light into the berth and ahead of the hatch is an anchor well. The test boat’s good-looking optional teak and aluminum anchor roller appeared to be quite sturdy.

All the decking is one casting in fibreglass and adds about 8 in. to 12 in. to the sheer line from the actual hull/ deck join. The hull is rather low and sleek, whereas the deck is high - which adds considerable interior room.

The transom too is quite high and is scuppered in the after corners with drains ample enough for rain drainage. The non-slip floor offered good grip when wet but isn't so fine that fish blood and such couldn't be hosed off easily. Steps, molded into the cockpit sides, are actually foot-end extensions of the cabin’s quarter berths - an example of making the very most of space.

Removable rod holders were mounted on the inside gunwales of the cockpit. These were flat stainless-steel brackets
with drop-in wire holders that stowed in the well at the rear inside of the cockpit, behind a removable door. This area would also be useful for stowing lines and small stuff.

Coaster 23 - At the dockThe engine exhaust exits the transom just below the optional teak swimming platform and doesn't seem to blow back into the cockpit. The occasional whiff of diesel is all I ever noticed and that was while reversing into the wind. It could be that the platform was helping but I couldn't be certain.

The hull itself is very well shaped for displacement running, with round bilges and a full keel that reaches a maxi-mum depth of approximately 30 in. The keel should do a good job of warding off deadheads with that kind of depth and certainly will aid in tracking too. The construction is thick hand-laid fibreglass, and the deck and cabin roof get a balsa end grain core for strength with light weight.

The keel itself is foam-filled, being too fine to house anything important, and the top has then been glassed over. During boat construction, the engine is mounted in an aluminum sub-frame with rubber vibration dampers, which is all then mounted to the fibreglass stringers. It seems to be overkill - but this boat seems to be built to last.

Coaster 23 - HelmIf we ignore the head when discussing the interior accommodations, then I can safely say that there are a good many much larger boats that don't come off any better. The head, however, is a headroom here barely qualifies this as a mere 5 4 inches high, and the four foot 6-inch headroom here barley qualifies this as a sit-down head. This is an open enclosure and offers only a "Porta-Potty “brand toilet, with no sink or shower. I don't want to belabor this point: even getting this into a boat this size is rather remarkable. The reason it seems such a shame is that the rest of the boat is so good.

Entering the cabin through the teak windowed door, you find two quarter berths, one to port and the other to star-board. Beside the starboard berth lies a folding dinette table which opens to allow the port berth to be used as a seat as well. The quarter berths are 6-ft 4-in. long in each case, with slightly less than 3ft of that under the cockpit steps. That leaves 3ft 6 in. or so for sitting, which is ample for the boat's capacity.

Ahead of the port berth lies the galley unit. It's certainly compact but would do nicely for most purposes. The test boat was equipped with a Mivis ice box (although a 12V refrigerator is available) and had a two-burner kerosene stove. There was some storage as well. The test boat had 110V shore power, but this wasn't exploited for galley uses.

Coaster 23 - CabinA generous wet locker is ahead of the galley, down one step from the main salon area, and the forward V-berth is beyond that. Very tastefully done, this is almost all bed. Space above the berths runs to 321/2 in. and the bunks are a shade over 6ft long and the same wide. A glass hatch brings in the sun and rather European-looking upholstery on the berths and headliner made this quite comfortable. There are also storage shelves down the edges and portholes in the deck sides along the sheer.

Continuing around the Coaster to starboard and moving aft, you'll find the head enclosure and, behind that, the helm and engine box. The arrangements here are very interesting and cleverly done.

The helm seat is raised up and rests on the engine box top. You step up and onto the box to get to the seat. It's very comfortable, beautifully upholstered and ideally positioned for sitting operation. It is a comfy double seat as well, running from beyond the centreline to the opposite cabin side.

Coaster 23 - Access to the engine is through the helm seatBy raising this seat and the engine box you lay bare the engine top and port side. The foot plate lifts out to expose the entire engine from the midline up, with plenty of space all around it.

The helm seat is far enough back that you can easily stand to operate the Coaster, and by sliding the roof hatch back, you can see over the roof - very neat and sensible.

Not so sensible is the instrumentation. There is only one gauge, a tachometer. All other engine functions are moni-tored via lamps and a warning buzzer. Considering that this boat is capable of touring a fair distance, has only a single engine and does, after all, cost a fair bit, I see no reason why an oil pressure and water temperature set could-n't be included.

I took a real run at OMC not too long ago for deleting their oil pressure gauge and substituting a buzzer on some stern drives. To me it simply works out that by the time the buzzer goes off, you’ve cooked the bloody thing and the buzzer is just a death knell. Even if it worked early enough to prevent any damage, you still can't really describe the problem to a mechanic.

I doubt that the Yanmar three-cylinder diesel will be any trouble though. It ran at a relaxed pace without complaint during the test and would likely continue to do so indefinitely. If you aren’t familiar with this power plant, the idea that it's a three may sound a bit strange, but in fact an inline design three is an inherently balanced design, whereas an inline four is not. Diesel isn't generally noted for smoothness but the Yanmar is actually quite good at all speeds except idle, when a strong vibration got the cabin windows going pretty hard.

Coaster 23 - DolphinThis engine makes 33 horsepower at 2,800, although our boat topped out at 2,700 rpm; this is from 100 cubic inches and runs a compression ratio of 20:1. The Yanmar 3QM30H engine runs through a gearbox, a German Hurth de-sign manufactured in Japan, which has a reduction ratio of 2.03:1. It has freshwater cooling, and engine heat is used for cabin warmth and hot water heating as well.

When getting out the radar, running the Coaster through her paces and measuring running angle, we got a maximum reading of 10 mph at 2,700 rpm, 8 mph at 2,200 rpm and 8 mph again at 2,000 rpm. The hull was happiest at about 8 mph and began to climb her bow wave after that. Nevertheless, running angles peaked at 2,700 with a 5° reading and was 2° at both 2,200 and 2,000 rpms.

On a recent measured fuel run, a Yanmar-equipped Coaster 23 traveled eight hours using seven gallons of diesel fuel at approximately 2,100 rpm, which is 8 mph, for a figure of 9.14 miles per gallon. That's as good a reason as any to own a Coaster 23.

Handling is pretty straightforward with only a light touch needed to turn the wheel with the Teleflex cable steering. Precision is lacking in comparison to some planing boats with their faster speeds but the best way to steer the Coast-er is to set the helm and let the keel track without correction. She’ll wander up and over a rolling wave, going what seems way off course and then heading right back on track coming down the other side. The gentle rolling is part of the Coaster's character, mainly derived from the very deep full keel and well-rounded bilges.

Docking is a bit of a problem though because of that deep keel and the Coaster’s very buoyant nature. It bobs about and requires some wheel-spinning to walk in the stern but, generally, the boat can be handled easily with a bit of practice. All in all, it's a boat with the sort of seakeeping qualities that made this workboat design a success in the first place.

When it comes to performance, economy is one of the greatest factors - but after accepting the limited traveling speed of the Coaster, one can appreciate the relaxed and happy way it goes. Our privately owned test boat was christened Dolphin, and this name just about sums things up. The Coaster just plays in the water, dancing along and rolling with the waves.

Originally published in Canadian Yachting’s April 1980 issue.

Specifications:
Length - 22ft 5in
Beam - 8ft 2in
Weight - approx 4,000 lbs
Fuel Capacity - 30 gallons
Water Capacity - 20 gallons
Engine - Yanmar Diesel model 3QM30H

Photo Captions:
Photo 1 - The little boat that won’t. It won’t cost you a lot of money and it won’t keep you in port when the weathers rough. It’s a small semi-displacement cruiser.
Photo 2 - This boat looks little because it is, but the helm is comfortable - that’s what this boat is all about - and ideally positioned. The raised seat rests on the engine box. A roof hatch slides back for view out and stand up operation.
Photo 3 - There is just enough room to steer comfortably while sitting
Photo 4 – They and still squeezed in a head with 4ft 6in headroom forward of the helm.
Photo 5 - The galley lies ahead of the port berth opposite the helm station.
Photo 6 – At the dock.
Photo 7 - Instrumentation is sparse. There is only one gauge - a tachometer.
Photo 8 – More than a third of the cabin roof slides open to the sun.
Photo 9 - Access to the engine is through the helm seat which raises, along with the footplate to reveal the entire engine from the midline up.
Photo 10 - Several Coasters will likely end up in commercial use.

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