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Ithaka Specifications

By The Ithaka - Published December 03, 1999 - Viewed 1310 times

Ithaka’s Specifications

Ithaka at anchor in Panama

Model: Shearwater 39 cutter
Designer: Dudley Dix
Year Built: 1992
Builder: Nebe Boatworks and Gary Back
Length on deck: 39’ 5”
Length overall: 43’ 4”
Length of Waterline: 33’ 10”
Beam: 12’ 10”
Draft: 5’ 11”
Displacement: 22,000 pounds
Ballast: 8,800 pounds
Engine: Yanmar 3HM35
Prop: Maxprop 3-blade
Water tankage: 118 gallons in two tanks
Fuel tankage : 80 gallons

The galley countertop and engine-compartment sides come apart for full access

Galley Equipment
Stove: 3-burner Force 10 propane with oven
Adler Barbour freezer and refrigerator system
Double stainless steel deep sink
Refrigeration, two systems: engine-driven compressor with cold plates and 12-volt Adler Barbour Cold Machine
Pressurized hot/cold water with two filtration systems
Foot pump for salt water
Foot pump for fresh water


Ithaka at the dock at Tortugal Marina in Guatemala

Fully battened North main with three reefs
Genoa: 135% Quantum
Yankee: 105% Jasper and Bailey
Staysail North
Storm Jib North
Storm trysail North
Genaker with snuffer

Electrical System
Charging system: 60 Amp and 150 Amp with smart regulator
Two Siemans 55W solar panels
Starting Battery: 120 A/H
House Batteries: 4 Rolls Surrette deep cycle: 540 A/H
Kiss Wind Generator
Link 20 Battery Monitor

Ithaka’s autopilot is a simple and dependable system of hooking our Autohelm 4000 up to our Monitor self-steering gear

Electronics and Navigation Gear and Self-Steering
Monitor self-steering system
Autohelm Autopilot 4000ST
Furuno GPS and assorted handheld GPS units
Raymarine Pathfinder Radar
Vetus Metroliner barograph
Stowe instruments: log, depth and wind with cockpit repeaters
Ray Marine Depth sounder

Communications Equipment
Trimble Inmarsat C
Pactor II E Modem

Deck & Hull Equipment and Awnings
Winches: 9 Lewmar self-tailing: primaries sized 40 and 56
Anchors: 45 pound CQR; 44 pound Bruce; FX55 Fortress, Dinghy anchor and Galerider sea drogue
250 feet of 3/8” chain
600 feet of rode
High-pressure salt-water washdown
Simpson Lawrence Electric windlass
Full tropical Sunbrella cruising awnings with side and back flaps
Stainless steel swim ladder: mounts port or starboard
Pressurized shower in the cockpit (although we use manual shower made from a garden sprayer, and a sun shower)

Easily accessible behind our companionway ladder is line stowage, the battery box, and two inline fuel filters.

A Little Background On Ithaka

Ithaka's galley is spacious for a 39 footer.

Ithaka, the 1992 Shearwater 39 that Douglas and I purchased from Gary and Bridgette Back in 1999, has given us a great deal about which to be proud since we brought her home to Newport, Rhode Island. We're fortunate to be the owners of a boat that's been built by and for someone as meticulous, as clever, as tasteful—and as picky—as Gary. But we can claim no credit for the achievement of this boat except for one: After seven grueling months of boat shopping, when we stepped aboard this vessel, we had the good sense to buy her on the spot.

The navigation desk, which is across from the galley. Behind Douglas is the guest cabin, which we use for storage.

Ithaka was strongly constructed of fiberglass at the Nebe Boatworks in Hout Bay, South Africa, under the critical eye of Gary, who told us—imagine how this would play at any other yard—that he went to Nebe to oversee the work of the craftsmen every single day of the building process. Gary could do this because he'd just sold his family business— a large metal-furniture manufacturing company—and he wanted to enjoy the process of building the boat that would take his wife and young children on a cruising

Looking aft, here is the entrance to a small cabin on the port side. We use it as a pantry, as it has sliding cupboards for great food storage.
sabbatical before he started a new enterprise. Gary, a master craftsman who likes to rebuild Maseratis as a hobby, then finished the interior of the boat himself and brought his expertise in metals and systems to the task of fitting it out with an array of impressive custom stainless-steel work. (Shearwater 39s and 45s are now built by Acheson Yachts in South Africa, and the 45 won Cruising World’s prestigious Boat Of The Year Award in 2002. See www.shearwateryachts.com)


The main saloon, looking forward from the galley.

Ithaka was designed by naval architect Dudley Dix to withstand the heart-in-your-throat conditions of his home waters around the Cape of Good Hope. Dix (a winner of Cruising World’s design competition) is known as a successful designer of racing and cruising boats; he says his inspiration is the work of Bruce King, Bob Perry, Chuck Paine, John Cherubini, and E.G. Van de Stadt. The pleasing lines of Paine and Cherubini are particularly evident in Ithaka's pretty sheer and

The V-berth, looking aft. Above our heads is a big harch for great breezes at night.

strong tumblehome. Douglas and I, not normally traditionalists, were delighted to find that Dix also likes his boats to go fast. Underwater, Ithaka sports a sleeker underbody than one would expect from her clipper bow, rugged bowsprit, champagne-glass stern, and oval bronze ports. She weighs in at a trim 20,000 pounds, has a 6-foot draft and a 12-foot-10-inch beam, and carries a considerable sail area on her cutter rig. So far, she's been a real champ in heavy weather—steady, nimble, and fairly dry on deck.


On Ithaka’s bow is a sturdy Sampson post, and our array of anchors.

The Backs cruised the boat for four years from South Africa across the Atlantic, up the coast of South America, through the Caribbean, and then up the coast of the United States, where they sold her to us in Annapolis. According to the old saying, the day you buy a boat and the day you sell it are the two happiest in your life, but when Gary walked away from Ithaka that last day in Annapolis, I thought his heart would break from the grief of selling a boat that had become so much a part of his life.


Douglas installs our new radar

As Douglas and I worked over the winter and spring to get Ithaka ready for our own departure, time and again we discovered examples of Gary's dazzling execution of engineering ideas and his impressive installation of systems. We're also grateful to him for sharing his expertise with us via email from South Africa in those early days—although we suspect he's compelled to stay involved mostly to ensure that we don't ruin anything on the boat. So far, we seem to have met with his approval.

Here are a few details on the boat, which are shown in pictures here, and throughout our various logs:

  • Ithaka's saloon consists of a straight settee to starboard, opposite a U-shaped settee to port, which transforms into a double bed after lowering the table (we use the V-berth). Two water tanks, holding 120 gallons, live under the two outermost settees. Trimmed in Burmese teak, bulkheads are Canadian rock maple. Red chenille cushion covers were crafted by S&S Fabrics. Throw pillows are made of favorite molas from our travels and store fleece clothing and extra towels.
  • All headliner panels are easily removable, constructed of thin marine plywood and securely held in place with heavy-duty Velcro. When pulled down, there's full access to the deck-hardware backing plates and wiring.
  • A power take-off extends out from the front of the engine compartment under the settee in the main saloon. This installation permits the independent and secure mounting of an additional large alternator.
  • The U-shaped galley has great counter space, owing mainly to the huge countertop over the engine compartment. Also, there's an extra-deep double sink, an Adler-Barbour under-the-counter refrigerator/ freezer system, and a separate "day fridge" above it. (This is one more fridge than anyone needs on a boat, but we inherited it, and it works well.)
  • The port aft cabin holds a roomy sliding-door pantry, a wet locker, good sea berth (with most of our dry stores under it), the emergency tiller, new National Airborne Technologies GPIRB at the ready, the bolt cutters (with greased sock over the blades), a foolproof sight gauge for the 80-gallon fuel tank, and an access door to the storage beneath the companionway ladder.
  • The removable companionway ladder hooks onto the stove's safety bar when we’re working on the batteries, or getting lines from their hooks. This allows easy access to two in-line fuel filters, an electric fuel pump, and the battery boxes. Jamie Surrette at Rolls advised us about upgrading our battery bank, and he was on the mark. Among his good ounsel, we added recombinant caps, which capture and recycle the condensation, requiring fewer refills. When the tops of the boxes are clamped in place, they vent out the stern.
  • After unclamping it, the galley countertop over the engine compartment slides aft for easy access to the Yanmar. If needed, the engine box also can be entirely removed, completely exposing the engine for maintenance – a very handy feature.

Ithaka underway

For the first year we owned her, Gary Back's idiosyncratic presence was felt everywhere on Ithaka, and often we heard his voice whenever we tried to dismantle something: "If you have to use pressure, STOP; you're not doing it right." He was always right, of course; there'd be some trick to it that we'd been slow to figure out. But now, as we’ve worked on every aspect of the boat, and maintained her ourselves over three-years time, Ithaka feels like ours, and she feels like home.

(Parts of this article first appeared as a feature in the June, 2000, issue of Cruising World, and has been reprinted here with permission.)

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