By Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
I recall years ago trying to make a decision about purchasing either a Laser or a Force 5. In the end, I bought a Force 5 simply because it had more strings to pull. Okay, I admit to being a bit of a control freak. I've since learned that although control over sail shape and position may lead to better performance, it also provides an equally greater opportunity to mess things up. I've been passed more than once on the race course by a Laser sailor with a mainsheet clinched firmly in his teeth while I was fiddling to get something positioned just right.
With one sail, one halyard, one sheet, and two winches, the Nonsuch 30 is the ultimate in uncomplicated sailing. The boat was introduced in 1978 as the first offering of Hinterhoeller Yachts of St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, following George Hinterhoeller's split with C&C Yachts, and it remained in production until 1994. The design is from the board of Mark Ellis. It is unique in that it combines the distinctive shear, highly cambered roach roof and nearly plumb bow and stern of a Cape Cod-styled catboat with a moderate-aspect-ratio fin keel, low wetted surface and a partially balanced spade rudder below the waterline. The price of this modern underbody is a draft of five feet, considerably deeper than a traditional 30-foot catboat. The Nonsuch carries its 11'-10" beam out well towards the ends, as is typical of catboats. This results in interior volume and allows for accommodations that are spacious even when compared with more modern designs.
Two interior layouts were offered for the Nonsuch 30. For the first five years the standard layout consisted of opposing settees forward with a drop-leaf table between which formed a dinette or double berth. This was followed by a large mid-ship head and shower on the starboard side and large galley on the port followed by opposing port and starboard quarter berths aft. In 1983, Hinterhoeller began offering an optional interior layout called the &Ultra. This layout provided a stateroom with a double berth forward followed by a similar head and galley, although moved slightly forward, and main saloon aft with opposing settees.
Construction of the Nonsuch 30 is fiberglass with balsa wood core material used throughout the hull and deck. There are some disadvantages to the use of core materials, and the subject is too long for discussion here. But the keys to successful core composite construction are quality control and the knowledge of the builder. There are few, if any, boatbuilders with more experience building cored composite boats than George Hinterhoeller. The hulls and decks are joined on an inward flange and are securely bolted together through an aluminum toe rail.
The mast is free standing and presents a unique problem of how to hold it in place. Hinterhoeller uses a system that includes a multi-sided female mast step fixed to the boat and a matching plug fitted to the base of the mast. The mast is then pinned at an aluminum fitting at the partner where the mast passes through the deck. There were some reported incidences of cracks developing in the aluminum mast extrusions near these attachments but these problems seem to have been solved in later model boats.
Another concern is that most Nonsuch 30s I have seen used gate valves rather than seacocks on through-hull fittings. When found, these should be replaced with marine-quality seacocks.
Through about hull number 125, Nonsuch 30s were powered by a 23-hp Volvo diesel with a saildrive. Later model boats were powered by 27-hp Westerbeke diesel engines with a more conventional installation of shaft, prop and strut with a water-cooled cutlass bearing. Either installation provides plenty of power for 10,500-lb. boat, but the saildrive installation is prone to corrosion due to dissimilar metals in salt water, and service and maintenance of the drive component are a bit more expensive.
The Nonsuch is no typical catboat below the waterline, and if you are familiar with the considerable weather helm common to most Cape Cod catboats, you will be pleasantly surprised. This is no grand prix racer, but with a sail area to displacement ratio of 17 and displacement ratio of 216, the performance is very respectable, and she tacks through about 85 degrees. At 540 sq. ft., the sail is very large for a 30-foot boat. The size is comparable to the mainsail on the average 45- to 50-foot sloop. The mast is quite flexible, and, with this much sail and no standing riggings, the top is prone to twist to leeward considerably when the wind picks up. This tends to spill wind and acts to keep the boat from becoming overpowered easily; however, for the best windward performance a reef may be in order when the wind picks up.
Although there were more than 500 Nonsuch 30s built, they hold their value well, and those that are available are a bit pricey. If your budget allows and you're not too much of a control freak in need of a lot of strings to pull, this just may be the boat for you.
Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.