Stone Horse 23By Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
When I picture my own retirement fantasy, I see myself in the den of a quaint waterfront cottage, with large windows overlooking a quiet little cove with a pretty daysailer at anchor peering through the morning mist. The Stone Horse 23 is certainly a boat I could easily imagine in this picture.
This Sam Crocker classic was designed in 1931 however less than 40 models were built before production was interrupted by the World War II. Some of these original wood models are still sailing and lovingly cared for by their owners. In fact, it was Mait Edey's ownership of a 1938 Stone Horse that led to Edey and Duff's collaboration, and an additional 150 fiberglass Stone Horse models built by Edey and Duff between 1969 and the early 1990s.
The most striking feature of the Stone Horse 23 is her raised, flush foredeck that was masterfully drawn by Crocker to blend into the cockpit without a hint of excess freeboard. Although only 23 feet on deck, the overall length of the Stone Horse is extended to 28' 3" with the addition of a bowsprit and boomkin which helps balance the profile appearance. The hull is a full keel with traditional wine glass sections and a transom-hung rudder.
For all of its conservative and traditional appearance, Edey and Duff chose to build their Stone Horse utilizing less conservative fiberglass composite method with Airex PVC foam core for both the hull and deck, and solid fiberglass for interior liners. The deck and hull are joined on an inward hull flange with adhesive sealant and stainless steel rivets. Bowsprits and boomkins were built with teak, mahogany or spruce. Ballast is internal and consists of 1,600 lbs. of small lead pigs secured with 400 lbs. of cement.
A careful examination of older Stone Horse models is likely to find some degree of delamination/separation of the fiberglass skin from the Airex core in both hull and deck. The condition is not typically severe enough to warrant extensive repairs. Of greater concern, may be the condition of the mast and spreaders which, for most Stone Horses, were wood. Many wooden masts have been painted to reduce maintenance costs but this makes it more difficult to spot potential problems. For anyone considering a boat with a wooden mast, it is well worth the cost of removing the mast for a thorough inspection.
Nearly a third of the on-deck length of the Stone Horse is cockpit, making this an ideal daysailer for four to six adults. Some will find the lack of lifelines and stanchions a bit disconcerting but the mast and rigging are within easy reach and offer a secure handhold. Halyards are led to the cockpit and the addition of roller furling for the jib and staysail will help to cut down on the necessity to go forward while underway.
Arrangements below deck are comfortable for an overnight or weekend outing for two, assuming privacy is not an issue. The lack of headroom - only 48" at best, would make this an uncomfortable choice for much longer stays. There is a large, comfortable V-berth forward with a portable head beneath. This is a common location on small boats, but sleeping with my head next to the "head" is not a pleasant thought. There is a sink and ice box along the port side of the cabin and two-burner stove to starboard. There are port and starboard quarter berths aft although they are not large enough for adults. Storage is excellent with nine bins beneath seats and berths. There is considerable wood trim and joiner work on the interior for a yacht-like appearance.
The first fiberglass Stone Horse models were powered by outboard or Palmer gas engines but that quickly changed to standard diesel inboard power. For the most part, Westerbeke marine diesels were used although, for brief while, an ill-advised switch was made to BMW diesels. Parts and service are readily available for Westerbeke engines but BMW is another story. Yanmar diesels are the most popular choice for repowers these days.
Sometimes referred to as a cutter, the Stone Horse is more accurately labeled by the manufacturer a "cutter-rigged sloop" as the mast is stepped well forward of midship and the mainsail makes up more than 50% of the total sail area. The displacement/length ratio is a hefty 325 and sail area/displacement ratio a respectable 19.2. Ballast is 44% of the overall displacement, which is four to six percentage points above average for boats of this type. The beam waterline is quite broad so she stands up well in a blow. While it takes a bit of a breeze to get her started, she tacks easily despite her long keel and balances well without a tendency toward the excessive weather helm sometimes found on boats with such proportionately large mainsails.
The Stone Horse 23 was designed before bulbous curves and flat sheers were the style. Her look may be a bit dated but this is a classic that will likely never go out of style and always look good in the morning mist.
Naval architect Jack Hornor is the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He is on the board of directors 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 sail their 42-foot Catalina, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.