Daily Archives: July 27, 2012

Cruising in Style: The Loonetta 31

Click to enlarge

Motor Loon’s Oceanic Mk 1 was the buzz of the SL Cruising Crowd this past month. Although it was Loon’s first official sailboat release, Oceanic received uniform praise from cruising captains who were impressed with the accuracy of the build and the humor and innovation incorporated in the vessel’s design.

Click to enlarge

As I mentioned before, none of this was surprising. Loon’s land vehicles are well-known and highly respected; it was about time he put on sailing gloves and hit the water. 🙂

Anyway, Motor Loon is back with a new cruiser!  It’s the L00netta 31, and it debuted as a hot Sail4Life auction item during RFL Weekend.

Well, if you were not lucky enough to win a Loonetta at S4L, it’s now available at your local boat dealer. Go take a look and give it a test drive; as a contemporary midsized cruising sloop, I think Loonetta sets a new standard for features and quality of construction.

Built by Loon

The Loonetta is “100% Mesh.” Mesh construction offers a series of advantages over traditional prim or sculpties. Loonetta shows what this can mean for sailboats; it packs a huge amount of content into the 32 prim limit for SL vehicles.

Fire Broono’s pimped-out Looneta

The boat weighs in at 32 prim, and it has a ‘land impact’ of 32 PE (That’s good). Despite that tiny number, Motor Loon describes the boat as “chubby;” Loonetta is loaded with features that simply didn’t fit within a smaller hull footprint. 🙂

The image below shows what you’ll find in the cockpit. The helm includes a central binnacle with an adjustable wheel for the skipper. A bench extends around the transom, providing lots of space for crew and friends. In fact, the boat has sit positions and appropriate poses for over thirty passengers!

There’s a flip-up gate built into the transom that opens a swim platform on the stern, and a two-piece gangway hatch forward that leads into the cabin. The detailing for the winches, blocks, lifelines and railing is all pretty remarkable considering the boat’s 32-prim throw-weight.

Click to enlarge

An owner can modify the boat’s colors and textures easily using a pop-up menu, as shown below. It took me less than 5 min. to change the stern flag, the hull hue, and the boat name. On many other boats I usually end up spending that much time just trying to isolate the correct transparency layer to place a new graphic!

The hull is solid, and mesh construction means there are none of the typical sculptie-mismatch troubles frequently seen with other boats.

There are a few notable exceptions. The rudder and keel are apparently phantom. As you can see in the images below, the keel passes through submerged barriers, and the boat only grounds out when the hull itself hits something. That means Loonetta can successfully manage nearly all of SL’s shallow waterways without concern. 🙂

The fenders are also phantom, so be careful. Even with the bumpers deployed, you’re going to scratch the gelcoat if you hit something. 🙂

A more interesting ‘mismatch’ occurs at the waterline.  Loonetta’s hull has a graceful convex curve, but the actual ‘collision mesh’ for the hull appears to extend straight down from the deck to the water. In the image below I’ve turned my boat on it’s side, and I’m standing on a physical platform that’s resting against the hull at waterline level. You can see there’s a significant gap between the visible hull build and it’s effective collision zone. This should only be noticeable when the boats in drydock; I can’t think of any way it might impact sailing.

Speaking of drydock, if you rez Loonetta on land it automatically sets up a jack stand cradle, and it shuts off sailing scripts in the boat. 🙂  Be sure to check out the cradle and folding propeller; they are things most sailors never look at, but in this case they are extraordinarily well crafted, and evidence the care Loon put into all the details for this boat.

Cabin Comforts

Ok, Loonetta is a cruiser, so let’s look at what the boat offers below deck.

As I mentioned earlier, there’s a working, two-piece hatch that opens the gangway from the cockpit to the cabin. Sailors (including the skipper) use an easy pop-up menu to go from topside to a large host of sit-positions and poses down below.

If you’re detail-oriented like me, be sure to look closely at the yellow arrows in ‘B” in the picture below and smile. Those are the philips’ head screws connecting the cockpit trim to the bulkhead. 🙂

Click to enlarge

Below deck you’ll find a spacious cabin with a center, folding table surrounding the mast.

There’s also a full galley on the port side, with three cooking animations! The Loonetta frying pan and spoon I’m holding are courtesy of Blackbird Latte; when you get your own Loonetta, ask BB for the cookware! 🙂

On the starboard side of the cabin, there’s a traditional nav station and electrical panel. Click on the radio and you get SL Coast Guard updates! I should also mention that the cabin is quite bright, with multiple windows and a working forward hatch. As shown below, you can close each window with a single click, and a click on the door next to the nav station opens the head. The bathroom is fully stocked as well, and comes with three personal hygiene poses. 🙂

Cruising isn’t always fun; there are lots of chores, including engine maintenance. Luckily, Loonetta’s engine is easy to access. As shown below, you just need to lift the gangway stairs. 🙂

Want more evidence for the level of detail Loon’s added to this boat? Take a look at the switches next to the gangway (red arrows below). There are two, allowing you to separately control the lights in the forward and aft cabins. (Nice touch!)

Speaking of illumination, of course Loonetta comes equipped with the standard set of running lights you’ll need for safe night passages.

And yes, there’s an aft sleeping cabin under the cockpit that’s spacious enough for two. Once again, Loon’s packed in multiple poses and sit positions for those overnight sailing trips. 🙂

Did I mention this boat is 32 prim? I think Loon’s build within that tight limit is pretty miraculous. 🙂

Performance

Loonetta is powered by a main and jib with a modern Bermuda rig; There’s also a self-adjusting optional spinnaker that can provide an extra power boost on downwind points of sail.

click to enlarge

Underneath it all is a basic, no-frills BWind engine, and the heads-up display shows only essential info about heading, wind speed, and boat speed. The boat is very easy to sail, and there are few details any sailor needs to learn before taking the helm.

This simple design seems appropriate, since Motor Loon intended Loonetta for cruising, not racing. The boat doesn’t use a WWC raceline windsetter, and there’s no “Race ID” command. These omissions are intentional, since Loonetta is all about fun within a realistic sailing emulation; this boat accomplishes that goal quite nicely.

The boat shares a great feature with Loon’s earlier Oceanic. A skipper can easily transfer the helm to another sailor aboard. Since Loonetta has so many live-aboard features, it’s easy to imagine that most skippers will be happy to pass the wheel to another crew member. 🙂

Here’s a chart showing boat speed as a function of real wind angle, with a fixed wind speed of 15kt. The green dotted line is Oceanic, and the solid blue line is Loonetta. As you can see, both boats have nearly identical performance, and a skipper can anticipate a boat speed that’s more than half RWS over a wide range of headings. Adding a spinnaker gives an appropriate downwind boost of about 10%.

Summary

The Loonetta 31 is Motor Loon’s latest interpretation of a modern, mid-sized cruising sloop. The mesh build is quite remarkable, with content and craftsmanship that set a new standard for contemporary boat design in SL. The boat is easy to sail and modify, and it’s loaded with fun features and animations.

The sail engine is BWind, and Loon’s intentionally kept the handling simple, with the needs of a casual cruiser in mind; that seems a wise decision. However, let me emphasize there’s nothing ‘casual’ about the care and quality that went into this vessel. Congratulations Loon, and thank you for a remarkable boat!