Category Archives: MLCC

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!

Loon-at-sea

OCEANIC Mk 1

Many reading this (well okay, the two or three people reading this) probably already know Motor Loon. He’s an SL designer/builder with a reputation for building wonderful custom motorcycles and cars. All his vehicles show a signature attention to detail, historical legacy, and style.

Click to enlarge

If you’re tired walking on SL roads and you miss that old carbon monoxide fix, you should stop by an MLCC show room and test drive one of Motor’s gas-guzzling works of art!

This blog is supposed to be about sailing of course, and I mention these rubber-wheeled wonders only to emphasize that Motor Loon is a graybeard SL designer; he knows his way around a prim or two.

That’s what I took a second look this week at a popular new boat that just hit the water and is generating a lot of smiles in the cruising crowd. it’s the Oceanic Mk 1, and it’s the first production sailboat designed and marketed by Motor Loon.

The Boat

Oceanic is a sizable (74ft), cruiser that sports a modern design and a sloop rig powered by a BWind  2.x engine. Although there are few similarities, please don’t confuse this boat with the Oceanis schooners. Just to mention one major difference between the boats, the Loon Oceanic somehow fits into a 32 prim sailing package, while the Oceanis fully rezzed takes up over 500 prim!

Despite it’s very small prim-footprint, the Oceanic is well adorned with nautical details that should make any salty SL skipper smile.

Of course it has an expansive cockpit that can hold all your crew. Beyond that however, the skipper’s station is a delight, with a single large wheel that controls the helm and a central binnacle that supports multiple display screens. The skipper animation stands vigilant behind that helm, turning the wheel in synchrony with the user’s key clicks.

Click to enlarge

But before we talk about Skipper controls, let’s get back to Oceanic’s layout and appearance. As I said, it’s only 32 prim, and the boat is no-mod; that will limit your ability to personalize the vessel.

To mitigate that issue, Loon’s included a handful of alternate hull style textures. That way a user can change the boat’s appearance to their fancy with a single click. 🙂

Did I mention Oceanic was built with a host of remarkable details any cruiser will recognize? Well, it is! There’s a full engine compartment below the helm station for example, but that’s not all…

This boat comes with a large, fully-equipped cabin too. It has ample headroom, and the options should meet any cruiser’s expectations on a long, grid-wide passage.

There are a few things rather novel and remarkable about the living space aboard this boat. First on the list is the fact the cabin is an integral part of the sailing vessel; it’s not an add-on, and it doesn’t rez only when you’re moored. In fact, the picture above is tilted because the boat was under full sail while I was taking a break down below!

That brings up my second point: Although the boat was sailing, there is no water in the cabin. You can truly have people below deck while underway without drowning. In my experience that is rather uncommon in SL. 🙂

One more issue on this topic: The Oceanic allows a skipper to actively jump to any of a large variety of different pose positions. for example, when I took the above picture, I was actually still managing the boat’s helm and sheeting the sails.

The same is true for the picture on the right.

Have you ever been in a long race in SL and needed to go to the bathroom? 🙂 If you’ve ever been in that precarious situation, you’ll appreciate this boat. It includes a menu that lets you switch positions without losing control. It’s a simple idea, but a pretty great one!

Bump tests

Click to enlarge

There’s often a mismatch in SL between the visible boat you can see and the underlying shape of the sculpted prims that make it up. This can result in inadvertent collisions, groundings, and accidental race line errors.

I did a set of standard “bump tests” on the Oceanic to check this out, mostly by ramming it into various objects. 🙂 The Oceanic came out pretty well. The boat hits the dock as it should, colliding with the very tip of the bow. The sides of the hull also line up well with the ‘collision zone,’ evidence of some rather nifty workmanship.

There are only two unusual ‘bump’ results worth commenting on, though neither one is a ‘problem.’ First: The boat’s huge spinnaker is phantom. That’s actually a benefit, since it means you needn’t worry about collisions when you have the parachute up. (That might sound like a joke, but the alpha isn’t adjustable on Oceanic’s sails, so on a dead run with the wrong camera angle you can end up flying blind!)

The second observation is keel depth. Although the under surface of this boat is very nicely detailed and even includes a collapsing propeller, it turns out that most of it is phantom while underway. I tried hitting a series of submerged barriers while sailing Oceanic, and it looks like the boat only draws 1 meter. Although it’s a big boat, that means with some guts an intrepid crew can sail this boat through some very shallow passages. 🙂

Click me

Build Details

Oceanic is full of small details that show the skill and devotion boatwright Loon put into this project. For example, there are three different winch sounds that engage when you start cranking to adjust sail angle. And when you drop anchor, you hear the windlass go off and the chain run out. Wow, there’s even a Danforth at the end of that chain! 🙂

I tried to trick the boat by dropping anchor and then raising sail to get underway, seeing if it would drag the anchor. Well, Oceanic was too smart for that. It first paused for a moment to raise the anchor, then it cranked halyards to get the sails up!

I think this boat is very nicely constructed, given the narrow limits for a sail vessel in SL. However, I think its also fair to comment that many fine details fall short of the nautical finesse seen on boats by other legendary yacht builders like Jacqueline Trudeau, Balduin Aabaye, and RJ Kikuchiyo (Did I mention Nate Herreshoff?) Go compare the stanchions, cleats, stays and section joints; you’ll see my point.

This is a minor complaint, however. Remember, this is Loon’s first sailcraft project, and it’s a pretty grand effort. The other trio I just mentioned have been building boats since the Pleistocene era, so they know their stuff… but Motor Loon’s Oceanic is catching up fast. 🙂

(Oh; did I mention Oceanic comes with deployable bumpers, moving doors to the cabin and engine compartment, and even that collapsible prop?)

Performance

The wind engine is ultimately the soul and brains of any boat. In that regard, Loon made a wise choice by installing a BWind 2.x at the heart of Oceanic. The BWind engine is simple and rock-stable; it’s also highly intuitive and very easy for a new skipper to learn.

Let me add a Racer Alert here, though. Oceanic does not include an option to use the standard SL race windsetter. You will be able to ID your boat, but if you want to compete you’ll need to bring your own wind using the boat’s BWind. 🙂

With that caveat, let me add that Oceanic uses a simple version of the BWind head’s-up display to give the crew feedback about real wind direction and intensity as well as boat speed.

When the sails are too lax, they visibly luff and give an audible sail flap. It’s pretty easy for a skipper to then tune the sails with the use of up and down arrow keys. As the sails adjust, there’s an audible winch-grinding noise and a final ‘pop’ when the sheet angle is optimal. The display turns green when you get that angle right, so there’s plenty of feedback to help a new sailor take confident control of the boat.

Skipper and crew

A single skipper is in charge of all Oceanic’s sailing functions, but the boat has lots of space and pose positions so friends can always come along for the ride. Motor Loon’s also included a rather unique sharing system. Once the owner is aboard the boat, the owner can hand over skipper responsibilities to another member of the crew. In fact, that person can keep sailing even when the owner falls overboard!

This is a pretty nice option that makes sailing Oceanic a more cooperative experience than other BWind boats.

Sailplan

For upwind sailing, the Oceanic has a fractional rig with a mainsail and a single, standard jib. both sails are controlled together by keyboard or chat commands. There’s an option to change the communication channel to something more personal as well.

If you look at the forestay, you’ll see there’s a second furler installed for a genoa jib. It’s not yet active in the Mk 1 version of Oceanic, but it shows that Motor Loon’s thinking ahead!

Speaking of more sails, the Oceanic also comes with a rather huge spinnaker that can be optionally deployed to add an extra boost when sailing downwind. It works on all points of sail from a beam reach to a dead run, and generates rather explosive acceleration (see the chart below).

A spinnaker can be a pain to tend to when RL sailing, but it’s a real breeze using it on Oceanic! Once you’ve got that parachute out, it automatically adjusts to your wind heading without any bother. And when you turn upwind again, the spinnaker discreetly douses itself and disappears… until you call it back in service again.

The numbers

Here’s a simple chart that displays speed over ground (boat speed) as a function of real wind angle using the boat’s default wind speed of 15 kt.

The boat ends up in irons when it tries to head closer than 30° windward. As it falls off the wind however, the boat comes to life and hits the maximum boat speed at a RWA of approximately 50°. The performance curve then goes essentially flat for all angles out to around 150°. There’s then a slight loss of power as the boat lies on a dead run with the wind at its back.

With just the jib and main up, a skipper can expect this boat to do roughly 53% of Real Wind Speed at nearly all points of sail. If that skipper then pops up the spinnaker, there’s a truly impressive downwind boost that should guarantee a boat speed around 72% of RWS.

The Oceanic performance curve is very forgiving, and might be a little boring for true, salt-stained SL racers out there. However, that’s really not the target audience for this initial Loon release. Oceanic Mk 1 is designed as a high-end cruiser, and it fits that bill quite nicely. Oceanic will accommodate all your friends and keep you all safely afloat as you explore the winding waterways of Second Life.

Bottom Line

I think the Bottom Line is: Don’t listen to Jane. Go find out yourself!

I’m writing this article because Motor Loon has a fully working, FREE DEMO of the boat available on SL Marketplace. That Demo doesn’t expire, and it has no limit to features. So, go give it a test drive, or maybe bring it along with you to the next Leeward Cruise in SL!

Then you can go write your own review of this vessel, and ask Motor Loon how much it will cost to get that word “Demo” taken off your Oceanic. 🙂

Hey Loon? Nice Work!