LOA: 34' 7"

LWL: 28' 9"

Beam: 10' 7"

Draft: 3' 10" (designed, probably about 4' 2" fully loaded)

Displacement (estimated): 25,000lbs

Sail Area: 626 sq. ft (working), 824 sq. ft. (total, including fisherman & topsail)

Sails carried:

  • jib (forward-most sail)
  • forestaysail (or staysail or jumbo or club-footed jib)
  • foresail (gaff-rigged sail set behind the foremast)
  • mainsail (gaff-rigged sail set behind the mainmast)
  • main gaff topsail (triangular sail set on top of main gaff, rarely used)
  • fisherman (four-sided sail set above foresail, between tops of masts)
  • gollywobbler (a large version of the fisherman, for light air, not often used)
  • drifter (or genoa, replaces the jib)


Orbit II is a gaff-rigged schooner, a Tom Colvin "Tamarack" design. Her first owner, Roy Simmons, was also her builder. Roy lived on Hood Canal near Union, across from Hoodsport, Washington State. Building began in 1973, and Orbit II was launched in 1977. The second owner, Steve French, bought her in Washington State, and sailed her for nine years, mostly in Central America. I was the third owner. I bought her in Baltimore in 1995, and did a refit between 1997 and 2000.

Designer's Notes (excerpts from "Cruising Designs"):

Tamarack was developed for spacious living aboard and ocean cruising comfort in less than 36 feet of length. She is of extremely heavy displacement yet reasonably economical to build. Smallest of my aft-cabin designs, she was based on a larger, earlier design developed for a circumnavigation with a large crew. Despite their bulk, this group of vessels is handy under sail and likes heavy weather, yet performs well in light airs.

A couple have been built as ketches, but this is not an ideal rig for the hull--an instance where the schooner and ketch are not easily interchangeable. In the ketch rig, the boom extends several feet beyond the transom, which I do not like, and it is very difficult to get enough sail on her without resorting to extremely high masts; whereas, the schooner accomplishes this easily with topsails and a fisherman staysail.

While this vessel was laid out for six, with two sleeping in the midship engine room, she would be more comfortable laid out for four, with the engine room shorter, cabin trunks the same, and more room added fore and aft. For auxiliary power, a heavy-duty, slow-turning 10 HP Sabb is a good choice.

A vessel like this is ideal for retirement living, even better for semi-retirement--small enough to handle easily and maintain, yet still large enough for the kids to visit aboard for weekends or vacations. Quite often, the tendency is toward acquiring a larger vessel with the result that the boat rarely leaves the dock except with a large crew.


Construction: Hull, deck and cabin sides are 10gauge Corten steel, masts are solid, painted Douglas Fir, booms and gaffs are varnished Sitka Spruce. Cabintops are plywood (1/2" & 1/4" BS1088 marine plywood over laminated mahoghany beams).

Insulation is fitted pieces of extruded polystyrene (Styrofoam Pink), mostly 2" thick (R10) under the deck and against the hull. Cabin sides are solely insulated with Thermseal (a paint with ceramic particles embedded in it, with an estimated R-value of about 0.5).

Interior layout is different from the plans. It is basically built of 3/4" plywood with panelling (possibly teak...I really can't tell) on top. The cabin soles are painted plywood (formerly carpet), which looks reasonable, but the paint wrinkles when hot coffee is spilled on it...bare wood would be better.

The galley is forward, which works well enough...the fumes of the diesel stove are farther away from the helm, where people usually are when sailing.

There are two seats/berths in the forward cabin, two berths in the aft cabin convert to a double in port.

Engine: 10 HP Sabb, single-cylinder, hand-start marine diesel. Top speed under power is 5 knots, cruising speed is about 3 knots. It is a very reliable engine that is adequately sized for getting in and out of port, motoring in a flat calm, and charging batteries (75 amp alternator)....but is underpowered for most other purposes.

Steering: Edson worm gear. A Windpilot Pacific Plus windvane/auxiliary rudder looks after self-steering under sail, off the wind (lashing the helm works for self-steering on the wind) when it is working, and at other times, acts as a skeg that makes manoeuvering far more difficult. There is no autopilot at the moment.


  • 75Amp alternator on engine with Hehr 3-stage regulator
  • Flexible solar panel (rated at 55 watts, puts out up to 2Amps)
  • 30"x26" rigid solar panel with charge controller
  • One 220AmpHour (4D) AGM battery
  • Two inverters, one (300W) for computers, one (700W) for tools
  • Link 10 Emeter
  • Davis MiniMega Anchor Light
  • Aqua Signal Series 40 Tricolor/Anchor/Strobe light at main masthead
  • Aqua Signal Series 41 Stern light (lost matching bow light in a gale)
  • Forespar steaming/foredeck light
  • Interior lighting a mixture of electrical and kerosene


  • Micrologic GPS, permanent mount (used very often)
  • Garmin GPS45 hand-held (rarely used)
  • Garmin GPS50 hand-held with power cable (occasionally used ondeck)
  • Furuno 17" radar (used occasionally, generally only when motoring)
  • Dolphin 360 depthsounder (old flashing light type, difficult to read, used rarely)
  • lead line (used often near shore, very relable)
  • sounding pole/boathook (generally used as sounding pole only after going aground)
  • Davis Mark 75 plastic sextant (not really used)
  • Ritchie steel boat compass
  • pelorus (for taking bearings, since compass is not flat-topped)


  • VHF radio
  • Sitex SSB (shortwave) receiver/weatherfax decoder (generally only used for voice weather forecasts when offshore)
  • Class B EPIRB
  • Apelco handheld VHF with dead, difficult to find battery

Galley: A Dickinson Adriatic diesel stove doubles as a cabin heater in winter. This stove works best in port, as under sail it tends to back and fill the cabin with smoke and the decks with "Dickinson Dirt" (horribly messy soot). There is an Optimus kerosene stove for use during the summer or when the Dickinson is being difficult (the kerosene stove has its own difficulties).

A Rubbermaid cooler is used as an icebox when ice is available. A small Igloo thermoelectric cooler promises to be useful when motoring (solar panels are not powerful enough to drive it).

Dinghy: 7'6" plywood pram, reinforced with fibreglass, fitted with positive styrofoam flotation. Inflatable canopy and two immersion suits stored with it for use as a lifeboat.


  • 20kg (45lb) Bruce (main anchor, 48m 8mm chain, 200' 5/8" nylon)
  • 80lb Fisherman (hard to pull up, but the most reliable, 60' 3/8" chain, 150' 5/8" nylon)
  • 27lb Fortress (Danforth-type made of alloy, 25' 5/16" chain, 200' 1/2" nylon)
  • 35lb Danforth Hi Tensile
  • 8lb Danforth dinghy anchor
  • small grapnel anchor

Safety Equipment:

  • good anchors
  • Immersion suits
  • Radar reflector (Firdell Blipper)
  • Class B EPIRB
  • watermaker (hand-powered, PUR Suvivor 06)
  • tough, positive flotation dinghy with inflatable canopy (from a Tinker liferaft/dinghy)
  • many PFDs, Mustang gear, drysuit, wetsuits, SOLAS flares, whistles, mirrors, etc
  • fire extinguishers, smoke detector, etc
  • first aid kit (Trans-Ocean Medical Sea Pak)