This article was originally published in the February 2022 issue of 48° North.

The pretty teal craft with big plans that makes people say, “Hey, what is that thing?” 

Most every sailor around the Pacific Northwest will be familiar with Alex Simanis and Joe Grieser from Ballard Sails. In addition to being business owners, they’re some of the region’s most active racers, and their previous boats have been highly regarded and very recognizable on Puget Sound. These two supremely savvy boat guys have a new (to them) boat, Pell Mell — and she is eye-catching to say the least. Racing sailors have taken notice of the electric teal hull, but few know what exactly they’re looking at. 

Well, in this month’s My Boat column, Alex gives us a window into the boat and why they’re so excited about it. It won’t be the last you’ll hear about Pell Mell in the pages of 48° North, either. Not only are Alex and Joe starting to bring the boat out for regional races big and small, but they’ve set their sights on a grand adventure this summer: Pac Cup. Let us introduce you to Pell Mell.  

Tell us about your boat.

The boat is called Pell Mell. It is a custom Dave Sutter designed and built 27-footer — the drawings all say “Pt. Bonita 27”. Pell Mell, which means “in a confused haste” or “in mingled confusion”, is the original name, and we never thought of changing it because it seems to fit the boat’s style and history.

Pell Mell is co-owned by me (Alex) and Joe Grieser. We purchased the boat in spring 2020, and she spent a lot of time hidden in our shop getting a refit; but she’s been back on the water since fall 2021 and now lives at Shilshole.

Remind readers of your boating background.

A look at the boat’s construction before the new cockpit sole was laid down.

I have owned many boats including a Thunderbird, a custom 1/2 tonner, Santa Cruz 27, Evelyn 32, and I also owned a couple of Thistles. I grew up boating, and have been lucky enough to race everything from 505s to maxi yachts.

My father was a boat broker at South Lake Union, so I grew up washing boats, working on boats, delivering boats, etc. His office was near the Center for Wooden boats, and I spent many hours there working on boats and sailing. 

 For over 10 years, I worked at the company “Let’s go Sailing” on the Seattle waterfront taking people sailing. Joe and I have now owned Ballard Sails & Yacht Services for going on 13 years!

How did you find Pell Mell and what makes it special to you?

A local sailor by the name of Steve Roberts had the boat over in Poulsbo for years. We worked together at CSR sometime in the 2005-2006 range. One summer, Pell Mell was at the yard for a little work. I helped Steve with a few things, and we went out through the locks for a day sail on the way back to Poulsbo. She has such a nice moderate rig, powerful hull shape, and a neat camp-cruiser interior — I was instantly stoked about the boat. 

I have always had a thing for boats with hard chines. Seeing as this one was super light (2,400lbs), and was cold moulded below the waterline, it struck me as a sweet Pacific Northwest ride that was slippery through the water and could easily be sailed in any of our local races.

Can you share more about the boat’s history?

Pell Mell was designed around 1980 by Dave Sutter, a Naval Architecture student (at the time) and boatbuilder in the San Francisco area. Dave was a pro sailor as well, and was gone for much of the 1980s racing and delivering race yachts. From what I gather from our conversations, the boat was not started until 1985, and was not launched until ’89 or ’90. 

Pell Mell’s design was inspired by Dave Leech’s famous Dogpatch 26, Moonshine, which was designed in a similar time period and is also being actively raced in the Pacific Northwest today. In addition to Moonshine, Dave also took inspiration from a day sailor design in a Herreshoff book entitled Sensible Cruising Designs. The day sailor had a plumb bow, chined topsides, and a round bottom.

What do you like best about your boat? 

She is light, fast, simply sailed, and easy to travel with. I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that. 

What do you know now about your boat that you wish you’d known when you bought it? 

Pell Mell was in seemingly great shape but, as with most boats, there were underlying issues as we dug into the project. The cockpit was a really poor design, but I didn’t realize that until  the first time we raced the boat with a full crew. Then, we knew we had to change it.

It was definitely a way bigger project than any of us thought, but we ended up with a sweet retro ride. I definitely am happy to have done it all…now!

What’s your favorite story involving your boat? 

I really like that Eric Jolley, of Bieker Boats, helped in the original build of Pell Mell. He says that the boat was the inspiration for the Shilshole 27 (a current Bieker design). 

Describe the most challenging situation you’ve experienced on your boat and how it performed. 

The newly redesigned, newly finished cockpit of Pell Mell.

We have not done enough sailing yet to have any crazy stories. I do remember taking her sailing before the refit on Labor Day in 2020. It was blowing solidly 25 to 30 plus and there were huge wind waves out of the north. Every Puget Sound sailor knows that scenario. We sailed her up to Edmonds with some old crappy sails, and had four people on the rail. The boat was settled down and stable on her chines uphill. For how big the conditions were, the boat was relatively dry. Once we made it up to Edmonds, we popped the first new sail the boat had gotten in quite some time — a symmetrical masthead spinnaker. We rang the bell on the halyard, and she took off at an eye-popping 16-plus knots.  

Pell Mell was easy to drive, fast, responsive, and we had zero issues. Joe and I decided that day that she was a great candidate for the refit — and for the Pacific Cup!

Where do you plan to take your boat? Do you have a dream destination?

After the 2022 Pacific Cup, I really want to do a cruise around Vancouver Island. I don’t know when, but I think a small boat like Pell Mell will get us into all the cool little nooks and crannies of the Inside Passage and the secluded harbors of Vancouver Island’s west coast. She has a sweet little interior.

If someone gave you $10,000 that you could only spend on your boat, what would you do with it and why?

Ten grand, man… I might think about doing a new Bieker-designed keel. Other than that, I would just apply it to the regatta fund, and go do some downwind racing in the ocean where Pell Mell could really fly. 

If you could have any other boat, what would it be and why? 

Tough question… I think boats in this genre are right up my alley. If I could pick ANY boat, I would have Bieker Boats design me a 32-footer. No water ballast, and with a simple but functional interior. The Evelyn 32 I had was just about the perfect size for racing and cruising. So taking this concept to a more modern level would be a vision of mine.

What didn’t we ask you about your boat that you wish we had? 

You should have asked how we picked the color! Joe and my girlfriend, Elishia, picked it. I would have painted her gray, but I want to paint everything gray. It’s nice to have more creativity in the partnership!