About the M15


The 15 is smallest of the Montgomery ‘cabin boats’.  Smaller Montgomery boats, designed as small racers/tenders, were built.

 It is commonly thought that the M15 is a Lyle Hess design.  This error is easily understood as the M15 looks like her cousins – the M17 and M23 (both of these ARE Hess designed boats).  Jerry Montgomery is the designer of the M15.

What is it like to sail an M15?

The ‘official’ weight of the boat is 750 pounds.   Add ‘stuff’ I believe Scred weights between 850 and 900 pounds.  I hit the scales at about 220lbs.  As these numbers show the crew is a significant percentage of the craft’s weight.  With this in mind you must be aware that where you sit has great impact on how an M15 sails.  I do all I can to keep Scred sitting level fore-to-aft.  I do this by sitting forward in the cockpit … usually within one to two feet from the cabin.  Because of this a tiller extender is, in my opinion, standard equipment.

M15’s respond quickly to the wind, tiller and how the sails are set.  Because of this Scred is a lot like a sailing dingy.  But, as she weights much more than a dingy Scred’s motion underway reminds one of a keelboat.  The M15 will give you direct feedback of how your sails are set through the tiller.  Too much sail and you get weather helm.  When things are not set correctly Scred will fight the seas and the sailer.  If you keep the boat in balance she will do what she is designed to so – sail fast and with an easily helm.

I believe an M15’s best angle of heal is 10-to-15 degrees.  She will ‘firm up’ at 15 and 20 degrees.  When light wind sailing help the M15 heal by putting weight on the leeward side.

With all the M15 virtues she is still a small boat.  In any wind it is unwise to sail with your hand off the main sheet.  I’ve not found any stories of an M15 going over, but many have put the cockpit coming into the water … and all state this is because the main sheet was not being watched with do diligence.

The ‘power’ in the rig is the M15s main.  The jib, in my option, has more to do with getting correct wind flow (one can spend hours talking about the  airfoil on a fractional sloop).  As such in a blow first reduce the main’s size … then reduce it again.  Only when you have a double-reef in the main do you need to use a storm jib.  Sailing under main or jib alone the M15 doesn’t sail well.  You MAY be able to sail a course made good of 80-degrees to the wind.  (My observation are that the M15 reduces sail opposite of the M17 and M23 where one does best to reduce the jib first, then the main.)

The M15 does not have a rear-stay.  This result in the shrouds being racked to the stern.  Be aware of this as when going straight down-wind you cannot put the main parallel to the wind.  As the main is LARGE in comparison to the jib you will find the jib will ‘flop’ in the wind-shadow unless you sail ‘wing and wing’.  Going downwind in a big blow I recommend one sail only with the jib.  This provides a bit of safety as you can release the jib sheet and immediately ‘release the wind.’  You cannot ‘dump wind’ quickly if you are running under the main as you must round up.

Another sailing dynamic of having no rear-stay is that as one loosens the tension on the main sheet the reward pull on the mast loosens.  this isn’t much of a concern unless one is sailing in high winds.  If you don’t reduce sail you will need to luff the main.  This results in reduced rear-tension on the rig and the mast will pull forward from pressure on the fore-stay from the jib; and the main on the mast.  This will INCREASE the heal of the boat!  As the jib and main loose their shape more wind is captured as the sails ‘bag’ — catching more wind.  This wind isn’t creating an efficient flow across the sail and the energy just puts the boat more on her side.  I find best practice in a gust of wind is to ease the main slightly, and point up causing a slight luff on the jib and main.  If you fall off when luffing the main the M15 will increase her heal!  ON THE M15 REDUCE SAIL SO YOU CAN KEEP TENSION ON THE MAIN-SHEET!

The M15 is a dry ride … except for your feet (more on this later).  As she has a kindly shape, good sized cockpit coamings, and a lapstrake hull – these all result in seas being deflected away from the crew.  I have taken more spray in the face when motoring into a blow than when sailing.

Under the right circumstances water will ‘siphon up’ into the cockpit through the centerboard pendent.  I find this happens under the following conditions –

  • ‘when in a ‘wallowing sea’ under little wind.
  • when in a moderate sea with light wind.
  • if you put too many people in the cockpit.

You will hear the siphoning when it occurs.  you will also feel the water on your feet.This water will drain ‘back from where it came’ by leveling the boat and the cockpit deck slops towards the bow (and the centerboard pendent/cockpit drain) when the boat is balanced fore-to-aft.

As the M15 is small, there isn’t much room for one to go forward and conduct headsail changes.  I’ve rigged a downhaul for the jib that allows me to say in the cockpit.  As stated before the jib is small and you will only need to put up a smaller jib after reefing the main.

What is it like to cruise on an M15?

The amount of space in the cabin is truly amazing.  Yes, it is still a 15′ boat, so you must have fair expectations for the amount of room available.

On a boat this size it is best to see the cabin as a SPACIOUS fiberglass tent.  It you have experience backpacking you will find the M15 the best 2-person tent you have ever owned.  The berth size is spacious … and functionally larger than in the M17 (as there is no compression post).  The length is over 6’6″.  When sharing the bunk you will need to be aware of where one puts their feet.  There is more than enough space for two persons.  I have spent many an hour below, at anchor or at dock, with my head propped on pillows in complete comfort.

The porta-potti is under the berth.  The potti can be used when underway.  Access is easy – just lift up the cushion and wood cover.  The wood cover fits in in the cabin hatchboard slots so it acts as a semi-private ‘door’ when the head is in use.   

There is storage space under the forward section of the cockpit floor that is easily used from inside the cabin.  BUT, this is open to the bilge.  I placed a single square of dri-deck over the bilge to keep things from falling into this hard to reach (but not impossible to access) space.

Under the V-berth are three lockers.  The forward locker is screwed shut and contains the bow flotation foam.  Many M15s with an electrical system place the battery box in this location (this is what I have done).  A group 24 battery is a perfect fit.  Looking in this ‘locker’ is a ‘quick check’ if you want to know if your M15 has lead or steel ballast – the steel ballasted boats have a ‘hump’ in this location.

There are port and starboard lockers that are easily accessed by lifting up the berth cushions.  I use the port locker for food and cooking supplies; the starboard contains spare parts, emergency kits and other ‘odds and ends’.

The cabin isn’t designed for one to ‘sit up’ when below.  I’m 5’11” and if hunched over it is possible to sit on the edge of the v-berth and have the cabin hatch closed.  This is not comfortable, and is only done when a shot period of privacy is needed.

M15’s Cockpit -There are two cockpit lockers.  Many have molded in ‘pans’ making them separate, and water tight, from the cabin/interior.  Some of these pans are deep (see image right *), where others are shallow.  Either at the factory, or after purchase some of these pans have been removed.  In Scred’s case both were (I don’t know when or by whom).  The negative is that if Scred is ‘pooped’ by a following wave there is a chance water will enter the cabin.  the positive is not having the pans means there is A LOT OF SPACE for storing items (see ‘M15 Tour’ link).  It is recommended to confirm that the locker latches are locked shut when underway in case of a knockdown or taking water into the cockpit.

 If there are more than two people in the cockpit the boat is difficult to balance … causing the M15 to ‘squat’.  This will cause her to loose some ability to sail to windward.  The cockpit seats are comfortable with excellent back support.

The cockpit is also Scred’s galley.  I use a Max Burton butane stove.  In most cases I set the stove and other cooking items on one settee, and sit on the other.  If the anchorage seas are up I’ll cook with the stove on the cockpit floor.

I recommend putting together a boom tent or installing a bimini.  In-cabin sitting space is functionally non-existent; making the cockpit is the boat’s ‘main saloon’.  Being able to sit out of the sun and/or rain makes for a happy crew.

M15’s Outboard Motor –

Most M15s are powered by a 2 horse-power long-shaft outboard.  I do not recommend a short-shaft model.  From casual observation I see most powered by the Honda 2HP.  In my opinion the only negative to these ‘wee motors’ is their lack of an external fuel tank option.  The 1-quart internal tank will power Scred for about one hour when at 1/2 to 2/3 throttle.  This moves Scred at about 3.75-4.25 knots in calm to moderate seas.  The 2HP is, in my opinion, just a tad bit underpowered if the wind/tide is strong.  The perfect motor, in my opinion, would be a 3HP, air cooled, with an external tank — are any motor manufacturers reading?!

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