About the sailboat Atom

1963 28-foot Pearson Triton #384

Atom under sail, 2016.

Atom’s Specifications:

LOA: 28’6″ LWL: 21′
Beam: 8’3″ Draft: 4’3″
Displ: Approx. 8,000 lbs. empty. Ballast: 3,019 lbs internal lead
Sail Area: 371 sq. ft.
Rig: Masthead sloop
Keel: technically fin-keeled but commonly referred to as full with cutaway forefoot. Keel-hung rudder.
Integral water tanks – Forward: 43 gal. Aft: 22 gal
Engine: After sailing years without an engine, I now have a Tohatsu Sailpro 6-hp inside a custom-fitted tilt-up outboard well within the lazarette.
The stepped cabin house has about 6′ headroom in main salon.

Stock Triton Layout

Atom has gone through several refits over the many years I’ve owned her with the aim to keep improving the safety, comfort and functionality of the boat for extended live aboard use and offshore voyaging. You can find many of these improvements covered in articles and videos on this site. Atom is now everything I want and need her to be.

The east coast built Pearson Triton originally came with a tall fractional rig. I replaced Atom’s mast in 1995 in South Africa with a new mast two feet shorter than original and rigged as masthead staysail sloop. It’s a stronger, simpler rig and the increased jib area with reduced main eliminates the sometimes excessive weather helm the Triton is known for. She has a moveable inner forestay to hoist a storm jib and for emergency use in case the furling jib becomes disabled as well as to add strength to her rig when it’s deployed. The inner forestay is supported by intermediate aft shrouds.

Main salon looking aft.

The galley size is minimal in order to allow two full length bunks. The cooker is a gimbaled single burner kerosene stove that I’ve used for many years. The awkward companionway ladder was replaced with a counter step. By eliminating the ladder and extending the ex-engine locker forward a few inches I gained storage space and allowed the counter to double as top step with the battery box as bottom step. The original icebox was replaced by a nav table with slide-out counter, locker below, and radio locker outboard.
Reconfigured this way it effectively makes the galley larger when needed.

Main salon, looking forward.

Atom Overview

Atom underwent another extensive refit in 2014 while on her trailer in our backyard boat shed. After six years in the water, in 2021 she went back on her trailer at home for some maintenance. Below is a list of her current inventory, which has expanded some since our early years together. I believe in strong and simple over theoretical correctness and yacht-style traditions. I’m not a racer, nor am I interested in “restoring” her to original condition. My requirements are for her to be significantly stronger and more functional than original.

Sail Inventory

1. Mainsail – a battenless main with three reef points and low friction Tides marine luff track makes for easier downwind reefing at the expense of some sail area. Since the stock Triton is known for a bit of excess weather helm, a battenless main balanced by a correctly sized jib eliminates that issue.
2. 140% furling genoa with foam luff.
3. Working jib for inner forestay (not normally used but kept as backup for furling jib).
4. 35 sq ft Storm jib for inner forestay.
5. Storm trysail for rare times when the third reef is too much sail.
6. Code 0 (furling gennaker-type sail) on Facnor furler on removable sprit pole.

Ground Tackle

1. 33 lb. Spade primary anchor on 150 feet of 5/16 HT G4 chain with 75 feet of 5/8-inch nylon rode attached.
2. Fortress FX-23 (15 lb) aluminum Danforth-type kept assembled and ready to deploy as second anchor.
3. Fortress FX-37 (21 lb) kept disassembled as storm anchor and backup if primary anchor is lost.
4. Extra anchors are in bags with 25 feet of chain and 125 feet of 9/16 or 5/8-inch nylon attached. Extra rodes available as needed.
5. Lofrans Royal aluminum manual anchor windlass.
6. Folding grapnel-type dinghy anchor.

Electrics and Electronics

1. Replaced entire electrical system including adding two 6-gang switch panels and several 12v outlets, all LED lighting.
2. Two 50-watt solar panels on adjustable mounts and charge controller.
3. Victron volts/amps/amp hours battery monitor.
4. Lunasea LED masthead tricolor/anchor light.
5. Four GP31 105AH deep-cycle AGM batteries wired in a single bank. (Soon to be upgraded to LiFePo4 lithium type.)
6. 1100 watt 12VDC to 110VAC inverter for tools, and various appliances. There is no AC shore power wiring but I can run an extension cord from shore through the hatch if needed temporarily.
7. Garmin 7″ chartplotter with depth sounder.
8. Tecsun PL880 SSB receiver.
9. Handheld VHF radio and GX2200 VHF/AIS base radio.
10. Samsung 10″ tablet with electronic charts on Open CPN program as well as paper charts.
11. Handheld rechargable LED spotlight and headlamps.
12. Three 12v cabin fans above bunks and head plus portable Caframo clip-on fan.
13. No built-in stereo – music plays from the smartphone to a portable Bluetooth speaker.

Other Equipment

1. Aries windvane self-steering from 1983 was replaced in 1992 with Monitor windvane that was replaced with smaller Norvane in 2014.
2. Henderson MK 5 manual bilge pump. No electric bilge pump.
3. Plastimo Contest 101 bulkhead mount cockpit compass with see-thru back for viewing inside cabin.
4. Davis Mark 25 sextant and H.O. 249 Sight Reduction Tables (as backup to GPS).
5. Two take-apart stainless dry-out legs for standing the boat upright between tides.
6. The 16-foot yuloh sculling oar was retired when I added a 6hp outboard motor.
7. DIY nylon webbing mast ladder – a cheaper, less bulky version of the Mastmate ladder.
8. 6-foot plywood/fiberglass mini pram dinghy of my own design.
9. 6HP Tohatsu Sailpro in custom tilt-up outboard well.
10. 10-foot inflatable kayak.
11. DIY rope swim ladder.
12. DIY over the boom sun awning.
13. Companionway canvas dodger over 1″ folding stainless tube frame.
14. Bimini cockpit awning that connects to dodger and with side enclosures.
15. Bulkhead mount barometer and clock.
16. Gimbaled single burner kerosene galley stove with complete spare.
17. Lagun moveable cabin table.
18. Custom made Jordan series drogue.
19. Forespar Line Control whisker pole (LC 8-14) with mast storage chocks.
20. Mast raising system using removable base hinge.

Below is a list of improvements and modifications I’ve done to Atom over the past 35 years. You may find some ideas here that could be useful on your own boat.

Deck and Hull

1. Installed a water can locker with removable boards in tracks at forward end of cockpit footwell.
2. Replaced all exterior wood with teak, including adding grab rails on forward coach roof.
3. Installed a bronze non-opening portlight in forward end of the coach roof for improved visibility forward.
4. Replaced rotted wood plank rudder with plywood covered in fiberglass and epoxy. Raised bottom of rudder 2″ above keel to protect rudder during groundings and closed rudder/hull gap at bottom to prevent snags.
5. Installed Norvane self-steering windvane. These are no longer produced but the Windpilot Pacific is a good alternative.
6. Installed Lofrans Royal manual anchor windlass, double bow and single stern anchor rollers.
7. Replaced bow and stern mooring cleats with four 10-inch stainless cleats and backing plates.
8. Removed inboard gas engine and later installed a tilt-up outboard well in lazarette.
9. Installed fixed bimini frame over cockpit.
10. Replaced rotted balsa deck core with structural foam sheet core similar to core-cell.
11. Fabricated custom pushpit incorporating two adjustable solar panel mounts.
12. Added 1-inch x 7-foot aluminum jib sheet tracks after relocating stanchion bases.
13. Added two stanchions and full-length single lifelines with gates.
14. Filled in inboard motor’s prop aperture in hull and rudder.
15. Replaced wood-framed forward hatch with larger Lewmar Ocean 60 hatch.|
16. Rebuilt companionway hatch with stainless steel tracks and security bars.
17. Built fiberglass over wood seahood for sliding companionway hatch.
18. Installed cockpit dodger and bimini.
19. Replaced cabin windows (deadlights) and bronze frames with 3/8″ tinted Plexiglas thru-bolted from outside.
20. Installed LED masthead tricolor/anchor light including auto light sensor anchor light bulb.
21. Addeed rubber gaskets under cockpit seat lockers and installed locking latches.
22. Installed two 1/2″ u-bolts to transom corners to attach Jordan series drogue.
23. Fiberglassed over original cockpit access to icebox.


1. Replaced 37-foot fractional rig with 35-foot masthead rigged aluminum spar and new mast step. The equivalent mast section is US Spars Z351. The corroded boom was replaced with a larger section US Spars Z202 kit with internal reefing lines.
2. Installed removable inner forestay, two running backstays and related deck hardware.
3. Replaced all chainplates with ¼ x 1.5-inch 316L stainless steel.
4. Replaced original 3/16″ rigging wire with 7/32″ with swage fittings at tops and sta-loksat bottoms.
5. Added forward lower shrouds and chainplates to glassed-in knees below deck.
6. Installed Harken MKIV Unit 0 jib roller furling.
7. Installed stainless steel reinforcement plate under mast support beams. (Aluminum would be a better choice to save weight.)
8. Fabricated a removable sprit pole for furling Code 0.
9. Replaced old sheet and halyard winches and added reefing winch to boom.
10. Added a hinged mast step and gear for DIY mast raising system.


 1. Removed Atomic 4 inboard engine and its accessories.
2. Built a 43 gal (165 liter) integral water tank under v-berth connected to galley foot pump.
3. Built an integral water tank between cockpit footwell and hull that was later converted to a sealed locker when I added an integral 22 gal (83 liter) tank to aft bilge.
4. Converted icebox to storage/electrics locker whose counter has a slide-out nav table and storage under.
5. Installed valves and plumbing to collect rain water from deck.
6. Replaced door between head and forward cabin with a curtain, filled in step-thru area of V-berth and raised bunk 2 inches to make it 5 inches above waterline for extra storage and watertight integrity.
7. Made most compartments watertight for collision protection and at least short-term positive buoyancy (locker seals are not perfectly watertight but will buy some time).
|8. Installed a sliding single/double bunk on port side salon bunk.
9. Replaced galley counter fiddles with higher 1 x 4-inch teak.
10. Extended ex-engine locker forward 2-inches and removed companionway ladder.
11. Replaced head with Lavac toilet placed behind a watertight open-topped partial bulkhead.
12. Added second bookshelf above forward end of stbd salon and full length shelves in forward cabin.
13. Covered the plywood cabin sole with iroko plank strips and black polysulfide seams as for a teak deck and secured access boards with latches.
14. Installed six teak handrails throughout salon.
15. Replaced telltale compass next to salon bunk with Contest 101 cockpit bulkhead mount compass with clear back viewable from inside.
16. Enclosed open lockers behind salon settee backrests and added teak locker doors.
17. Installed gasket-sealed chain locker door.
18. Installed a Henderson MK 5 manual bilge pump in port cockpit locker with pump handle accessible on side of cockpit footwell.
19. Replaced entire electrical system. Did not add shore power AC.
20. Installed lee-cloths on main salon bunks.
21. Raised sink 1-inch to stop flooding when heeled. Installed shut-off valve in sink drain and fiberglass reinforced original drain tube on hull instead of converting to seacock.
22. Added a radio locker outboard of old icebox location.
23. Replaced my fold-down salon table with a Lagun adjustable cabin table.
24. Installed 1/4″ tinted plexiglas sliding doors on teak frame fronting galley shelves.
25. Replaced galley drawers with door access and added shelf in locker under stove.