This is a ramble-on (and on) about some of boats we looked at… a bunch of folks asked about it, so thought we’d share…
In 2006, when I (Ben) first began looking for a boat, I considered only 3 options: a Bristol Channel Cutter 28, a Nor’sea 27, and a Falmouth Cutter 22. When Teresa looked for a boat… it was a Nor’sea 27 or nothing. It was easy, for both of us it was Lyle Hess or go home.
This time, as a team, Teresa and I considered about 43 different designs. We didn’t really keep count along the way, those are just the ones we can remember.
The entire 2 year process was a learning experience for both of us. We each focused on different features, and when the other would question why, it was an opportunity for us to learn, and discuss. We help a lot of people who are starting their sailing journey via sail training and consulting. Too often we see the boat decision and process being the man’s domain. The brokers know this well—when we looked at boats together they showed Teresa the galley and me the engine room. At first it frustrated us and we tried different tricks to break down the blue and pink stereotypes. But as time passed we developed our own processes for inspecting the boat that didn’t really involve the broker, and they learned to just leave us alone.
Our search meandered through such a wide variety of boats, it’s hard to sum it up, and our “right boat” criteria changed along the way, but the list of boats that held our attention for more than a few weeks has basically looked something like this (in no particular order):
Cape George 36
Westsail 32 & 42
Freya 39 & 42
Cabo Rico 38
Our official search began in Annapolis in the spring of ’12, the day after we sold Elizabeth. Our first focus was on the Cabo Rico 38, our friend Roger Olson spoke highly of then. We visited a bunch, and wrote about one in particular here. Most suffered similar problems namely, a rotten cockpit floor under the pedestal. But, after seeing about 3 or 4 of them, we realized it wasn’t the right boat for us. We found the nav table that folded down to be impractical, and aesthetically, the clipper bow seemed a bit overstated. But one of the real killers was the short waterline length.
A logical progression for a former Bristol Channel Cutter owner is the Cape George 36. Beautiful lines, full keel, cutter rigged with a bowsprit, plenty of bronze… nearly a bigger version of the BCC but with a full length cabin. They build their boats with a laid teak deck and horizontal chainplates – very unique. We got aboard one that wasn’t for sale to check it out. Loved it. There was a beautiful one for sale in our price range on the west coast. We hemmed and hawed over making an offer, while researching the pros and cons, and establishing our “said and done” price, which includes things like adding solar panels, self steering, new standing rigging, etc. There was some signifigant rot discovered in the lazarette, and considering the repairs required along with equipment needed, we decided to abandon ship.
I’ve always loved the Westsail 32, and briefly considered one back in ’06, but decided it was too big/heavy for me at the time. Now, 6 years later, it seemed the 32′ might be too small, although we did go see a few just to be sure. But the Westsail 42 and 43 were definitely on our radar. We visited with Drake and Mo aboard their W42 Paragon, and loved it. We went to see Eric Forsyth give a presentation. We thought we had found a winner. But we couldn’t find one in our price range, in the right location, with the cutter rig, that didn’t need a lot, I mean, a lot of work. We didn’t want a project boat, and knew we’d rather be out sailing than spending our days and dollars tabbing in new bulkheads and replacing old engines. But we kept looking for Westsail 42’s because we liked the lines, LOVED the awesome booth, and put confidence in their stout seaworthyness.
Now, Teresa and I have always had an extra warm fuzzy spot in our hearts for the double-ender. Our Nor’seas were double-enders… with a bulbous stern. We did almost make an offer on a gorgeous Alajuela 38, but the lack of ¼ berth, and the smallish interior gave us pause. Another double-ender that we love is the Freya 39 and it’s bigger sister the 42′, of which I think only one was built. One mid winter week in the early days of 2013, we drove to Mexico to go check out a steel Freya 42. We love love love flush decks. I think that must come from my days aboard schooners, where you’ve got plenty of deck space to spread your legs, lower your stance and haul with all your wits on the main peak halyard or some flogging topsail sheet. After discussing the pros and cons of steel with our friend Dave Martin, we made an offer on the Freya 42, but the hassles of both buying a boat in, and getting a boat home from Mexico eventually soured the deal.
At the Annapolis boat show we met up with Bob Eeg, builder of the Nor’sea 27, and got to talking about the elusive Nor’sea 37. We learned three hulls had been built, but only one was known to still exist, and it was half way finished. Our interest was peeked, it would be a perfect solution for our Lyle Hess love affair, not to mention, she’s a double ender, with an aft cabin, cutter rigged, sleeps 6, and super unique. We looked over the design drawings and in our minds began decorating the interior, planning our first voyage. That dream ended abruptly when an email from Bob laid out the price breakdown to finish out the interior, install the rig, buy the hardware, the sails, the systems etc, etc, etc. Nevermind, what were we thinking. We need a good old boat, something used, but loved, or at least liked a lot.
Somehow we stumbled upon the Reliance 44. A sleek, semi-full keel ocean going cutter, that could sleep 6 – which had become our new #1 criteria. We were developing ideas of sail training expeditions and ocean conservation media projects, and each called for accommodating up to 4 guests. The idea of hatching a little family didn’t sound too bad either. We found a nice Reliance 44 in Maryland, and went to have a look. She showed well enough, but after thinking it through, the extreme overhang aft and the shortish waterline began to tarnish this shining Canadian classic. Plus, she had a roller furling boom and lines led aft — two “features” we were trying to avoid.
During the summer, I spent a few weeks aboard American Promise, Dodge Morgan’s round the world record breaking 60′ cutter designed by Ted Hood. She was a fast, nimble 60′ for her era. Sailing aboard American Promise was a turning point in the boat decision process. While Teresa had long been in favor of more modern designs, only now did I began to really appreciate the speed and upwind capabilities if the fin keel. All of a sudden, I wasn’t ignoring the fin keel designs, but rather seeking them out. It was a new world.
We looked at the classic fin keel Valiant 40. The size was a bit more manageable, and they’re a proven passagemaker. We researched the blister issues and found a few non-blister boats (pre ’76, post ’85) to begin our pursuit of what we thought might really be the boat for us. They were in our price range (for the most part) and like the Nor’sea had a pleasantly plump, slightly pointy stern section. We stepped aboard one in Annapolis and Teresa dissapointedly announced, “This is our boat”. I was stunned. It was a dark, tired old gal from the pre-blister era. “Seriously, you wan’t this boat?” I replied. “Not really” she said, “but it meets all our criteria, and this is what we can afford.” We inspected a few other post blister V-40s for comparison, read the forums, joined the Valiant owners Yahoo group and asked our friends John Kretschmer and John Neal for advice. It all looked real promising for a Valiant 40. The one in our price range had a few drawbacks, namely a rotten forward bulkhead and all lines led aft.
It was about that same time that we began looking at the Norseman 447, another Bob Perry fin keel design. We had not considered Taiwan built boats up until this one. The black iron tanks, lower quality stainless, as well as the typical teak decks had kept us away. All of the N447’s for sale were on the west coast. Having never even seen one in person, flying to go see one for the first time didn’t feel like a good idea. We put a call out on the Yahoo Group and found one nearby we could visit. She was a fine example of a 25 year old Norseman 447, we loved it. She would work well for our new project Ocean Courier, an ocean conservation media project which invites scientists, journalists, filmmaker aboard, as well as intimate (2-4 people) sail training expeditions we plan to kick off this summer. Now if we could just find one we could afford on the right coast, without teak decks, lines led aft, roller furling mains’l or a blinding pod of electronics at the helm, and was in relatively good condition for her age, we might have a winner.
The other boats we considered but didn’t hold our interest long enough to really talk about follow:
Fast Passage 39
Vancouver 36 (Harris design)
Vancouver 34 (Taylor design)
Alan Pape Custom
Van De Stadt 36
Van De Stadt 43
Cape George 40
Hallberg Rassy 36
Southern Cross 39
Chuck Paine Custom 39
Chuck Paine Custom 42
Custom Steel Cutter 40
Ted Brewer 42 Corten
Saltram Saga 40
Northern Comfort 43 (Dick Zaal design)
What’s on your list?