Monthly Archives: January 2015

Survey and Sea-Trial of “Lone Star” in Vancouver

Last week I drove up to Vancouver for the survey and sea-trial of a C&C 38 Landfall named “Lone Star” that I’m working on buying.

Crossing the border with my NEXUS pass

Crossing the border with my NEXUS pass

This was only my second time seeing the boat, and in the first visit in December the deck had been covered with snow/ice. So I was a little nervous – would this still be the great boat I thought it was, and was the deck in decent shape now that I could see it uncovered?

Buying a boat is kind of like buying a house – you pick the one you want, and then wait a month or so, hoping you picked the right one and no deal-breakers arise.

Arriving at the boat on Granville Island, the owner was there to skipper during the sea-trial, which was excellent since he knows the boat best and could answer questions I had.

First we took it to be hauled out for the out of water survey (the in-water survey had been completed the week prior when I was sick with the flu).

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Trevor from Aegis Marine Surveys (partner of Tim, who was also at the in-water survey last week) did the survey, and did a tremendous job. I have a list of close to 40 things to fix now. But that’s what happens when you hire a good surveyor – the better the surveyor, the more issues they find. That can make it seem like you’re getting a worse boat – but no, you’re getting the same boat you would have gotten if you had hired a less thorough surveyor, but now you know about more of the issues instead of being in the dark. Knowing is always a good thing.

Next came the sea-trial. We took her out in a light rain, and were fortunate to find about 8 knots of wind out on the bay. She sailed well at a nice speed, and it was a pleasure to watch the huge genoa power up the boat.

Here’s a short video I made of the survey and sea-trial (switch to fullscreen and HD for better quality!):

I got the survey report later in the week. Most of the issues are minor things that I can fix myself. The more major things will need to be fixed at the next haul-out, which may not be till the Fall. The seacock backing plates have deteriorated / rotted and need to be replaced (may opt to replace all thru-hulls at that time). A sloppily plugged deck fill port needs to be redone to prevent leaking into the core. There are a few minor interior leaks that need to be fixed – in deck windows, deck penetrations, and a head hose. The engine survey also found a few issues, including soot in the oil analysis, which was concerning because it might be a sign that it’s burning oil.

The good news was there are no serious issues like hull or structure damage, the sails are in decent shape, and most of the systems are working.

Now there’s just a little bit more of waiting to do and then hopefully we’ll close the sale!

Touring Boats – The Ones that Didn’t Make the Cut

Starting in July we visited about a dozen boats, about 3/4 of those with Natalie along, gradually getting a better idea of what we were looking for.

The very first boat we visited was a 1978 Bristol 35.5 in Anacortes with Natalie’s friends Toriann and Mark along – we were on our way to a 5-day San Juans cruise on Seattle Sailing Club’s J/35c “Dolce Vita.” I kind of knew this boat wasn’t going to be in great shape but wanted to set a baseline. The boat was on the hard (this means it was on stands in a boatyard) and had lots of black mold/mildew inside on the hull walls. It also had some pretty ancient equipment – it felt like the 36-year-old boat it was, not like a boat that had been updated and refit. 7 months later this boat is still on the market, with a substantial price reduction (from 40k to 32.5k).

A very old autopilot control on the Bristol 35.5.

A very old autopilot control on the Bristol 35.5.

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A concerning crack in the paint on the rudder skeg - would have to hire a surveyor to tell whether this went through to structure.

A concerning crack in the paint on the rudder skeg – would have to hire a surveyor to tell whether this went through to structure.

Other boats visited:

  • Two Pacific Seacraft 34’s, a 1985 for $69k and a 1991 for $89k. These are well-built traditional cruisers, but they felt small inside, one had a teak deck (a money pit with no benefits), and they seemed pricey for what you got.
  • Two Tartan 37’s, a 1978 for 50k and a 1980 for 50k later reduced to 45k. The first one had jammer cleats – these are 1970’s rope clutches – they’re so old they’re worthy of being museum pieces. The second Tartan 37 had a rotted bulkhead.
    Rotted bulkhead in Tartan 37

    Rotted bulkhead in Tartan 37

    Jammer clutches

    Jammer clutches

  • 1986 Passport 37 for 119k. This is a beautiful boat on the interior – lots of well kept teak and storage space. The boat was loaded with all the bells and whistles of an offshore cruiser and had just finished two years in the south Pacific. But it was too expensive for my budget, and I didn’t think it worth nearly that price anyway – there were a few things that were less than ideal (teak side decks, a huge hard dodger that seriously blocked side deck access and took over the cockpit).

    Beautiful woodwork in the v-berth of the Passport 37

    Beautiful woodwork in the v-berth of the Passport 37

  • C&C 37 for 45k. This was actually pretty nice, although setup as more of a racer / coastal cruiser.
  • 1988 Ericson 34 for 47k. This boat is actually closer to 35’, and was in nice condition. It had no wood on deck which I liked, and would have good sailing performance. The specs are pretty similar to a Wauquiez Pretorien 35 actually. Interior sleeping accommodations were a tad on the small side. It wasn’t as cruiser ready as the C&C 38 Landfall we later looked at though, and the shallow anchor pan would be problematic.
The Ericson 34's anchor locker pan

The Ericson 34’s anchor locker pan

After looking at the Bristol 35.5, Pacific Seacraft 34’s, Tartan 37’s, and Passport 37, I started to realize these boats were a bit too traditional for my tastes. The Tartan 37 was the most modern probably, but the two located in Seattle were in bad shape – kind of project boats. Around this time I heard of the C&C 38 Landfall and started reading up on it – everything I heard was good and it sounded like a much better fit. More about that in an upcoming post…

Bluewater vs Production Part 2: What are People Really Doing?

Continued from Part 1.

The problem with the Bluewater vs Production dilemma is that most boats now-a-days are production boats – built in large quantity with standardized assembly methods because that’s what lowers costs and makes the most affordable boats (which is what most buyers are seeking). So if you want to look for a true bluewater cruiser, you’re limited to looking at the 1%, or at most 10%, of the market.

Most of them were built in the 80’s and 70’s. Which raises the question – if there’s still a demand for bluewater boats, why are they no longer being built?? Something does not add up here.

Yachtworld Sleuthing

At this point I did some data gathering – Yachtworld searches for boats in each decade, sorted by brand and price. What I found was pretty interesting – there were lots of boats from the 80’s, a sizeable number from the 70’s, surprisingly few from the 90’s, and all the boats from the 2000’s (<14 years old) were quite expensive.

Another finding was that as the decades went up, the brands became predominately production models – the 90’s listings had *lots* of Catalinas, Hunters, Beneteaus, Jeanneaus and almost no models generally considered bluewater. However plenty of listings for production boats proclaimed themselves bluewater or offshore worthy – but I took this as more of a marketing ploy since bluewater has become a buzzword.

10-20 year old 32-39' boats on the market in WA (25 as of 1/8/15)

10-20 year old 32-39′ boats on the market in WA (25 as of 1/8/15)

Why are there so few bluewater boats built in the last 20 years?

One possibility was that all the people who own bluewater boats built in the 90’s or 2000s are holding on to them and not selling, because they like them so much or are afraid they couldn’t find a better one. The other possibility, which I already mentioned, was that no one wanted bluewater boats any more – this didn’t seem plausible though given how many people are inquiring about them. The 3rd possibility was that maybe today’s modern production boats *are* bluewater boats. Maybe technology and materials engineering have advanced enough that modern techniques have made the techniques used in 70’s and 80’s bluewater boats obsolete and unnecessary!

What does the Internet have to say?

Next I turned to sailing Internet forums – the residency of experts, trolls, and armchair sailors alike. This topic had been debated many times:

Many of these threads never reached a conclusion and devolved into pissing matches over who had the more authoritative experience on full skeg rudders or some such. The one consistent thread was everyone said it’s more about the sailor + crew experience than the boat. But this was an empty platitude – it may be true, but it has nothing to do with picking the right boat.

Sure, a pro race car driver probably *could* drive a Toyota Corolla like a pro around a track, but would he *choose* that car for a 500 lap marathon?

Multi-million dollar racing boats like those used in the Volvo Ocean Race have features that are the polar opposite of most “bluewater” features, but they’re obviously sailed offshore. Yet most people would not choose to sail them across oceans without a full-time crew of very well experienced sailors.

Volvo Ocean Race boat. VolvoOceanRace.com.

Volvo Ocean Race boat. Photo: VolvoOceanRace.com.

A few people said something that kept nagging at the back of my mind –

If production boats aren’t bluewater worthy, then how did so many of them get to bluewater islands in the middle of the ocean?

What are people actually sailing to bluewaters in?

The truth is: the proof is in the pudding. Thousands of production boats per year are sailing across oceans to destinations like the South Pacific, Caribbean, Azores, Canary Islands, etc. They certainly weren’t flown in or shipped in. They were sailed there, usually by their owners and not a delivery crew.

One needs only look at roster lists for cruises like the the Baja Haha. Lots of production boats do that. Interestingly, if you look at cross-ocean races like the TransPac, you often find more racer boats which are *less* seaworthy than even the bluewater-worthy production boats that some people disparage.

Conclusion

In the end, my conclusion was it helps to know the features that matter for offshore voyaging, but finding a middle ground in well built production boats would provide the best value for the money.

Bluewater vs Production Part 1: What’s All The Fuss About?

“You need to think about whether you want a bluewater or production boat.”

It was July and I had just biked from Fremont to Shilshole during my lunch break and was sitting in a yacht broker’s office for the first time. I had decided it was time to buy my first boat, and had been eyeing YachtWorld (the Redfin of the boat market) for close to 6 months. I was sweating profusely from the bike ride over in the hot sun.

I had never heard these terms – bluewater and production – “aren’t all boats production since they were produced at some point?” I thought. I want both bluewater and production I thought – a boat that was produced to go to blue waters would be nice!

The broker talked for the next 15 minutes about attributes of bluewater boats – smaller cockpits, stronger build qualities, access to the hull without a liner in the way, skeg protected rudders.

By now I was a bit crestfallen because the boats he was talking about represent a very small percentage of boats – this narrowed my field quite a lot.

On my bike ride back to work I had a lot to think about. How would I identify bluewater boats, and would it be tough to find one in good condition in Seattle? And did I really need a bluewater boat to go offshore someday?

Over the next few months I redoubled my research efforts – reading dozens of blogs, a couple more books, and hundreds of cruisersforum.com threads.

Bluewater Boats

Quickly I found that bluewater boats *were* a thing, and several websites and books recommended them:

Bluewater boats are considered, by most people, to be the more strongly built traditional designs, usually custom built or built by hand in small numbers (this is what differentiates them from production).

A Hans Christian 38

Hans Christian 38, a classic bluewater boat

These boats are like a military Humvee – there aren’t many of them on the roads, they could roll right through a flood or hurricane and be mostly fine, and it’s going to be more difficult to park it. Production boats are like a new model Honda Civic or Prius – they’re cheaper, get good gas mileage, have all the latest technology, and there’s plenty to choose from.

But some people I talked to said traditional bluewater cruisers aren’t necessary to go offshore. That you could do so in a J/35C, Tartan 3400, or Beneteau First. There were those like “How We Got to Hunter”  that said even the most maligned production boats (on sailing forums) were suitable.

A Beneteau Oceanis 34

Beneteau Oceanis 34, a production coastal cruiser

When I asked one broker about windvanes (wind powered self-steering) and mentioned books I read saying they were an absolute necessity, the broker laughed. “I think the only people who have time to write sailing books must be those who haven’t owned a modern boat in a while,” he said. I take a grain of salt with any broker’s opinion, but what he said seemed to make some sense.

Seeds of doubt were sowed.

At this point I found this all extremely confusing. To an engineer, it makes no sense that some people were telling me one thing, and others were saying the exact opposite.

So far in my boat search I had looked at mostly classic bluewater designs – Bristol 35.5, Pacific Seacraft 34, Tartan 37, Passport 37. All of these had been disappointing though – either they were 2x – 4x the price of other boats their size+age, or they were rundown in terrible shape, or their design just felt old – like using a rotary telephone instead of a touchpad.

I went back to the drawing board and reconsidered the parameters of my search. To be continued in Part 2

Welcome!

This is the start of our new blog! Expect about one or two posts per month on average, maybe more initially since I have a backlog of things to write about.

I’m hoping to write in a way that will make it more accessible to newbie sailors or people who have never sailed. So some posts might seem a bit “dumbed down” for you experts (but don’t worry, I’m happy to get technical in the comments or email). My favorite thing about my sailing idols S/V Delos is that they make sailing entertaining even to non-sailors.

I’d also like it to be educational. Most sailors have plenty of opinions, but it’s tough to separate the opinions from the facts. I certainly have opinions, and I won’t be able to suppress them entirely, but I hope to present more balanced facts most of the time – using data or multiple sources of information.

Eventually, photography and video will be a big part of this blog. Since photography is one of my other hobbies, I’ll make sure to post only high quality, high resolution photos (maybe with lighter mobile versions for people out cruising with slow Internet).

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