Cape Dory Yachts was, until its demise some years ago, one of the more conservative firms in the boatbuilding industry. With the exception of a brief fling with modern cruiser-racers--the Intrepid series--the company's stock in trade since the late 1960s was traditional, full keel auxiliaries and sailboats, most from the design board of Carl Alberg, the octogenarian dean of American designers.
If you think your boat is a bear to maintain, you might take some consolation in this months used-boat review of the Union 36. It is a fiberglass boat, but considering the amount of teak on deck and belowdecks, it might as well be made of wood. Not that there is anything very wrong with that. The 32-footer my wife Theresa and I cruised on for 11 years was very similar-a big, heavy double-ender-and ours was made of wood. While our 1937 William Atkin Thistle design differed significantly from the Union 36 and the modern double-enders that Bob Perry would later unveil (the Tayana 37 and Valiant 40, among the better known), these boats can be broadly traced to a common ancestor: the North Sea rescue boats designed by the renowned Norwegian naval architect Colin Archer.
The Catalina 250 is one of a group of relatively lightweight, shallow-draft trailerable cruising boats that appeared in the mid-1990s, utilizing water ballast to provide stability. These boats notably the C-250, the Hunter 26, and the MacGregor 26 all are of very modern design, are relatively inexpensive, and feature workmanship and materials of generally serviceable but by no means superior quality. Their sailing qualities and accommodation plans make them suitable for daysailing and casual overnighting, rather than for serious cruising.
The Vineyard Vixen 29 was born of another time-a fact that confers upon her some limits, yes, but also an undeniable magic. She is a canoe-stern monohull, 23 feet on the waterline and usually sloop-rigged, that arguably delivers as seakindly a sailing experience as any vessel of her size. While her cabin may edge over toward the camping side of the comfort continuum, her cockpit is more spacious and accommodating than that of some 40-footers, including Passports and Valiants. And while she won't be the first on the course to get going in light air, once the breeze is up past 8 or 10, the Vixens romp is incomparable.
Last year, we ran a review of a Union 36, and the opening photo of the boat featured a unique folding ladder that I hadnt seen before. The ladder, instead of hanging vertically, folded out at a comfortable angle in a way that seemed-at least in the photo-pretty practical for routine boarding. One problem: the maker-the American Ladder Corp., based in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., appears to be out of business.