Mailport October 15, 1998 Issue

Mailport 10/15/98

How Old For Offshore?
Here’s another view on your response to Tom Bloom and Mary Diedrich (April 15, 1998) regarding safety and value of an older boat for extended cruising.

Princess, our 1978 Allied Princess 36 ketch, took us 46,000 successful miles on a 9-1/2-year circumnavigation, plus a number of other cruises. Only two years old when I bought her, we went through her from A-Z before leaving on the big one. In 1990, we did a thorough refit—took everything off that would come off, and overhauled most. New rigging, some new sails, and she was better than new. She has gone down from disuse since we returned in 1992, but we are beginning another refit. Some things do wear out, get just too grungy, or the new technology tempts our tastes, but we believe Princess will be sailing well at age 30-35. She is a heavy, solid, slow but very seakindly boat that will cost far less to refit periodically than to replace with a newer boat.

We agree doubly with you that you want to know that nothing will break offshore. I am not so convinced about many newer boats, except the top ends you mention. My advice: Get a strong hull and spars, then refit every nit and bit—every one—and you will have pleasant cruising. And take plenty of spares!

Tom Hails
Panama City, Florida

I spent two years looking for the right boat and settled on a 1968 Islander 44. I guess you know where this is going.

Some cars have been garaged for 30 years and driven by little old ladies to the store and back and have 50,000 original miles. Some cars have been driven for five years and have 120,000 miles of being driven hard and put away wet. Can anyone argue reasonably that boats are any different? I looked at dozens of boats, many of 80’s vintage. Many of these somewhat newer boats were fearsomely thrashed and overpriced. My ’68 was clean as a whistle inside and out.

Rudderstock? I replaced my whole rudder for $1,000 installed. The old stock appeared to be fine after 30 years, but the blade was tweaked.

Keel bolts? Woops, got internal ballast.

Tanks? Woops, got integral (fuel that is), which, granted, can pose their own problems.

Teak? I’ve seen teak that was on a new boat come back from the South Seas after 2-1/2 years that was scrap. One might consider if you want teak at all.

Is there any truth to the rumor that older glass boats have less blister problems than middle-aged ones? Yards seem to think so.

Why not get the boat you think you want and slowly upgrade the basic systems as needed. Save the expensive stuff (i.e., sails, electronics, etc.) until just before you go.

I think emphasis should be placed first on quality, second on age.

Steve Walters
Oxnard, California

You stated, “All of the boats you mention are excellent choices (perhaps excepting C&C, and that would depend on where you are going).”

Unfortunately, this statement strongly suggests that the C&C yachts have limitations that may affect their ability to function safely and reliably under certain sailing conditions or in certain environments. I have sailed my C&C 44 on both freshwater lakes and in saltwater and have not found any limitations. Quite to the contrary, I have been in offshore situations where I was glad to have a yacht as well constructed as the C&C.

I would ask that you clarify your statement regarding your perceived limitations of C&C yachts.

William Bowles
Punta Gorda, Florida

C&C built many different sizes and types of boats (though most tended towards the performance end of the spectrum). Some were built more strongly than others, usually the larger models such as yours. One model we particularly like is the Landfall 48, though the difficulty in fitting a dodger is a drawback.

We did not consider the C&C 33 we once owned suitable for offshore work because of several deficiencies: 1/8" acrylic portlights set in rubber gaskets, thin fiberglass inside the rail that flexed when pulling on a stanchion; very light helm that was a blast to steer in bay waters but required too much work over a longer passage. On the other hand, there were some features we admired, such as the fiberglass “belts” laid athwartship to stiffen the hull.

Light displacement boats with fin keels and spade rudders are not our first choice for long-range cruising. They aren’t as comfortable, don’t have as much directional stability as boats with larger keels and skeg-hung rudders, and lack necessary stowage.

We are also skeptical of boats in which bulkheads are not fiberglassed to the deck, but instead are fitted into slots in the molded headliner. Nick Nicholson, former editor of PS and now editor-at-large, recalls crewing on such a C&C, lying in his berth during off watch, and observing the deck lift off the bulkhead and settle, cycling repeatedly. While this may be fine for coastal cruising and round-the-buoys racing, we think a serious cruising boat should have the bulkheads tabbed all around.

We could go on, but this is the gist of the reasoning behind our comment.

I did not think you did terribly well in answering Tom Bloom’s question. The question should have led you to make a couple of other recommendations.

First, he should read Don Street’s Ocean Cruising Yacht.

Second, read Adlard Coles’ Heavy Weather Sailing.

Third, where do you want to cruise? Hull repair is an issue. It requires special equipment and skills to weld aluminum. Ditto for fiberglass repair. Almost any primitive place you go you can get wood repaired. If you want to go north, you have insulation problems, heat problems, and want something that will withstand collision with a rock.

Fourth, how much underway time do you want? Most new boats emphasize open space over stowage.

Finally, remember the oil crisis and OSHA. They both impacted boat construction. Aluminum, stainless steel and fiberglass are high-energy products. If you look at boats built prior to 1982, they are generally heavier in construction than those built after 1982. New boats have balsa core in the deck and hull. Balsa deteriorates when wet. It absorbs water, so you may not know you have a leak until you have a catastrophic failure.

There are many other design factors to be considered. Bulwarks. Why would you go to sea without them? Cockpit size. When pooped, it’s a lot to bail.

I would recommend you consider a Morgan 382, vintage 1978 to 1982. It was designed by Ted Brewer. They are not Hinckleys, but in the 19 years I have owned mine, I think they come very close.

You can also find vintage Swans that are a very good deal.

I know you folks love your Tartan. It is a fabulous boat. But for cruising you want a fully skegged rudder. Imagine what you would do if you hit something with your rudder and bent the shaft?

As an old destroyer driver, older is better. Finally, see the movie “Titanic.” Humility at sea is good! Not sinking is good!

Hendrik Browne
Alexandria, Virginia

We reviewed the Morgan 38/382 in the July 15, 1991 issue. Yes, it is a good boat.

We agree with your comments on skegs, too. Our 1975 Tartan 44 (stretch version of the 41) does have a full skeg, in which we take some comfort. Others, however, point out that most skegs are not attached very strongly to the hull and do little to keep a rudderstock from bending. In any case, another advantage of the large skeg is creating lateral surface area aft for improved directional stability.

Where Credit Is Due...
To Tides Marine: “About three years ago I purchased a Strong Seal to replace my old leaking stuffing box in my Ticon 30. The installation required dropping the rudder in order to remove the shaft. During the first season there were no leaks and the bilge pump slept. At the end of the second season, however, leaking became evident and during the winter minor adjustments were made to the seal. Commencing the third season minor leaking persisted but no worse than a normal stuffing box. But by the end of the season the Strong Seal was leaking so badly that the bilge pump was working about four hours a day.

“A call was put through to Jeff Strong, president of Tides Marine. He immediately sent a matching replacement seal by FedEx. He then followed through with the yard on a step-by-step replacement procedure. The boat was relaunched and I waited for signs of leakage, which finally appeared within a week.

“Another call to Jeff Strong prompted his flying to New York from Florida the day the boat was to be hauled for the winter. After consultation with the yard, he determined that the problem was inherent with that particular unit (subsequently improved), combined with awkward and unsuitable field conditions in the boat. He immediately authorized the replacement of his unit with a new stuffing box packed with Teflon and agreed to pay all costs involved for the work from day one.

“Tides Marine has more than fulfilled its obligation in a most professional manner.”

Walter Blum
Great Neck, New York

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