Paceship Yachts was originally a Canadian boatbuilder, located in Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia. Later, it was bought by US conglomerate AMF in 1977 and based in Waterbury, Connecticut. AMF had already seen promise in the marine industry, having bought Alcort (Minifish, Sailfish, Sunfish, Super Sunfish, Force 5, etc.) in 1969.
But like most big companies focused more on the bottom line than on the romance of sailing and the sea, the labor intensive nature of building fiberglass boats proved resistant to the efforts of industrial efficiency experts who tried to speed up the production process and simplify assemblies. And, boat sales, because they are discretionary purchases, proved particularly vulnerable to the up and down swings of the economy. When Irwin Jacobs, head of the marine conglomerate Genmar (formerly Minstar) bought AMF (for its powerboat companies), Alcort was sold off and in 1981 the PY26 molds were sold to Tanzer in Canada where it was sold as the Tanzer 27, with a deck-stepped mast.
The first Paceships were built about 1963 and included a 16-foot daysailer, the East Wind 24 cruiser, and the Paceship 32, formerly the Bill Tripp-designed Galaxy, first built by American Boatbuilding in East Greenwich, Rhode Island. In 1965, the McVay 20 Cruisette was added and the following year the company introduced the 30-foot Acadian yawl. The Northwind 29 appeared about 1970, and in 1973 Britton Chance designed the Chance 32/28, a racer, for Paceship.
The first of the company’s two popular trailer sailers, the PY23, was offered in 1974. Designed by John Deknatel of C. Raymond Hunt Associates, it sold very well. Interest was sufficient to prompt the company to try a larger, similar looking version, the PY26, also designed by Deknatel. Production ended around 1980.
The PY26 was first offered with a fin keel drawing 4′ 6″. Unfortunately, this was cast iron instead of lead. In 1979, just before production ceased, a centerboard version was made available; draft with board up was 2′ 7″ and 6′ 7″ with the board down. Like the smaller PY23, the board pivots from a ballasted stub keel external to the hull, an arrangement we like for trailerable boats.
Though the PY26 centerboard version is theoretically trailerable, its 9′ 6″ beam exceeds standard highway limits, and its 6,900 lb. displacement would require a substantial towing vehicle.
The canoe body (hull without appendages) is relatively shallow. The PY26’s displacement/length ratio ranges between 227 to 250, depending on which displacement figure is used (early brochures show 5,800 lbs., 6,000 lbs. and 6,400 lbs. for the keel model). The wide beam gives the boat good initial stability and the 2,200 lbs. of ballast in the 4′ 6″ keel will provide adequate ultimate stability.
The rudder is mounted outboard on the transom, which may seem a bit unusual for this size boat, but this location provides good control and certainly is easier to inspect and maintain than an inboard spade rudder.
The sloop rig gives the boat a modest 15.7 sail area/displacement ratio. Surprisingly, the mast is stepped on the keel, which is generally considered to be better than deck-stepped (less likely to break and therefore can be a small, lighter section). This could be thought of as a “big boat” feature.
The cockpit coaming is high and provides good back support. Deknatel liked to bring the coaming up and into the cabin to either side of the companionway. He did this with several of his designs for O’Day as well, so those boats (O’Day 23, etc.) share a common style. The tall coaming forward helps keep water on deck and spray out of the cockpit and makes for cleaner fitting of a dodger.
There is a nice though conservative rake to the stem and the reverse transom is almost vertical. The sheerline is quite straight, which is both contemporary and maximizes space below. We think the PY26 is a good looking boat that does not appear dated even 20+ years after its inception.
Both the PY23 and PY26 were built with the usual materials of the day—hand-laid fiberglass cloth, mat, woven roving and balsa core. The interior is built up with a fiberglass pan that forms the cabin sole and berth foundations. Overhead, a one-piece fiberglass headliner finishes off the underside of the deck. Bulkheads are plywood and the trim is teak. Note that fiberglass headliners preclude the tabbing of the bulkheads to the underside of the deck. Instead, a channel is molded into the headliner into which the bulkhead snugly fits. While perfectly acceptable for local sailing, this arrangement does permit the bulkhead to work as loads on the hull and deck push and pull the two structures.
The rig includes an anodized mast and boom, with stainless steel wire rigging—split backstay (for the tiller), headstay, upper shrouds and single lower shrouds that terminate at the same chainplate. The mainsheet is attached near the end of the boom and leads to a traveler at the aft edge of the bridge deck. This places the mainsheet handy to the crew or helmsman, but can obstruct access to the companionway and interfere with seating forward in the cockpit.
The Canadian-built boats had teak toerails, but this was changed to a slotted aluminum toerail at AMF, a feature popularized by C&C. While the aluminum extrusion may not look quite as nice (and the anodizing may get nicked), it needs no maintenance and the slots are convenient places to shackle snatch blocks for the spinnaker sheets.
As noted above, the keel is cast iron, which, unlike lead, can rust. To protect it, the keel must be coated with epoxy before painting. A primer will be required.
The design and construction of the PY26 seems pretty good, and more than adequate for its intended purpose, which we take to be club racing and coastal cruising.
There’s only so much you can do in 26′, but the PY26 has just about all one could expect in this size. There is a V-berth forward and access to a tiny forepeak. A door from the head opens into the forward cabin, so it won’t be possible to fit a V-berth insert without removing the door.
The head compartment extends to both sides of the boat, with the toilet to port (a Porta-Pottie was standard, a Wilcox-Crittenden through-hull toilet optional) and to starboard a small sink and vanity. The saloon has two settees. On the AMF boats, the one to starboard extends through the main bulkhead to provide needed footroom under the head compartment sink. There is stowage behind each backrest. A quarter berth is located aft of the port settee.
The dinette table folds up against the main bulkhead when not in use. Down, there’s space for four place settings.
This leaves a modicum of space for the galley under the bridgedeck, with just enough room for a sink, a generous 125-lb. icebox, two-burner alcohol stove and stowage bins. The stovetop was gimbaled in some models, fixed flush in others. The AMF boats had a slightly different configuration, with an L-shaped galley work space and it is in these boats that the starboard settee was pushed forward under the head compartment sink. The Canadian-built boats did not have the L-shape and so have a conventional starboard settee.
If the boat still has the original fabrics, it is probably time to upgrade them as they will be old and the patterns dated: plaid upholstery and shag carpeting.
The 6′ 1″ of headroom is remarkable for a 26-footer, considering that not many years earlier designers were pressed to give you 5′ 9″, and when they did, the cabin, when viewed in profile, often looked ungainly. The Pearson 26 is a good example of this.
Owners are nearly unanimous in their praise of the interior. As the owner of a 1979 model wrote us, “We cruise Long Island Sound for three weeks with three children, and stay sane!”
Owners completing our Boat Owner’s Questionnaire rate the boat’s upwind and off the wind speed between average and above average. One owner said his boat is “Surprisingly fast for a heavy boat. Have outsailed many 30-footers.” Another said his PY26 “Points very well.”
Several owners had not purchased genoas and noted that with mainsail and lapper performance lagged a bit, as would be expected. It’s always nice to have big sails for light air days. PHRF ratings are between 194 and 207 for the keel model; the centerboard model rates between 207 and 210. This is faster than a Cal 25, Pearson 26 or Catalina 27.
In terms of seaworthiness and stability, owners again feel good about their boats, generally rating the PY26 as above average for these categories. The owner of a 1976 model wrote, “Sailed in over 40-knot winds across deck, 10- to 12-foot waves and she was very secure.”
At the same time, several owners cautioned that this is not an offshore boat. True. In any case, the PY26’s generous beam does provide a good deal of initial stability. Reefing will begin in about 15 knots of wind.
The standard boat was fitted for outboard propulsion, with a transom bracket and gas tank stowage. Typical outboards used range from 7.5-hp. to 9.9-hp. However, most owners responding to our survey have 8-hp. Yanmar diesel inboards. Many of them stated that their boats are underpowered. One said he can cruise at 5.5 knots in gentle conditions, but slows to 3 to 4 knots in heavy chop. Nearly all said they wished they had a 12-hp. diesel. Several also said the engine was loud, though better soundproofing with lead-lined foam should help.
It is our impression, and that of our readers, that the PY26 is a wholesome, family cruiser with a lot of interior volume for a 26-footer, as well as a fair turn of speed. Her systems are fairly simple, so upkeep shouldn’t be too much hassle, especially if you have the outboard model. For this type of boat, we prefer an outboard to an inboard for ease of maintenance. An underpowered inboard has almost no redeeming features. The major drawback to the outboard is its tendency to lift out of the water or cavitating when motoring into headseas.
Some boats may not have seacocks on all through-hulls, which should be installed per ABYC (American Boat & Yacht Council) recommendations. And the electrical system is minimal; given its age, it may need upgrading. As with any balsa-cored boat, have a surveyor check for delamination.
We did not pick up any major differences between the Canadian-built and AMF-built boats, so it appears that construction quality was fairly consistent. There are, however, some minor design differences, which we have noted, such as the toerail material and galley shape.
Asking prices we found are consistent with the BUC Used Boat Price Guide and range between $10,000 and $12,500. You can buy a 1970’s-era 26-footer for less; in fact, during our search we found several Pearson 26’ for less than $3,000, but these are probably beat. And, the Pearson 26 is an earlier design without the headroom or beam of the PY26.