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Old 01-20-2014
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Re: Pearson Vanguard 33 reviews?

Sigh...
Jeff really dislikes Vanguards and he knows much more about sailing and naval architecture than I ever will-so think of this as more as a series of observations than rebuttal. I've lived aboard my Vanguard for 9 years so I am familiar with her shortcomings. I have also spent time and money upgrading her over the years. I've said before, these boats are dirt simple and the interiors should be thought of as more of a blank canvas than a finished design. Upgrades I have made include a rebuilt A4, refrigeration (reinsulated the box, a new propane stove and new formica countertop, new LED lighting, solar and upgraded batteries. But those are upgrades any older boat will likely need.

Phil Rhodes was a pretty well regarded naval architect at the time he designed the Vanguard. Boats of that era were designed to carry their crew from point A to point B in safety and comfort. Boat design is a blend of many compromises. Vanguards are slow by todays standards, but if you work with the design attributes they sail well. For example, they don't need to sail at a heel beyond fifteen degrees, nor were they ever intended to.

If you heel over to twenty, put a reef in and she will sit right up. She will not go beyond twenty easily. A FARR or J won't heel at all when a Vanguard must, but that was by design not accident. I sail all over New England and never felt the need for anything larger than a 135 on a furler. I sail on the open Atlantic, not the Chessie where air does tend to be lighter, but I regularly do 6 knots continuously off the wind and average 5-5.5 into the wind if I don't pinch. That is with four crewmembers and provisions for a week of cruising. With one reef in, the helm is almost neutral and you do need to reef at 15 knots. The second reef goes in at 30 and you will switching to a storm jib. I sail often when nobody else will go out.

The rig came with a roller furling boom-switch to slab reefing at a cost of $50 and you won't regret it.

The mainsheet benefits from a traveler upgrade to help shape the main and dump a little wind up top when the breeze picks up. Cost about $250. The decks are wide, simple and clean. There is a real 2" toe rail to keep you aboard, not a half inch square of teak or an aluminum extrusion. The side decks are unobstructed by inboard shrouds, so she may not point as high, but deck work is easier, safer and more secure.

That large underwater hull profile translates into more living space below. I have 6'2" of headroom. I've cruised extensively with my wife and kids and we always felt safe and comfortable, if a little cramped as they got larger. The bunks are roomy. The boat does not pound or sound like a resonating drum as it beats to windward. Flex in a Vanguard hull is unheard off. The deep vhull and mass combine to yield a much quieter and more comfortable ride. The boat tracks well, is not squirrely at all downwind or running in a sea. She heaves to easily, forereaching only slightly under backed jib and centered main. Speaking of the underwater profile, we have bazillions of lobster pots up here-folks won't even attempt a night passage in some parts due to all the lines. The attached rudder has a very well protected prop in an aperture which has never tangled in twenty years of cruising through thousands of pots.

The A4 is a fine and elegantly simple engine. I rebuilt mine a few years back for $1500 and expect it to last another forty years. I can order you a block, a crank ,a cam-virtually any part you would conceivably need in fifteen minutes or less from multiple sources on the web. Would I like a diesel? Sure, but for $8000 I'll save my money for now. For long distance cruising, the A4 is limited in power and range given the inefficient power curve and the limited tankage. For coastal cruising, it's smooth, quiet and has adequate power. Mine pushes me upriver regularly against the outgoing tide of the Merrimac River which ebbs at 1.5 knots. A Beta diesel upgrade would give a cruising range under power of a couple hundred miles-which for a small boat is not terrible. Many Vanguards have already had a diesel upgrade.

It is true, I guess, that you can cross oceans in just about anything, but it is extraordinary how many long voyages have been made in Vanguards. Three college grads circumnavigated on a Vanguard after graduating college. A couple from Maine went as far as Indonesia-I know several who have crossed the pond multiple times and I know one that races in the PACCup which is 2070 miles. I've spoken or corresponded with most of them and they all tell me the boat was safe, dependable and easy to handle in a seaway. We see them all over the coast of Maine where they are very well regarded. There is a very active users group on yahoo where you can correspond with hundreds of happy Vanguard owners and learn of virtually any upgrade you can imagine.

Having said all of the above, I will share that I am looking for a new boat. My girlfriend wants more room. She's new to sailing and does not yet realize the exponential difference in cost between maintaining a 32 footer and a 38 footer. Those cavernous interiors of newer designs, with aft cabins and large galleys look so appealing-but she has not had to brace herself in rough conditions. If I do relent, we'll postpone our cruising a couple of years (at least) in order to fill the kitty after outfitting a newer design. The thing is, every newer design I look at does not look 1/2 as pretty as my Vanguard in profile. Every time I row away from her, I take one more look to take her in-I am having a really hard time imagining letting her go.
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