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post #4 of Old 12-30-2002
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Your thoughts on Albergs and Islanders appreciated


Let me try to piggyback on some of Jeff''s comments and also on your stated goals. But remember that comments on both cruising and boat designs are highly subjective despite a large body of data available on each, so were I you, I''d continue to seek out information from as wide a (knowledgeable) population as possible. There really aren''t absolute answers to your questions IMO.

I agree with Jeff''s encouragement that you reconsider your benchmark criteria in picking a boat, but more fundamentally, I''d suggest you refine your cruising goal(s). There are many different types of "cruising Latin America" and being clear about what you''ll be attempting (and NOT doing) will have a direct bearing on boat choice. West Coast of Central America as far as southern Mexico, or to the Canal and perhaps into the Caribbean? Visiting the Hispanic Caribbean (Cuba, DR, Mexico, Guatemala, etc.)? Both these objectives involve the Central America area (and some nearby islands) but require facing their own unique kinds of conditions, both underway and at anchor. Eager to visit the N coast of South America (Venezuela, Columbia, San Blas Is.)? That''s a different body of water, including some of the toughest water to cross in the Western Hemisphere (off Columbia during the height of the Xmas Trades). Further south (Equador, one of the "newest" cruising grounds being explored, or down to Rio on the Atlantic side? These are very different kettles of fish than any of the above choices. And how long will you be living aboard & cruising. More detail on all this will get you better info.

You''re fortunate to have such a nice listing of older boats offered to you by Jeff; he really knows his stuff in that area. However, some of those boats are far more suitable than others for each route I mention above. E.g. when considering both what you get for your money and how suitable it is for your intended cruising, the Cal 34-2 or -3 design is IMO more desireable for that West Coast run (much better in lighter airs off SoCal, Mexico and in the Panama islands) than in the Caribbean. Another advantage to a Cal 34 is that they are so cheap you can actually outfit the boat for safety and some comfort while staying at least within shouting distance of your budget. If you add up the big ticket items leading to offshore sailing in relative safety (new rigging, perhaps some new sails, adequate engine prep & spares, a good kit of flares, perhaps a hand water maker, raft and the like), perhaps along with a rig mod to accommodate heavy weather sailing since you''ll likely have your jib(s) on a furler, plus more, you''ll exceed the cost of the boat. Of course, if ''Latin America'' means sailing down to Mexico, Belize and the Rio Dulce from the Gulf Coast, many (tho'' not all) of these mods & purchases become more optional than essential, as your exposure to risk is reduced substantially. The more ambitious your plan, the more boat prep required (especially in an older boat), and the less bucks available to you for the initial purchase. (You''ll notice I haven''t even *touched* popular systems additions like a watermaker, enhanced electrical system, etc.).

Re: the specific boats on Jeff''s list (and again, not knowing what you''re actually hoping to do, or for how long...), here are some add''l comments to chew on:

Alberg 37''s as built by Kurt Hansen up in Whitby got more poorly built each year; earlier is better, structurally speaking. The yawl rig will introduce intense weather helm and force earlier sail changing (but yes, it looks great!). It''s meager, after-thought nav station and limited interior room (tho'' functional) makes it less appealing to me as a long-distance cruiser. Like the other Alberg designs of its era, it''s tender and rolly as Jeff describes, with a rudder that becomes increasing ineffective as the boat heels. It has ''that look'' that many of us have come to admire and associate with distance cruising...but such designs probably deserved it more when choices were fewer and we were all a bit more romantic in our thinking.

Islanders - I doubt you can touch a Freeport 36 or equip it even minimally within your budget. Great liveaboard boat but find a comfy bucket to use in the cockpit when offshore, because you won''t want to do your business up in the bow. An Islander 36 is a wonderful design and not badly built - sails well, functional layout, and perhaps best of all, many of these have already been upgraded to offshore cruising with great success, so you might find some turnkey boats on the market and will only have to struggle with the cost issue. Also, keep in mind that what was viewed as ''lightweight boat'' in the 70''s is at best a moderate displacement boat today.

I enjoy viewing a Tartan 34 from the water but think it a poor choice offshore and for extended cruising. I find it''s cockpit cramped and ergonomically lousy - and guess where you spend lots of time. I''m also not in favor of its lone lower shrouds in line with the uppers - I think you need more support there. And then there''s the issue of a centerboard boat offshore; some are designed to handle offshore conditions acceptably (e.g. Shannon 37, several of the Hood designs) but this Tartan was designed with sailing grounds like the Chesapeake in mind.

Several generations of Cals (34, 35, 36) are worth considering, again depending on your intended route, mostly due to their value pricing and nice sailing characteristics. Double check those rudders, though.

Chris Craft 35 deck structures were, at least on some occasions, built terribly, despite the decent S&S design. (Look at the pic in After 50,000 Miles by Hal Roth). Also, CC tried to fit lots of "accommodation" into their boats vs. fitting things to the human body, or at least that''s how being on one strikes me.

Princess 36 and Pearson 365 boats are both great choices - big enough to be comfortable, solid offshore, generally well built, both with design compromises (not terribly maneuverable; shallower keels and not very good to weather; not light air boats) but not ones difficult to live with. Princess sloops and ketches are often found these days with staysail rigs, while 365''s have the inherent sail choices of a ketch - in both cases, making the sail plan much more adaptable to ''real'' sailing conditions. I''m doubtful either one can fit in your budget after some needed upgrading & prep, however. You''ll have to bargain very cleverly, indeed.

Finally, I''d suggest you look at smaller boats if you''re really serious about extended cruising (how many in your crew? you don''t tell us...) and perhaps find a more suitable, better equipped boat that''s still within your budget. Hallberg-Rassy 35''s and Monsun 31''s, designed by Ollie Enderlein, are wonderful offshore boats altho'' with smaller interiors than we''re accustomed to seeing today. Very strongly built but great sailers. Many cruising sailors swear by Pearson''s Vanguard and, again, you can find these already upgraded and repowered with a diesel but not priced highly due to their age. I''d also recommend an Albin Ballad, built in Sweden and being raced today in some numbers in the North Sea...and very inexpensive when located in the U.S.

And has been discussed here before, maybe the boat choice isn''t as important as we all make it sound. E.g., some Coronado/Columbia 35''s from the 60''s have circumnavigated multiple times without structural problems and, despite their aesthetic limitations and dated manufacturing qualities, are cheap and available in the marketplace. After all, it''s the experience you end up having - and not the magic carpet you are riding - that matters most to some of us. Just make sure your carpet doesn''t start getting wet half way there!

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