Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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All right, If I have to...
I know the Wanderer, Coaster, Vanguard and Alberg 30 quite well. My family owned a Vanguard back in the 1960's and have sailed and worked on them at various points since. When we considered buying the Vanguard, we visited the Pearson plant and looked at how Coasters and Wanderers were being built, did a sail trail, and I have sailed on and been aboard these boats quite a few times since including racing a Coaster back in the 70's. I also know the Alberg 30 quite well, have sailed on them quite a bit and helped maintain one in exchange for being able to use the boat.
Of the bunch, I like the Coaster best in terms of sailing ability and motion comfort. The Coaster was designed to the MORC Rating rule of the day, which produced reasonably wholesome boats in terms of moderately longer water lines than was the trend for that era and more efficient underbodies and higher ballast ratios than was typical for the more popular CCA rating rule derived designs such as the Alberg 30 or Pearson Vanguard.
In the case of the Coaster the hull shape was also an improvement over either the Vanguard and Alberg, offering a slightly finer entry, more powerful sections and a cleaner run. This was noticable in a short chop, light air, or in windy reaching conditions.
In terms of build quality, all three were built fairly similarly. All three were pretty crudely built. The glass work on all three, while moderately thick, was laid up with resins, glass and laminating techniques that were inferior to the current techniques. These techniques have resulted in hulls which began life not as strong as they may appear and have lost strength over time. Adding to this these boats were built with minimal internal framing and the lack of internal framing further reduces thier robustness.
Beyond the hull, there are other construction issues that relate to the period during which these boats were built. Some of these items are easily recitified, and may have been addressed by previous owners. For example, in that era, tinned wiring was pretty rare, and connections were often soldered. Even when these boats were new, the electrical systems were often a pain in the butt to maintain. Obviously with time, these early wiring systems would need replacement if they are to remain reliable.
There are other issues as well. Depending on the year and option, all three boats were built with formica faced plywood bulkheads (I should note that I have sailed on both Alberg 30's and a Coaster which had naturally finished mahogany plywood builkheads that I can only surmise must have been an option, I don't know what was the relative proportion of A-30's and Coasters with formica vs natural ply). Formica faced plywood was a nice option in terms of being easy to keep clean and low initial maintenance, but a poor choice over time, the bulkheads can rot out behind the formica, nearly undetected until there is a structural failure. I looked at a Vanguard that had much of its bulkheads floating free of the hull where the plywood had held moisture against the rotting plywood behind. The nice thing about varnished mahogany plywood is that it can be observed for deterioration and issues addressed before they become more serious.
The Coaster was a later design than the other two and so employed more molded liner and interior components than the other two. This is good in many ways but it does make access a bit harder.
In terms of your proposed use, none of these three boats are especially good offshore cruisers. They were all intended as inshore racer cruisers. While I know that all of these boats have been taken offshore, in my mind they would all be a poor choice. I would say that of the three the Coaster would probably be my choice as an all around better design.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay