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Old 03-23-2012
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Re: The Trouble With Columbias

What I would choose today is a loaded question, and please call me Tom.

We were on a limited budget, with permanently retiring to the south Pacific being our goal. We could have spent $100k on something bigger/nicer, but preferred to find a modest but sound boat. Budget permitting, we'd be on a 51 foot Formosa, but not being the case, Columbias are solid and affordable. We paid $15k for ours, and she had recent rigging and a new diesel in her. Now we have plenty of money to make her what we want, and we have made many improvements.

What we looked at in that price range that we really liked, was the Columbia 39, which is cavernous inside. Lots of headroom over 6'5" and lots of storage. It looks almost identical to the 34 MKII, being a Bill Tripp design, but is bigger. The larger Columbias (43 and up) from the late 60's through mid 70's are all fairly well built, although opinions vary. From what I understand later in the 70's they were built lighter and the quality may not have been there. Early 70's back the hulls were thick and sturdy. You can find deals on these boats, and you can, depending on their condition, sail them pretty much anywhere their draft permits. Drafts are mostly between six and seven feet. For your use, that may be an issue.

Aside from Columbias, we looked at Catalinas, too. They have a higher resale, are larger/beamier, but aren't recommended for offshore unless you do mods. Our Columbia 36, by the way, has made several passages from Hawaii to California. Others have circumnavigated on the 36, too. We really liked the Catalinas, but we planned on blue water, so they weren't in our plans.

If the price of diesel wasn't so high we might have opted for a motorsailer, and our second boat was, but we wanted a fast sloop for our plans. There are many other options available in your price range now that the market has softened so much. If you're in the 30 foot range and are mainly looking for coastal cruising, I would first look at the Catalina 30. Wide beam, nice interior, people say a fun sailer.

Hope this helps.
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1969 Crealock/Columbia 36 Sloop completely refitted in 2000 and new Yanmar in 2006.
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