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wanna_sail 01-08-2005 04:15 PM

WESTSAIL 32 and similar

I am new to boat ownership. Sailed a bit with other people and on rentals. It is time to buy. I will be taking the ASA 101-104 courses at my leisure, then do some coastal cruising to get some real experience.

I am looking for a boat my wife & I can live on and we want something comfortable & built like a tank. The boat will be used for coastal cruising for the first year or until I feel comfortable to go somewhere off shore; then who knows, maybe a circumnavigation! I want a boat that is capable of doing that should we decide. Racing is not in my plan so speed is not a major factor; I have lots of time to get there.

I am 45 and physically fit, she is less than 45 (how’s that for staying out of trouble) and also physically fit. I am thinking of buying a Westsail 32. They range in price from about $35,000 – $70,000. My budget is about 40-50K depending how the boat is equipped so the Westsail fits that criteria along with many others I have like safety and the ability to solo sail.

What are your opinions of the WESTSAIL ?

In that price range and with these requirements can you recommend any other type of boat ?

Thanks in advance


Irwin32 01-08-2005 08:04 PM

WESTSAIL 32 and similar
The Westsail is a proven boat. It can take you anywhere - though slowly. It was a W 32 that appeared in the "Perfect Storm" What the movie did not tell you was that the W 32 was later found, after the crew was forced to abandon, washed up on the shore with very little damage.

For the money you are planning on spending, there are other boats that will go off shore and sail faster. I have sailed for over 25 years and am presently positioning myself to buy an offshore boat. It will not be a W 32 because I want better performance than that boat will give me. I am not going to circumnavigate, but will go to Bermuda - maybe Europe. That said, the W32 will get you there in safety.

sailingfool 01-09-2005 08:01 AM

WESTSAIL 32 and similar
54 Attachment(s)
Irwin 32

Let''s not wax too poetic about the W32.

I think the W32 is all image and little boat.

Another way to look at the Perfect Storm story is that the W32 was so un-manageable and uncomrfotable in the storm that the crew demanded to get off, even thought he boat was in no danger of sinking.
My best recollection of a W32 was joining tacks with one on Narragansett Bay in 20-25 mph winds. She had all these neat brown sails up, a Yankee and a staysail and a full main as I recall. However we quickly left her behind in my friend''s old Cal 25, going a few degrees higher and 1-2 knots faster.

Boats are all about tradeoffs of performance versus seakeeping ability versus robust construction, but a some point there is no excuse for just plain slow. The W 32 may look shipley on a calendar cover, but the boat is a dog.

Johnrb 01-09-2005 08:47 AM

WESTSAIL 32 and similar

I can’t comment directly on the Westsail 32 but if you check back through this message board you will find some insightful comments by Jeffh. Apart from the performance issue, Jeff also discusses structural issues since many Westsail 32’s were owner completed.

dman 01-09-2005 09:48 AM

WESTSAIL 32 and similar
That must have been some crew, to get off a boat that is not sinking , in a storm and into what? Something more comfortable and safer?Maybe that tells you something about their skill at managing a boat.I know it tell`s me about their ability to make correct decisions.

Johnrb 01-09-2005 06:37 PM

WESTSAIL 32 and similar

The owner of the boat (Satori) was a retired Coast Guard captain and experienced sailor. He embarked on the trip with the intent of single handing but took on two crew at the last minute (he believed they were somewhat experienced). The crew panicked during the storm and may have triggered a Mayday during a radio call supposedly to notify authorities of their position (the crews’ comments during the call are unknown). This triggered the Coast Guard who dispatched a jet to fly over the boat during which time the panicking crew wanted to be evacuated. The Coast Guard ordered the evacuation of Satori who then were rescued by helicopter against the wishes of the captain.

An account of the incident is linked below.

dman 01-10-2005 05:13 AM

WESTSAIL 32 and similar
Two thumbs up ,nice review

PCP 01-10-2005 06:19 AM

WESTSAIL 32 and similar
Huummm...Sailingfool said:

"I think the W32 is all image and little boat... the boat is a dog."

Read that story sailingfool....

That boat is not fast but it looks very seaworthy to me...and it''s only a 32ft.


Jeff_H 01-10-2005 06:37 AM

WESTSAIL 32 and similar
The Westsail 32 is the antithesis of a good boat upon which to learn to sail. They also make a very poor choice for a first boat. I would suggest that you start out with a boat that is more responsive. Also reasonable speed is more important to a cruiser than to a racer. A racer with a slow boat merely loses a race, but a reasonably well performing cruiser means being able to better chose when you will enter a port, or the amount of supplies that need to be carried on a long pasage, or a reduction in the amount of motoring time relative to sailing time that is required and so on. In any event this is a prior review on the Westsail 32 that I had written:

One thing that you can say about the Westsail 32''s, they are not all that easy to discuss in an objective way. They have a strong following amongst those that love them and they are the butt of jokes by people who don''t. There is so much hyperbole and derision surrounding these boats that it is hard to really tell where the truth starts and the emotion ends. Here''s how I see them.......

To begin to understand the Westsails you need to look at where they came from. In a general sense, the Westsail 32 pretty closely based on the Atkin''s designed ''Eric''. The ''Eric''s'' were a 1930''s era design. They were heavily constructed as wooden boats with gaff rigs. Atkins was a master of adapting various burdensome (able to carry large loads) working craft designs, into smaller lighter yacht forms. He was a master of modeling hulls so that these extremely heavy vessels (even for their day) sailed reasonably well as compared to a what you would have expected in that ear from a boat of this type. In the case of the ''Eric'', Atkins based his design on a Colin Archer sailing yacht that was based on the world famous Colin Archer Rescue Boats. The ''Eric''s'' carried enormous sail plans and really took some skill to sail. To stand up to that enormous sail plan, the ''Eric''s'' were heavily ballasted with external cast lead ballast. That combination gave them reasonable performance (for a heavy cruiser of their day) in a pretty wide range of conditions.

There are varying stories about how the Eric design was adapted to become the Westsail 32. William Crealock seems to be credited with drafting the adaptation. When the ''Eric''s'' were adapted to fiberglass there were a number of changes made. To begin with the fiberglass hulls actually weighed more than the wooden hull of the Eric. This was partially because the freeboard was raised and a high bulkhead included as a part of the fiberglass work. They were also not quite as strong and stiff as the wooden hulled ''Eric''s''. To help the boats float on their lines, the Westsails had less ballast than the ''Eric''s''. This made them comparatively tender and as a result their sail plans were reduced in size dramatically from the ''Eric''s'', which is not to say that they have a small sailplan, just that they have a small sail plan for thier drag.

This ballast and sail plan change had a dramatic affect on the sailing ability as well. Although the Westsails still carry huge sailplans compared to most 32 footers and or most boats with their waterline length, they are next to useless as sailboats in winds under 8 or so knots. They are also not as good as the ''Eric''s'' in heavier conditions either. This is because the Westsails still have equal hull drag through the water, but they have greater windage, a higher center of effort in their sail plans. To over come that resistance they need to carry essentially the same sail area as the ''Eric''s'' but since they have comparatively less ballast that means that they end up heeling more than the wooden Erics.

This ballasting issue is further complicated by the fact that the Westsails had internal ballast (which reduces the volume and depth of the ballast) and that many had lower density ballast in the form of iron set in concrete, which further raised the center of gravity pretty dramatically. Even further exacerbating this situation is the fact that while many of these boats were factory-built, a lot were sold as kits and some were sold without ballast. The kit built boats varied hugely in terms of ballasting, interior appointment, rig, deck hardware weights and postions.

They also varied quite widely in terms of layouts down below and the quality of workmansip being done. This variation resulted in a pretty wide range of sailing characteristics and a pretty wide variation in the amount of weight in gear and tankage that the boats can tolerate.

I know that there are strong proponents of this venerable design, but in my mind they only make sense in some narrow range of venues and for certain types of owners. While a bit of breeze brings these boats into life, even in 15 to 18 knots of wind they are slow compared to more modern designs. While they have a slow motion, they are real rollers, which personally I would rather accept a little quicker motion with less rolling. (When you talk about motion comfort there are two factors at play, the speed of accelleration at each end of the roll and the angle of the roll. In US navy studies of motion comfort, about half of the people in the studies preferred a slower roll through a wider angle, and the other half preferred a perhaps snappier motion through a narrower angle. If you fall in the slow roll camp then the Westsail would be a comfortable boat for you. If you fall in the ''can''t deal with large roll angles (like myself) then the Westsail probably is not an ideal boat for you.) If you are looking at a Westsail for coastal cruising in most US east coast venues (comparatively light winds) then a Westsail in probably not an ideal choice. BUT if you live in an area that has predominantly high winds or you plan a lot of offshore passages then the Westsail might make sense for some.

Westsails contain a lot of compromises that make them miserable boats as coastal cruisers and to a lesser extent as live aboards. They cockpit is cramped and uncomfortable. They lack good ventilation, being quite dark down below. It is hard to find a suitable way to store a reasonable dinghy. They are expensive to own, requiring the sail inventory of a much larger boat. With their bowsprit and boomkin in many if not most marinas end up paying for a 40 foot slip, while only having the room of a 32 footer. You also end up paying for bottom paint and deck hardware for a much larger boat than you actually get the advantage of owning. These are exhausting boats to sail with high helm loads in a breeze (which can be offset by greatly reducing sail, which is fine if you do not have to claw off of a leeshore or don''t mind the very leisurely pace that results.) They also have anachronistic compromises that make them less than ideal for offshore work. For example in this day and age, going offshore with a headsail tacked at the end of a bowsprit makes no sense at all. There is a good reason that bowsprits were known as ''widowmakers'' during the era of working sailing craft.

Lastly, no matter how you look at it, the Westsails are slow by any objective standard. Their design is based on thinking that is well over a hundred years old. While the ocean has changed little in 100 years, our understanding of what makes a boat safe, fast, durable and comfortable has changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Even if the generally historic ideas of reflected in the design of the Westsail appeal to you, there are other designs, similarly priced, that offer a lot better sailing performance, ease of handling, seakindliness and equal seaworthiness.


jkumin 01-10-2005 07:22 AM

WESTSAIL 32 and similar
The original question comes from someone new to sailing, who wants a boat to learn on and coastal cruise, and ultimately if things work out go off-shore. I would hope even passionate defenders of Westsail 32''s would agree they are not the best boat to learn how to sail on, and are awkward as coastal cruisers (watch someone try to dock one in a tight marina).

Consider buying a used coastal cruiser and spend a year or two with it. A popular used boat won''t depreciate much. After that you will be far better equipped to assess whether a Westsail 32 is the right boat for you. Buy a boat for the use at hand rather than a possible future expedition.

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