We were one of the original Westsail 32 kit builders finishing hull #163, or was it 136, in ''74-75. We sailed California, French Polynesia and ended up in Kona in ''77. The second owners did a lot more modifications and refurbishment and took the boat to Australia and most of the South Pacific Islands in the early ''90s. It''s now back in Kona and on its 4th owner. Its being used in what looks like a very successful day sailing operation.
We lived aboard as we built and ended up with a modified dinette layout that was way better than the stock factory boats. We took advantage of every little nook and cranny to add a lot more usuable storage with a much nicer finish than the factory. We saw quite a number of boats that were under construction by their owners including Ference Mate''s. Most were very well finished though some were quite eccentric in their layouts. The Mate''s boat had an unusable galley in a seaway, for instance. It was a tribute to the finish carpenters that built the boat, however. Anyway, don''t shy away from a custom built Westsail, most were built with more thought, skill, and attention to detail than the factory boats. Do look carefully at how the layout works, however. If they strayed too far from the stock layout, they may not be practical for either cruising or living aboard.
Carefully the hulls of W32''s built after ''75 or so. Westsail was always in deep financial difficulty and did some pretty weird things when the vendors were hounding them for money. The early boats were laid up by Crystaliner, numbers under 300 or so, and were all very well done. Westsail started doing its own lay up later on and had a few boats that were screwed up. Don''t know if any of these boats are still out there. All lead ballast or the extra lead ballast and punchings option are good to have. The extra weight down low improves their sail carrying ability. I''ve seen at least one factory boat that had to have been way light on ballast as it floated 6 inches or more above its lines
. Any problems should have made their presence very obvious by now, so a decent surveyor should pick up on any problems. Basically, severe negligence during construction not withstanding, the W32''s are so overbuilt they''ll sink anything, including California, that they run into.
With their 20,000# plus displacement and wide beam carried well forward and aft, they have the interior volume of a 40'' boat. Plenty of room for a couple to live on and cruise. When we moved off the boat after 4 years, the kitchen in our first house would not hold the galley equipment and supplies we carried off the boat.
Even though the W32 has the nick name of the ''Wetsnail'', ours was a very fast boat. We averaged 120nm a day, through the water, for close to 10,000 miles. Those were sailing miles as we had less than 350 hours on the engine, mostly for battery charging, when we sold the boat after 10 years. We knew of no other boat within 10'' of her waterline that had a better average. One thing a W32 won''t do is beat into a chop, however. You simply cannot pinch these boats up. Crack off a bit and get boat speed up to 4 knots or more and they will sail the pants off most other boats in more than 10 knots of wind. If you are dumb enough to want to go hard on the wind, get in the habit of motor sailing. We could point up with the best IOR racer with the engine ticking over just above idle. From a close to a broad reach, there are very few boats that will stay with a W32. On one trip down from San Francisco to Newport Beach, we averaged over 140 nm a day with a best days run of 187nm. On a reach into Hawaii on the trip from the Marquesas, we covered 1,000 nm in 6 days. Of course, the first 1,000 miles took 12 days with light and fluky winds and sailing around in circles for a day in the ITC.
The boats carry a pretty strong weather helm when they''ve got a bone in their teeth. We spent most of our time at sea with a single reef in the main and a staysail and yankee. The slot between the two headsails was very important as boat speed suffered when we were forced to drop the Yankee and sail under staysail and reefed main, alone. A roller furling
Yankee, which we didn''t have, would probably allow you to balance out the foretriangle under all but the most severe conditions, however. We also carried a high cut reacher/drifter off a Morgan 35 for light air and broad reaching under more lively conditions. These four sails were a more than adequate inventory to drive the boat under all but storm conditions. A modern cruising spinnaker
/reacher and a real genoa would be a nice sail combination to carry if you didn''t mind an extra sail bag or two lying around.
The W32 will not balance out and self steer except going to windward so a competent pendulum servo self steering vane is a must. Nick, our Aries vane, sailed the boat in all but ghosting conditions. Can''t say enough good things about Nick Franklin and the Aries. A monitor or other vane would probably work just as well if the boat you find doesn''t already have a vane. A one armed autopilot
would have been nice for powering. Without one, it was an excuse not to turn the engine on.
A W32 is easy for a single hander to maneuver. With my 4''10, 85 pound wife as crew, we sailed into and out of practically every anchorage and harbor that we came to. The only time I felt the least intimidated was when we got hit by a sudden 40knots rounding Point Conception with the Reacher and full main up. Let the main off, set the self steering vane for a close reach and fought the Reacher down. The reacher was a real handful as the wind was so strong, it would actually fully hoist the sail up the stay if I didn''t physically haul it down. Hauled up the staysail which was already hanked on after fighting the Reacher into its bag. Then went aft and double reefed the main and we were back under control. Of course, as soon as all this was done with great drama, the wind dropped to 5 knots never to come back again.
We had a 2 cylinder Volvo MD2 engine that was the definition of simplicity. Easily hand cranked after the dynamo fell off, dead reliable and extremely economical at a becalmed 5 knots. It was all the powerplant we needed. For most people, it wasn''t enough power, though. Delivered two Westsails, one with the MD3 Volvo and the other with a Perkins 4-108. Both were much more maneuverable in reverse and more pleasant under power. The idiot owner of the Perkins powered W32 actually stopped the boat in its tracks when he lost control under full sail in an unexpected Santa Anna in Newport Harbor. The MD2 with a two bladed prop, told you I''m a sailor, was a bear in reverse. It Would not back to the left, if memory serves me right, with any rev''s on the engine. When going in reverse, the drill was to rev up the engine to build up some speed to get steerage, then drop the engine to idle and put the tiller hard over to turn. I ended up backing all the way out to the main channel from our slip at the marina more than once when the wind and tight surroundings wouldn''t let us turn the way we needed to.
As has been mentioned, most W32''s are no longer ingenue''s. Look for replacement of all the standing rigging
unless they were rigged with Norseman or similar terminals. The bowsprits and boomkins are prone to rot if not looked after. Carefully inspect these. Stay away from the teak deck option. I personally saw one boat built without any caulk under the teak. Don''t know why anyone would want to put a 1,000+ screw holes into a perfectly water proof fiberglass deck, in any case.
For the money, there is no faster, safer, comfortable, good looking cruising boat available. They are a downright steal at $50,000 with good equipment inventory. Replacement cost would probably be over $150,000 in todays dollars. The W32 is not a racing boat, however. If spinning on a dime, throwing up a spinnaker
and surfing at 20 knots are your thing, you''ll hate a W32. The W32 is like driving a 300d Mercedes, not a 300sl gull wing.
''Faerie'' now ''Honu''