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Old 07-10-2010
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Contessa 26 - What do you think

I just got back from a 2 hour test sail on a 1979 Canadian built Contessa 26 with an asking price of $8600. This would be my first boat and I'm not particularly experienced with boats this size although I've been on several friend/family boats over the years. The Contessa immediately caught my eye as an attractive, solid boat that is reasonably small and economical but with cruising potential (I don't think I'm interested in anything larger than this).

I'm hoping you guys could help give an assessment based on these pictures and point me in the right direction as far as questions, inspections etc that I should do before seriously considering buying it.

Here are some comments from the sail:
-The owner seemed friendly and honest and has owned the boat for 7 years
-He's painted the bottom and serviced the engine every year
-He's replaced some of the woodwork on the outside, the lower sidestays and the headstay in the last 3 years
-Engine is a 1997 Yanmar single cylinder diesel with ~80 hours
-The engine started easily, no smoke, runs roughly at first and at low RPM's but I'm guessing thats the nature of this motor?
-Cosmetically the boat struck my untrained eye as being in good shape. Interior woodwork looked good, 3 year old cushions, head looked good
-Head works, owner never used sink/water tank
-He hadn't replaced the sails and they looked a little old. Mainsail seemed too small for the boat
-Some small things didn't work: engine kill button has never worked, need to kill engine from inside. Compass plastic is fogged and difficult see, radio microphone doesn't work, he uses handheld. GPS came with boat but isn't working (might need antenna he says), he uses handheld.
-Front windows are cracked and leak a small amount
-Owner didn't seem to ever use electrical but it looked ok. He didn't know whether the interior lights worked but they did - running lights do work.
-Standing rigging seemed good? No cracks, please see pictures.

Picasa Web Albums - fdsa83 - Contessa


So here are some pics below and more pics if you copy and past the link above (All are from today except the last 3, which are from the owner 2 years ago). Seems like a great boat, in good shape but needing a little cosmetic work. What do you think?
Attached Thumbnails
Contessa 26 - What do you think-img_0759.jpg   Contessa 26 - What do you think-img_0758-1.jpg   Contessa 26 - What do you think-img_0743.jpg   Contessa 26 - What do you think-img_0738.jpg   Contessa 26 - What do you think-img_0745-1.jpg  


Last edited by asdf38; 07-10-2010 at 06:49 PM. Reason: Added engine hours
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Old 07-10-2010
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I owned a contessa. Check the chain plates structurally since they are internal. Check the foredeck for any de-lamination - this tends to be a problem. Check the brace on the bulkhead under the mast for cracks. everything else you need to check with the boat out of the water. get a proper survey.

be known, low freeboard. the cockpit is a bit dangerous in high seas - cockpit easily floods cabin unless you build something into the hatchway (hatchboards are not adequate). Cockpit sole can lean into engine compartment unless re-engineered a bit and sealed. drains in cockpit are a bit low and small.

Be known - cramped quarters; no head room.

a contessa 26 will spoil you though. Good first boat. You can build a folding chart table over one of the free bunks. In teh picks the ports need replacing.

Best of luck. worth it for the engine!
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Old 07-10-2010
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ASD

First and foremost, in case you are unaware, the link below will take you to a website dedicated to the Contessa 26

The Contessa Corner - A site for Contessa owners, sailors and dreamers.

I own a 1979 Contessa 26 myself. A wonderful boat that handles the heavy weather very well and surprising swift in the lighter air, no club racer but no dog either.
The main complaints with the boat are obvious when you see one
- small for a 26 footer
- No sliding hatch
- no standing head room for most people.

Clearly you have been on the boat and the above does not concern you.

Beyond the above the boat does not have any known serious problems specific to the make/model, beyond limited issues with the gel coat, see below for more details.

Most of the defects/problems that you list are easy enough to address, the cracked window would be a concern but fixable if you are at all handy. I say this with out seeing the window. A close inspection of the cabin around the window would be in order to ensure the damage is limited to the window its self.

The yanmar is a plus, assuming it is in good working order. Most co 26's were equipped with a 7.5 hp ferryman, a reliable but obnoxious engine, inferior to the yanmar. Any idea how many hours are on the engine?

A couple of things to look for/keep in mind
- For several years the cdn built co26's were made with too heavy a gel coat causing cracks in the deck surface. I would hazard to guess that if there are no/minimal cracks now then you should be ok, something to keep in mind.
- The pintles/gudgeons do wear over time, it is a common problem with the boat. Inspect the rudder to ensure there is not a significant amount of play, if there is they will need to be addressed at some point. Getting an exact replacement for the pintles/gudgeons are a hard find. I currently have this problem and until I get around to addressing it I shim up the gudgeons with a brass shim. It won't be easy to do in the water but take a look if you can.

- A new main sail will cost you 1100-1800$ cdn depending on wither you go with a local sail maker or with a Hong-Kong based company. I replaced my mainsail this year for 1100$ cdn, Lee sails out of Hong-Kong and am quite pleased with the results. The only outstanding concern will be how long the material lasts.
- Hank on head sails can be purchased used, online, quite cheap.

Price - you did not say wither this is cdn or US$, regardless 8600$ is a decent price for a co26, The boats tend to bottom out at 6-7000$ list price most of these with outboards and in need of some real attention. 8-10000$ seems to be the bottom end, list price, for a co26 in decent shape with an inboard.

If you get serious about the boat an inspection(marine survey) would be in order, ideally with the boat out of the water.


Hope the above helps, good luck

John


edit: just read saltmonkey's reply; agreed on the low free-board and large'ish cockpit. It has yet to be an issue for me but a design flaw, IMHO, non the less. Agreed on the internal chain-plates as well, as far as I can tell they are robust enough, but given they are internal they should be inspected. I have read of soft foredecks and have been one at least on co26 with them but am unware that they are a known issue with the boat. With that said saltmonkey's advice stands true, well worth inspecting.

Last edited by johnnyandjebus; 07-10-2010 at 06:29 PM.
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Old 07-10-2010
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The engine had 70 something hours (76 I think).
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Thanks for the great replies. I checked the four sidestay chainplates that were visible from inside. Pictures of them are on the web ablbum I linked and I'll post them here. I suppose the headstay and backstay should also be inspected? To my (untrained) eye I thought they looked good.
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Contessa 26 - What do you think-img_0747.jpg   Contessa 26 - What do you think-img_0748.jpg   Contessa 26 - What do you think-img_0749.jpg   Contessa 26 - What do you think-img_0751.jpg  
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Old 07-10-2010
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I know of one that completed a circumnavigation. IMHO don't purchase a vessel without a having it surveyed by an accredited surveyor. It's the best money you can spend.
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Old 07-10-2010
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Bit of a cult boat and should be easy to resell if you get 3 foot-itis.

Two notable circumnavigations Tania Aebi and Brian Caldwell both in the J. J. Taylor built Canadian version show that it is seaworthy .

The Yanmar is huge plus. Used headsails in good nick will be easy to find but you might need to buy a new main.

Looks like a good deal to me providing there are no lurking nasties.

Oh yeah gotta get a smaller dog though!
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Old 07-11-2010
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It is my understanding that the Canadian Contessas were built with a larger rig than than the British. A friend had one of the former and found that he had to reef quite early and often. This might account for the main being a little smaller than it could be - a former owner may have decided to go with a smaller main.

Someplace like Bacon could provide the sails you need - stick to their very good or better classifications.
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Old 07-11-2010
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First, I'd recommend inspecting the boat using the Boat Inspection Trip Tips thread I started, as it will help you determine whether this boat is worth looking at further.

Quote:
Here are some comments from the sail:
-The owner seemed friendly and honest and has owned the boat for 7 years
-He's painted the bottom and serviced the engine every year
What kind of servicing did he do? Does he have receipts? How many hours on the engine?

Quote:
-He's replaced some of the woodwork on the outside, the lower sidestays and the headstay in the last 3 years
The sidestays and headstay are rigging not woodwork, and if they needed replacement, it is likely that the rest of the rigging isn't far behind...so it probably needs new standing rigging.
Quote:
-Engine is a 1997 Yanmar single cylinder diesel with ~80 hours
-The engine started easily, no smoke, runs roughly at first and at low RPM's but I'm guessing thats the nature of this motor?
A 13 year old engine with only 80 hours on it is either going to be in very good shape, if properly maintained, or really bad shape. I'm kind of doubtful that it only has 80 hours on it...that'd be less than one hour of use a year, and if it is being maintained, you'd need to run it that long just to warm it up and change the oil.
Quote:
-Cosmetically the boat struck my untrained eye as being in good shape. Interior woodwork looked good, 3 year old cushions, head looked good
Looks can be deceiving... look in the lockers and bilge, using an inspection mirror and digital camera... they're far more likely to tell the truth of the condition of the boat IMHO.

Quote:
-Head works, owner never used sink/water tank
Things that aren't used often will fail... moderate use is far better than disuse. Seacocks that aren't worked can often seize up.
Quote:
-He hadn't replaced the sails and they looked a little old. Mainsail seemed too small for the boat
Have them evaluated by a sailmaker if you decide to get the boat.
Quote:
-Some small things didn't work: engine kill button has never worked, need to kill engine from inside.
This needs to be fixed. It could become a safety issue.

Quote:
Compass plastic is fogged and difficult see, radio microphone doesn't work, he uses handheld. GPS came with boat but isn't working (might need antenna he says), he uses handheld.
These are easily fixed...
Quote:
-Front windows are cracked and leak a small amount
The woodwork and interior in this area needs to be inspected very carefully. Even small leaks can lead to big problems, especially if the wood in the area starts to rot.
Quote:
-Owner didn't seem to ever use electrical but it looked ok. He didn't know whether the interior lights worked but they did - running lights do work.
Needs to be checked when you're on the boat next.
Quote:
-Standing rigging seemed good? No cracks, please see pictures.
See above...he replaced three pieces according to your OP...that means the rest is very likely in need of replacement...
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