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leonem 11-02-2010 09:15 AM

Pearson Vanguard, or other, for first cruising boat
Hi All,

We're a couple in our late 20s, with a few of years of sailing experience, sail training and ASA certification between us. We're based in New York City, sail Sonars with a sailing club and charter when we've got time to go out for longer. We're interested in buying a sailboat that'll help us improve our skills and gain a better understanding of all of the mechanical systems.

We'd like to spend less than $20,000 on a 30-35' boat that can:
- make it safely with 2 or 3 people on board from New York to, say, Martha's Vineyard, and
- confidently handle severe weather along the coast, as I'd like to get a chance to practice our foul weather procedures in actual foul weather.

We're interested in safety over speed, and are perfectly comfortable with and used to full-keeled boats. A fixer-upper is not an option: our careers don't allow us the free time to rebuild a boat.

We'd like a sloop or cutter rig, an inboard diesel, and wheel steering (yes, yes, yes, I know that a tiller feels more "direct," that autopilots for tillers are an order of magnitude cheaper, that wheel steering is more prone to failure, that a wheel crowds the cockpit, etc. -- but I like to stand when I steer, and I love the feeling of standing at the wheel of a sailboat... and isn't that feeling what we spend all that time and money chasing anyhow?)

My searching has lead to the Pearson Vanguard as the #1 choice. Most Vanguards on sale today have been converted to wheel steering and have had their original Atomic 4 gas engines replaced with diesels, so they fit the bill. Prices range from $10,000 - $20,000, depending on kit and location.

However, I got some feedback from Jeff_H, who questions both the build quality and sailing abilities of the Vanguard, and suggests the Tartan 30, which I think is just a touch too small.

So - those who own or have sailed Pearson Vanguards: does the Vanguard sound like the right choice? What are they like to sail and to maintain?

Everyone else - any other boat suggestions?

Thanks so much!!

sailingfool 11-02-2010 10:20 AM

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Jeff suggestion of the Tartan 30 is an excellent recommendation, one I would second without hesitation. You wont find the sailing experience so reduced with a T30 versus the older Pearson. Where youhave a wheel preference (one tha tI can appreciate), i would suggest you look for a C&C 30. The C&c has the same sterling qualities of the Tartan 30 but usually came with a wheel...

I owned one for six years and 30 years later still feel it the best boat I've owned...

sailingdog 11-02-2010 10:26 AM

I think the Tartan 30 would be a much better sailing boat than the Vanguard. It would certainly be a better performer in the light air that you often see in Long Island Sound.

Another good choice would be something like an O'Day 302 or 322.

Given where you're located, I'd avoid the full-keel designs, as they're going to have a significant performance penalty.

paul323 11-02-2010 10:31 AM

The catch is that there are a lot of boats that size for that budget - depending on age, condition, yada yada. I don't know the Vanguard, sorry, but I own a Pearson 323 - and excellent coastal cruiser - which would fit the bill; a friend has a P27. What they all have in common is that Pearson made solid, well-thought-out boats.

Tartans are very nice, as are C&Cs; you have a lot of choices. My advice is to visit a few boatyards in person; see what's available, get a feel for the different boats. And act fast while the economy sucks and boats aren't selling...

leonem 11-02-2010 01:08 PM

Thanks everyone for their comments so far. The Pearson 323 and the C&C 30 are good suggestions, as is the suggestion to go out and visit some boatyards -- we've got some time until next season to shop around, so we'll probably go and take a look at what's available, then perhaps see if someone will let us do a test sail in March or April.

Also a very helpful member PM'd me a (favorable) review of the boat, which can be found here: American Beauty

Here's a summary of what I've gathered so far on the pro's and con's of the Vanguard:

- It's a beautiful 32.5' sailboat
- Affordable entry to 30+ foot cruiser class
- Classy overhangs, nice lines, and aside from a bit of weather helm, reportedly good "relaxed" sailing ability (by "relaxed" I mean not racing)
- Hull built like a tank's
- Large number built
- Heavy, full keeled hull should translate to good angle of vanishing stability (nod, however, to Jeff_H's comment in an earlier thread that the number may not mean much in practice), no worries about keel steps, more forgiving in a grounding situation, etc.

Cons I personally don't really care about:
- Short LWL for the LOA (slow)
- Full keel (slow and difficult to motor backwards)
- Tender (I read in another thread that the boat was built with less ballast than Phil Rhodes had in mind)
- Tight interior

Cons I do care about:
- Questionable deck-to-hull joint (anyone with insight on this?)
- Several potential problem areas
* Mast step (not stainless)
* Water seepage in the bilge
* Water seepage into the deck
* Degradation in the plywood cored deck
- Originally built with tiller steering and an Atomic 4 gas engine (though most Vanguards on the market seem to have been upgraded to a wheel and a diesel)

It seems from this list that if I avoid the problem areas (i.e. bring an inspector with me when buying), and spend a few grand on re-stepping the mast and polyurethaning the deck if needed, the Vanguard is a good choice.

Any feedback on this list? For those who've sailed in a Vanguard, how tender is she really? I've sailed Cape Dorys, which are also quite tender, but they tend to heel quite a bit but then settle. I get that it'll be uncomfortable but how safe is the Vanguard with 2 reefs in the main and a storm jib in 6-8 foot rollers and 35-40kts of wind?

MARC2012 11-02-2010 01:21 PM

Might go little over budget but consider the Allied boats.Should find some in your area.marc

tommays 11-02-2010 06:46 PM

We'd like to spend less than $20,000 on a 30-35' boat that can

I would like to see what you find in that price range as everything i looked at in that range had pretty dated sails/ standing/running rigging and systems in general

* Degradation in the plywood cored deck :eek:


Questionable deck-to-hull joint (anyone with insight on this?)

its a messy PITA to fix on any boat

I get that it'll be uncomfortable but how safe is the Vanguard with 2 reefs in the main and a storm jib in 6-8 foot rollers and 35-40kts of wind?

Even on the 35' that's just a wet/cold miserable way to spend time that's gonna beat the boat and you to death in pretty short order
It will be 26 knots any minute now

A lot of people think a J24 is tender i owned one for a long time and it can be a wet ride but with a two reefs in the main i always got home ;)

Now if you start looking at boats like a Catalina 27 you will most likely find a diesel boat in fairly good overall condition in that price range

leonem 11-03-2010 08:08 AM

Allied boats are a great idea, but most were ketches, and I'm more in the market for a sloop or cutter.

tommays - thanks for the advice; I see the dangers of the plywood! I'll take a look @ the Catalinas in the sub-30 range, that might be a decent compromise though I'd like a bit more boat than that.

I've gotten a few other suggestions that I'm liking as well, including the Pearson 323, the Bristol 32 or 34, which I'm researching now. A few have suggested Pacific Seacraft boats but they're over budget unfortunately, same story with Cape Dorys.

jetboy52 11-05-2010 03:19 PM

I had a Vanguard for 10 years before going to an Alberg 37 and I loved the Vanguard. There is an excellent Vanguard for sale right now on the Yahoo Group Pearson Vanguard discussion group. It is super well equipped for $21,500. You would be hard pressed to find more boat for the money anywhere. The boat is called Yarden and I have no connection to it.

leonem 11-05-2010 05:00 PM

Thanks for the tip jetboy - you've found the Vanguard that started it all for me, actually. This one's been on sale for a year or so. $21,500 is expensive for a Vanguard, but I've been thinking about this particular boat quite a bit lately... might drive up and check her out at some point before the sailing season starts!

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