Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Another One Bites The Dust
Columbia Yachts during the mid- 1960''s were essentially the Hunter, Catalinas and Beneteaus of today. They were very much high proiduction budget oriented boats. Compared to better built yachts of that era everything was pretty lightly constructed, which is not to say that it is light weight by modern standards. Before someone trots out the myth that "they were over built because designers did not know how strong fiberglass was", designers knew just how strong the fiberglas of the era was and they engineered to that strength. There was tremendous research into fiberglass performed by the US government during WWII and Korea and the better designers of that era understood the material quite well.
The problem was that fiberglass of that era was did not have the strength of modern materials. Not only did they start out with a lower strength but fiberglass resins and fabrics of that era were also more prone to fatigue over time. Columbia was notorious for using a lot of accellerators and non-directional fabric (mostly mat). Accellerators greatly increase the tendancy toward fatigue and brittleness while non-directional fabrics also greatly increase the tendancy towards fatigue but also greatly reduces the impact resistance of the hull.
These boats were extreme CCA racing rule beaters with very short waterlines, as a result they have the accomodations. carrying capacities, and sailing ability of a modern 40 footer with the maintenance expenses of a 36 year old cheaply built 50 foot raceboat. The short waterlines, heavy displacement and small sailplans resulted in boat that by any objective standards are quiet slow for their length. Their long overhangs and deep canoe bodies result in a boat that pitches and rolls far more than would be ideal for offshore work, or even coastal cruising.
The early 50''s used a lot of formica on the bulkheads. That has a tendancy to trap moisure against the wood allowing it to rot out concealed by the formica. This can be a serious problem when the boat is pushed hard in a seaway. (I looked at the repairs to a smaller Columbia of this era that had lost its rig when the main bulkhead had rotted out totally hidden from sight behind the formica and the chain plate bolts pulled through the bulkhead and deck.)
You sometimes see these boats listed as ''full keel'' when in fact they were a good example of a fin keel with an attached rudder. Fin keels with attached rudders are not a wonderful way to go since they exhibit all of the negatives of both a fin keel and a full keel, and few of the virtues of either.
In the end, while I know that there are people who really love these boats, unless you are looking for a ''welcome to yesterday'' experience with the ''Wayback'' machine set to one of the poorest periods in the history of yacht design, there are much better ways to go, expecially when you consider the sheer costs involved in taking a 36 year old, inexpensively built, 50 foot, 33,000 lb. "Ready to be prepared to travel the world" boat into shape to really do lengthy voyaging.