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Go Back   SailNet Community > Contributing Authors > Buying a Boat Articles
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Old 07-05-2004
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John Kretschmer is on a distinguished road
Through the Cracks


There's rarely anything as beautiful or as suggestive as a boat lying at anchor, and the author has taken pains to see quite a few. Here, a capable Rawson 30 awaits its next outing.
I'm an anchorage junkie and it can be a dangerous obsession. Anytime, anywhere, if I spy sailboats lying to their anchors I immediately detour to find an unobstructed view of the harbor whether I'm in a car, boat, or bike. I have swerved across three lanes of rush-hour traffic to snatch a glimpse of an anchored sloop on the Intracoastal Waterway and climbed a rusty chain link fence festooned with ‘no trespassing' signs to study the lines of a precariously anchored ketch on the narrow Miami River.

A boat at anchor is a fundamentally different animal than one strapped to a dock or even one swinging to a mooring. Sailors with the best of intentions still can't resist plugging in the bright yellow umbilical cord when dockside, forming an uneasy and luxuriant alliance with their powerboat neighbors. Moorings too represent an unnatural sense of permanence and security; after all you pay for the privilege every month and expect your buoy to be waiting for your boat hook whenever you return.

Anchoring is different; it's unpredictable and wonderfully transient (sometimes too much so when the anchor drags in the middle of the night.) An anchored boat is like a migrating tern perched on a tree branch—it may be resting but it is still underway. Well, that's how I described it to my daughters; they didn't think much of the analogy either. Yes, shamelessly, I have passed my anchorage addiction on to my next of kin. Several days a week (if I'm not off on a delivery), after bribing them with a Klondike Bar at 7/11, we make our way to the anchorage south of the Las Olas Bridge here in Ft. Lauderdale after school. (OK, technically it's a mooring field, but you can only stay a week and when the moorings are occupied, boats anchor nearby.) The girls blow off steam by climbing trees and I gaze out at the anchored boats and chat with whoever rows over my way.


The pilothouse version of the Rawson 30 makes this boat even more versatile for life on board.
I pride myself on identifying the makes and models of the boats at anchor, but every now and then I'm stumped. Just a few weeks ago, a small pilothouse sloop with a sweet sheer line took up a mooring. Adorned with serious cruising gear including solar panels and a self-steering windvane, the boat boasted Seattle as its homeport. I flagged down the young couple as they prepared to go ashore. "It's a Rawson 30," they told me. When I said I knew the Rawson, but didn't know they built a pilothouse model, they smiled and with the utter command of minute details that only sailors clutter their brains with, told me, "Oh yes, there were 36 pilothouse 30s built between 1976 and 1984." We chatted awhile and I learned that they had come by way of Panama and the Western Caribbean and hoped to spend the summer in Maine before heading offshore and to the eastern Caribbean in the fall. As they motored toward the city docks I realized that the Rawson 30 was another one of those great, inexpensive cruising boats that so often fall ‘through the cracks.'

One of the few things I know a lot about are sailboats, specifically cruising boats, and I'm often asked what is the ideal boat for world cruising. Of course, there is no way to answer this question, one sailor's definition of ideal is another's version of floating hell. I have noticed, however, that most sailors gravitate toward mainstream boats, boats that are advertised in magazines and displayed at boat shows. Although they intend to buy a used boat, they still stick with brand names. There are, however, a wide variety of capable cruisers that are no longer on the radar screen of most buyers. Often times they were built by small companies, or even individuals, and production and advertising budgets were limited. Sometimes they have just been out of production so long that they've been forgotten by a generation of sailors. To be sure there are some dogs to be avoided, but there are also some lovely and very affordable cruising boats that have fallen through the cracks.

The Rawson 30, which can be purchased for between $10,000 and $30,000, is better known on the West Coast, where it was built and where most of the boats were sold. More than 250 of the standard 30s were built during a long production run that began in 1959 and stretched into the early ‘80s. Builder Ron Rawson was one of the pioneers of the fiberglass revolution and the handsome William Garden designed, long-keeled Rawson 30 is a well-proven circumnavigator. Every now and then a Rawson 30 will turn up for sale on the East Coast and often languish on the market. I saw one advertised recently for $9,900. East Coast sailors know all about the older full-keel boats like the Alberg 30, the Pearson Triton, and the Cape Dory 30. Yet, if I had to choose a 30-foot sloop for a world cruise, I'd pick the Rawson 30 in a heartbeat.

"Two reasons for the boat's success were robust construction, and despite a nine-foot beam, a roomy, practical interior plan."
Rawsons were built in Redmond, WA. Two reasons for the boat's success were robust construction, and despite a nine-foot beam, a roomy, practical interior plan. The full keel, fairly high freeboard hull shape displaces 12,000 pounds, with 5,000 pounds of ballast. It's not much of a light-air performer but its seaworthiness is legendary. By way of comparison, the Alberg 30 displaces 9,000 pounds. The interior features six-foot, three-inches of headroom, a large raised dinette to port, and ample storage. The boat was also offered in kit form, with owners finishing the interior, which is a mixed blessing for any boat. While some kit boats are well done, others are dreadful and the overall resale value sags as a result. But you don't buy a Rawson 30 for fine joinery—it's a boat to launch your cruising dreams now, instead of waiting to purchase a more expensive boat.

Over the years the Rawson 30 underwent several small design changes. A bowsprit was added to ease the weather helm and add sail area, and the original dinette was changed to a more conventional settee arrangement. Also, as noted earlier, the pilothouse model became available in 1976, pulled from the original Rawson 30 hull mold. The original engine was a gasoline Palmer 22, but a diesel alternative was an early option. To learn more details about the Rawson 30, you can visit the owner's association website at: members.aol.com/_ht_a/rawson30.htm.


The wide side decks that border the Rafiki 37's stout cabin house offer secure footing underway and ample deck room at anchor.
I just returned from a writing assignment to the Puerto Rican island of Culebra. From my guesthouse patio I had a lovely view of the inner harbor of Ensenda Honda, one of the best natural anchorages in the Caribbean. Although I was supposed to be writing a travel piece, my attention was focused on the many sailboats anchored in the bay. One boat especially intrigued me and I had to take a closer look. I rented a kayak and paddled out. Sure enough, the handsome double-ender was a Rafiki 37, one of my favorites from a long ago delivery and another ‘through-the-cracks' boat.

The Rafiki, which means friendship in Swahili, looks a lot like a Tayana 37, one of the most popular blue-water boats ever built. Designed by Stan Huntingford, and later morphed into the Slocum 37, the Rafiki's lines are finer and the boat is a better performer than the Tayana. Built in Taiwan, approximately 50 Rafiki 37s were built during a short production run in the mid to late ‘70s.

The boat has something of a cult following, and like the Rawson 30, seems better known on the West Coast, particularly in San Francisco Bay. With a powerful cutter rig, shippy round bronze portlights, a hefty outboard rudder, and a sprightly boomkin, the Rafiki 37 just looks like it belongs anchored in the tranquil shadows of Huahini or Bora Bora. While it's easy to spend to close six figures on an older Tayana 37, you can often find a Rafiki in the high $50,000s or low $60,000s. The BUC used boat pricing guide, the industry standard, lists the average asking price of a 1978 Rafiki 37 in good condition at $65,000. Of course there are problems: the teak decks are notorious leakers and the black iron fuel and water tanks will likely need to be replaced. But when you consider that the boat is ruggedly constructed, beautifully finished below with elegant oriental teak joiner work, a spirited sailor, and a proven circumnavigator, the value becomes obvious. More information can be found at www.rafikiowners.com.


Resplendant in any environment, the Freya 39 is a favorite offshore voyager for many sailors in the Pacific Northwest.
Earlier this year, in the picturesque harbor of Hopetown in Abacos, Bahamas, I noticed another one my favorite cruising boats at anchor, the Freya 39. Another double-ender, this particular boat was Kendarik, owned by my friends Pam and Andy Wall. Pam, who manages the local chandlery, is a terrific speaker and you can find her at boat shows across the country discussing her family's circumnavigation aboard their beautifully, home finished, Freya 39.

The Freya, designed by Halvorson, traces its roots to Australia. Built originally in wood, and later in steel, a fiberglass version was eventually produced in California in late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Exactly how many boats were built is not known; what is known, however, is that the Freya is a well-respected blue-water passage maker with several circumnavigations to its credit. The Freya has a proud bow and a flush foredeck trailing aft to small trunk cabin. The cockpit is relatively small, a design feature of most double-enders. The hull is usually uncored fiberglass and heavily laid up, and hence the Freya 39 displaces around 26,000 pounds. The boat carries a lot of sail area with a working cutter rig, and Pam and Andy have logged many impressive passages over the years. In fact, one the builders, Jim Gannon, sailed his Freya 39 to first place in the inaugural single-handed transpac race in 1978. The underwater profile is a long fin keel and skeg-hung rudder.

Like other ‘through-the-cracks' boats, the Freya was also sold as a kit boat so the quality of the interior finish varies dramatically from one specimen to another. The basic interior arrangement usually includes a V-berth forward, followed by an open, comfortable main saloon, with a double quarter berth aft to starboard and a single quarter berth, or work area aft to port. The U-shaped galley under the trunk cabin is aft to port with the nav station opposite. Although the beam of just over 11 feet is narrow by today's standards, the open interior plan gives the boat a spacious feeling.

"BUC puts the value of a 1980 Freya at around $70,000. However, as word leaks out about the boat's wonderful cruising attributes, the market price continues to rise."

What is a Freya 39 worth? It varies dramatically. BUC puts the value of a 1980 boat, built and finished by Gannon in Petaluma CA, at around $70,000. However, as word leaks out about the Freya's wonderful cruising attributes, the market price rises. Today there are several Freyas on the market, all asking just over $100,000. These boats have been extensively upgraded and the only thing old about them is the original hull and deck. However, there are also two boats currently for sale in the Pacific Northwest, each asking less than $60,000. Likely, both are kit boats, and possibly a bit rough down below. If you are looking for a capable, comfortable, sail-anywhere boat, you should inquire about a Freya 39. Even paying top dollar, when compared to similarly designed new boats, like a Valiant 39 for example, the Freya represents a terrific value.

Just today the girls and I made our way down to the anchorage. There was one interesting boat, it looked like an Olsen 38—a great passage maker built in Sweden. Yes, I thought, this could be another one for the ‘through-the-cracks' list. After I chat with the owners, I'll let you know.

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