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scurvy 07-26-2006 07:18 PM

Columbia 32' 6.9 M
Hey there,

I have always been a bit stuffy when it comes to sailboats and have typically sided with the East Coast sailboats (past owner of a Sabre/Cape Dory). My wife and I find ourselves back on the market with two more children and different needs. Long story short...

I have found a couple of these Columbia's for sale and they look like very nice boats. I have no experience with Columbia, I have never sailed one and have only seen a couple on various moorings throughout my sailing carreer. Can anyone help me with the pros and cons of the Columbia's? Where do these boats shine and where do they falter? Recommended for coastal cruising? etc... Any info would be helpful in our search for our next boat.

Many thanks!
Chris & Kerin

DynaMeme 07-26-2006 09:33 PM

the 7.6, 8.3, 8.7, 9.6, 10.7
These were a family of boats developed by Australian designer Alan Payne in the mid 70's. We owned an 8.7 for 15 years. These are East Coast boats by the way. Built in Chesapeake Virginia before Columbia sold the molds to Hughes and Hughes then sold them to Aura.

The 9.6 is an outlier. The other boats were sold as "wide-body super cruisiers" and as such were one of the first series of production boats where a boat builder went to a designer and asked for something new (as oppsoed to a designer trying to shop his designs). The 9.6 on the other hand has a lot of hull form commonality with Payne's Austrailian 12 meter Gretel.

As such it is a more lively hull with less wetted area than the others (on a relative basis). However it is more quickly affected by loading for cruising as a result. While it had less room below than the super cruisers, it was comparable with other boats its length at the time. It is decidedly cozy compared to equivalent length boats today.

Columbia attempted to build all the x.x boats on a production line basis. I visited the plant before buying ours (in 1977) and their approach had much in common with concepts being used today in Europe. However, the technology and skills base at the time was not quite ready.

The good news is the early boats were essentially blister free boats. Builders hadn't started cutting corners yet. The bad news is below the ok exterior finish there was some pretty sloppy work on the interiors and window areas. I did a lot of fixin'. Ours had a cored deck and we were getting some softness in the foredeck at 15 years.

Columbia had a few problems with suppliers. We had to have keel nuts replaced and the masthead tangs were recalled. Kinda significant things in the first year.

Ours had a Volvo MD-6B. A very, very reliable engine that would run forever but couldn't push the boat into a chop. The two blade prop hid behind the keel but it had limited thrust.

We sailed Freelance on the Gulf Coast, we sailed her across the Gulf and up the ICW to the Chesapeake. We sailed her off Los Angeles. We sold her in 1992 for $18+K

We loved the boat and trusted it. It was fast, weatherly, simple and just enough overbuilt that problems could be dealt with before the became serious. It had just a tiny wiggle when the wind was at about 170 degrees relative.

All that said. If you are looking at a Columbia 9.6 from the mid 70s, I wouldn't pay more than $10K for one.

scurvy 07-27-2006 07:37 AM


Now that was the information that I was looking for! I guess I got the "Islander" mixed up with the Columbia (manufactured in Costa Mesa, CA), though there is a close connection with the boats back in the mid to late 70's from what I understand. Much of the work that you did on your Columbia was addressed with the boat that we were looking at (possibly the only advantage of considering a classic plastic is that we are getting in late enough to reap the rewards of work already been done).

They are asking $15K from what I remember.

We are looking at the Allied boats as well as the more traditional Cape Dory's, later model Pearsons (32' Vagabond) and some other Alberg designs. Obviously the drawback with these vessels is the lack of beam below deckswhen we are talking about getting two adults and two children comfy below decks. Stepping away from tradition, we have extended our search to the Columbias for their space and performance, and even looked at some newer Islanders...though I know very little about these boats as well.

I will keep my eyes open for some of the other models that Columbia manufactured in the same era. Any suggestions for a family of four cruising the coast of Northern New England?

Thanks so much for your help and information. It was more than I could have hoped for!


DynaMeme 07-27-2006 12:44 PM

Pearson 35
Chris, if I was going classic plastic, there are only two boats I'd concentrate on for the region you have in mind. The Pearson 35 and the Cape Dory 35. The desgins are excellent. Seakindly, maneuverable, lively, very sturdy, SAFE and roomy enough to prevent family-cide. The keels on both boats are up to the challenges of groundings in New Engalnd. For the East Coast, I always recommed a drifter or a spinnaker to reduce the need to motor as these boats were built with the engines still thought of as auxillaries.

I've cruised on a Pearson 35 and loved it. I've owned a Cape Dory and still regret the day I donated it.


scurvy 07-27-2006 06:24 PM

I know what you mean Chris!

I do regret having to part with our Sabre 28'. I have always been a fan of the Pearsons and the CD's. I sailed a 30' ketch (a friend of mine owned it years ago...and I saw her for sale in Provincetown recently...if only I could afford her...)

I will keep the eyes and ears open Chris and see what I come up with. We are in no rush and, in fact, my wife Kerin and I have discussed saving up the pennies over the next few years, renting the house, and going cruising for a year. We are looking over all the financial stuff right now. Not sure when the boat comes into play though...we really need to get all our duck in a row right now, but we will continue to research the boats and see what we can find. I saw a 1972 Westsail 32' for sale for $25,000...what a pretty boat!!!

Thanks for your help, and any more advice you may want to share...I am all ears!!!


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