Ariel or Contessa 26 - help me decide - SailNet Community

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Old 03-22-2010
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Ariel or Contessa 26 - help me decide

Thanks for all the advice given to me via an earlier post re sailboat choices. I was impressed with the knowledge of this forum and will again tap into it with this question: We have now sold our Nimble 20 and narrowed the options down to either a Pearson Ariel or a Contessa 26. But which?

We have spent lots of time with the owners and the boats; rooting around in the bilges, sailing the bay, poking about in the rigging. Still can't decide. Displacement and ballast/SA ratios are very similar with the C having a small edge, and also 30" more WL.

The Ariel is $6000, the Contessa twice that, and also 11 years younger. The price for A might seem high, but for private reasons I'm more than willing to pay what the owner asks. Both have major cosmetic short comings, with an owner painted deck and house on A and faded cracked gelcoat on C.

A has a newer outboard, C a diesel, raw water cooled. C has very fine sails, if not actually near unused, and updated standing rig, while A has an additional spinnaker and nylon drifter, but older sails and rig.

Major issues are not present on either vessel. The known weak spots are all good. The A is a one-owner boat (45 years!!!), always sailed conservatively, while the Contessa's past history is completely lost. The costliest after sale jobs are anchor roller/hawse pipe and new seacocks on A, and two new opening portlights and two new deck hatches on C.

The boats will be used for what they were designed. The accommodations are right up our alley. So, in other words I need no suggestions about faster and bigger and roomier boats. Don't want them. If you want to sell me your smaller boat that can do the same as these two, be my guest.

Jan
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Old 03-22-2010
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That is a hard choice, but I would go for the Contessa.
I think it's a better boat( faster, safer ...) and I like the fact that is has a transom hung rudder.

And I'm pretty sure the Contessa 26 is more seaworthy.

Contassa's are almost a legend...

But this is still a personal choice
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Old 03-22-2010
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What year is the Contessa. In 1983, there were several important changes made to the boat, which included a switch from iron to lead as the ballast material, and increased the ballast weight by about 300 lbs IIRC.

The inboard diesel of the Contessa gives you more options in terms of boat systems—like engine-driven high-output alternators, refrigeration, watermakers, etc., but is higher maintenance than the outboard.

The fact that the Contessa has a relatively new rig and sails is a big point in its favor.

IMHO, I'd recommend the Contessa over the Ariel.
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Old 03-22-2010
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Hi Jan

Congrats on selling your Nimble so soon!
I'd agree with the others that the pluses on the Contessa tips the balance in her favour. They are boats with a good reputation, proven record and offshore tough.
If the gain in interior volume is good enough for you, then that's great. You'll have to accept that beating in the light summer breezes will be challenging - but you've already proven you have the patience required.

Best wishes however you go.
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Old 03-22-2010
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The Ariel sounds like the better deal because it is cheaper. I had an Alberg so like that design and would lean towards the A because of price and history BUT I learned to sail on a Contessa 26.

I would pick the Contessa regardless of price. I loved sailing that boat and I suspect anyone who spends time on one will as well. particularly if you like heavy weather sailing. The boat can handle much more than you can and is great for learning or making mistakes without the boat complaining. We sailed one off a lee shore, with riprap so close at one point we could have pushed off with a boat hook. No inboard on that boat.

The diesel is icing on the cake. Likely a single cylinder 10hp but they can last a very long time. I would seriously consider one should I live near a marnia, maybe even if I didn't. You can tow with a pick-up (10,000lb tow) and launch from most good boat ramps if you have a trailer (we had a trailer, well worth it).

I could go on about the Contessa 26 but I'll stop after pointing out one more thing.

While the Ariel is a nice looking boat, a clean Contessa is lovely.

So easy on the eyes you'll wish everyone else owned one so you could have the view they have when you sail by.
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Old 03-22-2010
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Thanks for all the comments. Sure is a solid vote for that sleek Canadian boat.

It's a 77 btw.
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Old 03-23-2010
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The Ariel waterline at 18 and a half feet makes for overhangs that are too long on a 25 1/2 foot boat. Also the solid cabin top instead of a sliding hatch at the companionway is much stronger for offshore on the Contessa. If this is the style you want take the Contessa.
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Old 03-23-2010
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Niko

I am not sure weither I am really addressing you question but here you go for what it is worth.
I can't comment on the Ariel but can on the Contessa as I own one(built in 79). A very solid boat with few negatives.
- Generally the Contessa comes with a farymann single cylinder 8hp diesel. It vibrates like crazy but has a great rep for reliability and low fuel consumption. It does not have an external alternator so adapting a newer high output alternator would be difficult. It is worth noting that the farymann engine while not still being installed in new boats, the basic engine is still being used in newly built generators by a company in the Pacific NW. With that said core engine parts can be hard to find if needed. I can't comment on the other engines that came with this boat.- Cabin size, small by any standard, unless you are 5'7" ish forget about standing up.
- No sliding hatch. The boat has a solid entry way, I prefer it as it makes the boat dry below and makes for a solid cabin roof but it does make getting into and out of the cabin a bit more of a chore.
- With a full keel and traditional rig she is not fast in light winds but more than makes up for it, safety wise, in a solid blow. She is a very good high wind boat for her size.
- A balanced rig, once the rigging is set correctly she has little weather helm.
- Encapsulated keel, a big plus IMHO.
- Deck stepped mast, I don't know if this is a positive or negative.
- Cracks in the gel coat- a common problem over several years of production. I am told it is due to the manufactor using too thick a gel coat. My boat had the same problem at purchase, the cracks were ground out and filled with epoxy and the deck repainted. Virtually none of the cracks have re-appeared since(8-10 years later)
- pintle and gudgeon mounts on rudder - they tend to wear over time, I am not sure if this is a issue that effects the co26 more than other boats but it has been reported more than once as an issue, worth inspecting.
- Beyond the gel coat and pintle/gudgeon mount issues I am not aware of any production issues or weaknesses that are common with this boat.



A couple of sites you can visit to learn more
The Contessa Corner - A site for Contessa owners, sailors and dreamers. - a forum dedicated to the contessa 26

Bigoceans | Tiny Boat - a website created by an Aussie documenting his purchase of a co_26 in England and his adventures sailing it home to Australia.


John

Last edited by johnnyandjebus; 03-23-2010 at 09:22 AM.
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Old 03-23-2010
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The Co26 in question has a single cylinder 8hp Yanmar believed to have been installed in 2000.

Access to the foredeck is marginal on the C, especially since there's a near new, but grossly oversized dodger in the way. The A also have a dodger, but moving around on deck is a non-issue.

Going down to see the Ariel again in a few minutes. Later!
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Old 03-23-2010
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Speaking of C's and weather helm. . . I need some advice. I recently bought a 1975 Contessa. I've fiddled with the sails a lot, but I can't get her to balance.

She holds perfectly when the wind is about 30 degrees off the nose, but of course her speed is greatly reduced. I'm thinking it is either (1) tthat she is maybe bow light/stern heavy. She has a windwane and radar mount on the stern and nothing but a light anchor on the bow. (Good excuse to buy a windlass maybe? or, (2) I can't sail. Any other suggestions? Please don't let it be number 2.

Thanks!
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