Join Date: Jul 2002
Thanked 4 Times in 4 Posts
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SY Sayang, Jeff & the Group:
In reading this thread wherein Jeff questioned the choice of a Columbia 34/Coronado 35 for world cruising, I was reminded of the extensive, multiple-issue coverage Latitude 38 recently gave to a young fellow who completed an 11-year (as I recall) circumnavigation in a Columbia 34. While he faced some of the issues typical for this type of sailing and length of time (gear wore out and needed replacing), there were no significant events that led him to question his choice. In fact, one of the reasons L38 covered his travels is that he constantly cruised with one female member after the next, all of them non-sailors (they were all quite cute) and the boat had to suffer their handling as well as the owner’s. The owner has subsequently begun a 2nd circumnavigation…on the same boat.
In the course of these articles, including an interview, one of the prevailing themes was that older, simply constructed and simply equipped boats, it can be argued, represent a great choice for a cruising boat. The two principal reasons given were that a) the structures were less understood and, therefore on at least some boats, simple and overbuilt, and b) fewer systems visits less expense and less work on the crew, especially important when short-handed and/or on a limited budget.
Mind you, I think a ply-cored deck is a nightmare waiting to happen – they rot far more thoroughly than a balsa core IME given localized penetration of water into the deck – and the esthetics of these designs leave something to be desired, for me at least. But no one claimed the VW Bug was pretty or strongly built – it just did what it was designed to do at modest cost, and the original model is still capable of doing so today, assuming adequate maintenance and sound basic systems. IMO Jeff’s quite right in pointing out all the improvements in design, materials, and manufacturing techniques which have appeared in the last 4 decades since sailing blossomed commercially. But I see the results a bit differently – I’d say it’s most often allowed manufacturers (not necessarily ‘boat builders’ in the traditional sense) to mass market, mass produce and mass retail a wide range of relatively affordable boats of relatively limited capability (from a cruising perspective, anyway). Where using these materials and techniques is directed at building an offshore-capable sailboat, performance (perhaps ‘capability’ is a better term) has grown significantly but so has price, which has led to very few people actually being able to benefit by these improvements. Instead, most of us look for older, more affordable boats…and often invest in the sweat equity required to make them more capable of offshore sailing. And I guess that’s where the old Columbia/Coronado boats come in – which are out there cruising today and satisfying owners of limited means while they have a ball.
Seems to me that, if we’re hearing favorable reports from multiple current owners who are cruising and offshore sailing in these boats today, then that makes those boats acceptable cruising boats, no matter what my personal preferences might suggest.