Seeking opinions on sailboat design
I am slowly putting together a plan and working towards my goal of a solo circumnavigation. It is still a long term goal. I am not planning on leaving for 8 years when my son is out of school.
I am planning on taking a very minimal cruiser, Contessa 26/Cape Dory type boat etc..... Route would be a typical Gulf/Panama/South Pacific/Australia/ etc..... Not sure if I am going to go Red Sea to the Med or around South Africa. Leaning towards the Red Sea.
I most likely wouldn't purchase for another 5 years, then major refit etc.... In the mean time I am furthering my skills, thinking and planning out how I am going to get from today to it actually happening etc...
Since I have time I keep thinking about maybe building a boat.
What do you guys think of this design? It is a Vagabond 26 (VG 26), designed by Jacques Mertens, built in stitch and glue (plywood core between structural fiberglass/epoxy skins). I have experience building in stitch and glue and I am intrigued by the design.
What do you think of this design as a minimal offshore cruiser and in your opinion how does it compare to a Contessa 26, Cape Dory 25D/27?
Vagabond 26 - Study Plans
Just curious, but you could get a fairly fully equipped bluewater capable boat, like a contessa or Southern Cross 28/31 for what it would cost you to build that, and have a boat in far less time, that you could be sailing, testing, outfitting, and getting to know instead of building.
Building that boat, even if it were as seaworthy as some of the other boats I've mentioned, is probably going to cost far more, since you're paying NEW BOAT prices for the equipment you'll need to equip it, without the economies of scale that CE Ryder and the other builders had. Also, you will be taking the depreciation hit on the materials and equipment, which won't be the case with buying something like a used Southern Cross 28.
I wasn't even thinking about building but after seeing how much people spend on refitting plus the cost of the boat itself, it might be an option.
It would cost $11-12,000 to build the hull complete with paint. This includes all plywood, other materials, epoxy, fiberglass, fairing, primer, paint and lead for keel. Other major items are OB, spars/sails, deck hardware, anchors/tackle, electronics, wind vane, head, solar setup, cushions, safety items (raft etc..) and all rigging.
I don't know what total cost would be, I have only cost out the hull so far.
Many of these items I would be paying for anyway during a refit or having to buy regardless since most likely any used boat I buy won't have them.
No matter what I do (build or buy), I am going to go very minimal. Minimal electronics, single burner only for kitchen etc....... No big cruiser items like ice maker, AC, extensive electronics etc....I would buy used and deals, new when needed.
I am going to put together an estimate for both scenarios. It is on the in the near future to do list.
Plus I personally see value in completing the trip with a boat I built myself, so that counts for something.
The rigging and spars are often upwards of 40% of the cost of a boat.
The advantages that a boat like the Contessa 26, Cape Dory 25D, Southern Cross, etc., would already come equipped with:
I'd point that a fully equipped Southern Cross 28, that had a watermaker, windvane self-steering, and solar panels on it and was basically turnkey for bluewater passage making sold for less than $25,000 a couple years ago. I seriously doubt that you could build your vagabond for $25,000 and you'd still have to buy and install the watermaker, solar panels, and windvane.... and that doesn't even account for the thousands of hours you'd be working on the Vagabond.
If you want to sail, buy a boat that is pretty much ready to go in five years and then spend the next three years getting to know the boat; learning how to repair, troubleshoot and maintain the systems aboard her; and sailing her in all weather conditions. That would be a much wiser and cost-effective way of preparing yourself and your boat for the journey you're proposing.
I am definitely taking it all into consideration and not making any rash decisions.
Any input on the VG26 and how it would compare to a full keel, long overhang, small beam boat?
I would say that SailingDog has basically hit the nail on the head. As a broad generality, the materials to complete the hull and deck of a sailboat is roughly 20% of its overall cost. In your $11-12,000 description you are also including the keel which typically is typically not in that 20% number and your labor, which in broad general senbse puts you at roughly 40% of the cost of the boat.
The issues that I would have with the Vagabond 26 has little to do with its keel and rudder type or its overhangs. My main gripe would be with its hull form and interior layout. The Vagabond 26's hull form appears to be generated to make it easy to construct in sheet plywood rather than to produce a boat which offers a comfortable motion, or seaworthiness, (or decent performance for that matter). Similarly the interior layout makes sense for a family weekender, but not for a long distance offshore single-handed cruiser.
I personally have no problem with trying to do a circumnavigation in a small, modern design, but ideally the design needs to evolve from its purpose (long distance, offshore cruising) and not from the materials which seem easiest to work with, or from what is available on the market.
As SD suggests, there are designs which are well suited to the purpose of being a dedicated distance cruiser. I would think that the Southern Cross 28 or 31 that SD mentions would to fit bill as would the Contessa 26, albeit a lot more Spartanly. I am not a big fan of Cape Dories. I know that they have done reasonably well as cruisers some folks but personally I have never been all that impressed with their design or build quality. Other choices if you want to go full keel and traditional are some of the other folkboat derivatives, or H-28 derivatives.
In a general sense, there are a number of suitable existing boat designs out there that are adaptable for your purposes. If you are handy and think you would enjoy the project then picking up one used and rebuilding is not a bad way to go.
If you chose to build a boat for the purpose, then there are better designs out there than the Vagabond.
This is what I am trying to figure out and I am finding out it isn't easy. How well the boat would perform offshore from a motion/seaworthiness perspective compared to other older designs like the Contessa/Cape Dory etc......
I am starting to learn that even with all the technology, engineering, research etc.... how a sailboat will perform is still very subjective unlike say something like cars. At least it appears that way to me.
I know the same 5 panel hull shape is used on their VG20 design ( Vagabond Plus 20 - Study Plans ) , and it performs very well. Routinely winning and placing at the top in coastal cruiser club racing events. Owners also have very positive reports from those that have sailed it across the gulf stream and other coastal cruising destinations as well as those that have been in some heavier weather with it. Of course coastal cruising has different needs than offshore.
They use the same 5 panel hull on the VG23 model
( Vagabond 23 - Study Plans ) which is an updated design of the serpentaire
( Untitled Document) stitch and glue model that they use to sell.
Jacques has the offshore experience and has been a long time designer for some pretty big names in the industry so that has to count for something. Most people that I talk to don't have anything positive to say about the VG26 design from an offshore cruising perspective but not many can explain why so who knows if what they are saying is accurate.
My lack of experience is definitely not helping then add in the fact that even though several are being built, none are sailing yet because it is a new design so there are no owner reports.
While it may have a similar hull shape, be aware that boat designs don't always scale well. What works well for a 20' boat may not work well for a 26' boat, because a 26' boat is not 30% larger than the 20' boat but more like but 120% larger or over twice the size of the 20' boat. Boats grow in length, width and depth, so grow by the cube of the difference rather than in a linear manner. This is also why a 26' boat is not just 30% more expensive than a 20' boat.
I'd also point out that what makes a good racing boat does not always translate into a good or comfortable cruising design. Also, the interior of a coastal cruiser, like a Catalina or Beneteau is often a far more open and spacious layout than you'd find on a bluewater passagemaker, which has more interior volume dedicated to stowage, tankage and often has a narrower beam for the same LOA. Having good seaberths, that are comfortable on a long passage even in heavy weather, is key to a bluewater cruiser.
The Southern Cross 28/31 and the Contessa 26/32 are PROVEN BLUEWATER CAPABLE designs. The SC28 and SC31 have solo circumnavigations to their credit, as does the Contessa 26—as Donna Lange, Patricia Henry and Tania Aebi have done respectively. I don't know of any circumnavigations done in a Contessa 32 off the top of my head, but it has been used for many bluewater passages.
A good book to read would be John Vigor's Twenty Small Sailboats To Take You Anywhere. I'd also recommend you look at James Baldwin's Boat List, which has many small, very capable boats on it.
Additionally, not all designers are good at designing boats of all sizes. Some are very good with small boats, but their larger designs basically will suck...and some are good with large designs but have no clue when it comes to designing smaller boats. I'm not saying that this is the case with the designer of the Vagabond, but it is a point to consider.
I agree with what dog and Jeff posted. Keep in mind that what works well racing or hopping the gulf stream will not necessarily work well loaded with the gear and supplies needed for a longer passage - say 2000 lbs+.
As far as build vs buy there will be a vast difference in price. An older boat will come with a diesel (new 10k), rig and sails (10k to 20k), as well as probably 20k+ in other equipment if purchased new. The hull and deck is probably less than 40% of the cost of a complete boat. Dog posted a link to James Baldwin's site - the entire site is worth a good read. James Baldwin has gone around twice in his 28' Triton and has a business consulting and modifying boats for offshore voyaging. Atom Voyages | About the Sailboat Atom
I think the Vagabond would be a good coastal cruiser but not a good choice for offshore voyaging.
Thank you for all the input.
After considering all the advice and running some quick numbers, I am going to buy something and refit as necessary. Cheaper and much better resale value.
I am going to get something on the smaller side, Contessa 26, Cape Dory 25D/26, Columbia 26, Morris Frances 26 (probably too expensive) etc... Instead of purchasing a 28/30' boat I think I would prefer to save the money and use it for refit/cruising instead.
Hopefully I can get a trailer or have one modified to work so I can tow the boat home after purchase for the refit.
Maybe a Cape Dory 28/Southern Cross 28 if I find the right deal but I don't think I could get something that big back to the house.
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