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Old 12-14-2010
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Early and mid-1960's Columbia Yachts build quality?

Anyone know if Columbia used some heavy roving or just a chopper gun in their early 60's and mid-1960's boats that came out of the California factory? Specically the 29's of that era... In this period I think there were two models that derived from the same 29-foot hull...the early design was raised deck...the Defender 29 and there was an later 29 with more traditional cabin profile in the late 60's...same hull. They are heavily-built boats...but is it from a chopper gun or layers of actual hand-laid roving that the factory in that era was using? Or both?

They were kind of the" Hunter" of that period it seems...some folks didn't like the big production ideas of the new kid in town.. and there are some myths out there...some pro..some con...trying to sort the fact from fiction...thanks for any info folks...

Last edited by souljour2000; 12-14-2010 at 08:26 AM.
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Old 12-14-2010
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My understanding is that they were heavily built. Resin, being a petroleum byproduct was inexpensive at the time, so many boat builders made sturdy hulls.

During the 70's oil crunch, boat builders cut back to the point where some brands are known for the hulls to "oil can" (flex when pounding through the waves).

I have a 1969 Coronado that is rock-solid. Coronado yachts was bought by Columbia. The old Columbias I've seen have been built in a similar manner.

Looking into the nooks and crannies of my boat, it appears to be hand-laid, not chopper gun.

There is a very active Columbia Yachts owners group on Yahoo. I highly recommend that you join and ask your questions there. Those guys have been very help to me in the past.

Cheers,

Rich
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Old 12-14-2010
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Over the years many people have come to view Columbias as being some kind of high quality boat, but back in the 1960's they were looked down upon as being the inexpensive, high volume producer in much the same way as Hunter or Catalina is looked down upon today. In truth they were neither as bad as they were seen back then, nor as good as some folks see them today.

In a broad general sense the glass work of the 1960's, almost no matter which manufacturer you are talking about, was not as good as the glasswork that followed. Manufacturers of that era tended to use larger quantities of non-directional fabric (mat), resin rich mixtures, larger amounts of accelerators, and handled the reinforcing fabrics in ways that reduced the capacity of the fabric. All of this combined resulted in laminates which on a unit basis were not as strong or fatigue resistance as later laminates. Beyond that boats of that era, typically lack the kind of internal framing, that we later came to understand as being important to the long term life of the boat. To a lesser extent, this is somewhat offset by the thricker lay-ups of the era. While these boats are often seen as being heavily laid-up, the reality is that these are not sturdier hull sections, nor are they as stiff as later layups.

In terms of Columbias in specific, I have heard differing accounts of whether Columbia used chopped glass in the lay-up. Chopped glass wasn't all that common back in sailboats of the 1960's. It existed but it was generally used for non-structural parts or for building up thickness in a hull. What was used was widely used were non-directional fabrics (mat) and these behave like chopped glass in terms of premature fatique and reduced sheer and rupture strength.

The bigger issues with the Columbias were the use of plywood in their decks (more rot prone than balsa), the use of non-marine plywood in their interiors, antiquated, undersized, and poorly laid out deck hardware, and plumbing (which often included gate valves and below water hoses that were meant for above waterline use only) and electrical systems which were terrible, even by the standard of the day. Of course, over the years some of these deficiencies may have been corrected by prior owners.

In the big picture, boats like the Columbia Defender, still make reasonably good overnighters and daysailers. By modern standards they are not especially fast, or comfortable, or seaworthy, but they still sail reasonably well and were moderately good coastal cruisers, which of course were their original intended purpose. They should be understood for what they were- value oriented coastal cruiser-racers. They were never intended to be offshore or long distance cruisers and so if that is your goal, I would suggest seeking more of a purpose built design even if it is from that same era.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 12-14-2010
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Okay..thanks to both of you..I am getting the picture I think. Rich..thanks, I had forgotten about the Columbia owners website. Jeff, good summary...I was not aware that the Columbia's had so much inferior wood and seacock/thru-hull problems..though I'd expect anything in many of that era boats in general at this point come to think of it...I also wasn't aware they used alot of ply in the decks and floors in the 60's...but I have only taken a look at one Defender which was a cosmetic mess...and pretty trashed so I don't remember much except that the boat overall seemed to be of heavy lay-up...

Last edited by souljour2000; 12-14-2010 at 05:50 PM.
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Old 12-15-2010
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I have not verified this story but maybe Jeff would know if it sounds right. I should pull out my copy of Heart of Glass. In response to one of my posts, I received a long comment about the formation of Columbia Yachts in 1959 that I split off and published as linked to below. I thought it was a cool first hand story for anyone interested in Columbias.

Columbia 29: Lawrence Walters Memories
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Old 12-15-2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jordanship View Post
I thought it was a cool first hand story for anyone interested in Columbias.
The history is laid out pretty well
on the Columbia page at the Sailboat Data site.
I can not verify that Columbia used chopper guns
extensively in their boat production, but considering
that the co-founder came from a business building
shower stalls, I would assume they had the technology
in their tool kit.
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Old 12-23-2010
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An interesting pedigree...fiberglass shower stalls...at least he was ready for the sailing public...I'm in the plumbing industry and people re-modeling bathrooms are scary...lol
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Old 12-25-2010
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Jordanship,

Thanks for posting the link to that article btw...



This period of FRP boat-building is interesting and those who were there are getting up in age a bit now so any of you who have actual first-hand knowledge or even second or third person anecdotal info I strongly urge you to relate your experiences because I think that many of us would like to hear your recolllections of those days.
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Old 12-26-2010
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I had one of that era.Hull hand laid & strong.AsJHreply ply issues.My main complaint hull to deck joint.Upside down l shape,any deck leak went into deck core.marc
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Old 09-06-2011
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Columbia Yachts History

The article written by Lawrence Walters about the start of Columbia posted by jordanship is accurate with one exception. Larry Walters does not own hull #3 TANGAROA. TANGAROA was owned by me for 13 years. I recently sold her and it still sails out of Oxford, MD. Attached is a photo with spinnker up while racing in Oxford passing the R2 in front of TAYC.
I spoke with Mr. Walters on numerous occasions a few years ago after I inadvertantly found him while conducting some research about the boat.
Much of what is mentioned here about Columbia boats is true too....however these early boats (TANGAROA was #3 and the last one Walters built...4 if you count the one that stuck in the mold and ruined trying to remove it) were incredibly well constructed. TANGAROA was built in 1961 and contrary to popular belief of these early boats being of thick, resin rich layup, TANGAROA has excellent glass to resin ratio, and actually quite lightly layed up. She is fast, never had a blister, the hull to deck joint is perfectly in tact and leak free, and all together in original and fabulous condition...including the original Palmer P60 engine. Although this was rebuilt.
Anyway, I wanted to chime in since I have specific knowledge about these early boats and have personally spoken with Mr. Walters. The letter posted by jordanship was actually a letter written to me after speaking with Mr. Walters. I'd be curious to hear how it got around like it did. I think I may have shared it with Eric White at the Columbia web page.
Mr. Walters also shared with me a photo of hull#1 during a photo shoot in San Francisco. Here it is.
....well...tried to attach photos for upload failed. Anyone interested can contact me directly.
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