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Sheppyb 11-05-2013 02:57 PM

First Sailboat - the search
My wife and I took the US Sailing 3-day basic keel boat earlier this year. We really enjoyed the experience and have been looking for our first sailboat for the last several months.

I have read many forums (this website and others) on the do's and don'ts of buying used. I also have several friends in the area that have a wealth of knowledge to tap into.

I saw that this website recently started a 'Westerly' section and it happens that one of the boats we are interested in is the Westerly 26 Centaur. I figured it would be good to introduce myself to the Westerly community and the community at large at sailnet.

There have been several threads and reviews on sailnet and other sites that have discussed the Westerly 26, and overall, it seems to have received positive reviews. Some of the discussions have been on its pointing ability, speed, twin bilge keels, general keel bolt failure, etc. Most of the threads have basically ended with acknowledging it is a solid boat that was made for harsh weather. Several folks expressed that the perceived deficiencies of the Centaur, are easily overcome by having a competent sailor in the cockpit - and this just comes with time and experience.

We have also looked at other boats in the 25'-30' LOA range. I would say that most in our area (Middle Keys) are either older live-aboards or project boats. Most of the live-aboards that people have for sale have not been maintained at all.

Anyways, the search continues. The main point of this thread was just an introduction. The near-term goal are to get our first boat and do some coastal cruising around the Keys. With experience, we are also interested in hitting the Dry Tortugas and Bahamas.

I may have a road trip in the near future to look at one of the Centaurs that is north of us. I just have to convince the wife that a 10 hour road trip would be worth her time :)


manatee 11-05-2013 06:20 PM

Re: First Sailboat - the search

I may have a road trip in the near future to look at one of the Centaurs that is north of us. I just have to convince the wife that a 10 hour road trip would be worth her time.
Find an outlet mall (or whatever her Achilles' Heel may be) to route the trip around and break the monotony? :)

Jeff_H 11-05-2013 06:40 PM

Re: First Sailboat - the search
Welcome to SailNet and welcome to sailing. I know this is going to sound way more snarky than I would like but I have sailed these boats, a lot, and I have to say this is probably a very poor choice.

Back in the 1970's I worked at a sailing school in South Florida that imported the Westerly Centaurs thinking they would be decent for the shallow draft of south Florida. When they could not sell them, they used them to teach on.

As it turned out they weren't particularly good to teach on since they were frustrating to sail and did not sail very well, and they weren't particularly good boats for south Florida because when you ran one aground you were permanently planted until a tugboat pulled you out or a big tide floated you (and that area of Florida does not have big tides.)

My job included teaching sailing, putting these things back together and trying to keep them operating. I knew them better than I would ever have wanted. They were useless in light winds and not so great in a breeze, which were the two main sailing conditions down there. These were miserable little boats even back then and much better boats have come along since.

I have to agree with your wife that there is not a Westerly Centaur 26 out there that is worth a 10 hour drive. Do yourself a favor and buy a boat which sails better than these and which were built better than these. Its one thing to buy an 45 year old boat, but at least buy one that was not junk to begin with.


Faster 11-05-2013 07:34 PM

Re: First Sailboat - the search

Originally Posted by Jeff_H (Post 1115472)
Welcome to SailNet and welcome to sailing. I know this is going to sound way more snarky than I would like.........

C'mon... tell us how you really feel about those boats...;):p:)

To the OP... Jeff is one of the last people who would ever be out to offend, so consider that.. there's every likelihood that he's spot on in this analysis and that will save you considerable grief if you take it to heart.

There are a lot of GOOD old boats to choose from.. Ranger 26/29, Cal 27, Catalina 25/27, or, if draft is the stumbling block, plenty of centerboard/lift keel boats in that range too.

Sheppyb 11-06-2013 10:14 AM

Re: First Sailboat - the search
Thanks for the recommendations and welcoming me to the community.

We will see where things go over the next few months. With regards to the specific comments on the Westerly, I do appreciate being candid. Now all I have to do is to try to sort out those statements with others of equal experience that say things contrary.

Thanks again for the support!


deltaten 11-06-2013 10:46 AM

Re: First Sailboat - the search
Figger out what ya want
Find a boat that fits 80%+ of yer needs
then get the NEXT bigger/est boat ya can find/afford ;) IOW.... get the one you truly believe that you can live with for the rest of yer life. Big enuff ta cruise comfortably but small enuff to fit most slips and handle solo.

Tough choices, huh? ;)
just my $.02 YMMV

jimgo 11-06-2013 11:06 AM

Re: First Sailboat - the search
Welcome! What is it that made the Westerly attractive to you? What's your budget? How do you plan on using the boat? Is there more to your family than just your wife and you? With how many people will you be sailing regularly?

You mention 25-30's. You'll find here that, for a first boat, many encourage you to look at Catalinas. They are good starter boats for a variety of reasons, including that the company is still in business, they sold a TON of boats so there is a real aftermarket that manufactures all sorts of parts (replacement and upgrade) for the boats, and they can be found for reasonable prices. They also made them in a variety of configurations, including keel types, so you'll likely find one that meets your needs.

One of the biggest reasons I suggest a Catalina is that, in the used market, they tend to hold their value. That is, if you pay $10,000 for a Catalina 27, you'll likely be able to sell it in 2-3 years for about the same amount. Now, you may put $3-4,000 into the boat (adding roller furling, getting new sails, etc.), but at least you can kind of predict what she'll sell for and you can make intelligent decisions as to whether any particular upgrade is cost effective based on your plans for the boat.

In my very limited experience, I think you should expect your first boat to only be "yours" for a year or two. You're new, and (with al due respect) you likely have no real clue how you'll actually use the boat. After a year or two of use, you'll start to realize what the boat's shortcomings are, what you'd like to change, what you can live with, etc., and if you really love sailing and owning a boat, you'll probably be ready to switch to something else. This goes beyond just the "2-foot-itis" that we all deal with, it's a matter of finding a boat that actually meets your needs/wants. Thus, I would suggest finding a commodity boat and sailing the heck out of it for a year or two, then flipping it and finding something that might be your longer-term boat.

Of course, you may stumble across a 1990's-era, 32' Hinckley that's in beautiful condition and the owner "just wants to get rid of it" and will sell it to you for $5,000, in which case you should absolutely ignore my advice, assuming the boat meets most of your basic requirements!

Sheppyb 11-06-2013 11:16 AM

Re: First Sailboat - the search
Roger that deltaten.

At this time, we have 30' on our canal dock. Because of this, I would probably not look at anything longer than 29' LOA to give us a little wiggle room.

Our initial certification came on a 34' Irwin. The Irwin was a nice boat to sail. Initially, we were intimidated by the size but that quickly became an afterthought. Much of the sailing was bayside in the Keys, and in 7-8 feet of water. One day the wind was 20+ knots so we reefed the main and went oceanside to the reef.

25'-29' LOA, prefer a diesel inboard, well maintained, non-project boat, decent cabin space with a port-a-potty. We have looked at several Cals, Catalinas, Hunters. Have not had a chance to inspect an O'Day, Morgans, or S2 in this area for sale though know folks that currently own O'Days and S2s. Many (maybe most) of the local sailboats for sale have been used exclusively as live-aboards and probably haven't left their marina in years. People just living cheaply. Not something I would ever consider buying.

I'll be patient.


jimgo 11-06-2013 11:50 AM

Re: First Sailboat - the search
Have you seen the Islander 28's? Just another one to throw into the mix. I like the S2's, too.

Patience is a good thing. I've heard stories from my parents (Naples-area) of folks buying boats up north and moving the down to FL, then realizing that their dream of sailing to the islands, or to South America, just wasn't for them for whatever reason, and abandoning boats different places. Or, in other cases, finishing the trip then deciding that it wasn't worth the trouble to find a buyer, etc., so they just abandon them. I'm not sure how true this is, or how frequently it happens, but it might be worth looking into.

Sheppyb 11-06-2013 11:55 AM

Re: First Sailboat - the search

With regards to the Westerly ... several weeks ago I saw one on the web for sale. I didn't know anything about them, so I started researching. I read folks thoughts or magazine reviews on them here, boatus, ybw and also at owner association sites. The opinions and reviews were generally positive because of the build quality for a production boat (over 2400 made), ability to take weather, stability, ample cabin size, etc but also acknowledged the boats shortcomings in speed and pointing due to the twin bilge keels and smaller sail area when compared to other boats with similar LWL and displacement.

Specifically with the Westerly boat for sale, it has been completely overhauled over the last 2 years and has been family owned since production in 1976, price is right too. Pretty rare.

The last boat we looked at was a Catalina 27. I really like the design. The boat in question is dry-docked on stands and recently had the keel-to-hull joint repaired so there was no 'Catalina Smile.' Ample cockpit, large cabin for this LOA and huge companionway. New bottom paint and hull paint. Most everything else was in disrepair. No deck fittings or other standing rigging, some running rigging, and the cabin was being completely stripped with everything dumped inside. The list went on. It was someone's project boat and they wanted to get rid of the project. If a Catalina 27, in what I would consider near turn-key condition, comes on the market, it would be an easy sell.

Some of the live-aboarders I think would have a different definition of what they consider turn-key based on what is currently for sale in or around the Middle Keys.

EDIT: I'll take a look at the Islander 28s if any are in the area. Also, just the 2 of us at the moment. Potential for another couple for some of the longer coastal sailing.

Thanks again for the input,


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