Is the Columbia 45 Motorsailer Ocean Worthy? - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 18 Old 11-25-2010 Thread Starter
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Is the Columbia 45 Motorsailer Ocean Worthy?

Hello all,
I am new here. I have been sailing for a few years but have never sailed anything over 32 feet and have never left the Pacific Northwest.

I am looking to move onto a sailboat with my boyfriend (who is a much better sailor than I am) and we are interested in a Columbia 45 Pilothouse Motorsailer. It's roomy, in good condition, and seems to sail nicely around the Sound here. Our question is:

How do Columbia 45 Pilothouse Motorsailers do in the ocean?

We know Pilothouses tend not to perform as well in the ocean but we plan to reinforce the pilothouse windows and refit the engine. We plan to sail to South America with another couple in a few years and want to buy a boat to take us there. We also plan to comfortably live aboard before then. Finding a comfortable liveaboard and bluewater sailer is the challenge.

Any thoughts and suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
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post #2 of 18 Old 12-22-2010
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Go to the Yahoo Columbia owners group. There are a couple of 45 owners there that can answer all your questions. columbiasailingyachts : Columbia Sailing Yachts
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post #3 of 18 Old 12-22-2010
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If it was built in 1973 or before the Arab oil embargo...then I'd say yes...this is a boat you'll do well to buy and sail to the gates of Valhalla...that's because no matter how they did the stringers and panels..the thing is probably an inch thick in the thinnest upper hull area... like even in spots several feet above the water line. I'd agree with Radicalcy though...go to the Columbia website and read and talk to people there.

If it's cheap enough and the decks aren't rotted ... and there isn't a rusting steel beam running down the middle like some Columbia's were built with in this period)...then maybe get the thing... I know there are some who are into new flat wide boats and deride the older boats...I disagree with them but thats one man's opinion.. I think they have some good points and thicker is not necessarily better but it sure helps...stringers can sometimes be added near the chainplates and according to Jeff the plywood in the cabin of many Columbia's was not marine grade so you may be ripping stuff out inside anyway... it's something that can be addressed after you buy if you are serious about giving your boat even more safe upgrades...aren't we all doing that to our boats after all..old and new...most of us are or want to add that floatation chamber or that epirb or that mast filled with foam peanuts..etc.....there's always room for improvement but most of the hulls(and keels) failing catastrophically these days and over the last decade seem to be in boats built after the mid- late 1970's ....give me thick glass vs. skinny multitudinous panels...and while your at it...give me the sea-kindly features associated with those deep and narrow-beam lead-filled old gals like Columbia made...not sure if the Columbia 45 had lead in her or not....hopefully not some bolt-on iron keel though...

Last edited by souljour2000; 12-23-2010 at 07:06 AM. Reason: `
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post #4 of 18 Old 12-23-2010
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Performance Comparison ( from Sail Calculator Pro website)

Look at the sail area vs. displacement numbers of the beneteau.... and the motion comfort numbers vs. that of the Columbia...the Columbia is 5 inches longer and 5,000 lbs heavier..but only .3 knots slower according to this chart...

LOA Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
LWL Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
Beam Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
Displacement Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
Sail Area Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
Capsize Ratio Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
Hull Speed Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
Sail Area to Displacement Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
Displacement to LWL Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
LWL to Beam Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
Motion Comfort Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
Pounds/Inch Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45

Last edited by souljour2000; 12-23-2010 at 07:19 AM.
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post #5 of 18 Old 12-23-2010
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Something is off with these numbers

Originally Posted by souljour2000 View Post
Sail Area Beneteau First 44.7
Columbia 45
Why is the sail area for the Bene only 11.7983? I think this is throwing off the other comparisons.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” -Mark Twain
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post #6 of 18 Old 12-23-2010
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yeah..I agree...noticed that and thought it was strange...I will try to see if I can find what the correct number is...I know you have to be careful with these numbers in these types of websites..

Last edited by souljour2000; 12-23-2010 at 08:33 AM.
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post #7 of 18 Old 12-23-2010
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Judging by your Nom d' board, your goal is distance 'bluewater voyaging'. If that is a reasonable assumption, then this is a really poor choice. I know these boats pretty well, and would suggest that in no way would these be a good choice as an offshore cruiser. It was not the use for which they were designed and this design has a number of design items which would make them a very poor choice for offshore use.

In a broad general sense, ideally, when you talk about a boat for offshore use, you want a boat which is robustly constructed, which has a comparatively comfortable motion, and which also has comparatively small deck openings. You want a boat that is easy to move about on during rough going, which has sturdy interior appointments, lots of handholds and which has sturdy, securable storage areas. Offshore, you want the steering station and cockpit located where it minimizes motion in order to minimize wear and tear on the crew. And in the kinds of large waves encountered offshore, you want a boat with a high stability, and low vertical center of gravity.

In other words, if you are planning on going offshore , then you want something that is the anti-thesis of this boat.

To address the discussion above, by the time that these boats were built, Columbia was in financial trouble, they were cheapening the build quality of their boats hoping to remain competative in the marketplace. (I see that SoulJour deleted the reference to the second oil embargo but) To keep the history even slightly accurate, In January of 1973, during the Nixon Administration, the stock market had crashed and pretty much all of the major US boat builders were hurting. OPEC had found its legs and 1973 was the heart of the first oil crisis, the one that impacted the formulation of polyester resin and which created a market for power boats with sails such as the Columbia 45.

It was during this period that there was a near marine industry wide, or at least in the value oriented portion of the marine industry, reduction in build quality and Columbia (think of them as the Hunter of the day) was at the forefront of this corner cutting. The basic hull form of this boat was adapted from an earlier design, but the hull lay-up schedule (thickness and choice of materials) was lightened greatly. (BTW 1" is a very thin hull thickness for a boat of this size and weight) This was before the period when material handling techniques improved, and before internal framing became the norm. What this means is a boat that which really flexes noticably in a seaway and that kind of flexure will weaken fiberglass greatly over a perid of time. (The one that I knew flexed so much that you could not close door to the head on a starboard tack.)

The hull to deck joint on these boats was especially vulnerable damage to failure over time. This boat has the classic hatbox style joint, and this type of joint was a notoriously poor choice. There was an earlier thread discussing one of these boats (not the motorsailor version), which was being restored. The owner was trying to figure out how to repair this type of deck joint once it failed as it had on his.

As the OP already acknowledged the large openings make this boat quite vulnerable in seaway, and if your intended use meant offshore passagemaking, then the large openings should be glassed shut, the cabin sides reinforced and smaller, heavier duty portlights installed.

Numbers aside, there is always a discussion about what makes a boat which can be taken offshore vs one that is ideal or even safe to take offshore. This is a classic case where the numbers are grossly misleading. These boats were real rollers. This is espcially true of the shoal draft versions with their deep canoe bodies, round hull sections, and low density iron ballasted fins. This model were also prone to more pitching in a chop than a more moderate model and their full bows threw a lot of water and were particular uncomfortable coliding with waves, exspecially for a boat this big. The deck layout with its high steering station, amplified this uncomfortable motion making moving about ,or even simply sitting, more tiring on the crew and more likely to induce seasickness (See the discussion on the Sinking of Rule 62 since the discussion of crew comfort applies in spades in this case).

If you are taking a boat offshore, the interior layout and details should meet a certain minimal requirement in terms of seaberths, handholds, footholds, proper seacocks and plumbing layout, securable storage, ground tackle storage and so on. While individual owners may have upgraded any indvidual version of this boat, as they left the factory, there was no attempt to produce an offshore suitable layout.

Although this is a side issue, it is silly to say that the Columbia 45 is only .3 knots slower than a Beneteau. Whatever vitues and liabilities may come with either design, Under PHRF the Beneteau 44.7 rates 143 seconds a mile faster (31 vs 174). In real life that translates to an enormous speed difference, especially in lighter or heavier wind speed ranges. On a heavy air reach, the Beneteau can cover the same difference in half the time, and in lighter air the Beneteau can sail at close to hull speed when the Columbia is stuck motoring. But if offshore voyaging is your goal, I would not recommend a 44.7 either.

In the end the Columbia 45 motorsailors boats make great comparatively cheap live-aboards. They are okay in protected waters as long as their is a breeze. There are lots of great, inexpensive boats that can be taken offshore, and there are even more mediocre boats capable of making occasional offshore passages, but this design fits in neither category. So while SoulJour may be right that this is a good boat to sail into Vahalla, its a poor choice to sail offshore.


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Last edited by Jeff_H; 12-23-2010 at 12:03 PM.
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post #8 of 18 Old 12-23-2010
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Well, there you go...I was playing devil's advocate and hoped Jeff or others with more knowledge would chime in. I agree there is alot of freeboard and a very chunky bow ...thgis would be good for the Mediterranean or as a bareboat in the islands . MOTION COMFORT rating of 40 points though...that's pretty darn high as far as production boats go...if those numbers again are right...and even if they are I am sure there are some types of sea state situations where those numbers don't mean squat but I don't know what they are....

Last edited by souljour2000; 12-23-2010 at 04:47 PM.
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post #9 of 18 Old 09-08-2011
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I know this is late and maybe doesn't matter anymore but I just joined and saw this. My dad had a 1975 Columbia 45 that he bought in 1977 and kept until he passed in 1996. I logged thousands of miles on it and it was the boat many people sailed for the first time, so it took a beating.

Based on what I'm reading here, this boat should have been built in 1973 (maybe it was and my memory is fading) because this thing was built like a tank. But it was slowwwww, especially in light air.

What it lacked in speed it made up in comfort. Huge aft cabin with private head and separate shower, great headroom in the main saloon, air conditioning and comfy seating and sleeping. I slept like a rock on that boat.

We took it the 330+ miles up and down Lake Michigan many times and we hit some very rough conditions. The worst was a steady 30 knot wind out of the north that brought 12 foot seas. One time we pounded into 5 footers, motor on, for 15 hours to meet my dad. The boat held up, I was beat.

Due to its short mast, we hardly ever had to shorten sail. You could get 6-7 knots out of it in good wind, if you're heading in the right direction.

I can't remember any leaks. We never had a catastrophic failure. We bounced off rocks more times than I care to admit. My dad beached it in the Bahamas once. And he wasn't the greatest when it came to regular maintenance.

For what my dad wanted, it was perfect, a boat that had creature comforts and could take a beating. But if I was looking for a world cruiser, I'd look elsewhere.
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post #10 of 18 Old 09-26-2011
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Give me a hollar. I have one in Olympia and have modified it alot for cruising. Mine was actually a Sailcrafter and had a lot of mods done that columbia didn't do. The man who built mine and a few others took his offshore to Haweaii and back. Freeboard on any boat is an issue offshore. Wind hits ait and waves smash it. But high flush decks don't swamp the cockpit, and flood below decks either. Large windows covered in 3/8 + lexan or 1/2 ply, removeable when coastal is an option. I am going with the Lexan. Being that I spent time as a lad doing deliveries on the east coast US, I have added much interior cabinet and such to the vast amount of open areas. Offshore you will fall a long ways unless you have something to stop you. You hope that what stops you will not Kill, maim, or break you. Think accordingly. My list goes on and on. As with any boat there wil always be shortcomings. Knowing these and adapting for a better outcome, i.e. being prepared, is key. You can come on down and see mine if you want. Swantown, Oly F37
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