Re: Refurbishing CCA boats
THE PROBLEM WITH CCA ERA BOATS:
I already know that this is an absurdly long post. It is strung together from articles, and posts that I had written for other purposes, but if someone is really interested in this topic, here is a detailed discussion on many of the issues associated with CCA era boats.
If you spend enough time on the sailing websites, sooner or later you will encounter someone who asks about inexpensive boats to go offshore voyaging, and universally, there will be some responder who will recommend the usual list of 1960’s era, CCA rule- beater type forms; touting them as serious offshore cruisers. Anyone who has read any of my posts on this topic knows that I strongly disagree with the CCA typeform for serious cruising. Having grown up sailing these boats and having continued to sail on them for well over 50 years, I have a very difficult time understanding why people think that these old CCA era boats are particularly suitable for the rigors of offshore voyaging. So, given the chasm between the court of common wisdom and my own views, I thought that it might be helpful to discuss the basis of this disagreement on the suitability of CCA era boats for serious cruising.
A BRIEF HISTORY LESSON,
I think it might be helpful to the discussion to start with a little history, and perhaps a description of the characteristics of the CCA typeform. Similar to today, the period leading up to the development of the CCA rule was a time when boats had become very specialized. It was a time that was marked by dedicated offshore cruising designs, dedicated inshore racing designs and dedicated offshore racing boats. The racer-cruiser or cruiser-racer, as we have come to know it, was not yet a popular concept.
At that point in time, cruising boats were predominantly derived from working water craft. They had short overhangs, (long waterline lengths relative to their lengths on deck) and comparatively wide beam, with that beam carried well into the ends of the boat. Depending on their size, before the CCA rule cruising boats generally had low aspect ratio rigs, typically rigged as fractional rigged sloops, multiple headsail sloops (what we would call a cutter rig today), cutters, ketches or schooner rigs.
They had truly full keels, meaning that the keel would start where the forefoot met the stem met at the point of entry and run back to a fairly vertical rudder post that was at typically at the aft point of immersion. There might be a minimally cut away forefoot, and a steeper pitch rudder post, but the bottom of the keel represented a large percentage of the length on deck of the boat. Some cruising boats did have centerboards but most were simple full keels. They were heavy displacement for their length, but usually not all that heavily ballasted.
Inshore race boats of that era had evolved into extreme rule-beaters that had limited utility as cruisers or for offshore racing. To understand these boats it’s important to understand what the term ‘rule beater’ refers to. When you talk about measurement type racing rules, (which these early rating rules all were) the rating of the boat was derived from a limited number of measurements. By the very nature of a measurement rule, the way the boat was measured and the way the numbers were applied would mean that relative to the speed or sailing ability that they produced, some factors would be over valued, while other factors were under valued. In these early rules, waterline length, beam and displacement were seen as being perhaps too important to speed, and sail area and ballast ratios not important enough.
Designers quickly learned that they could cheat the rule, make the boat seem slower than it was by designing boats with very short waterline lengths relative to their overall length, but since the waterline length was measured with the boat upright, the boat was designed so that the waterline length that would increase with heel angle. Similarly the typical race boat of that era also had a narrow beam, and a huge sail plan carried in low aspect ratio fractional or multiple-headsail sloop or cutter rig, and very large ballast ratios. These boats were intended to be sailed at very large angles of heel so as to extend their waterline lengths. To increase ballast ratios these boats had light scantlings and so were a bit fragile and short lived.
It is important to understand how boats shaped by these rule-beating design characteristics compare to boats that were designed with no concern for any rule. There is tendency for traditional boat types to think of small working watercraft design as a kind of Darwinian evolution, survival of the fittest design in effect. And on that basis, traditional boat types sometimes make statements like, ‘the sea hasn’t changed over the centuries so why should boat design change’. And there is some validity to statements like this, in that many traditional designs evolved to be enormously seaworthy and often easy to handle given the technology of the day.
But statements like this ignore that working watercraft, like all good tools, have evolved for a specific purpose and to the limits of the technologies available at the time. The implications of the specific purposes and technologies can shape a boat far more than the need for seaworthiness or speed. So it is that some working watercraft had deep dips to their sheers so that they could haul their nets or traps aboard more easily, some had elliptical transoms to prevent trawls from fouling, while others might be designed for speed to be the first to market or to put a pilot aboard, and while still others were designed to be burdensome, since load capacity was far more important than getting there first. And some were evolved for so specialized a purpose that seaworthiness did not matter as much as shoal draft and the ability to sail in the light air of the season (the New Haven Sharpie comes to mind here).
If we compare offshore cruising designs of the era leading up to the CCA rule, by and large they were based on working watercraft designs that were highly regarded for their seaworthiness and generally types that were not overly burdensome. But when we look at inshore racing boats of that era, they deviated sharply from the wisdom gained over the centuries in terms of seaworthiness and speed for that matter.
An in an absolute sense, for all their length and complexity, these inshore raceboats just were not all that fast on a boat for boat basis. They were only competitive after the rating rule ‘corrected’ their finish times for their rating.
Offshore race boats at the beginning of this era were derived from the faster models of offshore cruisers, and might look like the Alden schooners, which did really well in the early Bermuda races. Or they might look like, Jolie Brice, an early 20th century English pilot cutter. These were boats that thrived in the point to point reaching races that were so popular in that era. At some point, designers like Olin Stephens with ‘Dorade’ and William Fife with “Hallowe’en” showed that modified forms of inshore racers beefed up with heavier scantlings could be adapted for offshore racing and can make very good showings.
It is in response to the interest in these beefed up inshore racers that the CCA (Cruising Club of America) on this side of the Atlantic and the RORC on the other side began developing racing rules aimed at racing boats that could be taken offshore. This is very different than trying to create a rule that created an offshore cruiser that can be raced. This rule came into effect at a time when there was a big demand for dual purpose boats, boats which could be raced and which could be cruised. What resulted was a compromise that was not fully optimized for actual performance in term of speed, or cruising ability.
Under the CCA rule the shape of the hulls and proportions of rigs were generally heavily influenced by trying to beat the rule rather than to produce fast, seaworthy boats. To beat the rule, the typical CCA design had very short waterlines, short masthead rigs with huge genoas, relatively (when compared to earlier traditional craft) smaller mainsails, often yawl rigs, shoal draft, and were very moderately over- weight compared to earlier and later boats. It is important to understand that these attributes were not chosen because they make a good sailing boat. They were not! They were chosen to beat a rule, pure and simple, and the rule penalized attributes that made for fast and seaworthy boats.
Probably one of the best things about the CCA rule was unintended consequence of over-benefitting centerboard boats so that that the design advances were made on keel/centerboard boats. During this period, the design concepts around keel/centerboard designs received a lot of attention and produced in my mind what was probably the single advance in yacht design directly attributable to the CCA rule. That said, many of these advances were simply a scaling up of earlier advances made on MORC (Midget Ocean Racing Conference) rating rule boats.
Today I often hear people say these boats were an extension of centuries of traditional design. As explained above, they were not! The boats that we think of as CCA types were an aberration to the general design principals used to design offshore craft prior to this period. They have some relationship to inshore and offshore race boats in prior eras (Universal and International rule [not to be mistaken for the IOR]). But they bear no relation to the design of working craft or cruising craft of the era. The CCA boats were designed to be good race boats under a specific artificially derived rule and quite frankly in many key ways ignored the lessons of the sea.
All of that said, where things get even more confusing is that many people lump almost any traditional boat from the 1950's and 1960’s into the category of CCA designs. It’s not that simple. Even during this period there were still more wholesome designs built. Tradition based cruising designs continued to be produced, one design classes often marched to their own drummers, and other rules, such as the MORC (Midget Ocean Racing Conference) produced more wholesome designs that were also much faster than similar length CCA boats and way more seakindly and seaworthy as well.
So back to the original point of this discussion, which is the merits and disadvantages of CCA designs, and more specifically whether CCA designs are suited as serious cruisers.
THE GOOD NEWS:
CCA boats are really beautiful to look at. For the most part they have graceful sheerlines and ends. Visually, some of the prettiest boats of all time were designed to the CCA rule. Many of the boats of this era were well built and will be around for many years to come. They often had simple no nonsense interiors that I personally prefer to many of the newer more exotic ‘open floor plan’ layouts. People have sailed these boats to most navigable corners of the world. They have become popularly held in high esteem and have a strong following amongst many traditionalists. They are akin to the proverbial beautiful dumb blonde, very attractive but perhaps not the smartest choice.
THE BAD NEWS:
Short waterlines, poor underbody and keel shapes, inefficient rigs, tight interiors space, mediocre fiberglass work, poor structural engineering and detailing, old engines and poor hardware. Some of these can be addressed with money but most can’t.
Short waterline lengths:
Short waterlines length does a lot of things, the most obvious being it makes a boat slow. It does this in a number of ways. There is the obvious reduction in hull speed that occurs with shortened waterline length. The CCA boats were often designed to pull the bow wave forward and stern wave aft as the boat heeled. This gave them a longer sailing length when heeled and as such more speed than they were rated to have. As a result they were designed to be sailed heeled over. It means that to get speed you are constantly sailing with larger heel angles than you would on a more modern design.
Both tank testing and empirical observation has shown that in reality this longer sailing length does not produce a reliable speed increase as designing a the same length boat that has its displacement spread out over a longer static waterline.
In order to carry the boat’s displacement on a short water line, the hull has to be comparatively full. This fullness creates a lot of drag that would not be there in a longer waterline length boat. The evidence of this is found in comparing more traditional cruising boats or MORC boats of this era with the shorter waterline CCA Boats. In their day, the more traditional cruising type boats and MORC boats were generally faster boats on all points of sail than the CCA boats, they just could not correct out in racing over the CCA boats. A good example of this might be a boat like ‘Ticonderoga’, which set quite a few elapsed course records that remained in effect for years if not decades, or MORC boats like the Dolphin 24 and Tartan 27 which would do horizon jobs on similar sized CCA boats.
But the short waterline really impacts other sailing characteristics as well. These are heavy boats by any standard and, as mentioned above, all of that weight is carried over a short waterline, which requires a very full canoe body. In the CCA boats this displacement is often carried into the submerged ends and into a deep canoe body. These shape factors effect the performance of the boat in a number of ways. It results in a stubby underbody and it means that relatively little keel area with the majority of this keel is operating in the disturbed area adjacent to the hull. The result is fairly large amounts of leeway. (It’s not hard to observe this.)
Sail up to the stern of any CCA era boat on a on a modern design. Set your course parallel to the CCA boat and sight on an object on shore. As you watch the amount of leeway becomes pretty apparent. Do the same with modern boats and after a while you get a very real sense of the relative leeway individual boats. These CCA era keelboats really slide a lot. Many of the CCA centerboard boats were much more comparable to modern boats (sometimes better) and with modernized rigs, are quite potent to windward. In my experience it does not matter whether you are in rough conditions or flat water these observations hold true. (The piece of the equation I don’t have is whether this matters to you. In fairness it may not.)
Fin Keel with attached rudders:
One of the main reasons that these boats make so much leeway is their keel forms. Most of the ‘venerable’ CCA era boats had what I personally would call a long fin keel with an attached rudder. There are many on this forum who would disagree with this term and that is fine. When I was growing up, by definition any boat on which the bottom of the keel is less than 50% of the boat’s LOA had a fin keel, and that is why I call these long fin keels with attached rudders. You may disagree with the semantics but whatever you chose to call these, the reality is that typical CCA keel had a similar profile area to the fin keel boats of that day.
When you look at many of the popular CCA influenced production boats of the era, the water line was often 75% of the LOA. They typically have a deeply cut away forefoot and rudder post that was steeply raked to the point that there is relatively little keel length. If you look at the keel on one of these CCA era boats with an attached rudder and compare the length of the keel with fin keel with detached rudder of that era (Cal 40 or Islanders of that era) you’ll see that there is little difference in keel length between the two.
In my experience, there is nothing worse than a fin keel (even a long fin keel) with a rudder attached. It will have few of the advantages of either full or fin keels and all of the disadvantages. And while these days people tend to refer to these CCA era keels as full keels they are not. Based on my experience they neither tracked like a genuine full keel nor had the maneuverability or lightness of control of a detached rudder. They tended to develop a lot more weather helm and with the rudder being closer to the center of rotation required greater steering angles and therefore created more drag for the amount of turning accomplished.
This combination makes these boats more tiring to steer. They can be dynamically balanced to reduce weather helm and improve tracking but this comes with real penalty in speed, and often the added effort needed to more frequently change sails for the conditions which I would suggest is less than ideal for a cruising boat. The high helm loads and lack of tracking results in higher energy use by autopilot as well.
Lack of motion comfort:
These short waterlines result in more pitching. This phenomena also is easily observable watching a mixed fleet of boats going to windward. Not only is this motion uncomfortable for the crew, but the extent of the motion saps speed. But also the deep rounded hull forms made these boat real rollers. It can be argued that all those these boats roll through wide angles, the motion is slow and therefore a bit more comfortable. That is true when dealing with a few isolated waves (like a power boat wake) but in a repetitive wave train, those large roll angles means that the boat tends to get out of sync with the wave train and so experiences greater impacts with each wave.
Then there is the typical rigs on a CCA boats. The CCA rule under penalized headsails and over penalized standing sail area. This resulted in lower aspect ratio rigs with smaller than traditional watercraft mainsails and which heavily depended on huge jibs for drive in anything below moderate winds. In theory day, CCA era boats were designed for 170% to 180% genoas on boats that already began with very big foretriangles. It also meant huge spinnakers as well. Modern CCA boat owners try to get by with smaller headsails, maybe 140 % to 150% genoas, but their small standing sail plans mean that CCA era boats give up sailing ability at the low end of the wind range. The CCA rule discouraged beam and in order to get the boat heeled to extend the waterline, CCA boats also tended to lack stability, (especially relative to drag). CCA rigs were short but the spars were very heavy. This resulted in a further reduction in stability and the overly stiff spar eliminates being able use mast bend as a tool for sail shaping in order to change gears without changing sails or reefing.
That lack of stability relative to drag means that to sail at their best CCA era boats end up needing a larger inventory of sails to accommodate changes in wind speed. While roller furler headsails help up to a point, in reality partially furled headsails have very inefficient shapes, tending to cause a lot of side force (encouraging heeling, leeway and weather helm) relative to drive. Working against using a furling sail across a wide wind range are the limitations on fabric. To perform halfway decently in light to moderate winds the sail cloth needs to be light enough to fill and hold its shape. That light weight cloth is too light to stand up in prolonged heavy air. Furled sails work for a short stint in heavy air, but in more extreme and lasting conditions, chafe and creep will result and will ultimately damage the sail.
Approximately 10 years ago there were a series of studies done on older fiberglass boats. The most comprehensive of these was done by the insurance industry, but other studies were performed as part of the research for the EU’s Small Craft Directive. The insurance industry resulted from the fact that industry-wide marine insurance companies were experiencing hull failures and much greater impact damage in older boats than the forces would seem to suggest. The problem was seen as being serious enough that the industry funded a comprehensive study.
The study analyzed a large sampling of panels taken from actual boats. The panels were analyzed for strength, failure mode, fiber orientation and type, resin ratios, types of resins used, additives and so on. Where possible factory records were reviewed and interviews with knowledgeable individuals were conducted. As a broad generality, the report concluded that by and large the laminate in boats of the era studied started out weaker, and lost strength more rapidly and more extensively than boats that were built with the benefit of better engineering practices, materials and methods which followed.
Resin and glass fabric manufacturers had developed proper mixing, resin ratio, and fabric handling procedures, which were the norm being employed in other industries. The report did find very big differences between some of the boatbuilders who more carefully controlled their manufacturing methods in accordance with these recommended procedure and the more prevalent practices within the larger production yard of the era.
Some of these early boat builders who were cited as more closely following manufacturer’s recommendation included many of companies building higher performance racing dinghies, and some companies producing cruisers such as Allied Boatworks, Beetle Boat Co., Cal, Cape Cod Shipbuilding, de Vries Lentsch, Douglass & McLeod, Halmatic, Hinterhoeller, Hughes, Grampian, Jensen Marine, LeCompte, Ray Greene, Sailmaster, and Seafarer.
I know that the insurance study would seeming fly in the face of commonly held beliefs which is based on the theory that earlier boat hulls were perceived as having thicker hulls in part because they were often heavier. But these boats were heavier for a lot of reasons beyond simply having thick hulls.
To explain this issue in more detail, simply focusing on the hull for a moment. There are really several things that determine the strength of the hull itself. In simple terms it is the strength of the unsupported hull panel (by 'panel' I mean the area of the hull or deck between supporting structures) itself, the size of the unsupported panel, the connections to supporting structures and the strength of the supporting structures.
On its own, Fiberglass laminate does not develop much stiffness and it is very dense. If you simply try to create stiffness in fiberglass it takes a lot of thickness. For marketing reasons, many early fiberglass boat builders tried to simply use the skin for stiffness with wide spread supports from bulkheads and bunk flats. This lead to incredibly heavy boats and boats that were comparably flexible. (In early designs that were built in both wood and fiberglass, the wooden boats typically weighed the same but were generally stiffer, equal strength, and had higher ballast ratios)
Fiberglass hates to be flexed. Fiberglass is a highly fatigue prone material and over time it loses strength through flexing cycles. A flexible boat may have adequate reserve strength when new but over time through flexure fiberglass loses this reserve. All other things being equal a thicker panel should have more stiffness than a thinner panel, but typically due to the materials of the day and the lack of framing, these early thickened panels were just not that stiff and as a result they are prone to losing more strength over time.
Adding to the problem, these boats were not made from same polyester resin and fiberglass used in today's boats. While the basic chemistry is the same, there is a lot that makes up polyester resin.
Prior to the fuel crisis in the 1970's polyester formulations were different and were comparatively brittle (but more resistant to blisters). That meant that resin was more likely to weaken due to fatigue or microcracking due to minor impacts. Overtime this greatly reduces the strength and stiffness of the laminate.
As a result of the fuel crisis, the resin formulations used in marine applications were altered, and they were altered again in the early 1980's as a result of the acute blister problems caused by the 1970's reformulation.
Beyond that, there is the way that resins were handled with in the larger value oriented companies. In the 1960's, within value oriented companies, the mixing proportioning, temperature control and even apply resins was pretty haphazard within this portion of the market. Various additives were pretty casually added to the resins, such as extenders, bulking agents and accelerators. Each of these offered some cost advantage, but did nothing for strength.
Probably the worst offenders were wide spread use of accelerators, which increases the brittleness of the resin and weakens it over time. The idea behind accelerators is that tooling for boats (molds) are expensive. The quicker you can pop out a hull the more frequently you can use a mold. In the 1960's fiberglass normally took a period weeks to reach a state of cure (i.e. reaching a level of curing that was approaching full strength) that was acceptable to remove the hull and not risk distortion. If you simply over catalyze the resin it will cure more quickly but it will also go off too quickly to have a useful pot life. So in the 1960s accelerators were used to allow a reasonable pot life but speed up the cure time.
The other component in the laminate is the actual reinforcing fabrics. In its infancy, fiberglass fibers were quite short, brittle and needed to be handled very carefully to avoid damage to the individual fibers. In the majority of value oriented production facilities in the 1960's, this was simply ignored and so fabrics were cut and folded into tight little bundles. If in the 1960’s, you walked into a plant like Columbia, Islander, or Pearson you would see stacks of these tightly folded and carefully labeled fiberglass fabric bundles around the perimeter of a boat being laminated.
Then there was the cloths themselves. Woven fiberglass is comparatively stretchy and weak because in the weaving process the geometry results in fibers that are kinked over each other and need to elongate in order to really absorb a big load. Fiberglass fabrics also take the greatest stress in the direction that the fibers are oriented. In the 1960's there was no effort to minimize the use of materials that reduced the stretch of the fiberglass fibers because of the way that the fabric was woven and there was little or no effort to orient the fibers to the direction of maximum stress.
In order to build thickness cheaply, poorer to moderate quality builders of the 1960’s tended to use a larger percentage of non-directional fabrics (mostly mat). Most older boats contain some mat to bridge between the courser laminates like roving, but the value oriented yards tended to use a larger percentage of non-directional materials. Non-directional materials are generally a little more prone to stretch but are a lot more prone to fatigue, and impact failure.
Then there is the ratio of fiberglass and resin. Except in compression, resin is a very weak material. Resin is very poor in tension, can't stand elongation and is not too good in sheer. Resin is only there to glue the fibers together and to keep the fibers in column so that the laminate does not fail. The ideal fiberglass resin has no more resin than is absolutely necessary to hold the fibers together and not a tiny bit more.
This was known in the early days of fiberglass boat building but resin and labor was cheap so it was easier to just pour a little more in and avoid dry spots. When I have examined coupons taken from older boats, I have generally been amazed how much resin compared to cloth I have found, certainly as compared to later boats. But it is not just my observations. According to the insurance study, lenses of unreinforced resin, and dry glass were far more prevalent within the industry than ideal or found in later boat building.
To remedy the inferior glass work, you might be tempted to think, "No problem, just beef the hull up by adding more glass". But, as I am sure a lot of people are tired of hearing me say, weight does nothing good for a boat. In and of itself weight does not add strength, or seaworthiness, or comfortable motion, but it sure adds additional stresses to every working part of the boat, and it certainly slows a boat down. In the case of these older CCA boats, there is no way to reinforce the laminate itself since this is where the problems lie.
In the long run, the insurance study referred to actual failures in areas that had been subjected to concentrated loadings (impacts from wave action or from hitting solid objects). With the study, areas adjacent to and parallel to the hull to deck joint, bulkheads, knees or where there were rows of fastenings, as was often the primary connection for hull to deck joints, were cited as experiencing catastrophic failures.
Compounding the structural problems with the laminate of the era, were poor choices in the detailing of these boats. For example, in order to market fiberglass boats as having more room down below than wooden boats, fiberglass boat builders directed the designers to eliminate any internal framing. As described above, this resulted boats which tended to flex more than later designs with internal framing, and which concentrated much higher loads at ‘hard spots’ such as hull to deck joints, the turn down at keels, and adjacent to locations where engine beds, bunk flats and bulkheads touch the hull. The mix of weaker laminate and over time these higher concentrated loading were shown to greatly weaken the laminate in these areas.
Similarly, many manufacturers chose to use encapsulated keels as a cost savings measure. But encapsulated keels require a lot more care than was generally give to them. To begin with, it is very difficult to get a proper wet out and layup working in the narrow confines of the encapsulation envelope. Consequently, the glasswork at the bottom and lower sides of the keel envelope was often the worst in the whole boat with poor overlaps, resin rich and resin starved lay-ups. Given the difficulty of a worker in to physically reach these areas during lay-up, it was extremely difficulty to avoid this. Having been involved in quite a few repairs to the leading edge of keels from this era, these conditions are far more common than rare.
Adding to this problem was the way that the ballast keels were installed. The ballast keels were generally cast off the boat and then inserted into the envelope after the envelope or ballast was coated with a polyester slurry. This was an imprecise process that left many voids. Polyester is a poor adhesive and so the bonds between the ballast and the envelope were questionable at best. Over time, these bonds often fail due to impacts, and in northern climates due to freeze thaw of water within the keel cavity.
This places a side load on the encapsulation envelope, which would be fine if the membrane at the top of the ballast had adequate structural capacity and there was adequate transverse framing. But that was rarely the case. In my family’s Pearson Vanguard the membrane at the top of the keel was a single layer of roving, and there was no transverse framing, which is similar to my observations on other value oriented boats of this era. (It is thought my family’s Vanguard was lost due in part due to the combined contribution of failure of the glass on the keel bottom, the reduced strength of the bond on the sides of the keel, and the failure of the encapsulation membrane which ultimately lead to the loss of the ballast keel.)
It was also during this period that manufacturers introduced the outward facing flange hull to deck joint. (In fairness, this questionable detail continues in modern value oriented boats.) Outward facing flanges have several issues. First of all, by their very design the joint is in bending rather than sheer. (The load path is trying to tear the laminate apart rather than simply slice through it.) Because of their location on the hull, they need to be thinner laminate and have a smaller contact area. This concentrates the connection into a smaller area, increasing the tendency for fatigue and a failure line across the load path. It is also a harder joint to seal.
In many cases, early boatbuilders also constructed their toe rails by molding them into the deck. It is very had to get a proper lamination when dealing with the sharp changes in direction required to form something like a toerail. This often inferior glass work occurs at or near the hull to deck joint in the zone where loads are most concentrated. The insurance study cited several cases where the failure mode was though to originate in this area and spread out from there.
Another questionable detail was Formica covered bulkheads. While easy to maintain, the Formica conceals the plywood cores of these often structural elements, and can trap moisture as within the plywood preventing it from drying out. This allows rot to occur in the bulkhead and spread undetected.
This problem was made worse by the fact that many of the less expensive boats of this era used exterior grade plywood rather than marine grade materials for their interiors.
A final area of concern noted in the insurance report was tabbing methods. Tabbing is the method of bonding components of a boat that consist of layers of fiberglass laminate that span between the components. Properly done, tabbing consists of multiple layers of cloth which taper in width from a wide first layer so that there are not hardspots formed where the two components join. (Hardspots greatly concentrate the loads and can damage the strength of the laminate over time.) Ideally, tabbing is continuous around the two components being joined. During the early years of boat building, on poor to moderate quality boats, the tabbing was often discontinuous and a single lamination or two.
Then there is the weight issue. The combination of the CCA rule and the boat building techniques of the era resulted in boats that were comparatively heavy but carrying that weight in areas of the boat (hulls, interiors, and rigs) where it does not help the boat. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, in and of itself weight does nothing good for a boat. Many of these boats were heavy in ways that really did not help comfort, or carrying capacity, or stability, or strength. They were just heavy. In many cases this works against comfort, or carrying capacity, or stability, and strength.
Spray and green water on deck:
I have always found CCA Boats wet when compared to more modern designs. The low freeboard and full bows tended to put a lot of water on the deck. The full bows were a fad that resulted from an effort to extend the sailing length at smaller heel angles. These comparatively blunt bows do poorly in a short chop or big seas and send a lot of spray and green water on board. In my mind the bigger problem of the two is this tendency to take solid water aboard.
Even CCA fans acknowledge the lack of room on board these old boats so I will skip over that point.
The hardware of the era could be quite solid but was very primitive in design compared to modern gear. There was often much greater friction and less mechanical advantage. If the boat has not been upgraded the hardware may be out dated or unsafe by modern standards. Even good hardware has a limited lifespan. Much of the hardware of the day was inferior to modern gear and some like reel winches are just plain dangerous. (Want to feel my improperly healed broken ribs?)
But also the wiring and plumbing techniques and materials had a finite lifespan and often would not be consistent with modern standards or handle the kinds of electronic systems that have become the norm today.
The good news is that many of these older CCA era boats have already had these systems upgraded over time.
Carrying capacity and storage:
One of the worst knocks against CCA era boats is the lack of carrying capacity and useful storage. In simple terms, two main factors which control carrying capacity are the waterline plane and the displacement of the boat. For the most part displacement comes into play because carrying capacity is generally thought of in terms of a percentage of the overall displacement of the boat, such that a heavier boat for its length can generally carry more than a lighter boat. But that size of that percentage is directly related to the waterline plane of the boat since the rate of emersion with added weight is controlled by the area of the waterline plane.
So while CCA era boats were comparatively heavy for their length overall, because of their short waterlines, they had very small waterline planes, and could tolerate proportionately little excess weight relative to their displacement before becoming immersed to the point that seaworthiness, and performance are compromised.
Similarly, while these were long boats on deck, they are comparatively narrow, and when combined with their short waterlines had comparatively little volume below decks. Much of that volume, which might have been useful storage area, is in the ends of the boat, extended out past the waterline, where added weight compromises motion comfort, seaworthiness and performance.
Then there is the economics of these older boats. No matter what you do to a CCA era boat, it will only be worth much. During a previous discussion on this topic, I talked guys who objected to my analysis. In the most extreme case one fellow described the changes that he (and prior owners) made to his boat. He described changing the rig to a carbon spar (Taller and double spreader), all new standing and running rigging, all new deck hardware, new sails, repairs to the deck and topsides where “time had taken its toll”, Awlgripping the topsides and deck, modern electronics, replacing an atomic 4 with a diesel, replacing the pressure alcohol stove with a propane stove and new propane system, refinishing the interior including replacing a rotted bulkhead, new wiring and plumbing, and replacing the cushions. He went on to tell me that he thought his boat as good as any modern boat. Well it may be in many ways but he spent a lot of money upgrading a 35-year-old boat and he is still stuck with an outdated rule beater hull design.
For most people the limitations created the distortions of a CCA era hull and rig limit their value, and when you can buy better designs which were also better constructed from later periods in similar condition, it becomes very difficult to make a case for putting that kind of time and money into a CCA era boat.
The reality is that most people would not do half the things this guy described. But when you look at these boats there is rarely less than $10 to $20 thousand between a really super boat with everything done and a project boat. Do even a quarter of the items on that list and you can easily eat up that gap. Unless you intend to live with the boat more or less as it is, the sheer economics of buying a project boat is seriously questionable. But even a reasonably good boat from this era can be very expensive to own.
Lastly, I want to make it clear that I mean no disrespect to the guys who love these old CCA boats. I appreciate their love for their boats and the effort that it takes to keep these old girls looking nice. I admire the seamanship that it takes to get the most out of these boats and when I see one that is well sailed I can only doff my cap to a true sailor.
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Curmudgeon at Large- and rhinestone in the rough, sailing my Farr 11.6 on the Chesapeake Bay
Last edited by Jeff_H; 08-28-2015 at 02:03 PM.