Although mid June was a little late in the season, the harbor was still jam packed with cruising boats. Many had just arrived from the Caribbean, others had sailed south from New England. Most were taking a break before heading across the Atlantic to Europe. These boats were real blue-water cruisers: they were decked out with solar panels, steering vanes, dodgers, and full cockpit enclosures. A rust streak or two streamed down the topsides and drying clothes and bedding flapped from the lifelines and rigging. However, as I stared down at the aquamarine water (St. George’s inner harbor is still one of my all time favorite anchorages), it struck me, “they’re all 45-foot center cockpit cutters.”
Let's not jump to conclusions, I told myself—journalistic integrity demanded that I conduct some scientific research into this critical matter. OK, I confess, scientific might be a reach—my statistical base would make the number crunching honchos that run the CNN/USA TODAY polls cringe. But hey, we’re talking sailboats, not politics, although I’m not sure which is really more important. Anyway, with all due respect to George Gallup, I recently conducted the Kretschmer Survey on cruising boats and hereby make my findings available to sailors of all political parties.
This list totaled 44 boats, ranging from 71 to 33 feet. When I added up the LOAs and divided by 44, amazingly the average came out to be 44.6 feet—as Dave Berry would say, I swear I am not making this up.Twenty-six of the boats, or 59 percent were center cockpits but only 15, or 34 percent were cutters. Realizing that this data is slightly dated, I next took a look at the boats that contributed to the last two years of SSCA bulletins—these are the boats that really out there cruising.
The SSCA, or Seven Seas Cruising Association is a group of close to 10,000 sailors dedicated to voyaging. Liveaboard sailors contribute updates to worldwide cruising destinations in their monthly publication, which, by the way, is the most current cruising information available anywhere. A typical bulletin may contain dispatches from Madagascar, French Polynesia, and the Florida Keys. Each contributor lists his or her boat type and draft. From the type of boat I deduced if it was a center cockpit and its likely rig. Eighty-five boats contributed to the bulletins in 2002 and 2003 (through August), ranging from a Cal 25 to an 84-foot Palmer Johnson ketch. The average LOA turned out to be 43.5 feet, 55 percent were center cockpits, 50 percent were cutters and just for fun, 96 percent were fiberglass, and 95 percent were monohulls. When you add the two sample pools together, the resulting average cruising boat is 44 feet and there’s a better than 50 percent chance that it has a center cockpit deck arrangement.
|"Forty-five feet is an ideal length when it comes to combining comfort, seakindliness, and performance."|
Just to sample what’s available in the center cockpit world cruisers, let's now take a brief look at two older but still highly sought after second-hand center cockpit boats. The Tayana 42 and the Peterson 44 are not only good solid boats, but they’re also sound values in today’s market. Incidentally, these boats and many others are described in much more detail in my book, Used Boat Notebook, which, not surprisingly, is available right here at Sailnet.
And The Winners Are...
Here's a quick overview of what are perhaps the two most popular oldies when it comes to center cockpit world cruisers.
A key reason for the 42s enduring popularity is that it is a robustly constructed boat with a solid fiberglass hull and cored deck. Early boats had plywood cores, later balsa was used. Teak decks, with all their virtues and vices, are common. Bulkheads are tabbed directly to the hull, linings and moldings are not used, this boat does not creak in a seaway. The cast iron ballast is internal. Almost all the boats were rigged as cutters and the mast is deck stepped.
The interior plan varies from boat to boat because Ta Yang encouraged owner participation in the design. Most boats have a V berth or offset double forward followed by the head and main saloon. The large galley is to port and the walkthrough to the aft cabin is to starboard. The aft cabin features a second head and a large double, usually arranged athwartships. The teak joinery throughout is excellent. Items to watch for include corroded tanks and chainplates, deck leaks, and delamination. A quick Internet search produced seven Tayana 42 center cockpits for sale, with prices ranging from just over $100,000 to $140,000.
Peterson 44 The center cockpit Peterson 44 is a favorite among world cruisers because it genuinely blends comfort and performance. Conceived by San Diego yacht broker Jack Kelly and designed by Doug Peterson, approximately 200 44s were built in Taiwan during a six-year production run. The Kelly Peterson 46 replaced the 44 and if you're interested in the 44 you should also give these boats a close inspection. The Peterson 44 hull shape is similar to the Tayana 42, but a bit more refined. The flat stern, longer LOA, lower freeboard, finer forefoot, and taller rig combine to make the boat a much better performer. It is also a very nice looking boat—even confirmed aft cockpit sailors concede the point.
The interior plan usually features a V berth forward with a large head just aft. The main saloon includes a dinette to port. The galley is also to port and low walkthrough is to starboard, although the aft cabin is also accessible from the cockpit, a great feature that is rarely available in modern boats. Items to watch for include trouble with teak decks and suspect tanks, they’re made of black iron and water tanks especially were prone to rusting. SailNet readers are familiar with Sue and Larry’s terrific accounts of upgrading their Kelly Peterson 46, including how they removed their deck decks and replaced them with Treadmaster. Original 44s had rigging problems, especially the Navtec turnbuckles, but most boats on the market will have been rerigged by now. Nine 44s, ranging from $110,000 to $150,000 turned up for sale on line.
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