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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hey gents, (And lasses)

I confess I have taken your "Go Now" advice to heart and doing so has reorganized my priorities. While my boat search is ongoing, I find that the large Morgans and Endeavors that consumed my last post would prohibit going now, and that just won't due. For the record, my interest lies in single handed Caribbean cruising, primarily the Keys and Bahamas.

During my search for a smaller more affordable boat, I have come across 2 possibilities I am attracted to- The Irwin 32.5 and a Pearson 27 or 28-2. Both can be had in the 10-20k range from what I can see on Yachtworld. I am attracted to the Irwin in that I am a sucker for center cockpit ketches, like the cavernous interior, and the large aft cabin. The only thing I don't like about the Irwin is it's exterior appearance- A large center cockpit on a 32' boat is hard to make pretty. I also looked at an O'Day 32 CC, but I quickly realized that the aft cabin on that particular boat would never get used so why bother?

I find the Pearson's hugely aesthetically attractive. Seriously. Pearson yachts are my preferred boat pronz. From a practical standpoint I love the aft mounted head and shower and the fact that a good number of them have pressurized hot and cold water. I know I will get flamed for that but I like those creature comforts. I also prefer this layout just because of the location of the head- aft. Away from where I sleep. To me, this added privacy is worth a little extra $. I like the wenches and I'm pretty good with them, but I don't want one peeing mere inches from my sleeping head. My impression is that the Pearsons were also designed for more speed, and since I plan to singlehand mostly I think being able to make fast passages is a big plus. I also like the shoal draft winged keels- it's like the ocean and builder teamed up to give you more room for activities! (For those of you who don't get it, watch Stepbrothers sometimes). The fact that the pearsons are newer (Some from the late 80's) also makes me rest a little easier. My only concern was a report about externally fastened keels which were easily separated from the boat.

My research aside- I would love to hear what all of you know about these boats. Point out any flaws in my logic, help me make a decision. Suggest similar alternatives. I hope to be able to go sailing within 1 year, 2 at the most. All advice is welcome.
 

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How are the chainplates attached on the Irwin that you are considering? You should read the chucklesR thread to see how they are done on his Irwin. It makes them very difficult to service. I've never sailed an Irwin, so I don't have too much more to say about them.

In comparison the Pearson 28-2 has a great chainplate system. The chainplates are through bolted to knees that are an integral part of the hull. It is very easy to inspect and service and very stout, much better than tying them to a wooden bulkhead as found on most sailboats.

I sleep in the aft cabin on my 28-2. The berth there is a lot bigger than the V-berth and more comfortable for my wife and I. However one person has very limited headroom. The V-berth has leg foot room (it is a shorter and narrower berth), but much more headroom.

I removed the shower and hot water from my Pearson 28-2. They both worked just fine, but the head is a bit small and I find it more comfortable to just shower on deck using a solar shower. It is also probably better for the boat to avoid dumping all of that water into the small head. However the system was well engineered.

Overall I think the 28-2 is a close to ideal smaller sized coastal cruiser for a couple or single person. It sails very well, came nicely spec'd from the factory, is well constructed, and has a nice interior layout with a good balance of storage and space. I have no concerns about having an externally bolted on keel, it is a time proven way of building a well performing sailboat and the keel bolts seem to be well over spec'd for the necessary loads. I spent 7 weeks cruising and sailing my 28-2 this summer and didn't come back feeling like I wanted to upgrade or change much about the boat.

If I could change anything on the boat there are only a few small ones. I'd prefer a little less freeboard to make the boat a little faster and handle better when docking in cross winds. This would eliminate some very useful storage and shoulder room below though, so I think Pearson did the right thing there. It would be interesting to have the boat be 1' longer (29.5 instead of 28.5) to have a little more length in both berths. This could also add a useful 15 gallons to the water tank. I'd like aluminum toe rail instead of teak, it would be less to maintain and more practical. I'd prefer a modern fractional rig, but the Pearson 28-2 rig is quite good compared to most 70s and 80s designs. It doesn't depend completely on the jib for power and stays balanced with a wide variety of sail plans. Overall these are all minor nits.

On my 1986 boat I have rebedded most deck hardware and the deck/hull joint. The original sealant was at the end of it's life, but I haven't found any signs of water intrusion into the core. On my boat all deck penetrations were counterbored but not sealed with epoxy, that is better than average for 1986 boats.

In a similar size range I'd also check out the Tartan 30. It is a nicely built boat that has a great sailing reputation (I've sailed a lot on the similar Yankee 30) and a good interior layout for one or two people.
 

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Since you appear to be on the east coast you should also try to check out a Pearson 31-2. They have a forward head, but aft cabin, which still puts you far from the head. The extra 2' (31-2 is 30.5 feet vs the 28.5 vs of the 28-2) would probably useful. The aft cabin doesn't close like on the 28-2 and the engine access doesn't look as good, but it might be an interesting comparison.

33-2 is probably out of your price range.
 

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Hello Stagman

I own a 1972 Irwin 32.5. Since I have no experience with the Pearson I can't make any comparisons but I do know that Pearson's have a great reputation.

I purchased my 32.5 3 years ago because I also like center cockpit boats. I agree with your opinion about the looks. You just can't get that kind of room without a tall cabin (my plans are to paint some horizontal stripes along the cabin to divide the tall 'box' look (low priority)). But the room inside is well worth the trade off in looks. I'm 5'8" and can walk through the entire boat without having to stoop. The other advantage is that it's a walk-though so you don't have to go outside to get to the aft cabin (to me that's worth its weight in gold).

Regarding the sailing, she's not a fast boat. 14,000 pounds with 4,000 being balast in the keel. However I had my boat trucked out from Florida to the SF bay where there is plenty of wind to move her. The keel on these boats is a shoal draft design so it only draws 4'. They were actually designed to be used in the Bahama's.

With the two separate cabins it's a good boat for 2 couples or if you like to bring guests on board. The boat has plenty of room for adding amenities (mine had a 4KW gen set installed in the aft locker, water maker, plumbed air conditioning, hard bimini, dodger, hot water heater, deck shower, radar, swim platform, roller furling main and jib, re-powered with a Perkins 4-108, etc.) I also just added a diesel cabin heater as there was plenty of room under the settee. It's a fun boat for improvement projects.

Since it's a center cockpit on a smaller boat (hard to find center cockpits on anything smaller) there isn't allot of room in the cockpit with the steering column is right in the center.

Irwins have mixed reputations in build quality. So you have to get a good survey to ensure the condition of the boat. I was replacing the rigging on mine and when replacing the backing wood to the chain plates I found that all had crevice corrosion so I replaced all of them (through bolted to the hull).

This is a boat that can be single handed however would be a challenge to dock by yourself in strong winds.

Overall I'm loving this boat and using it much more than my previous Cascade 29 which I owned for more than 20 years (wood cabin = work work work work).

Please don't hesitate to ask me any questions.

Hal
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Thanks all for your responses. I appreciate the feedback from owners of both boats. Ultimately it will most likely come down to whats on the market when I get the cash together and pull the trigger.

Hal, if you dont mind me asking, what were your shipping costs like? I forsee that the boat will be primarily used in the Keys and Bahamas with the occasional trip to odd and distant destinations, so the fact it was built for the carib is nice.

The other thing I am wondering about is how forgiving these boats are- while obviously you want to avoid grounding and the like I am sure I will make a mistake eventually so I appreciate some hardiness in the hull
 

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Hi Stagman,

Shipping from the East coast to the West Coast was not cheap. $7k. However you just can't find those Irwin's out here so I bit the bullet and did it anyhow.

Regarding the hardness of the hull. Rock solid. These boats were built in the early to mid 70's before they really knew how strong fiberglass is. It wasn't until around the 80's that manufacturers started using thinner fiberglass (you occasionally hear about 'tin-canning' in some of those models because of the thin fiberglass). I just cut some holes in the hull just below the toe rail for the diesel heater ports and the glass at that point seemed to be just under 1/2" thick (I think it was about 3/8").

I've attached a pic of Ma-Ru and if you Google Irwin 32.5 and look at images you can see that some of these boats look better with a dodger / bimini / paint.

My girlfriend and I both have allot more fun with this boat because it's our weekend get-away home away from home. I usually take her out around two times a month (would do more if I didn't have to work!).

Hal
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
She's beautiful Hal. Nice boat! If you were a young lad how would you feel about using her as a liveaboard or for extended cruising?
 

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I think this boat would be ideal for an individual as a live aboard. For a couple I would suggest something bigger. The nice thing about the 32.5 is that you get allot of boat in a small package. This keeps upkeep / storage / docking fees on the lower end making it very affordable.

I would consider taking this boat on an extended voyage (my ultimate goal). But since they are not blue water cruisers I would keep mainly to coastal cruising or Caribbean type venues. Of course, a good/great skipper can navigate almost anything that floats safely across a large pond and a poor skipper can sink the best built boats. You have to know your abilities and your vessel's.

Since I've been mostly repairing / upgrading to ensure the boat is reliable I haven't practiced taking her out in rough weather. I have been in 30+ knots of wind but didn't 'play' with the sail plan. So I will probably be doing that this summer and seeing how she handles, trying different reefing configurations, practice heaving to, etc.. That's no problem here as the SF bay typically gets 30+ knot winds in the slot during the summer (area where wind funnels though the Golden Gate bridge all the way across the bay to Oakland).

Another pic attached.
 

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Regarding the hardness of the hull. Rock solid. These boats were built in the early to mid 70's before they really knew how strong fiberglass is. It wasn't until around the 80's that manufacturers started using thinner fiberglass (you occasionally hear about 'tin-canning' in some of those models because of the thin fiberglass). I just cut some holes in the hull just below the toe rail for the diesel heater ports and the glass at that point seemed to be just under 1/2" thick (I think it was about 3/8").
This story of not knowing the strength of fiberglass is not true. This recent post from Jeff_H goes well into the changes in fiberglass techniques over the years:
http://www.sailnet.com/forums/1334521-post22.html

This story covers mostly the 60s into early 70s, but shows how techniques did change. You can find many other details on how fiberglass work changed between the 70s and 80s. The changes were in layup technique, not understanding of how thin the glass should be.

FWIW, the hole that I cut into my Pearson 28-2's transom for the holding tank vent also showed that the transom was also about 10mm thick. I think I have the plug in the hole saw still, I can measure it if there is interest.

I would read ChucklesR thread on replacing chainplates in an Irwin before purchasing one, and checking to see if a boat that you are considering has similar construction techniques.
 

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You seem to have ended on .. Still, one more question, how would you think the 27 Pearson do in the Caribbean for one person, at the same time a single hander. I think its Pearson 27-2 now? Seems to be a bigger boat inside per design, then the 28? I want to go out there sooner then later after all, and one could be had for up to 20K. Would it do to cruise the caribs for 6 months?
 

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hi Hal ,where did you find a nice 32.5 irwin ..i have been looking .i was aboard one in wa, state last week.it looked its age for sure ... is yours ketch or sloop . diesel or atomic 4 .. did you find a second choice boat that may interest me ..i am looking for a diesel , sloop ...only interested in irwin 32.5, somewhere in north america .for under 18,000 ,,, thanks jim s/v eternity watkins 27
 

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You seem to have ended on .. Still, one more question, how would you think the 27 Pearson do in the Caribbean for one person, at the same time a single hander. I think its Pearson 27-2 now? Seems to be a bigger boat inside per design, then the 28? I want to go out there sooner then later after all, and one could be had for up to 20K. Would it do to cruise the caribs for 6 months?
I've never seen a Pearson 27 in person. They were only made for a year, and I'm guessing that they didn't make very many of them. On the other hand the Pearson 28-2 was made for about 5 years and they made 200 or so of them.

I think you are confusing multiple boats.

The Pearson 28-2 (1985+) is a "large" 28-foot boat with a big open interior. This is the one that I wrote about. Two key features are the aft head and double sized aft cabin/quarterberth. There are two major berths, a double V-berth and the double aft-berth.

The Pearson 28 (1980s) is a more typical 28-foot cruising boat. It has a more traditional layout with a foreward head. By all accounts it is a nice boat, but I've never sailed one.

The Pearson 27 (1988+) is a 27-foot scaled down version of the 28-2. It replaces the V-berth with a small storage area. The dinette table can drop to fill the settee space with a large double berth. It has a wing keel (the 28-2 has a fin or shoal keel) and looks like a nicely outfit boat. Hot water is optional instead of standard on the 28-2 and there isn't cabin heat. It has a tiller instead of a wheel. I've never been on one personally, but it looks like a nice boat.

There is no 27-2, but some 27s appear to be listed that way on Yachtworld.

There is also a boat called the Triton 27 that was made by Pearson. These were made with old US Yachts molds and are much less interesting boats.
 
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