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Hi,
I have owned a 32' Pearson Vanguard for 15 years or so and can testify to the qualities and drawbacks. I raised a family of four cruising the coast of Maine aboard her and she always kept us safe and comfortable. The kids and the wife at the time, loved her. The boat is great in any conditions, will not point high though and will slow way down when beating too high into a stiff chop. In that case, stop pinching, fall off five points and the boat will sail quite well into a head sea. Initially tender by design (heeling on a CCA era boat equals an increased waterline), they firm up at 15 degress and stay there. One reef point at 15 knots of wind and the helm becomes well balanced.

Many have done long voyages, though they are certainly minimally configured for long distance cruising-the primary drawback being tankage-they only carry forty gallons of water in the original monel tanks. The atomic four is fine as long as you are sensible about fuel safety. Much is made of the risk of gas aboard-but most cruisers have propane tanks aboard for cooking (and sometimes heat) and think nothing of it. The old alcohol stove is a nuisance and best replaced with propane if you will be cooking aboard. A good sniffer and common sense will eliminate the risk of explosion for either propane or the A4. A diesel would be nice and I want one eventually, but the engine is apt to be worth more than the boat so the upgrade must be well deserved.

The interior can be upgraded pretty inexpensively. The hull deck joint will leak if not resealed, but that is not a difficult job. Watch for soft decks-mine need work, but that in no way stops me from using the boat-its just a project somewhere off in the future.

Boat heaves to perfectly, which is great when a kid needs attention or you just want to wait out some weather or even for meal preparation underway. Turns on a dime, but backs up like a drunken elephant. She will handle the big stuff with grace and sails fine in light airs as long as you don't pinch. Lots of room for upgrades like a furler and self tailers-all of which are not necessary, but fun and useful to add over time. If the one you are considering is in good shape, $5K for a bullet proof classic designed by one of the worlds most famous naval architects is a fair price. You can do the upgrades if and when you want over time-its a low cost entry point for a minimal safe cruiser that you can upgrade to whatever level you like or need over time. There is a great users group on yahoo that has 400 members who share all kinds of information about thier ships. Search yahoo groups and request membership-you'll be able to see photo albums of dozens of boats and all of the upgrades they have made over time. The group is very well moderated. Best of luck.
Jim
 

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I have the original, inefficient mainsheet setup. The boat benefits from a real traveller to help control twist and many have installed them. I have not because the aft deck is soft and needs to be repaired first. I don't think that represents shoddy construction, just construction typical of a 1960's era boat. None of the thru deck fittings were likely properly sealed off from the core and some have allowed water intrusion with the subsequent problems that entails.

I've upgraded the portlights with bigger New Found Metal ports as the original opening ports were aluminum and in poor condition. The hull deck joint leaked, but removing the half round rail and reefing out the old filler and pumping full of 5200 pretty much eliminated that problem. A one day job and not a big job as boat jobs go. The deck is thoroughly bolted onto the hull flange with 5/16" bronze bolts-its not going anywhere. I think the biggest headache would be the decks as they almost certainly have some rotten core. It's not likely to be enough to stop you from doing anything with the boat-just something to consider if you want to have it perfect "someday".

I will say this, I've cruised mine extensively along the New England coast-its easy to singlehand and I did it with toddlers aboard. A dodger adds a world of living space and keeps you a lot drier going to windward, though I never found mine to be a submarine by any stretch. When the wind picks up beyond 20, one reef keeps her on her feet and handling very easily. You will fight the helm in 15 mph winds until you put in a reef and then you will love the ride. A traveller would help with the initial weather helm.

As for pointing, I cruise and figure 50 degrees for a tacking angle. Bear in mind I'm a cruiser, don't have a traveller to speak of and I'm flying a 130 on a profurl. Other vanguardians may do much better-I can't say.

I personally know of three young guys who circumnavigated, know of several that crossed the pond multiple times and one was just sold after eleven years cruising in asia after departing Maine. Spoke or corresponded with all of them and they expressed complete confidence in the ship. Two of them are active captains.

For the price, its a lot of boat with a lot of upgrade potential. They have all the usual problems of boats of that era, soft decks, wide tacking angles, large mains and less room below. The hulls are very stout and not prone to blisters. In exchange, they offer security, simplicity, a sweet sheer and an easy entry price to cruising.
 

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Hi,
Just visited my Vanguard under her winter cover. Bunks are all long-I'm 6'1" and feel the bunks are generous in terms of space. there were two layouts produced, a standard layout with an aft galley and a dinette with a starboard galley. I have the dinette layout which I really like. The cooking space is pretty extensive. I have two roomy quarterberths, salon table drops to make a really roomy double and the vberth has the standard port and starboard berths. Many make the vberth into one large bunk for two with a filler cushion.
Happy to answer any questions at all-have had the boat for 18 years and love it.
 

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Sigh...
Jeff really dislikes Vanguards and he knows much more about sailing and naval architecture than I ever will-so think of this as more as a series of observations than rebuttal. I've lived aboard my Vanguard for 9 years so I am familiar with her shortcomings. I have also spent time and money upgrading her over the years. I've said before, these boats are dirt simple and the interiors should be thought of as more of a blank canvas than a finished design. Upgrades I have made include a rebuilt A4, refrigeration (reinsulated the box, a new propane stove and new formica countertop, new LED lighting, solar and upgraded batteries. But those are upgrades any older boat will likely need.

Phil Rhodes was a pretty well regarded naval architect at the time he designed the Vanguard. Boats of that era were designed to carry their crew from point A to point B in safety and comfort. Boat design is a blend of many compromises. Vanguards are slow by todays standards, but if you work with the design attributes they sail well. For example, they don't need to sail at a heel beyond fifteen degrees, nor were they ever intended to.

If you heel over to twenty, put a reef in and she will sit right up. She will not go beyond twenty easily. A FARR or J won't heel at all when a Vanguard must, but that was by design not accident. I sail all over New England and never felt the need for anything larger than a 135 on a furler. I sail on the open Atlantic, not the Chessie where air does tend to be lighter, but I regularly do 6 knots continuously off the wind and average 5-5.5 into the wind if I don't pinch. That is with four crewmembers and provisions for a week of cruising. With one reef in, the helm is almost neutral and you do need to reef at 15 knots. The second reef goes in at 30 and you will switching to a storm jib. I sail often when nobody else will go out.

The rig came with a roller furling boom-switch to slab reefing at a cost of $50 and you won't regret it.

The mainsheet benefits from a traveler upgrade to help shape the main and dump a little wind up top when the breeze picks up. Cost about $250. The decks are wide, simple and clean. There is a real 2" toe rail to keep you aboard, not a half inch square of teak or an aluminum extrusion. The side decks are unobstructed by inboard shrouds, so she may not point as high, but deck work is easier, safer and more secure.

That large underwater hull profile translates into more living space below. I have 6'2" of headroom. I've cruised extensively with my wife and kids and we always felt safe and comfortable, if a little cramped as they got larger. The bunks are roomy. The boat does not pound or sound like a resonating drum as it beats to windward. Flex in a Vanguard hull is unheard off. The deep vhull and mass combine to yield a much quieter and more comfortable ride. The boat tracks well, is not squirrely at all downwind or running in a sea. She heaves to easily, forereaching only slightly under backed jib and centered main. Speaking of the underwater profile, we have bazillions of lobster pots up here-folks won't even attempt a night passage in some parts due to all the lines. The attached rudder has a very well protected prop in an aperture which has never tangled in twenty years of cruising through thousands of pots.

The A4 is a fine and elegantly simple engine. I rebuilt mine a few years back for $1500 and expect it to last another forty years. I can order you a block, a crank ,a cam-virtually any part you would conceivably need in fifteen minutes or less from multiple sources on the web. Would I like a diesel? Sure, but for $8000 I'll save my money for now. For long distance cruising, the A4 is limited in power and range given the inefficient power curve and the limited tankage. For coastal cruising, it's smooth, quiet and has adequate power. Mine pushes me upriver regularly against the outgoing tide of the Merrimac River which ebbs at 1.5 knots. A Beta diesel upgrade would give a cruising range under power of a couple hundred miles-which for a small boat is not terrible. Many Vanguards have already had a diesel upgrade.

It is true, I guess, that you can cross oceans in just about anything, but it is extraordinary how many long voyages have been made in Vanguards. Three college grads circumnavigated on a Vanguard after graduating college. A couple from Maine went as far as Indonesia-I know several who have crossed the pond multiple times and I know one that races in the PACCup which is 2070 miles. I've spoken or corresponded with most of them and they all tell me the boat was safe, dependable and easy to handle in a seaway. We see them all over the coast of Maine where they are very well regarded. There is a very active users group on yahoo where you can correspond with hundreds of happy Vanguard owners and learn of virtually any upgrade you can imagine.

Having said all of the above, I will share that I am looking for a new boat. My girlfriend wants more room. She's new to sailing and does not yet realize the exponential difference in cost between maintaining a 32 footer and a 38 footer. Those cavernous interiors of newer designs, with aft cabins and large galleys look so appealing-but she has not had to brace herself in rough conditions. If I do relent, we'll postpone our cruising a couple of years (at least) in order to fill the kitty after outfitting a newer design. The thing is, every newer design I look at does not look 1/2 as pretty as my Vanguard in profile. Every time I row away from her, I take one more look to take her in-I am having a really hard time imagining letting her go.
 

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Most of what Jeff says makes a lot of sense to me. It's easy to believe manufacturing improved over a 50 year period, resulting in a stiff and lighter weight ship. As for framing, the surveyor who surveyed my Vanguard, when asked about framing, said the hull was over framed given the laminate thicknesses. He was a very experienced surveyor. I believe it based on the lack of oil canning or any visible flex anywhere when working into a head sea (or colliding occasionally with a dock!). While resin mix and vacuum bagging has improved hull layup, the early Pearson's did not seem to suffer from blisters either-that was a product of later manufacturing processes.
 

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Jeff,
Thanks for your usual balanced and thoughtful reply. I learn a ton from this forum and your insights are some of the most informative. I am guilty of falling in love with the design and should probably view it more as a tool-albeit an old one.

I will also suggest that anyone interested in the design join the yahoo groups forum. It is very well moderated and has several hundred active owners. It is a treasure trove of information about projects, modifications and upgrades-oodles of photos and a searchable database of conversations.
 

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I have learned more from Jeff's posts than any other on the forum. I appreciate his thoughtful writing backed up with solid evidence. We might like different designs, but that doesn't mean we can't exchange opinions. Isn't that what the forum is for?:confused:
 
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