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Discussion Starter #1
We're planning to buy a 28' boat shortly after we move to the greater Seattle area, and keep it near Anacortes. I'm looking for advice or warnings about what kind of boat we should look for or avoid, given that we'll be sailing on Puget Sound and in the San Juan Islands. Also for any warnings about the area and what we can expect.

Our background: we have about 8 years' experience sailing/racing out of Vancouver on an Olson 30, Catalina 27, Martin 242, and a few other larger boats.

Our plans: coastal weekend cruises and day sails plus a weeklong cruise once a year. We don't plan to do any overnight sailing.

All advice gratefully and cheerfully accepted!
 

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If you've already been sailing in Vancouver then you've probably spent time in the Gulf Islands. Sailing in the San Juans is quite similar. You need to be comfortable planning around tides and currents, and a light air boat makes a big difference in allowing for more frequent sailing. I do a lot of sailing in 5-10 knot winds. Down here most of my sailing is basically upwind or downwind, but in the San Juans I do occasionally get to reach.

If I were looking for a new 28 foot boat around here my basic requirements would be:
* good in light air -- higher SA/D with a 135% genoa, feathering or folding prop, lower wetted area, good sail quality, spinnaker, points high
* can handle heavy air -- a second smaller jib (I'm assuming roller furling) that can be used when sailing upwind in 20+ knots. One deep reef or two reefs.
* good dodger -- they are great for year round sailing. I often remove mine in the summer, but never in the winter.
* inboard engine -- 28' is too long for an outboard in rougher water like tidal passages

Everything else is basically personal preference.

In other thread you mentioned the Catalina 27. Those are popular around here. I personally wouldn't get one with a standard mast and would only consider the tall mast version.

I really like my Pearson for sailing and cruising around here. If I were designing the boat from scratch I'd probably make the keel deeper and maybe make the stick taller to make it faster and point higher.
 

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Closet Powerboater
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I agree with everything Alex_W said.

Since you plan on not doing any overnights that allows you to buy something quite spartan below and more performance oriented. This will help with your ability to sail in the light and fluky summer winds, but I wouldn't give up the cabin or simple stove entirely. Even in the summer sailing around here can be cold and the ability to go below and warm up is important.

A good engine is important as well. In the summer the wind shuts off like a switch every day right around sunset. It's uncomfortable to be drifting with a swift current, with ferries and summer powerboats all around watching the sun go down and wondering how you'll get to your evening destination.

Warnings? Watch the tides and currents, especially around anything named "pass". If you've sailed around Vancouver you already know that. The only other warning I would contribute is to avoid the state park buoys that area all over the San Juans. They are not well maintained and I have personally found TWO of them washed ashore, but you said you won't stay overnight, so it's not really a concern for you.

Oh, and radar. Radar is really REALLY nice to have if you want to sail in mid july through september.

MedSailor
 

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I've stayed on the mooring buoys dozens of times without issue. Most of them do have a size limit of 38', and I think MedSailor has primarily owned larger boats? There are some places where mooring buoys are required, such as the closest in areas along Echo Bay on Sucia. There are others where they are just a good idea due to the bottom having a lot of eel grass, like at Patos.

I missed that you aren't ever going to stay on the boat. If that is the case I'd look for a smaller race boat like a J/29, J/27, Olson 25, Santa Cruz 27, or maybe a San Juan 7.7 to get good light air performance.
 

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I've stayed on the mooring buoys dozens of times without issue. Most of them do have a size limit of 38', and I think MedSailor has primarily owned larger boats? There are some places where mooring buoys are required, such as the closest in areas along Echo Bay on Sucia. There are others where they are just a good idea due to the bottom having a lot of eel grass, like at Patos.

I missed that you aren't ever going to stay on the boat. If that is the case I'd look for a smaller race boat like a J/29, J/27, Olson 25, Santa Cruz 27, or maybe a San Juan 7.7 to get good light air performance.
I've never personally had a problem with them, (thought I don't use them anymore), but the TWO that I found with the ring and 8ft of chain still attached would have come adrift with a rowboat tied to them. After all, they came adrift with nobody tied to them. I assume it was a swivel or shackle that failed in both cases.

This photo is taken at Blake Island about 10 years ago. Most recent one I found with the ring still attached was 1 year ago at obstruction pass state park. I can't find the photo right now though.



MedSailor
 

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Swab
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We spent a total of three years in that area; one year out of Friday Harbor, after a five month refit at Port Townsend, then 18 months out of Shilshole Bay before sailing back to Hawaii and on to Alaska.

+1 Everything Alex W said. I would only add that you should make sure what ever boat you choose has a good engine and emphasize the importance of paying attention to the tides and currents.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
First, thank you to all of you for your thoughtful responses! Second: No, NO --- I didn't say we wouldn't be staying overnight (it's hard to do a weekend cruise without staying overnight) --- I said we weren't planning to do any overnight sailing. That is, we intend to plan our trips such that we are at anchor or a dock or a mooring by 5 pm in the summer.

This doesn't mean that we don't intend to keep up night sailing skills (which can, in fact, be done during daytime); it means we plan to be sailing at night only by accident or misfortune, not design.

I hadn't thought that an outboard engine would not have enough power to get us through the high-current passes (of which we do, as you suggest, have experience). On the Olson 30 that I raced on, there was only an outboard and the skipper took her everywhere including Desolation Sound and Tofino.

Would you please tell me more about why this is a bad idea?

I am totally committed to a dodger AND to a solid fuel heater in the saloon. What do you think of a cockpit enclosure that needs to be folder up vs. a SunShade product to which plastic sidecurtains could be velcroed to keep out the rain?

We are so happy to be coming back to the west coast, specifically home to the Pacific Northwest (albeit a bit south of our original home); we live in Washington DC right now and are racing on the Potomac. Challenging racing, actually, but just not the same.

More comments and pushback cheerfully accepted! Also, you need to know that I had to look up most of the terms (sa/d etc) that Alex used and I have learned a lot.

Do you have any specific recommendations regarding 27.5' to 29.5' boat?
 

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Actually, the olson 30 came to mind as my #1 choice for you. I'm not against an outboard, and for a light enough boat, it's enough power. You could end up in trouble trying to power into chop as the prop will come out of the water but if you're a "real" sailor (and I suspect you are) you should sail into said chop.

Thanks for clarifying the overnight issue. Now we can move on and turn this into an anchoring debate. hehehe

Good on you for going with the solid fuel heater. I loved mine and while they have innumerable drawbacks, the warmth and romance of the solid fuel stove can't be beat. Consider using duraflame logs cut into thirds. I tried every fuel imaginable and these were the best by far. They're wax impregnated so they're basically waterproof, they burn consistently and don't need much tending and they're DEFINITELY hot enough, but they are also cool compared to real wood. Real wood is easy to get the stove too hot and risk damaging the boat. a third of a log still lasts 3 hours, but with 1/3 of the heat (a good thing).

I'm not sure what you have in mind for cockpit enclosures. Basically, to my mind, they come in two types. The cu$tom canvas type that can keep the rain, sun and wind off you while you're sailing, and the cheep and cheerful kind that you have to erect after you're done sailing. A simple boom tarp of light colored silnylon cloth and bungies to the lifelines often works well.

MedSailor
 

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First, thank you to all of you for your thoughtful responses! Second: No, NO --- I didn't say we wouldn't be staying overnight (it's hard to do a weekend cruise without staying overnight) --- I said we weren't planning to do any overnight sailing. That is, we intend to plan our trips such that we are at anchor or a dock or a mooring by 5 pm in the summer.

This doesn't mean that we don't intend to keep up night sailing skills (which can, in fact, be done during daytime); it means we plan to be sailing at night only by accident or misfortune, not design.

I hadn't thought that an outboard engine would not have enough power to get us through the high-current passes (of which we do, as you suggest, have experience). On the Olson 30 that I raced on, there was only an outboard and the skipper took her everywhere including Desolation Sound and Tofino.

Would you please tell me more about why this is a bad idea?

I am totally committed to a dodger AND to a solid fuel heater in the saloon. What do you think of a cockpit enclosure that needs to be folder up vs. a SunShade product to which plastic sidecurtains could be velcroed to keep out the rain?

We are so happy to be coming back to the west coast, specifically home to the Pacific Northwest (albeit a bit south of our original home); we live in Washington DC right now and are racing on the Potomac. Challenging racing, actually, but just not the same.

More comments and pushback cheerfully accepted! Also, you need to know that I had to look up most of the terms (sa/d etc) that Alex used and I have learned a lot.

Do you have any specific recommendations regarding 27.5' to 29.5' boat?
I sailed in the PNW engineless for several years without many issues and now I have a 6.5 4 stroke on a 7400 lb boat with zero issues.. A little bit of navigation is all you need, keep an eye on the weather and learn the patterns, its pretty predictable around here. It doesn't matter what boat you choose but when you find one come find us and we will serve you an average meal with below average wine " as much as you can drink" and hopefully above average company.
 

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Concerning aux power, over the years on many occasions on vessels under 27' I was a proud member of the "Oar Club" in the Pacific Northwest...always seemed to me that too many "sailors" around our region are just powerboaters with a large sunscreen rigged above, often untrimmed. (not to mention the plethora of Mac 26's pulling tubes around with a 40 hp outboard on the back...truely sacrilegious! ha ha) Unless your schedule gets the best of you competent seamanship and knowledge concerning tides and currents will get you through. That being said the little diesel in my Cheoy Lee 27 was handy, though I rarely used it. In our numerous locales with stiff currents you had to wait them out regardless.
On the Electra I usually just use my trusty little Seagull to get clear of the docks when it's busy, and yank it to stowage. Rather be sailing than stinking anyway and with the Seagull you're not even tempted to just motorsail your way around. ;-)

Agree with the remarks about an Olson 30 for your needs...but it depends on the budget ya know? I can think of a dozen reasonable performers in that size range that can be had for considerably less outlay than the Olson. Buyers market now, if you need to bargain hunt anyway. Online keep an eye on Seattle, Bellingham, and Vancouver craigslist and 48 degrees online classifieds to get a feel for the current used market.

Good luck and welcome back to our little slice of sailing heaven!
 

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My concerns with an outboard aren't around the power of the engine, you don't need a powerful engine. It is about the depth of the prop compared to the length of the boat. If you are trying to motor through tidal passages (with or against the current) your prop will spend time out of the water if you have a longer boat (like 30'). If you don't intend to motor through tidal passages then it won't be an issue.

I'm also a fan of engineless boats and like to sail on my friend's engineless Yankee 30. It does require the right attitude to be prepared for having a great breeze on Saturday that blows you 25 nm away, then to row and use the currents to get you home on Sunday when the breeze has stopped.

<30' race boats are usually very small to cruise on. If you are comfortable with the limited accommodations then they are a good choice. I like sailing on a J/29, but don't think I'd want to live on one for a week.

C&C 29, Ranger 29, Islander 28, Yankee 28 all seem like solid choices with a good size cruising interior for 2. If you found a Pearson 28-2 I could give you a lot of advice on it, but I've only seen 3 of them in the Salish Sea.

I have diesel (not solid fuel) forced air heat (Webasto) and it's great and really extends the cruising season for me. I don't have a cockpit enclosure or want one, I do have a dodger and a bimini but seem them as an either/or system (dodger for the winter, bimini for some cockpit shade in the summer).
 

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Cal 29 is a great boat for around here.. Decent room down below.. Inboard.. Fast in the light stuff
 

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I just got back from my 2nd 8 day cruise this season and will chime in here about aux power. Unless you are a purist... get rid of any notions about not needing aux power. Then, get the biggest aux power you can (i.e. my boat came standard with a 16hp diesel, but mine has the optional 24hp). With all the best intentions we ussualy have for trip planning... we cannot predict the winds around here with any certainty for a trip two weeks from now. This last trip was 28.5 hours on the water with 3 hours of actual sailing. :mad: We had 3 days of no wind and one day of direct 3-5k headwind towards our destination. I was really glad I had a 24hp diesel! (Still had trouble at the corner of Discovery Island where Harrow Straight joins Wanda Fuca - we showd 6k on the gauge, 1k on the GPS and the direction of the 1k was not where we wanted to go). :confused:

Dave
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Thanks for the input! I hadn't considered some of the boats that have been mentioned but will now do more research on them.

What I don't know is which boats I should not waste time looking at (well, that's not true, actually: I won't look at Hunters or post-2000 Catalinas) and which warrant in-depth research. One of our big concerns is the quality of construction in a boat that we can afford. We won't have pan liners, for example, because we want access to the hull and to the wiring and also because of the sins that they hide so easily.

We're going to be here in D.C. for a few more months and have an opportunity to inspect a lot of boats.

Futher question: As we hope to find a marina near Anacortes, it's not likely that we'll spend much time sailing on Puget Sound, thereby (we hope) avoiding the PSCZ experience. Have I got that right?
 

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Great advice, I'll add a couple:

Consider the dinghy, you'll be using it a lot. Dragging the dink behind will chop a half knot or more off a 27 footer. 27 feet is probably too small for davits. Some boats in that range may have a decent flat foredeck to stow the dink, others won't.

Instrumentation: between ferrys and other commercial traffic hauling ass through the islands, and getting caught in surprise fog banks, some sort of traffic warning is good. Radar would be great, but maybe a bit much for what you're looking for. I just installed a new VHF with AIS receiver and display, and it's my new best friend. While AIS doesn't show all the traffic, when you see ferrys bearing down on you it's nice to know the collision course status at a glance.
 

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Not all pans are evil, you just need to investigate each boat that you are considering closely. My boat has a pan, but there is easy access to everything and nothing is buried in hidden chases. My previous Catalina 25 had no headliner (bolts were accessible from the interior) but buried wiring directly in the laminate. So the lack of a liner doesn't always mean that things are easier. Eliminating any type of pan will eliminate most production boats.

Looking online helps me see what boats I want to look at, but I can't really tell if I want to own a particular model until I've spend half an hour crawling around and looking at how the boat was made. That is difficult to learn online.

I don't think engine power is that big of a deal. The 16hp Yanmar moves my boat along just fine and shows no signs of being underpowered. Dave_E's boat weighs 50% more than the 27-29 footers that have been mentioned in this thread so far and has much more beam, which might justify that engine power.

Skyline Marina is in a great location and is worth considering. It is about 10 minutes farther drive than the other marinas in Anacortes, but puts you an hour closer to the San Juan Islands. If I kept a boat up there I'd look into keeping my boat there.
 

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Futher question: As we hope to find a marina near Anacortes, it's not likely that we'll spend much time sailing on Puget Sound, thereby (we hope) avoiding the PSCZ experience. Have I got that right?
What is the PSCZ experience?

I live in Anacortes and own a slip here, so I can help you decide which marinas in the area are good/bad/ugly. There are some amazingly cheap sublet deals here if you know where to find them. Also, each marina is really different than the next. Some have fog, some have current etc. Send me a PM when you get closer to needing to find a slip and I can advise you on the marinas around here.

MedSailor
 

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It is tempting to try cruising without an engine, but it is the rare 21st century sailor who has the patience to regulate his life by the tides, currents and seasons. Rarer still is the individual who is willing to learn the seamanship required to cruise successfully without the aid of internal combustion.

Imagine sitting becalmed two miles off Friday Harbor. As the sun sets the tide begins to ebb and the current carries you toward Cattle Pass. Now imagine you have just spent the last 36 hours getting there under sail from Port Townsend. Bet you wish you had that Yanmar 2GM now.

 

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...imagine you have just spent the last 36 hours getting there under sail from Port Townsend. Bet you wish you had that Yanmar 2GM now.
No kidding...about 30nm in 36 hours in the SoJdF...holy moly...

(but your point is well made and should be well taken...)
 
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