There are significant differences between Whitby 42, Brewer 12.8, Brewer 42, and the Brewer44. The Whitby 42 is a mid-1970's, Brewer designed full-keeled, ketch. They were originally built by Whitby in Canada. Later, they were also simultaneously built by Fort Meyer Yacht and Shipbuilding in Ft. Meyers, Florida. These were good boats for their say. They were intended as dedicated cruisers, and while they were not the fastest boats in the world, and did not go to weather all that well, they were pretty good boats. The Ft Meyers built boats were generally thought to be a little better built than the Canada built boats.
In the early 1980's, a group of 10 or so very knowledgeable yachtsmen went back to Ted Brewer and had the boat redesigned. The design changes included substituted a cutter rig instead of the Whitby's ketch rig, adding a Brewer bite to the keel resulting in a long fin keel with a skeg-hung rudder, adding a very well designed centerboard. In addition to the visible changes, the boats were re-engineered. The hulls are lighter and stronger, and the weight savings was used to increase ballast and stability.
In addition to the general changes the first boats were equipped with the best hardware that was available at the time. They had robust electric winches, and first class ground tackle-handling gear. They had wonderful details like the system that retracts the jibstay and its furler. Similarly the interior was full of really neat details that really work. Ventilation was increased as well.
The resultant 12.8 is a really great boat to sail. When my father was looking for an offshore cruiser, we looked at dozens of models of boats. It came down to the Bristol 41 and the Brewer 12.8 and he ultimately selected the Brewer 12.8. After 14 years I have been extremely impressed with his boat. It sails very well. It is a great heavy air boat, and not too bad a light air boat. It is reasonably fast and easy to handle. The centerboard allows precise adjustment of the lateral plane producing great tracking and a very balanced helm. These are very comfortable boats in all ways.
Brewer 42's are either custom 42 footers designed by Brewer or else some kind of strange mix of a Brewer 12.8 and a Whitby 42. They typically lack some combination of either the cutter rig, or the Brewer bite, or the higher ballast ratio, or the beefed up engineering, or the centerboard, or the high quality equipment that makes a Brewer 12.8 a Brewer12.8. Collectively this made the Brewer 12.8's more expensive boats than the Whitby 42 or real Brewer 12.8's.
Then there is the issue of unscrupulous or unknowing brokers listing Whitby's and Brewer 42's as Brewer 12.8's. If the boat lacks the cutter rig, Brewer bite, higher ballast ratio, beefed up engineering, centerboard, or high quality equipment, it is not a Brewer 12.8.
The Brewer 44's are a stretch version of the 12.8's. They had an elongated transom which give them a swim platform of sorts. Some people say they sail better than the 12.8's and others say the 12.8's are better seaboats. I don't really know. The 44's are significantly more expensive when they are built and equipped to the specifications for the 12.8's.
Whether the 44 or the 12.8's are a better boat, is hard to say. Both are much better boats than the Whitby 42, Brewer 42's, or boats mislabled Brewer 12.8's. After 14 years I can say that the Brewer 12.8's, while not my style of boat, are great all around boats.
It depends. I have not heard of the early boats (pre 1985) having osmostic blisters. The original boats were given epoxy based barrier coats. Those coatings have a limited life (10 to 20 years) and need to renewed periodically. If the blisters are in the barrier coat, then it is no big deal. Its easy to touch up the barrier coat blisters as a part of reqular maintenance, and when you at some point when you strip the bottom paint, renew the barrier coat. Its no big deal.
Also some boats had fairing material where the Brewer 12.8 vs Whitby keel were inserted into the molds. If the blistering are in a line roughly 1'' to 1'6" above the keel, then that fairing material may be breaking down, and the problem is also pretty easily dealt with as routine maintenance.
Lastly, at this point some of these boats have paint sickness and need the bottom paint stripped and renewed if you care about performance. All that said, this particular boat may indeed have osmotic blisters, in which case that is a different and more serious issue all together.
As far as I know there are a few boats listed as Brewer 12.8's in Florida, Harold Oldaks boat (which has dark blue green and is a sistership to my Dad's boat, she a lot of sea miles under her keel and has been well maintained by an extremely knowlegeable sailor), a strange boat with a live aboard oriented layout rather than the offshore oriented layout of the 12.8's and which isn't actually a 12.8 (lacks the centerboard and the high quality deck gear), and Dolphin (which actually is a Brewer 42 rather than a Brewer 12.8- lacks a centerboard, etc.).
For what it is worth, my Dad's boat is the 12.8 for sale in Annapolis.
We own a Brewer 42 and it is identical to the 12.8. I have docked across from a 12.8 and we tried to determine what the differences were and could not find any. We have a double head-sail ketch, 4'-6" draft with swing keel, Brewer bite, a skeg-hung rudder, deck hardware the same size, etc.
Alot of the B42s were built as sloops. I can not speak to their characteristics.
We love our B42. We live aboard for 6 months per year and feel that we made the right choice. I disagree with one thing that Jeff H said about the electrical system. The original wiring sizes were one-two sizes too small. We removed all wiring and brought it up to current standards. This may be a symptom of boats built in that era.
Blisters: our's had numerous blisters. When I began repairing them, I found that they were in the gelcoat only and there was no damage to the FG.
Its like I said above, a Brewer 42 was hybred with some combination of features and details normal to a Brewer 12.8 and a Whitby 42, without all of the features of either. It sounds like you have the underbody of a Brewer 12.8 with the ketch rig of a Whitby 42. You are right that some 42's had a sloop rig, all Brewer 12.8's were keel/centerboard cutters. I would am surprised that the mounted the oversized powered winches used on the 12.8's cutter rigs, for the smaller headsails of a ketch rigged version of the Brewer 42.
I have not heard of early Brewer 12.8's with blisters. I was a little disappointed to hear that your later Brewer 42 had a blister problem.
Its my understanding that there was a general upgrading of all of the systems on the original 12.8's, which well may have included electrical wiring as well. It would not surpise me if these systems were later downgraded on the 42's. That said, modern boats are generally designed for considerably more complex electrical systems than boats of that era and it may be that the system was undersized for the demands added to the boat after production.
I have single-handed a 12.8 for short periods during a watch. The original 12.8 cutters all came with easily stowable jibstays and electric winches, and most have high quality autoppilots, which made them a breeze to sail short handed.
The 12.8's are quite weatherly, pointing quite high (especially with thier centerboards down). The Whitby 42's and Brewer 42's (depending on their configuration) do not point all that well.
The 12.8's do not appear to have any bad manners under power and I have been vvery impressed with my father's ability to handle his in tight conditions. The Whitby 42's would be harder to handle in tight conditions since they are less manueverable.
I singlehanded our Brewer 42 Ketch (same bottom config. as the 12.8)for five days in Novenber from Belhaven, NC to Georgetown, SC. Four of those days were strictly motoring on the ICW and one was a good day of sailing. I docked each night and had no problem what so ever. The sailing was the easy part. Due to the ketch rigging, each sail is easily handled by one person. I can't think of the term right now, but when you turn the wheel....count to three before anything happens, but at an actual displacement of 16 tons, that is to be expected. She is a cruiser, not a racer.
She points about 50-55 deg. with the board up, but does have some weather helm. When under power, she only backs to port, but that can be managed by getting her moving aft and putting the trans. in neutral, at that point she is fairly responsive to starbord as well as port.
My wife and I sailed her from Panama City, Fl thru the Keys and back up to the Pamlico Sound last winter and never had an issue with docking once we learned her characteristics (we won't talk about the first few times while we were still getting a feel for how she reacts). I firmly believe it all what you get used to.
If you need any more specific info let me know. We are presently in ST Augustine, so if you are in the area feel free to contact us.
Jeff - I have been looking at a 42 which has a double spreader cutter rig with a demountable inner forestay, Lewmar deck gear, a tall (60ft) rig and a deep fin keel. I suspect I am in love with this boat, although she is far removed from the boat I have owned for thirty years now. The below decks layout is passage making minded not liveaboard in port minded - what have I got here - fish, fowl or good red herring?