My wife Sue and I are from Youngstown, NY. I learned to sail on the
Lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario when I was 14. I did some college
racing at Purdue in 1960, but never was very good at it. I sailed off
and on over the next 25 years. I owned a Snipe for two seasons and
cruised with friends and relatives on Lakes Ontario, Erie and Huron as
well as the Pamlico Sound. Sue and I owned a 12' Zef when we lived in
Chippewa Falls, WI and Los Alamos and our boys were 4 and 6. Years
later with no boat in between, Sue and I bought a Coronado 15 to race in
a local small sailing club. We wanted to learn to sail better
together. We took the C-15 to two NA championships, (we weren't
last). We also earned charter certification and chartered and sailed
on friends boats. Last summer, I finally convinced Sue that we were not
getting any younger and should get a good cruising boat. So we started
a search. We wanted a well built boat, that looked right to us, and
had a decent interior. We planned on following the "This Old Boat"
philosophy. I read extensively about characteristics of sailboats, and
have sailed a fair variety of boats.
We looked at boats in Maine, Connecticut, North Carolina, and locally.
We subscribed to "Soundings" and other publications. By this time, I
wanted a Pacific Seacraft 31 or a Morris Annie for a MacGregor 26
price. I figured that this was not possible, so decided on classic
style boats from the 60s. We set $20,000 as our upper price limit, and
25' LOA as our lower limit. Our first cruising ground was to be Lake
Pepin, a lake 30 miles long by 3 miles wide in the Mississippi River
south of the Twin Cities. Since we planned to travel in the boat, we
wanted a coastal cruiser that could take us in comfort down the ICW,
and to the Bahamas.
We set our criteria:
Off-shore construction Aluminum spars
(hull to deck joint, External halyards
solid glass hull, Tiller steering
bridgedeck, Standup galley
secure lockers Galley all on one side
and companionway, etc.) V-berth big enough
Good sailing ability Good maneuvering under power
Double lifelines Table not fold down from bulkhead
Diesel inboard Head w/ holding tank
Hank on jib Jiffy reefing
White hull Propane gimble stove
We began looking during our vacation in Maine. That's where we saw the
Annie. A fine example was for sale at $59,500 - a good price for an
Annie, but not for us. On a trip to Connecticut over Labor Day, I had
a chance to see a Pearson Triton, Vanguard, and look over a Tartan 30.
We continued looking in Bayfield, WI and locally. I thought the the
Rhodes Meridian was a good looking boat. So was the Cape Dory 25. We
liked the construction of the Bristol 27, and it seemed about right for
us. For many boats, a 10 second look was enough to turn us away without
a survey. We made the observation that the much touted statement about
freshwater boats being better than sal***er boats was just hogwash.
What is really important is the maintenance of a boat.
As we looked, the twenty-five footers' began to be too small. We
didn't fit comfortably in the V-berth, the galleys only offered sitdown
cooking. With the onset of Fall, it seemed like the brokers and
sellers went into hibernation. We subscribed to "Soundings", "Sail",
"Cruising World", and "Coastal Cruising". We reviewed our criteria.
One item, appearance, became much higher on our list. We had seen a
number of boats that just didn't look right to us -- the Ranger 26,
Pearson 30, Olson 27, Ericson 25.
In early April, a business trip to Raleigh allowed Sue and I the chance
to visit my parents and brother in North Carolina. I made appointments
with several brokers to look at boats in Oriental, Beaufort, and
Morehead City. My father looked at a 1978 Intrepid 28 and suggested
that we look at it carefully. We hopped on the plane with tape
measure, clipboard and tapping hammer. We made up a 6 page check list
to follow. The Intrepid looked fine to me, but Sue didn't like the
galley arrangement with the athwartships cooktop. Also, the diesel
engine seemed small to me. However, the boat was really well built.
The asking price was $18,900 and the broker said to try $15,000. We
looked at a Cape Dory 27, then a Cape Dory 28. For the same asking
price and condition, it is no contest - the 28 is a better buy. We
checked out a sadly neglected Alberg 30, our favorite boat for looks.
A newer style Tartan 27 in boat show condition, including silk flowers
in the cabin, left us cold.
Just before we left the area, we went to the "Coastal Cruising" office
to pay up our next subscription. We told the office people about our
search. The advertising manager said that his son was selling a
Bristol 29.9. We said that at $30,000 they were out of our price
range. He insisted and drove us to the boat. As we looked over the
Bristol, Sue exclaimed "I like this boat!". It seemed like we found
something. The boat failed our criteria is several respects: wheel
steering, internal ballast, and fin keel.
Back home, we combed out all the Bristol 29.9s from the magazines. We
decided to push up our budget to afford one. At the time, 14 boats
were on the market ranging in price from $26,000 to $42,000. We
checked over one in Superior, WI. It was well maintained inside, but I
was suspicious of the structural maintenance, because of a disconnected
headstay, and a large gash in the keel that penetrated the fiberglass.
Because the boating season is about to start, we decided to stop the
big search and concentrate on the boat we have.
Two weeks later, we were talking to Sue's brother. we asked him "If
you wanted to buy a boat, what would you do?". He said that he would
talk to his old friend Don Finkle back in Youngstown, who owns RCR
Yachts. Sue called RCR and got their listing. To our surprise, we
found a 29.9 listed at $19,900. I called the listing broker and
requested the complete listing. I asked what was wrong with the boat
that made the price 30% less than other boats? The broker said that it
was in good condition, but it was hard to show. The seller lived in
Scranton, and wanted to do the showing. The boat was in a volunteer
run storage area only open on weekends. He said that another person
was going down to Erie, PA to look at the boat that weekend. We waited
until Monday, and called the broker. The other person was thinking
about making an offer and suggested that we put in our bid. I made an
offer of $19,100 contingent on us inspecting the boat and a
satisfactory survey. The seller countered with $19,500 and we
accepted. We made an appointment with the seller and a surveyor for two
weekends later, the soonest that the seller could get to Erie.
1977 Bristol 29.9, 22HP Yanmar diesel, main and 130% jib on Harken
roller furler, knotmeter, depth, VHF, pressure *** cooktop, 63 gal.
water, 18 gal. fuel,
Sue and I drove to Erie, arriving Saturday evening. Our appointment
with the seller was Sunday morning. Of course we couldn't wait, so we
went to the Yacht Club. We saw the boat through the fence, and
inspected her with binoculars. A member came by and we explained our
behavior. She let us in, and we walked around the hull. The keel was
smooth with no soft or blister spots; the topsides were original
gelcoat with hardly a mar. The hull was in great condition. My worst
fears did not materialize! We got back to the Yacht Club and met the
seller. Sue and I inspected the boat with our check list and
mini-cassette recorder in hand. (We record our conversation to
supplement the check list.) Four hours later, we verified that we were
buying a good boat. The next day, the surveyor spent three hours and
came to the same conclusion. A mechanic from the yard next door helped
me start the engine. The engine ran well, but he said that he had
planned to replace the head gasket. It was blown out to the air side,
which I could feel. Also, he planned to replace the worn cutless
bearing that I and the surveyor noticed. I arranged with the mechanic
to have the work done by him, since he already had the parts.
During our return drive, we used the time to make up our to do list.
We had found all the minor problems that the surveyor noted. (I did
not pound the hull or deck). Many of the items on the list are
Wouldn't It Be Nice Ifs.
We returned home and made plans to have the boat trucked to Lake
Pepin. We signed up for a slip and bought insurance. Because of the
Erie storage scheme, the boat would not be available until May 30, and
finally had to be launched and moved to the yard next door to be loaded
on the truck.
The boat arrived Friday June 11 at 5:00 PM. The marina people lifted
the boat off the transport trailer using two fork lifts - one
straddling the keel from behind, the other holding up the bow. The
hauler drove his trailer out from under the boat, and the marina
workers pushed their trailer with cradle under the boat. They parked
the boat and cradle for us to paint the bottom, rig the mast and finish
other preparations. We inventoried things, threw out tattered lines,
and worked out how to fix the bow pulpit which broke its welds on the
trip here. We spent the night aboard.
My younger son, Ned, and I sanded the bottom Saturday morning. I fixed
the mast lights in the afternoon while Sue and Ned cleaned and polished
the topsides. We spent the night aboard.
Sunday brought rain in the morning, so I puttered with the mast
rigging. We came back to attend my older son Steve's graduation from
the University of Minnesota in the afternoon. I brought all the
halyards back to wash them in the machine.
Monday, Sue and I drove down and I painted the bottom. Sue filed and
ground burrs off the emergency tiller. She also cut the access hole to
the rudder for it. Before she did this, the emergency tiller would
never have worked. The wind was 25-35 MPH most of the day - the paint
practically dried on the way to the bottom. After the painting, I
replaced the halyards and finished the mast wiring. With the high
winds, no one was interested in stepping the mast and launching. So, I
found some more minor chores. We spent the night aboard.
Tuesday, I waxed and buffed the topsides. Sue repaired the
companionway hatch lock. I repaired a ding in the transom gelcoat.
Ned and I installed and broke an eyebolt for tieing off the anchor rode
bitter end. About 3:00 PM, Sue suggested that I stop puttering and
look ready to launch. (I suspect that they thought I was busy - I
thought they were busy... "a Scandanavian stalemate" said my son.)
They moved the boat and mast to the launch area. Pete, the marina
owner got on the boat. His son Steve got into the crane and they
stepped the mast. They use handheld xcvrs with hands-free headsets for
communication. Pete went below to guide the mast into the step while
Steve maneuvered the mast with the crane. It was beautiful to watch!
Steve had amazing control over the mast. Pete attached the upper
shrouds, the forestay and backstay. I then took over to attach the
rest and tighten the turnbuckles.
While I finished up, they took hull patterns for the winter storage
cradle. Then they lifted the boat with a forklift to touch up the
bottom paint where the pads were. Now down the ramp and into the
water! I jumped aboard and checked for leaks. Boat dry, pull the
trailer out, and start the engine.
The boat is in the water! Its 5:50PM Tuesday. The engine started
right away and I, the skipper managed to reverse the boat away from the
launching ramp, turn around, and motor to our slip without even hitting
When we tied up at the slip, Sue decided that we should rig the sails.
I put the topping lift in backwards, but it still worked. We got the
main on and covered, and the jib up and furled. This complete, we
straightened out the boat and had our first meal aboard and afloat.
We drove back home, tired but happy.
Sunday, June 20. Sue, our son Steve and I left the dock at noon under
power. We motored out into the lake (Mississippi River). The weather
was drizzle with little rain showers, so we put our foulies on. When we
got out of the channel, we increased speed. The Yanmar pushed us up to
8.0 knots on the knotmeter. (I suspect that we need to calibrate the
meter, a job for next week.) We tried maneuvering in reverse. Even with
a head wind, we were able make this boat go in whatever direction we want.
Mainsail up at 1230, and engine off. It handled well. After a few
tacks and gybes, we unfurled the jib. We sailed down the lake on a broad
reach, gybing from tack to tack to keep the sails full. We could use a
whisker pole and a boom vang. After about an hour of this, we turned
around and beat back up river. Soon, I tried to let the boat sail itself,
and it did so for five minutes upwind. We tacked and let it continue to
sail itself. Needless to say, I was pleased with the handling under
We have found a boat. The boat's name is "Winds Way". I like the name
"Surprise" after Aubrey's "HMS Surprise". This seems to be an appropriate
name because she's been a surprise at each step of the process.
Questions, comments or other follow-ups to rec.boats or
4500 Park Glen Road, Suite 390 voice: 612-920-6188
St. Louis Park, MN 55416 fax: 612-920-7069
My body is mostly water, so I sail.
If I were mostly grass, I would be fulfilled mowing the lawn.