My next boat – Douglas A. Campbell

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A Westsail 42 cutter

But a cabo rico 38 would fit the bill, as well

A Westsail 42 cutter

But a cabo rico 38 would fit the bill, as well

 

 

 Cabo Rico 38

Robin, the Westsail 32 that my wife, Monica, and I have sailed for the last two years, is as close to our dream boat as we could imagine. Our cruise to Maine this summer, our longest voyage ever, proved the comfort and seaworthiness of this design. The previous owners sailed her across the Atlantic and back twice in the 22 years they lived aboard Robin, and we look forward to doing the same.

But close is not perfection. The compromises we made in choosing Robin provide the justification for occasionally thinking about the next boat. My personal list includes sailboats that do everything Robin does, but that have even more storage and, by virtue of their length, the potential for more speed.

That list includes, in ascending order by size, the Cape Dory 36, a boat that was among those we considered before selecting a Westsail 32 (primarily on the basis of initial price); the Cabo Rico 38, a boat we’ve admired when we’ve visited the boat shows; the Corbin Pilothouse 39, a boat that misses the mark in one major respect, as I will explain, but that in other ways compensates for its one apparent shortcoming; and the Westsail 42 cutter, my longtime fantasy boat and the main reason I began looking at the Westsail 32.

First, there are some fundamentals that are a must in any boat I will consider. There undoubtedly are many boats that would make my list were I aware of them, but they would have to have these features:

• Heavy displacement, meaning a lot of layups in the fiberglass and some serious lead ballast for stiffness.

• Cutter rig, for the sail choices it offers offshore. On Chesapeake Bay, where until now we’ve done most of our boating, a cutter can be a cumbersome rig when a lot of tacks are needed. Offshore, where eventually we hope to spend most of our time, long legs should mean fewer tacks. With a jib and a staysail and three reefing points in the main, reducing sail as the weather builds is easier on a cutter.

• Small or particularly sturdy ports that can withstand nasty offshore waves, particularly in the Gulf Stream.

• Full keel, both for handling and for the reassurance I feel knowing that all that material is between my hull and any object that might be capable of breaching it.

Robin has all of these features, along with an interior layout meant for comfort in rough weather. There are grab rails everywhere and no cavernous cabins to get thrown across. But Robin has one feature I would avoid were we to consider another boat: teak decks. Robin’s teak was well-worn after 24 years of use. I suspect it is beyond maintenance, and any boat has enough other things that require maintenance not to throw in unnecessary work. While teak is nice under foot, there are more serviceable options that require less upkeep. We were looking for a Westsail 32 without teak decks, but Robin’s other features outweighed the teak, so we bought her.

The Cape Dory 36 cutter we considered was a beautiful boat. I had seen one under sail during a fresh 25-knot day on the Chesapeake and loved her aesthetics. She had more useable volume than the Westsail and a bit larger saloon. But the Cape Dory, while 4 feet longer than Robin, weighs 3,500 pounds less, including about 1,000 pounds less ballast. I’ve never sailed one and would have to do so against a steep chop to evaluate her against the Westsail.

Cabo Rico builds a sweet-looking 38-footer. Her trunk cabin is long and her cockpit modest, a good thing offshore. Her keel is full but not much deeper than the Westsail’s, so she would be good on the Chesapeake. The layout I’ve seen at boat shows would work well at sea and is darn spiffy, in a traditional way. Her ports are small and sturdy, and her rigging meets our criteria. The only drawback is price, but were we to find ourselves in the position to buy, I wouldn’t have to look much further than the Cabo Rico.

The Corbin 39 has one significant drawback: the keel. It is a long, modified fin keel with a skeg-hung rudder and an exposed prop, two things to become intimate with lobster and crab pot buoys and their lines. Since we know we will be dodging these objects on the Chesapeake and in Maine waters, the Corbin would have to play catch-up if it wanted our vote. But in addition to its apparently bulletproof construction, it has two related features I find appealing and worth considering. The pilothouse steering is a great feature for a guy who spent his first decade cruising on a boat with no dodger or autohelm. And forward of the pilothouse is a flush deck, wonderful for working on and storing a dinghy.

Two concerns, aside from the keel, I would have to address with the Corbin are the large ports in the pilothouse and the hull. Are they sturdy enough to withstand a Gulf Stream gale with 50-foot seas? And the Corbin, while 7 feet longer than the Westsail 32, is only 3,000 pounds heavier, due in part to its Airex-cored hull. I would have to investigate the claim that this is actually a tougher hull than solid fiberglass before choosing the Corbin.

Finally, my fantasy boat is still the Westsail 42 cutter. This is a center-cockpit walkthrough with an engine room that has standing headroom. She has three cabins and huge storage capacity. I first learned about the design from a commercial clam boat captain who told me he and his wife had lived aboard his 42 for eight years and never would have come ashore if his mother-in-law hadn’t needed constant care. I asked the captain whether the 42 deserved the Westsail’s derisive nickname “wet snail,” a suggestion that the boats are too heavy to be quick. He insisted the 42, at least, was fast as well as seaworthy. In looking at every Westsail 42 I could find on the Internet, I’ve come to believe that this boat is everything that I love in Robin, and much more.

I have not yet boarded a Westsail 42, although I’ve seen several in various ports. One broker purports to have a 42 available that once was owned by Walter Cronkite. Now how neat would that be, for an old reporter to own a legendary boat once sailed by a legendary journalist?