Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vessel Trade-off Considerations

My previous boat, S/V Renaissance, a 1971 Islander 32, was a vessel that I selected after looking at many boats over a 4 month time period back in 2002.  She wasn't the perfect boat - but the initial purchase price was very reasonable and allowed me the opportunity to have some extra funds to add additional gear to the boat (like a dinghy, EPIRB, SSB receiver, GPS, VHF, Pur 06 Survivor Watermaker, etc).  She became my "training wheels" for ocean voyaging.

After a few years sailing aboard Renaissance, I drew up a list of the "must-have" features that I wanted in the next boat. Over the last few years, I've been looking at various boats - and trying to keep my eye out for a good solid vessel - at a decent price - that would include many of the features I wanted.  While my ideal boat is a Hans Christian 43 - I have settled on the 1963 Pearson Alberg 35 for now as an intermediate waypoint to the next boat.

Here's a brief discussion of my thoughts on the trade-off consideration I made in choosing the Alberg.

Full Keel
Although I appreciate the speed benefits of a fin keel on the Islander - I had several occasions aboard the Islander to experience the not-so-trivial weather-helm that could develop in a bit of a blow.  A full keel will probably eliminate this issue for the most part. Robert Perry specifically discussed the issue with the Islander 32's weather helm in his book (Yacht Design According to Perry).
Additionally, the advantage of a full keel is greatly to be desired when considering the possibility of flotsam that might be encountered - or the risk of grounding ("there are two kinds of sailors: those who have grounded, and those who haven't yet grounded"). 
For the Islander - the exposed prop shaft, with its fragile supporting strut,  always presented a greater risk of damage - and greater potential for a catastrophic breach of the hull.
The Alberg's encapsulated full keel will give me a certain amount of peace-of-mind.

Smaller Cockpit
 Although I never had a problem with the Islander cockpit being swamped - if/when I do further distant voyaging - I  always want to minimize the amount of water that can be momentarily trapped aboard. 
A Westsail 32 or a Channel Cutter 22 are more along the lines of what I would like in an ocean-going vessel's cockpit.
The Alberg's cockpit isn't quite as small as I would like - but it is a stout blue-water capable vessel in almost all other respects. This is an acceptable risk.

 On three occasions I specifically regretted not having radar aboard the Islander:
  • When sailing South from LA to San Diego - on a dark moonless night - and I spent an hour trying to figure out what kind of huge vessel was sailing a "box" around me.  Turned out to be an aircraft carrier.
  • While sailing South from Bahia Santa Maria off the coast of Baja Mexico - at sunset - into a moonless cloud covered night - peering into the gathering clouds ahead - I would have loved to be able to keep an eye out for possible storm cells ahead of me
  • While sailing the almost 20 mile length of the Cerralvo Channel, inside the Sea of Cortez, on a night when the channel was completely blanketed by a heavy cover of fog
The Alberg comes equipped with a very nice radar and integrated GPS/Depth display

Mast Steps
 For the Islander, I fashioned some custom mast-climbing based on mountain climbing equipment I purchased at REI.  This allowed me to climb the mast fairly quickly, with three safety lines attached, with a Boatsun's Chair - and a "step" that allowed me to stand comfortably while working.  However, I would have very much preferred to be able to climb the mast even faster (in a pinch) - using Mast Steps.
The Alberg has Mast Steps

Cutter Rigged
Whereas the Islander was sloop-rigged - the Alberg is rigged with an optional inner forestay
Here it may be worth noting that the Islander at one time had working roller-furling  gear - but after it jammed on me several times - I decided to just use hanked-on sails.
 While the Alberg's roller-furling  gear appears to be in fine working condition - the optional inner forestay will allow me the flexibility of hanking-on a sail if needed.

SSB Transceiver
On the Islander, I carried a portable Grundig Yachtboy SSB Receiver.  It worked fine to listen in on many of the cruiser nets in Mexico - however, the reception was sometimes a bit spotty.
The Alberg has an insulated backstay and grounding plate - but does not have any other SSB equipment.  It will be on my list of planned future enhancements.

Increased Water Storage
 The Islander only came with a 16 gallon water tank - which was compromised - so not potable.  I kept about 15 gallons of water on deck in 5 gallon jerry cans.
The Alberg comes with 40 gallons of water in two separate 20 gallon tanks.  This is a nice safety feature - in that if one became contaminated - hopefully the other would still be potable [note to self: consider re-plumbing the fresh water to ensure there is a safety T-valve to avoid potential contamination - if it is not already so rigged]
With the addition of two 5 gallon jerry cans - this should be enough water for two people for ~25 days on the Alberg - and under survival conditions - could be stretched to 50-60 days.

 While in a marina in Mexico aboard the Islander - I made the mistake of taking on water from a dock faucet - there must have been some kind of contaminant in the water supply - because my toes soon became numb.  [note: I should have asked more questions when I saw all of the other cruisers taking their water via special delivery of huge water jugs]
Until I am ready to begin a longer voyage - the watermaker is more of a nice-to-have - but it is on the list as a priority item.

After a long day of sailing - and after putting the anchor down - nothing is more refreshing than a nice hot shower...
While the Islander did not have a shower aboard - while cruising for many months in Mexico - I made do with a tea kettle of hot water mixed with 50/50 cold water in a small garden sprayer. This was never inconvenient - and taking a quick shower in the cockpit was very enjoyable.
Alberg appears to have a shower sump - but will need further investigation to determine what is actually there - or what is possible.  If all else fails - I could plumb a shower in the cockpit area.  Adding a water heater is a possible  consideration.

Engine: 50hp or better
The Islander had a 16hp(?) Volvo diesel engine.  Great burn rate of about 1/3 gallon per hour.  But...when I was caught in a bit of a blow in the Sea of Cortez - climbing over those 12+ ft waves...barely managing 1 knot/hour...and fighting those conditions for the better part of 18 hours...I really wanted to have a stronger engine.  50hp seems to be a common recommendation to handle the kind of conditions that might warrant this type of concern.

The Alberg only has a 27hp diesel (a Volvo too) - so this is a gap in terms of my desired features.  Since the boat has about 1100 hours on a rebuild of the original engine - I may need to eventually consider replacing it.  A cruising friend (and long-time experienced marine surveyor) - recommended that I only buy a boat with a Universal diesel engine - but that wasn't in the cards for this time around.

On a side note - I should mention my strict rule against owning a sailboat that has a gasoline engine.  Although I will/have carried jerry cans of gas on board (for an outboard) - the risk of gasoline leaking into the bilge is a very dangerous risk that I don't like to chance. 

Boat Purchase Progress...

The survey on the 1963 Pearson Alberg went well - and I've arranged for insurance and a 100 mile Vessel Assist towing package through BoatUS

I'm using the services of New England Marine Title (out of Alameda, CA) to complete the Abstract of Title and Coast Guard Documentation transfer.

Tomorrow I will mail the title documents that need to be signed - and will mail the final payment for the boat.  By Friday, I should have the bill-of-sale and a temporary Travel Letter (until the Certificate of Documentation is re-issued in my name)

The plan is to drive up this week to Sausalito, CA - spend Saturday preparing the boat - and sail to Half Moon Bay as the first stop on the harbor-hopping voyage South.

The initial leg will be a shake-down cruise - a short run to Half Moon Bay - and on the following weekend I will attempt to make great distance on subsequent legs.