Sail Searching

The Quest For My First Sailboat
J. Peter Haliburton, © 2002-2003

Warm, yellow sun in a clear blue sky, cool breezes across glittering salt water, and the sound of waves rushing past the smooth hull of a fine sailboat. These are the images which caress the mind of a sailor. They are the things you can experience with good friends and family while out for the day, or weeks, of sailing. Ah, the joys of owning your own sailboat. But what if you don't have a wind powered vessel to call your own? This is where I find myself.

Most people, apparently, start out sailing as little kids using dingies. I was a bit of a late-comer, being 33 when first introduced to it. Sailboats were uncommon sights around the Lewisporte marina during my youth, with the vast majority of commercial and pleasure boats being of the hydrocarbon burning variety. I have a vague memory of being aboard the sailboat of some distant relative from the States sometime around, perhaps, age 12, but she was tied to a wharf and could have been any type of vessel for the impression left. No, it was not until June 16, 1997 I got to know the feeling of being on a vessel propelled across the water solely by the strength of the wind.

My first summer of sailing consisted of crewing aboard a beautiful Bayfield 36, plus a handful of brief excursions in a CL14. The Bayfield 36 owner traded down to a still lovely Bayfield 32 the next summer, and as more sailboats showed up at the local marina, I was able to sail on the Bay of Exploits aboard a variety of craft including an Aloha 8.2, a C&C 25, and a Tanzer 22. I had done several 6-8 hour voyages and a 6 day and night return trip outside my normal boating waters by the end of my second season. These experiences lead to more crewing opportunities, and my cruising and racing resume was growing quite nicely - until 2002: the year without sailing. Two invitations to crew for gulf crossings didn't work out, and with the high prices for fuel, my own power boat trips were very limited. It was a sad summer indeed. The solution? Get my own sailboat!

Ok, that is easily said, but how easy is it to do? During the fall of 2002 I pondered over the possibilities. There are a lot of different types, styles and sizes of sailboats. Phase 1 for narrowing down the list is budget. If I sold the speedboat for a reasonable price, and a few other things went my way, I should be able to swing $10,000 in total. Subtracting taxes and miscellaneous expenses, I arrived at a maximum boat cost of about $7500. It was obvious at those numbers I wasn't going to be able to purchase even a 25 foot Bayfield, my preferred make, but there are some quite nice boats in the pocket cruiser range. Phase 2 was finding the affordable boats which meet my requirements: trailerable, fin keel cruisers with a semi-private head, able to maintain reasonable speeds while not sending me looking for cover when the winds get above 25 knots, and room and amenities for four people on a week's sailing holiday. I don't ask for much.

My first candidate was the Thunderbird 26. This would likely give me the largest boat for the least amount of money. They are fast, safe, and popular. The trade-offs are an old design, little interior space, and unknown construction quality since they were mostly homemade. The latter gave me the most cause for concern, so I went looking for a boat in which consistent quality wouldn't be an issue. The Shark 24 had all the benefits, with the added assurance of reputable Canadian manufacturers having put them together. The interior space, however, might be a problem here as well. While I may be single-handed quite often, I would likely often have 4 or 5 people aboard for a full day on the water. They wouldn't want to be crushed together in the cabin if the weather turned bad, or if we decided to make a weekend, or much longer, trip of it. Racing ability is not a priority, so perhaps a little more comfort might be had with a little more looking.

Canadian firms were very busy in the 1970's and 80's pumping out some great little sailboats. At about 22 feet there seemed to be a sweet spot for comfort, safety, trailerability and price. Popular boats in this class include the Abbott 22, Tanzer 22, V&G Sirius 21/22, and CS 22. I looked over the specs for these (see Table 1), and similar boats, and was leaning a bit towards the Abbott. I'd had a brief sail aboard one in 2001, and was impressed. Then I stumbled across a boat with somewhat of a local connection. The Grampian G23 was designed by Alex McGruer, a transplanted Scot who eventually wound up living in Newfoundland. I had even exchanged a couple emails with his son concerning sea kayaking. Perhaps this boat was the best compromise, with just a pinch of fate.

Designed around 1967, the G23 has a slightly retro look, but not as dated as the Shark or Thunderbird. The cockpit is somewhat small, but that means more space is devoted to the cabin. This is the opposite of the Tanzer 22, which suffers from a severe lack of interior room in favour of a huge cockpit. The Grampian also has 14" of additional width, and almost double the ballast of the longer Shark which should make it stiffer and offer more comfort in rough seas. With most boats in this size range you are lucky to have a porta-potti located under a cut-out in the forward berth, but a fairly private head is another thing the G23 has in its favour. The pop-top is an option often found often on the popular swing-keel CS 22 and Sirius 21/22. On the G23 it increases headroom from a very reasonable 5' 4" to a vaulting 6'. With an icebox, 2 burner stove and small sink, and sleeping accommodations for 5 people, weekend or longer voyages could be easily undertaken. They can also be found listed for under $5000, and even the most well outfitted is normally priced under $8000. Eureka! I had found my boat. Or had I?

There were still a couple more sailboats waiting to be considered. The Nova Scotia built Paceship PY23 also met most of my requirements, but they do tend to be a bit more expensive, being closer to $10,000. At that price I could get into the well praised and roomy Grampian 26. Another sailboat which had good numbers is the Tanzer 22-like Sonic 23. It also seemed to be a bit pricey, and the head is located under the v-berth, so it places nearer the bottom of my list.

Now that I have pretty much decided on which sailboats best fit my needs and budget, I have the winter to scour the marketplace in search of the best ones. My personal rankings place the potential boats in the following order: Grampian 23, Abbott 22, Shark 24, Paceship PY23, Sonic 23, and Tanzer 22. The spring will involve some travelling to see them in person and do some test sails. And, if all goes well, sometime in July I will be bringing home a sailboat to call my own. In the meantime, anyone looking for crew?

Table 1:

Thunderbird Shark 24 Grampian 23 Sonic 23 Paceship 23 Tanzer 22 Abbott 22 CS 22 Sirius 21/22
Length on Deck (ft): 25.979 24.000 23.250 23.000 22.583 22.500 22.000 21.667 21.167
Length at Waterline (ft): 20.250 20.000 20.917 20.000 19.417 19.750 18.750 17.500 18.750
Beam (ft): 7.542 6.833 8.000 7.583 8.000 7.833 7.500 8.000 7.917
Sail Area (sq. ft): 308.00 190.00 244.00 240.00 223.00 222.00 226.00 250.00 203.00
Ballast (lbs): 1,534.00 675.00 1,150.00 1,500.00 945.00 1,250.00 1,550.00 1,100.00 525.00
Displacement (lbs): 3,650.00 2,200.00 3,200.00 3,400.00 2,460.00 2,900.00 3,100.00 2,200.00 2,000.00
Draft (ft): 4.79 3.17 3.08 3.75 3.50 3.42 3.83 5.00 5.00
Hull Draft - not keel (ft): 1.16 0.94 1.00 1.00 1.30 1.08 1.35 0.87 0.82
Headroom/Pop-Top (ft): Sitting Sitting 5.17/6.0 Sitting/6.08 5.0 4.5 5.08 4.42/?? 4.75/??
Hull Speed: 6.030 5.993 6.129 5.993 5.905 5.955 5.802 5.606 5.802
Capsize Screen: 1.961 2.104 2.174 2.019 2.373 2.199 2.060 2.463 2.516
Lbs/Inch Immersion (PPI): 537.560 481.013 588.986 533.810 546.749 544.516 494.969 492.769 522.489
Disp.-Length Ratio: 196.232 122.768 156.100 189.732 150.017 168.054 209.947 183.257 135.450
Sail Area-Disp. Ratio: 20.831 18.009 18.016 17.018 19.620 17.503 17.043 23.696 20.504
Motion Comfort Ratio: 16.211 11.568 13.398 15.800 10.920 13.113 15.482 10.592 9.421
Ballast-Disp. Ratio: 0.420 0.307 0.359 0.441 0.384 0.431 0.500 0.500 0.263
Beam-Length Ratio: 0.290 0.285 0.344 0.330 0.354 0.348 0.341 0.369 0.374
Screening Stability Value: 30.312 49.789 48.340 34.671 37.974 36.970 22.861 45.511 92.447
Angle of Vanishing Stability: 129.693 120.053 120.433 126.213 124.299 124.831 141.102 121.264 114.852
2/1000 Rule-Of-Thumb HP: 7.3 4.4 6.4 6.8 4.9 5.8 6.2 4.4 4.0
Minimum Suggested HP: 5.9 3.5 5.3 5.4 3.8 4.6 4.6 3.1 3.0

Figures may vary from boat to boat, and some are estimated or scaled from drawings. This chart represents best efforts to obtain accurate data, but there may be errors.

For more information and to check my facts see:

Last revised: 2003/01/10