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Truth be told, there's not a lot of difference between most of the classic plastic designs and when you look at a CAL 34, Columbia 34, or a Whatever 34 it's easy to see that all of the designs tend to cover the same bases. Since they all use the same rig, the same accommodation plan, the same general construction, and the same level of quality, it makes it hard to tell them apart.
Of course, the main reason we find ourselves in this same old same territory is that in the late sixties/early seventies, the general consensus was that this is what worked and worked well. The simple fact that there are thousands of classic plastics still floating right side up and sailing backs that up.
Still, I wonder what Lapworth, Tripp, Irwin, and Morgan would have changed if they had a chance to change the mold they'd confined themselves to.
Being that we're now in 2023 with a world balancing on the edge of several cataclysms of our own creation, it's way past time to rethink boats in general and classic plastics in particular.
One of my favorite films is Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s "Amélie" which I'm sure you've all seen. A classic for sure but Jean-Pierre Jeunet felt that he could have a bit of fun through reinvention...
And if you can reinvent a classic film, what's keeping you from doing the same to a classic sailboat design?
What most folks don't get with the whole idea of a VolksCruiser is that it's really all about simplicity. The general approach to getting an inexpensive sailboat and fixing it up seems to be in adding complication rather than paring things down to the essentials.
So, what would we do to a cheap CAL 34 if we had the ability to take it back to nearly the blank sheet of paper stage of design?
Hold that thought and I'll be back with more tomorrow.
Oh yeah, Happy Spring.
It's come to my attention that there are several CAL 34s going cheap (as in less than $3K). This got me thinking about how I'd go about VolkCruiserizing them today knowing what I know now after living aboard and sailing "So It Goes" for ages.
For starters, there's a CAL 34 going for $1k which is floating right side up, has a mast, and an engine that does not work. I expect there are a bunch of other issues but at less than the cost of the lead in the keel $1,000 would still be a lot of boat for the money.
My first thought would be to get rid of the mast and rig since I'm sure that the rig is way past its sell-by date. The mast could be salvaged and I could sell it for $500 or so which is close to what I could build a new mast in terms of materials. Since I'm sure I'd also have to replace the dreaded I-beam, it would also be a great time to beef up the compression post to support a serious tabernacle arrangement if keeping the boat as a sloop or change the location of the step in aid of a junk or lug rig.
Then there's the non-functioning motor which I'd replace with an Atom Voyager inspired outboard installation with either a 6HP gas or electric outboard which is really all one requires to move the boat when needful. While I'm at it, I'd seriously consider moving the rudder back to the transom which would improve the balance and make incorporating a simple self-steering trim tab both cheap and easy.
As far as the interior goes, the Lapworth design works just fine and while I'm sure it would need some work and sprucing up, it wouldn't be difficult or expensive.
The rest just comes down to cosmetics.
Do the work yourself, use affordably sourced materials, avoid mission creep, and you'll have a pretty awesome boat for $7.5K or less.
I'll go into a bit more detail in the next post...
My recent post on the Beachcomer 25 produced some emails of the "A 25-foot boat is too small to cruise or live on" variety and a fair bit of outrage.
I get that. A 25-foot sailboat is, after all a small boat. That said, in my own defense, I'll point out that not all 25-foot boats are created equal.
Take the Harlé designed Sangria for instance. It's a 25-foot boat with many transatlantic voyages and Atlantic circles to its credit. It's seaworthy, comfortable, and a reasonable solution for their needs. I'll be the first to admit it's not a boat for everyone nor should it be.
Compared to the Sangria the Beachcomer 25 has a much more comfortable interior design and compared to the Sangria's 3,968 pound displacement its 5,300 displacement translates to a kiss more comfort and better weight carrying. The other 25-foot boat mentioned in the post, the Irwin10/4, with its beam of 10'4" and displacement of 7,000 pounds makes for a very big 25-foot boat.
The bottom line is I'd happily set off across the Atlantic in the Sangria, Beachcomer, or the Irwin 10/4 as they'd all get me where I wanted to go in a manner I was comfortable with.
Which boat would I choose if I had a choice? They're all good designs but, as much as I like the Sangria, I'd choose either the Beachcomer or the 10/4 simply based on their shallower draft. For me the length does not mean as much as the rig, draft, and overall fitness to do whatever I want it to.
This morning I noticed a certain blog/website had a post on outfitting your boat for fishing with various affiliate links to illustrate the products being talked about. Like this lure...Tailchaser who sell great lures at very fair prices. Their reasonable facsimiles of the above cedar plug looks like this...
Even better, rigged and ready to go they only cost $8.75 and I'm pretty sure you can do the math without much trouble. If you want an even better price they currently have a couple of rigged cedar plugs on sale for $3.95 which I'm pretty sure beats that $44.99 plug all to hell.
The thing is, while I have done some affiliate sales links and still do a few (Russel Brown's great books, for instance), I feel that doing affiliate sales imparts a certain responsibility to connect one's readers with good fairly-priced products. The lure in question is in no way fairly priced with that sort of insane price tag.
For the record, I do not have any sort of deal with Tailchaser and I only promote them from time to time because they have excellent lures, great service, and their prices are as good as I've been able to find anywhere.
That said, a lot of fishing gear is way overpriced which is one of the reasons I've been putting together a basic fishing kit for cruisers that includes a handline, snubber, bird, flasher, and three of the most successful, sailing speed cruising lures for around $75.00. Which is a roundabout way of saying I've done my homework on what cruising fishing gear should cost just like anyone on a budget should do for any bit of boat gear that's needful.
Practical Sailor just put up an excellent article on windlasses that you really should read which touches on the subject of planned/premature obsolescence which happens to be a big part of why I'm promoting the whole VolksCruiser thing.
It's not just a cost thing.
Sure the driving force for most folks is about affordability but for a lot of us, it has a lot to do with the fact that a lot of modern gear and boats are not built to last. Having worked in a used gear and consignment shop, one quickly learns that a lot of the newer gear has a much shorter lifespan than than older gear.
A good example are the fifty-year old Barient winches aboard "So It Goes" which have worked hard over the years are still working just fine while a pair of new Harken winches I bought about ten years ago which have never been mounted or used are showing signs of corrosion even though they've been stored in a dry locker all this time. But what do you expect when you mix dissimilar metals together in a guaranteed to corrode fashion?
Another problem with a lot of newer gear is it's simply impossible to fix and that the companies making stuff are, at best, reluctant to sell you parts. Even worse in my opinion is how a lot of companies no longer support gear that they made as short as a couple of years ago. Sure, I get the fact that fifty-year old Barient winches are no longer supported and one has to sort out work-a-rounds but I was recently told getting an extra plug for a five year old chart plotter is impossible because they are no longer supporting electronics they no longer sell.
Sadly, it would seem that making good products, as opposed to making good enough products with designed in obsolescence is not great for profits.
That being the case, an older affordable boat with built to last systems starts making a lot of sense and, with the added bonus of being the more green solution, it's something of a no-brainer.
Offhand, I really do think that real (3' or under) shoal draft makes all kinds of sense for anyone looking for a VolksCruiser. Having a boat that can anchor in places others fear to tread or navigate, that's also beachable if needed, and ocean capable is really a no-brainer.
For instance, take a look at the Beachcomer 25...
The Beachcomer has what I like to think of as a civilized interior layout as it provides everything needful in a manner that is both comfortable and practical.
The cat ketch rig is a great rig with little to go wrong and much to recommend it. I'm still astonished that we we're still sailing Bermudan sloops when there are so many clearly superior rigs we could be using.
The downside of a 25-foot boat is mostly about stuff or, in truth, the inability to carry a lot of stuff you really don't need. That being the case, it's a great design for someone of a minimalist bent but not so much for those who don't quite understand the advantage of less.
There's quite a bit more information over at Catketch.com website for the Beachomer 25 you might want to peruse.
Part of the problem of navigating life in a consumerist society is that, pretty much, everyone selling you something is only in it for the profit. That said, there's nothing wrong with making a profit because, by and large, profit within reason is a good thing.
Where it gets nuts is when profits exceed fair & reasonable, and start looking a whole lot like gouging or theft.
Here's an example I happened across yesterday while trying to buy some anti-fouling for my dinghy as there didn't seem to be what I wanted on island.
Pettit SR21 is a hard anti-fouling that makes sense for a hard dinghy as it has a thin film, it's easy/quick to apply, and it's hard so scrubbing is non-problematic. Normally it's a bit too expensive for my tastes as it retails for $69.99 a quart but West Marine currently has it on sale for $35.88 so I said to myself "That's what I want".
Of course, as it turned out, WM won't ship it to me because I'm in a non-incorporated territory and it appears that the powers that be at WM don't realize we are part of the US of A. Perhaps we could have shipped it with our freight forwarder but as that adds another $20-$30 to the transaction it makes it more than what I want to spend.
And, yes, dear reader, I'm frugal/cheap.
Anyway, since I now had an overwhelming desire to put some SR21 on the bottom of my dinghy, I started looking further afield with no luck until I got to eBay...
eBay is a rather interesting place and I used to buy quite a bit of film stuff, marine gear, and musical instruments from eBay sellers but do it less these days as it seems to be mostly greed-head dealers selling stuff for more than it's worth.
But, as it happens, there was a guy selling SR21 and he'd even ship it to me. Sounds good until you do the math...
$139.88 + $19.99 = $159.87
That's for one quart of anti-fouling that is supposed to retail for $69.99 and it's as far from a fair or reasonable price as you can get without it becoming armed robbery.
Sadly, just about every time I've gone to eBay in the last couple of years this sort of thing appears to be the norm rather than the exception where boat stuff is concerned.
It's important to remember that marine trades are seldom your friend and if you're lucky enough to have found one who is, cherish it like you would a Unicorn. Far too many people looking for boat gear consider that the prices are going to be better than some marine vendor like West Marine whose economic pressure on the industry and consumers is both controlling as well as dastardly. However, even they don't measure up to the ripoff artists who inhabit eBay. The bottom line is that eBay is not your friend and should be treated with suspicion and do your homework before going there in search of deals.