Monday, January 17, 2022

a near perfect VolksCruiser...

A tour of an Alberg 30 with Atom Voyager.

Saturday, January 15, 2022

on budgets and boat bucks...

Good Old Boat has an article on the subject of Boat Bucks and it got me thinking...

I suspect that if you read VolksCruiser you’re on a tight budget or looking for ways to make cruising more affordable or maybe you’re just slumming.

It occurred to me that the biggest problem of the VolksCruiser gig is that most folks can’t even say what sort of budget they’re on. Admitting that stuff is too expensive because someone might think less of you is a real problem.

It’s not always easy to embrace one’s place in a social order where what’s in your wallet has more value than the sort of person you are. It sucks.

Having a couple of boat blogs, I get an amazing amount of unsolicited advice. About 99% of said advice is people telling me the answer to my problems is to throw money at them. For instance, I have watermaker that works very well. It’s made thousands of trouble-free gallons of water, but I still get emails telling me I’d be better off with a more expensive system.

When I lost our mast, I received many emails. They said either go out and buy a new mast or just get a new boat. I did not have $20K to buy a new mast, rig and sails. If I could not afford a new rig, where was I going to come up with the $750K that a new catamaran would have cost? People were telling me that the only new boat to get was a frelling condomaran. Talk about peer pressure.

I also get emails from people cowed by peer pressure. Since they cannot afford to buy a new cat, they tell me how they’ll put off their dream of cruising until they can afford to do it right. 

What the fuck is that all about?

Doing it right for some might mean doing it at a certain budget and if they can’t do it that way, it’s not worth doing. That’s nuts. Doing it right means getting it done at an acceptable level of comfort, safety, and within an affordable budget.

To steal a line from Dickens, we’re living in the worst and best of times for cruising. Technology is a wonderful thing and if you can escape the consumerism trap there are many advantages you can take advantage of. Being stuck in a consumerist world where anything old has no value, you can pay pennies on the dollar for the gear you lusted after just a year ago.

Today, with a little homework, a bit of sweat equity, and some scrounging, you can outfit a boat for a fraction of the money that the boat bucks crowd can. Even better yet, refitting a classic plastic design with the added tool of affordable tech makes for a boat better than it was new.

The problem is not that you can’t afford to cruise, it’s about trying to cruise on an unrealistic budgetary framework. Admit your budget is what it is. Use your brain power to find a sustainable solution to making it work in a manner you can afford and be proud of.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Some changes in an old boat...

Most late 60s and early 70s classic plastic sailboats of the 34-foot variety are actually pretty good boats but exceptionally challenged in the cruising stowage department. It’s not that they are too small but that the long-term cruising stowage was just not part of the design brief.


So if you’re looking at buying a classic plastic racer-cruiser for VolksCruising you’re going to have to use some wasted space. On the positive side, most 34ish classic plastics have plenty of wasted space that you can easily work with.

For my 1969 CAL 34, it was fairly easy to add a significant amount of stowage with a little thought. For instance, by raising the floor of the dinette and dinette seats by a foot, which added almost ten cubic feet of storage. Better yet, the raised dinette also improved the view through the port lights so you’re able to have something to look at with your Sunday pancakes.

Since we only need one quarter berth for passages, we use the port quarter berth as a dedicated stowage area. This opened up a considerable space that would otherwise go unused.

As we no longer have an inboard engine on “So It Goes”, the engine area and space just before it became yet another dedicated space for spare materials, batteries, and suchlike.

Last, in the cockpit, we decide to lose most of the cockpit footwell in the forward part of the cockpit. This gave us a cavernous hold for all of our dive gear and other needful boat stuff. That it also decreased the floodable volume of the cockpit was a win/win and increased stowage while making the boat safer.

None of these changes alter the look of the boat radically. They were all fairly simple, cost little, and could apply to most plastic classic boats.

One of my favorite classic plastic sailboats is the Bill Tripp designed Columbia 34 MK 2 CB and I keep my eye out for one of the non-cored versions which would be a great project along these lines.

Monday, January 10, 2022

A VolksCruiser of note...

I've long wanted to build a small canal cruiser for the time that I'm past my sailing days. Philip Thiel's Joli Boat has always been at the top pf my list and a great example of getting the most livability into a 22'9" X 8' envelope.

As it happens "Small Boats Magazine" has an excellent article on the Joli Boat's little sister the Escargot design that is well worth the read. For those interested in the design the Wooden Boat Store has plans for the Joli Boat and Escargot.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

an old boat to start the year with...

I know I've talked about the Bill Lapworth designed CAL 34 more than a time or two but it is the boat I happen to be sitting on while writing this. 

Back in 1969, when “So it Goes” was new, the boat sold for $15,950. or thereabouts. Today, a turnkey CAL 34 in good shape with no actual issues will set you back somewhere around $15K. Considering it’s a fifty-three-year-old boat, that says a lot.

The CAL 34 is a great example of what makes sense in a VolksCruiser. It sails well with good accommodation and has a reasonable draft (five foot). Plus, it looks like what most folks think a boat should look like.

Truth is, the boat is, all things considered, a pretty brilliant design. Bill Lapworth's use of space is quite the optimum layout, and you’d find that coming up with something better is nigh on impossible. I know I’ve tried to no avail.

I’ll add that the whole looking like what most folks consider a boat’s supposed to look like is no bad thing. Blending in to keep a low profile makes sense for low budget nomadic VolksCruiser folk.

Like most boats of the late 60s and early 70s, the CAL was a well-built sailboat. Their longevity is testament to that fact. Sure, the interior had little in the way of bespoke carpentry, but competently done. Far too many people confuse anything less than a high end furniture finish as somehow being deficient. On a cruising boat, a durable and easily maintained finish just makes a lot more sense.

The mistake most people make when working on a boat like the CAL 34 is to forget just how good a design it is and try to morph the boat into something it’s not. Of course, if you really feel that you need a Hallberg-Rassy you should get one. Trying to make a CAL 34 into a new Hallberg-Rassy is a lost cause you'd want to avoid unless your kink is of the yacht induced masochism variety.

As far as things go, the best practice concerning classic plastic sailboats is to keep the boat as close to what it looked like back when it was new. You might find that getting a brochure is a big help.

Well, maybe best not to emulate the plaid upholstery.

Next up are some changes that would make sense…

Friday, December 31, 2021

Another year...

Just a quick note to thank those readers who seem to get the whole VolksCruiser dynamic and here's hoping that 2022 will be a better one.

The current plan is to have a lot more on the rehabbing of classic plastic, affordable boat building, and the de-gentrification of cruising and sailing.

All the best for the new year.

More soon come...

Sunday, December 26, 2021

a book that's still well worth having...

For some reason or other I found myself reading "Voyaging on a Small Income" by Annie Hill and realized that it's still the best book out there on the subject. Sure it's a kiss dated here and there but the bulk of the information contained within it's covers is just as valid as it was as the day it was first printed.

Fact is that most of the questions people ask me regarding the whole VolksCruising gig can be answered by just reading Annie Hill's book.

Are not books wonderful?

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

and in the "it doesn't sink" department...

Back when I was living in France one of the designs that I seriously considered was the ETAP 23 for use as a minimal envelope blue water cruiser. 

For starters, it's a nice little sailboat. All of the ETAP sailboats had a very nice look partly because of their excellent use of graphics and just the fact that they were all just pretty nice designs.Throw in the fact that they were pretty good in the performance department it's easy to see why they quickly became somewhat hip.

The other reason they were attractive was the fact the ETAPs were unsinkable. Of course, ETAP was not the first builder of boats to come out with sailboats that would not sink but they were the first to my knowledge that was integral to the design. All of the others seemed to be more of an afterthought of the "Let's see how many foam bricks we can cram into the boat?" sort of thing.

That said, the downside of the ETAP unsinkable designs was that it seriously impacted the stowage in a big way. To the point that I really wanted the ETAP 20 there was just no way I could stow enough cruising gear, provisions, and needful tools to sail back to the US OF A with. Hence my fixating on the ETAP 23.

As it happens, Bateaux Magazine on their website has an excellent two part article (part 1 and part two) on fixing up an ETAP 23 or any other small sailboat design for a transatlantic voyage that is well worth your time. Even if you don't read French and have to resort to the hassle of google translate.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

A quick link...

Charles Doane  (the Wave Train dude) has an excellent post of the VolksCruiser variety that you should really check out.

Need I say more?

Monday, December 20, 2021

What's affordable?

Budget is a funny thing. Then again, when you think about it money being an artificial construct is also somewhat strange.

My issue has a lot to do with the words we use when discussing budgets and money. Words like affordable. We all understand what the word means, but we also know it has a unique value to different people.

When someone tells me the price of a lithium battery is affordable, I have to wonder what that actually means and can I afford it. I recently wrote about a boat that sells for $175K and I’m pretty sure some of my readers might consider it both a bargain and affordable. I also wrote about some boats that cost less than $3K. I’m pretty sure some of my readers would still consider that to be a serious strain on their budget or unaffordable.

Something of a conundrum that.

Obviously, we’re not all on the same page where spendable income is part of the equation. Which is made even worse by the sheer magnitude of disparity in income and wealth.

So, what’s affordable for a VolksCruiser?

When I started this blog, I had two groups in mind. The first was those working minimum wage jobs. While the second was that hazy middle ground of skilled folks making more than minimum wage, but not quite in the professional zone. Throw in the people who don’t quite fall into easy categories like ski instructors, musicians, freelancers, and artists and you have a hazy idea of what sort of incomes are involved.

The current poverty cutoff point in the US of A for a couple is $17,420 a year, or just about $1452 a month. Keep that number in mind…

Another number that crops up regularly when discussing cruising budgets is the $500 a month cruising budget, which has been a thing since I was in college. I’ll point out that in those days, a Snickers cost a nickel. Think about that for a moment or two.

Now, here’s the funny thing; a lot of cruising budgets I’ve read by cruisers who are on more expensive boats than lowly VolksCruisers still use the $1000 and $1500 as their target budgets. Too often, the thing that keeps them from achieving those budget goals is the added costs generated by a larger, more expensive boat with complicated systems. They still seem to get by on near-poverty level expenses, showing how affordable living and cruising on a boat can be.

Even more telling is that even with inflation and all that, some folks are still getting by on close to the $500 a month zone. Certainly not for everyone, but I’d love to learn just how they manage it.

Which is all a roundabout way to trying to define what sort of financial budget makes sense for a couple cruising on a sustainable finite budget. As well as what sort of boat needed to make it happen.

We’ll look at a couple of examples next…

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