Wednesday, April 14, 2021

On that big hole in the water you throw money into...

OK, I get it. "Everyone" says that if you buy a fixer-upper sailboat with the goal of turning it into a cruising boat it will all end in tears. Some will tell you that you'll wind up with nothing but an expensive disaster that you'll have to pay someone to dispose of it in some landfill.

I could go on but I expect you've already heard it all before and it's boring...

What I will do is point out that the disaster or failure scenarios of this sort have a lot to do with people who have made stupid mistakes in choosing their projects, have little in the way of an intelligent plan for the needful work involved in the enterprise, and a poor skill set where boat building and repair are concerned. Which is another way of saying that if the boat refit project failed it's because the person doing it screwed up big time.

Every once in awhile I'll point out what I think is a possible project boat like the Ericson 26 so we'll use that as our crash test dummy. Which brings us to the question of whether or not an Ericson 26 is a good choice as a cruising boat for you?

So, you'll need to put away the rose colored glasses to do some research and a bit of math. Seriously if you don't properly research the project and work out the costs you're in clusterfuck territory. For starters you really need to research the market for the Ericson 26. 

  • What does an Ericson 26 in great shape cost?
  • What does an OK Ericson 26 cost?
  • Does the Ericson 26 have an inbuilt issues which will need to be repaired and cost you money (FYI ALL production boats have some issue(s) or other that will need attention so find out what it is)?
  • Can you afford an Ericson 26?

With me so far? Most boat projects fail simply because someone did not ask and get real answers to those four simple questions. Let's say you've answered the previous questions, got your answers and think it's time to move to the next level which requires a few more questions.

  • Is the Ericson 26 a boat that I'll be able to cruise comfortably on without major changes?
  • Do I have access to an affordable location in close proximity to work on the boat?
  • Am I willing to put some effort into learning the needful skills to refit the boat?

Some of you may have noticed that none of these questions involve the actual fixer upper in question. My advice is to always do your homework before not after viewing a possible project as the more you know about the boat the better your advantage you'll have when you actually look at it. 

In fact I'd recommend, before you go boat project shopping, that you build a dinghy as a proof of concept that your abilities are up to the task. My advice for most folks is to build the Bolger Nymph from Dynamite Payson's "Build the New Instant Boats" As it's a great dinghy, does not take a lot of outlay in materials, and pretty much shows you if you have the needful skills and mindset or not to take on a much bigger project like the Ericson. No pressure but if it takes you more than 24-hours of labor to build a Nymph rowing version you might want to forget the idea of anything larger than a dinghy refit projects.

Just saying.

We'll get into how we handle looking at a fixer-upper in the next bit...

Sunday, April 11, 2021

a couple of good $400ish deals...

So, here's a couple of interesting project boats someone might be interested in...

For starters there's a Crealock designed Ericson 26 selling for $400 bucks up in the no man's land between Port Townsend and Anacortes. The Crealock design is, in my opinion, a better boat than the Pacific Seacraft Dana. The beauty of a fixer-upper 26-foot boat is that even if the boat is in dire straights a full refit is not going to cost much more than $3K with a reasonable amount of sweat equity.

I've also noticed that there seem to be a few Bill Tripp Columbia 26's that need fixing up in the $400-500 dollar range that seem to pop up on a regular basis. So you might want to add "Columbia 26" to your Search Tempest list.

Either design is well worth checking out and more than able to take you most anywhere you'd care to go.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Eleven factors that come together to make a VolksCruiser...

I'm often asked just what a VolksCruiser actually is in terms of solid definition and, for the most part, my answers to that particular question tend to be somewhat vague. It's akin to Justice Stewart's famous quote on what pornography is...

"We know it when we see it"

Which is pretty much how I've approached what a VolksCruiser actually is in that I know one when I see one. Or to be more precise, I recognize a variety of factors that come together to make a boat a VolksCruiser, such as:

  • Under forty feet in length
  • Simple user repairable systems
  • Minimal carbon footprint
  • Well equipped to anchor
  • A boat that costs no more than $1000 a foot in cruising mode
  • A boat that can be sustainable on a given budget

Which, it would seem, also describes a whole lot of cruising boats. The catalyst of what actually makes a boat into a VolksCruiser is really the mindset of the person cruising the boat. Who will exhibit a variety of needful traits, for example:

  • Creative frugality
  • Sensible maintenance strategies
  • Critical thinking
  • A keen sense of situational awareness
  • An elevated understanding of value as related to budget
Throw all those various factors together and you're in VolksCruiser territory.

Obviously, "less than $1000 a foot" is a pretty wide range of boats and the whole VolksCruiser vibe centers around the "Less is more" thought process so that the actual cost of a VolksCruiser in cruising mode really should be significantly less.

Next up on the subject we'll be talking about the reality of how a VolksCruiser budget might work...


Sunday, April 4, 2021

On keeping up/coexisting with the Joneses...

It's been pointed out to me on many occasions that the whole concept of VolksCruisers puts some folks at a real disadvantage in the social context of cruising. Many have even suggested/demanded that I should come up with some, shall we say "cunning", ways to make a VolksCruiser more socially acceptable.


I can only go by what has been my personal experience but I've never seen any real issues experienced by folks on smaller than average sustainable cruising boats. Sure, within the cruising community, there's no shortage of cliques, posses, and assholes that you might find yourself in an anchorage with but they don't seem to have a thing against folks of the VolksCruiser persuasion.

Some time ago I had a very enlightening dialog with someone who wondered why so many low budget cruisers seemed to shun various social invitations to hang out with them at potlucks and dinners ashore.When I pointed out that the folks she was inviting may not have been on the same sort of budget that they were on she thought about it for a bit and then said...

"I just thought they didn't like us."

Face it, if there is one universal trait that all humans share is that we're, to some extent or another, insecure. Being invited to a group function where you don't know anyone can be stressful and if you throw in the fact that by doing so it might disrupt your budget in a big way the easiest way to deal with it is simply to find an excuse not to go.

Of course, the person giving the invitation may take the decline of the invitation personally which can lead to something akin to friction. Which has zero to do with what sort of boat you might have but it does have a lot to do with general human interaction.

Most people on bigger and more expensive cruising boats tend to be a bit tone-deaf where money is concerned and often assume everyone tends to be on their level. I've often had advice that I should add "inexpensive" gear to my boat which is far from inexpensive. In fact, just a couple of days ago, a reader of Boat Bits wanted my opinion of the Colligo ELHF and was surprised when I pointed out that it looked excellent but was way beyond what I'm willing to pay for but that a less expensive DIY clone is very much on my project list.

Which also might be a good time to point out  that a lot of upscale cruisers are living way beyond their means but hiding the fact because, being a bit insecure like all of us, tend to hide their budget concerns as they're afraid that people will think less of them.

On the subjects of cliques and posses being a problem for VolksCruisers you have to realize that it's not about VolksCruisers, at all and cliques and posses are, by their very nature, unwelcoming to all outsiders.

The bottom line is really that everyone is too worried about what everyone else thinks of them to be anti-VolksCruiser in any kind of systematic way.

On the other hand, where the marine trades are concerned, it is a whole different kettle of rotten fish which we'll talk about later in the week...

Friday, March 26, 2021

Throwing a couple more 26-foot boats into the mix...

So, while I really like the Lyle Hess designed Balboa 26 I'll be the first to admit that at 3600 pounds of displacement it's not quite up to the requirements of long distance voyaging.

Now, this Lyle Hess design is a whole different kettle of fish...

It's the 26-foot Falmouth Cutter which has a beam of about 9 1/2 feet and a displacement of six tons.

Fact is, you might be interested in learning that the ballast alone of this design weighs more than an entire Balboa 26.

With that sort of displacement you can load it to the gills and pretty much go anywhere you need or want to. The downside, is a hip heavy displacement boat of this sort is going to be a lot more expensive than the Balboa 26 and, more than likely, more than someone looking for a VolksCruiser can afford.

Lucky for us there are a lot of boats in the middle ground that might do the trick.

Another of my favorite designs is the Columbia 26 MK 2 which has enough displacement (5900 pounds) to actually carry more in the way of water, provisions, and gear than in the Balboa 26. In terms of budget the Columbia costs about the same as the Balboa.

The downside, for me at least, is that the Columbia has a draft of 4' 4" and if shoal draft is a factor that's a possible issue.

There are a LOT of good 26-foot designs out there and the trick is to pay more attention to the displacement and beam than the length. Beam and displacement have a lot more impact on payload and livability than length does.

I always try and compare boats based on their displacement whether it's about the actual design or when comparing prices to sort out what sort of a deal a given boat represents.

Which is a roundabout way of saying that, just maybe, you shouldn't be looking at boats that are 26-feet long but instead looking at boats with a displacement of between four and six thousand pounds.

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

On the subject of the new norm in cruising boats...

There's a post over at Interesting Sailboats on whether the Pegasus 50 is the perfect fifty-foot long range voyage yacht or not. It's (like everything on his blog) well worth reading. I mention this as it would appear that fifty-feet is becoming the new norm for cruising boats and it says a lot about what cruising has become in 2021.

The problem for me is that the bigger more expensive boats just don't scratch any of my itches and in fifty-odd years of watching and using boats I've noted that the bigger boats tend to do less with more while smaller boats fall more into the do more with less mindset.

Part of the appeal, for me at least, of lower budget and smaller designs is that to make them work to their full potential you have to get creative. Maybe it's just me but I don't quite get the challenge vibe to be creative on a Million dollar boat.

Still, like I said it's a great post and you should read it because even dedicated VolksCruisers need to be aware and keep their situational awareness at full tilt boogie in these interesting times.

And, as long as we're talking about interesting times...

I'll mention that I've been thinking of doing a VolksCruiser Design Competition and would appreciate any input on the subject from readers in the comments.

Hopefully more info soon come.

Monday, March 22, 2021

A repost of something that should really be included here...

So, the other day, someone asked me what I thought of the Amel 60 which someone was touting as the perfect/ultimate cruising boat somewhere or other. I'll admit that it caused me to ponder a bit on a bunch of things to sort out an answer.

First of all, it took me a while to sort out why someone would bother to ask me, Mr Cheapseats, what my opinion was on a 1,650,000.00 Euro boat. My guess is since I can read French that, just maybe, I might actually know something about it past looking at pictures and saying "Ooh" and "Aah"...

As it happens, I actually quite like Amel boats as they're very well built, have a form follows function vibe that works, and I'll admit to having lusted greatly for an Amel Sharki when I could not even afford a beat up, way past its sell by date Sangria. Which, I suppose, makes me a great choice for expounding opinion on a boat I could never afford to a person who, I suspect, does not have 1,650,000.00 Euros laying around in disposable income.

So yeah, the Amel 60 is a very nice boat and it's got all the bells and whistles you'd expect in a sixty-foot million and a half Euro boat. That said, it's not a boat I'd choose to go cruising with.

Truth is, boats over a certain price point and size become a serious detriment to interfacing with the real world and lock you solidly within the ghetto of wealth and privilege. Not having either wealth or privilege it is just silly to waste anymore time on the subject.

As a counter point to such silliness, here's my all time favorite Citroen advertisement to cleanse the palate.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Different strokes for different folks...

So, here's a question...

"What sort of VolksCruiser do you actually want?"

Face it, everyone's different with disparate needs and situations which means one's VolkCruiser of choice may not be what others need or want. Which I suppose brings us to other questions we have to ask ourselves...

"How are you going to use your VolksCruiser?"

Want to sail around the world? Or are your ambitions more about just sailing around the Pacific Northwest? Maybe you're interested in sailing to the back of beyond or maybe you'd be content to just hang out somewhere nice and live aboard.

Different strokes (or should I say 'Boats'?) for different folks.

Which leaves us with quite a few categories. Off the top of my head I'd say we're talking about live-aboard, area cruising, coastal cruising, transocean cruising, circumnavigating, and expedition/adventure cruising. Obviously this is not all of the possible variants but it does cover the majority in broad strokes.

Here's a VolksCruiserish design by Lyle Hess that I really like...

The Balboa 26 is a very cool trailer sailor. It's shoal draft of a kiss less than two-feet with the board up allows you to get into places other boats can't. It's seaworthy, has a comfortable albeit spartan interior, and it performs a lot better than most folk would suspect.

The going price seems to average out at around a bit over $4000 or so which puts it into the VolkCruiser price range.

Like I said, I really like this design...

Then again, it's not really a boat I'd choose for a circumnavigation, transocean, or adventure voyaging. Sure the boat could cross oceans or circumnavigate but being small with limited displacement it become all kinds of problematic to carry the essentials like water and provisions you'll need for those sort of enterprises.

On the other hand, for coastal and area based cruising it would be a great boat. Its shoal draft would allow you to get into out of the way places and, in my experience the shoal draft will also save you a lot of money in terms of mooring and marina bills.

Better yet, if you desire a change of scenery you could always leave the Pacific Northwest and have the boat towed to the east coast, then coastal cruise your way down to the Caribbean if you felt the urge.

Coming up, we'll look at a another 26-foot boat more in the voyaging category.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

On the subject of sustainability...



  1. The ability to be sustained, supported, upheld, or confirmed. 
  2. Environmental Science: The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance: The committee is developing sustainability standards for products that use energy.
The other day I found myself trying to explain the idea of sustainable cruising to someone and found the process a lot more complicated than expected. It is really a very simple concept and not complicated at all. Basically, sustainable cruising is simply just living within our means.

Simple right?

In hindsight, I've come around to the idea that maybe it's not all that simple. As it happens, the majority of folks I know actually don't live within their means or, to be more precise, are so close to the edge that any unforeseen dip in their income puts them into unsustainable territory.

Worse, it's not just a large percentage of individuals living in an unsustainable manner but the cities, states, and countries that they live in are also not working in a sustainable fashion. Even the world we live in is being run in a way that, considering it has finite resources but an ever-increasing population and demand on those resources, works on the premise that we can somehow continue population and economic growth forever without adverse effect.

So, considering that most everyone on the planet is not living within their means, it sorta/kinda makes the whole concept of sustainability something of a foreign concept to a lot of folks and yes, Dear Reader, a lot of those folks are interested in boats and cruising.

Which, I guess, also has a lot to do with not everyone quite getting the whole VolksCruiser concept which is really just about getting a boat and cruising off into the sunset in a sustainable fashion.

Some more on the subject soon come...

Speaking of sustainability...

Support BoatBits

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Some junk rig evolution of note...

The current JRA Newsletter (#85) has a very interesting article on building a junk sail by Paul McKay that has me thinking long and hard in terms of rigs for VolkCruisers.


For me, the concept of a VolksCruiser is really all about simplicity in all of its various forms. Lug rigs in general are simple to use, simple to rig, have simple hardware requirements, and only require a minimal sail inventory. Even better is that lug rigs can be doused or reefed easily and, being so simple, there is bugger all to go wrong. 

Throw in the fact that all of that simplicity makes lug rigs very inexpensive and DIY friendly and you've got a pretty compelling reason in favor of a lug rig.

Now, in general, I've favored balanced and dipping lug sails over junk rigs mostly because they're simpler (all those battens, lots of line, and various blocks/euphroes) and develop more power than junk rigs. However the evolution of junk rigs into cambered sails of late has made the modern junk rig more powerful than its flat panel counterpart and while still less powerful than a balanced or dipping lug the difference is less of a factor now.

So, here's the thing about the Origami Rig article in the JRA Newsletter that has me all excited...

The biggest problem people have in terms of sewing and building a sail is the simple fact that sewing up a 300-400 square foot sail of any kind is no simple task as you need lots of room and the logistics of sewing something that big is at best really really problematic to the max.

Which is why coming across an article on a different way to build a cambered split junk rig sail with a method that makes it both simple and can be used in a small space makes me sit up and pay attention. Not only would a sail made this way be easier to build but it would also be easier to maintain and repair.

Color me very impressed and thinking about designing a more hybrid junk rig that would incorporate my current staysail and jib for a junk cutter of sorts.

Anyway, it's an article you really should read and a great reason to join the JRA so you can get your hands on it.