Q&A: Used Colin Archer Design Sailboat

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Question: We have reached a stage now where we want to be cruising very soon (world in 4 to 5 years, local waters well before that), and so we are looking at boats to do this. In two weeks or so we will travel interstate to see this boat: She is a Colin Archer design, 43′ in steel built by a Dutch yard, about 25 years old, appears in very good nick, also very strong (16mm keel, 6mm below WL, 5mm above, 4mm topsides). Safe, too: watertight doors, good helm and fitout etc. (The name and colour are a bit of an issue…) We would have her surveyed of course. But it is her design which I would ask your impressions of, because we would want to take our boat to South Chile and the Horn, and bring her home again.

As a heavy displacement boat she will be slow, maybe 7 knots at best, and I accept this, because her seaworthiness is the most important. But I thought you might have had your ear to the ground about cruising design for a bit longer than I, and am wondering if you could offer your thoughts about her as a boat to go most places.

Answer: Some thoughts on the boat, in no particular order:

  1. ‘Colin Archer’ can cover a wide gamut of designs from exact copies of Archer’s boats to poor copies. It’s important to make sure you are comfortable with the designer and the design.
  2. The pilot house looks great; however, the windows are very large. I would want very strong storm covers for them before going to sea.
  3. I think she will be slow and you should be ready to motor a lot. I think that seven knots may be optimistic. She might hit that from time to time but the averages will be much less. I’m guessing five knots. Morgan’s Cloud is 56’ long with a fin keel and big rig and comes from a racing pedigree but we feel fortunate to average seven knots over a 24 hour period. If you look at her as a motorsailer you will be happy; if as an auxiliary sailboat I think you may be disappointed. This might just be my personal prejudice since I’m a great believer in fast boats for offshore sailing on the basis that the longer you are out there the more likely it is that you will get thrashed.
  4. 25 years is old for a steel boat. Many steel commercial vessels are considered ready for the breaker’s yard at that age. She may be fine, but make sure it is a really careful survey from someone that knows steel boats and uses a plate thickness meter. The surveyor needs to get into EVERY corner, even if it means taking the boat apart. If you can’t do this it’s not a good enough survey. Beware of corrosion behind insulation and in difficult to reach places like under the engine.
  5. The Dutch are among the best metal yacht builders in the world.

That is all that comes immediately to mind. Hope it helps and good luck.

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John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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