Selecting a Sailboat II

Alajuela, Cape George and Westsail

Posted in /Sailboats by Matt on Tuesday, November 07, 2017

In the previous article we explored our list of requirements for selecting a sailboat. As it turns out, that list significantly narrows down the options available to us and for that we are thankful. Having applied our list of must-haves we're left with three salty blue-water "take you anywhere" sailing vessels: the Alajuela 38, Cape George 36 and Westsail 32.


From what we can tell, the decision to make the tiller-on-rudder a necessary feature is probably the most consequential factor in narrowing down our list of sailboats.

Alajuela 38

The Alajuela 38 is the largest of the three vessels on our list. She's a derivative of William Atkin's Ingrid 38 Ketch but with one mast she meets our other requirements, too.

The Alajuela 38 carries a surprising amount of canvas making her a strong and speedy performerThe Alajuela 38 carries a surprising amount of canvas making her a strong and speedy performer

The Alajuela's hull is super thick and is molded in one-piece from hand-laid fiberglass varying in thickness from 3/4 inch near the bilges to 1/2 inch at the topsides. With a displacement of some 27,000 lbs, a ballast of 10,000 lbs and a very full keel the Alajuela sits well within the heavy-displacement category. The 880 sq. ft. of sail area gives her enough power to push that weight around, especially in trade-wind conditions.

With a bridge clearance of 54' a lower lying bridge is a no-go!With a bridge clearance of 54' a lower lying bridge is a no-go!

There are few 38' models of this boat currently available for sale. If that is any indication we might have difficulty finding one that fits the bill. This makes sense when you consider that the Alajuela 38s had a total production run of only 81 vessels.

Cape George 36

The Cape George 36 packs great all-around sailing capability with room to spare. We like the large cockpit - though perhaps somewhat exposed during a storm - and note that the length at the waterline (LWL) is a mere 1' 2" less than the Alajuela. She weighs in at 23,500 lbs with a 10,500 lbs ballast and manages to set a respectful 780 sq. ft. of sail area.

With a beam of 10' 6" the Cape George 36 is a tad skinnier than the Westsail 32s 11' beam but it more than makes up for it with four additional feet on deck and another three at the waterlineWith a beam of 10' 6" the Cape George 36 is a tad skinnier than the Westsail 32s 11' beam but it more than makes up for it with four additional feet on deck and another three at the waterline

The Cape George cutter comes in 31, 34 & 38 foot versions which increases the odds of finding a suitable Cape George in another length.

There are more Cape George 36' vessels for sail than Alajuela 38s so it seems somewhat more likely that we would be able to find one that meets our needs.

Like many Westsails, the Cape George 36s were often custom jobs and so many of them tend to differ in small and sometimes big waysLike many Westsails, the Cape George 36s were often custom jobs and so many of them tend to differ in small and sometimes big ways

Westsail 32

Although the Westsail 32 is at the smaller end of our list of vessels she is renowned for the ability to carry a very large load, although the ride may be wet if the boat is loaded to it's maximum carrying capacity. The Westsail hulls were built to incredible thickness with a hull close to 3/4 inches near the topsides to 1 1/8 inches at the turn of the bilge. The ballast weight varies depending on the age of the boat and who finished it.

The Westsail 32 is a highly affordable "go anywhere" sailboatThe Westsail 32 is a highly affordable "go anywhere" sailboat

According to bluewaterboats.org "the Westsail 32 has a reputation for getting cruisers where they want to go though not very quickly" largely due to their relatively small sail area of 629 sq. ft. and some design choices although many of those can be overcome. Many Westsail 32s have survived incredible conditions with the S/V Satori of note. That particular vessel survived the "The Perfect Storm" after being abandoned by crew and captain and a beaching at Maryland's Assateaque State Park. She continues to sail to this day.

She's not a terribly large boat but she comes with the biggest of swimming pools!She's not a terribly large boat but she comes with the biggest of swimming pools!

Of the three vessels that we're looking at we've noticed that there are far more Westsail 32s available. This is not surprising as there were more than 800 boats produced by Westsail during their heyday. Perhaps on this basis alone it's more likely that we'll end up with a Westsail.

It's far too soon to make a final decision!

It'll be some time before we're in a position to make our purchase and we've lots to do to make ourselves ready for that time. It's possible that we may end up with a different vessel not unlike one of these choices however we suspect that is unlikely.

Speaking of those things that we need to-do, it would be a good idea to revisit our list in our next article. Stay tuned!

Until next time, may you have fair winds & the best of company.

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Auntie wrote...

At 2017-11-09 19:39

So by the looks of it there will be plenty of room in any of those choices for your old Auntie and Hockey!! So we are happy with any of them.

Matt wrote...

At 2017-11-09 19:42

You bet - can't wait to have visitors! We hear family members make the best deck hands. ;-)

Stuart Lord wrote...

At 2017-11-20 13:43

Hi Matt and Tammy Great to see that you are considering getting a big boat and already have a dinghy. From reading thhrough your earlier article, it seems like you have done quite a bit of research and have already decided about some of the features that you want in your future big boat. I guess that at this stage, its probably important to acknowledge that its no use having your 'dream boat' if either you or those whom you sail with, don't have the skills or stamina to sail her. I've known situations where a 64' yacht can be sailed for prolonged periods - spanning into several days - by only a few persons, whilst the others are down with sea sickness or illness, resulting in a crew of 11, plus 2 mates and a skipper being reduced to only 4 or 6 seaworthy hands.... In short, the boat is only as good as those who sail her... I have sailed with and been associated with the Morning Star Trust (MST)for many years and ironically my first experience of sailing was on big boats...! I then graduated downwards towards buying dinghies, which I sailed at a local sailing club, but have since sold them on. The 'trust's' site is at https://www.morningstar.org.uk/ they are a Christian sailing organisation who run a 64' Gaff Ketch named Morning Star of Revelation and a smaller 36' Bermudan Sloop, named Dayspring. Let me know what you think..

Matt wrote...

At 2018-03-01 11:59

Hey Stuart! Thanks for touching base and for your thoughts! I meant to respond to your post earlier but dropped the ball entirely.

I completely agree with you on the boat size/crewing issue. Stamina is a real issue on trips of any length and more so in bad weather. We are limiting our boat length because we a) don't want to depend on too much technology that can/will go wrong at the wrong times and b) are very concerned about getting a boat that is really both too much work to maintain and too much work to sail. We are convinced that we will need to be able to single-hand her if one of us is ill or simply needing sleep - all real-world issues.

Also, we're going to our best to ensure that we are as capable and competent in all areas as possible so that we don't do ourselves or the boat a disservice.

Hope all is well in the UK!