We sold our first sailboat, which was a 22’ Seafarer. It was a nice sailboat, and I learned a lot about sailing and sailboat maintenance, but we wanted something a little different. The Seafarer has a roomy cockpit, but the cabin was small and lacked standing headroom. It also had a fixed keel, which made it difficult to load onto a trailer. We would have to plan our launch or load around high tide, then disconnect the trailer from the truck. I built an extension out of some steel pipe that we hooked onto the trailer and allowed us to back it in deep enough to float the boat on. It was precarious, time consuming, and I never liked this part of owning the boat. We eventually decided to relocate our winter storage to a nearby marina, which added expense, but their travellift was much more convenient than the boat ramp.
We did the math after a few years and decided that owning a slightly larger boat without a trailer wouldn’t be that much more expensive than our 22-footers annual cost. We decided to look for a boat with ample cockpit space and standing headroom in the cabin.
We wanted a boat that wasn’t too expensive or complicated to maintain so we decided to keep it around 24-28 feet. I liked the look of a traditional boat, and we looked at a Bristol 24, a couple Bristol 27s, and three different Tartan 27s. The older Tartan 27s were nicely built (better than the Bristols), but the cockpit was relatively small, and the ancient gasoline inboard looked like a maintenance headache. I like the idea of an outboard—ease of maintenance and upgrade, and not having to sleep next to the engine, with its oil and fuel in the bilge really appealed to me.
The two Bristol 27s we looked at were neglected at best. The owners of these boats touted the durability and heavy construction of classic fiberglass boats–but seemed to think that meant they didn’t have to maintain them. The cabins also were surprisingly cramped for a boat of that size. The small cabin footprint did make for easy walking on the deck, though.
We eventually settled on a Bristol 26 that we found in New Bedford, MA. It’s in need of some work, but the price was reasonable, and it came with electronics, newer sails, and boxes of other accessories. I figured that we could pick away at the problems with the boat over time.
The Bristol 26 has a heavy fin keel, a spade rudder, and an outboard motor well. It has a surprisingly large cockpit, and a good-sized cabin, sacrificing the walking space alongside the cabin in the process. The boat was full of compromises (as all of them are) but seemed like it would serve us well. We aren’t planning on living on it or taking it across the ocean—we just want a nice comfortable boat to cruise around in and relax at our mooring in Pine Island Bay.
The Bristol 26 doesn’t get much representation on the internet, so I’ve decided to document some of my projects on the boat and post them for people to read. I’ve already removed the old head, replaced the seacocks on the boat, and replaced and rebuilt a chainplate knee and shelf in the dinette area. Check back here for more updates and –I’ll be adding to the projects regularly.