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Old 02-09-2015, 09:42   #1
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Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

I'm looking for my first boat. I've done some research and I've kinda narrowed my targets to either a Union 36 or a Nor'Sea 27.

The Union 36 is a beautiful boat with a lot of space below decks. I wonder if it might be too much to single-handle, since I know most of my trip will be by myself.

The Nor'Sea 27 looks like it would be easier to handle alone, plus has a shallow draft, proven ocean capabilities and the ability to trailer it between coasts. The downsides are all space issues - like where to keep a dingy and engine access. Other than that I think I could be comfortable for extended cruises.

So now, I'm not sure which one I should pursue.

This would be my first boat. I have over 5 years experience sailing as racing crew, but never on a cutter rig like the Union or Nor'Sea. I'm looking for a boat to cruise up/down the coast of California and possibly beyond. Most of the time I expect to be sailing alone.

I would like some opinions on which to select and why. I'm sure there are many things related to either boat that I haven't considered. I'm fairly sure I would be comfortable living aboard either one for extended periods, so please discuss the other aspects of sailing, docking, etc that would point you to one or the other.

Thanks!
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Old 02-09-2015, 09:50   #2
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

The Norsea is a small boat with a shallow keel for trailering, so comparing those two is a bit apples and oranges. If you have not been on one yet you will find out when you get on one.
Some Unions are not that well built, but are nice looking. Beware of glass over ply and it's problems and how much of that the boat you are looking at has in it's construction.
The 36 can readily be singlehanded. Somewhere in between might be great. Once you get to 30-32 feet the boat seems much bigger but is still real easy to single hand. You don't get much more in a 36 vs a 32 usually.
Have Fun!
Some good boats without spending a bunch:
Alberg 30
Luders 33
Cape Dory 28, 30 etc.
All these boats will outsail either you mention, yet are more traditional like you are looking at.
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Old 02-09-2015, 10:15   #3
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

Hmmm, Nor'sea have a good reputation for a reason, I would not be so quick to dismiss them. They have crossed oceans, and I've sailed in a friends of mine in some interesting, to say the least weather, and find them totally seaworthy.

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Old 02-09-2015, 17:07   #4
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

Choose something which you can afford to purchase and afford to maintain in seaworthy shape. Longer waterline = greater hull speed = faster passages. Greater displacement can equal greater comfort i.e. less motion. Large water and fuel tankage are helpful. Recently upgraded or very well maintained systems are invaluable. You just have to decide what it takes to keep you comfortable. Some people are satisfied with a 20 footer, others must have a 40 footer.
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Old 02-09-2015, 17:48   #5
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

The Union 36 could end up a maintenance sink hole. If you've got to have that look, get a Tayana 37 with aluminum mast.
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Old 02-09-2015, 18:55   #6
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

For your stated goal of sailing down AND UP the California coast, I wonder about the shallow draft and short LWL of the Norsea. It is true that they have crossed oceans, but most such voyages are planned to be off the wind. Coming up the Calif coast does not often offer that option.

I made the Socal to SF passage several times in my Yankee 30 , a boat known for good upwind performance, and would not care to do it in a less competent yacht. It is upwind and up current... this ain't good stuff for smaller vessels.

I would agree that the Union 36 has a reputation for build issues... be very careful if you go that way, and hire a hard nosed surveyor to inspect any potential purchase.

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Old 02-09-2015, 19:23   #7
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

why just those two? A lot of other good boats are in that range:
PSC 27 orion
IP 27
IP 29
BCC 28
HC 33
Rafiki 37

To name a few with great track records and good build quality in or around your price range.

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Old 02-09-2015, 19:55   #8
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

If you're considering a 36' you might be happier long term with something bigger than a 27'. No kind of judgement attached to that, and could be totally off. Just another pocket cruiser owner doing some blind reckoning from this corner of the internet.
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Old 02-09-2015, 21:05   #9
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

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Originally Posted by Jim Cate View Post
Coming up the Calif coast does not often offer that option.

I have no experience in CA, but lots of posters including TacomaSailor have given great descriptions of how awful the trip north is. The benefit to the Norsea would be the ability not to trailer it between the east coast and west coast, but to sail it south and then trailer it north. Much cheaper than trying to ship a 36' boat and more pleasant than trying to sail/motor into the conditions as they have been described.


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Old 02-09-2015, 21:44   #10
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

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Originally Posted by brownoarsman View Post
I have no experience in CA, but lots of posters including TacomaSailor have given great descriptions of how awful the trip north is. The benefit to the Norsea would be the ability not to trailer it between the east coast and west coast, but to sail it south and then trailer it north. Much cheaper than trying to ship a 36' boat and more pleasant than trying to sail/motor into the conditions as they have been described.


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Well, you do have a point there! If that sort of cruising is what lights your candle, trailerability is a big advantage. For me, it lacks something kinda hard to define... maybe a feeling of completeness or even competence derived from doing both legs of a coastal cruise... I dunno?

Even before doing coastal cruising in the Yankee 30, I "cruised" in a Catalina 22, and it was indeed trailerable. Although I kept her in a marina on the SF Bay most of the time, I did trailer it to distant launch points at times, including Santa Barbra and once Port Angeles, WA. I remember after that delightful one month cruise up the Gulf Islands and to Vancouver and back, whilst trailering back south I was looking out to sea and wishing that I was out there sailing back (little did I know what I was wishing for!!).

All that reminiscing aside, trailer cruising isn't always what is craved, but works well for some, and who is to say what will work for the OP.

I wish him well, but along with others, think he might consider a few other boats as well... don't know what thought process got him to his current state.

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Old 02-09-2015, 22:33   #11
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Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

Yup, trailering is definitely not for everyone! It's been on my mind recently because I won't have months to cruise in the future, sadly, but I still want to see new places And, after throughly enjoying sailing the Gulf Stream north from the Bahamas, and not really enjoying the motoring I had to do on the Chesapeake these last couple of days, I can't even contemplate motoring the ICW south. I think I'd go crazy.
Funny story that may be relevant to the OP: two friends cruised their 33' boat north to the Chesapeake this summer. Rather than take her back, they are selling her here and have picked up a much smaller boat, complete with trailer and truck, and intend to trailer it down to Florida and take off for the Bahamas from there. So, I guess, just consider what kind of trips you actually enjoy and what you want to do. The two boats you are considering seem very different, and, as Jim said, there's many more out there. Knowing how you want to cruise first will help you figure out what you want. Just remember that you're probably going to have to sacrifice or compromise on something.


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Old 02-09-2015, 22:44   #12
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

I will offer an opinion, based on looking at these boats. I have not sailed on either and do not own one, AND I do not have the ocean miles experience that Jim and Cheechako and some others have, so you can take my opinion/comments with a splash of saltwater.

But, considering this will be your first boat, and that you are saying you would likely be doing mostly Singlehanding of the boat, and living in California (where?)…

If I were in your boat shoes, I would pick the Nor'sea 27 as my first boat.

Why?
1. I suspect you or anyone will feel more comfortable learning to single hand on that size boat, rather than the 36 ft boat. I see this as a great way to gain skills and confidence, a good step.
2. I think it would be "more fun" to take out for a day's sailing.
3. The cost of ownership will be lower and maintenance lower, etc.
4. The ability to trailer it to somewhere else (back from Baja or up to Seattle) would be appealing.

There is one listed now for just $23K in Moss Landing California. It has a rebuilt engine, and needs instruments and some interior finish (cushions, trim/varnish), but it is $9K less than another of the same year also in CA. I would consider it.
1977 Nor'Sea Aft Cabin Cutter Sail Boat For Sale - www.yachtworld.com

Here is another, at a higher price point.
1977 Nor'Sea 27 Sail Boat For Sale - www.yachtworld.com

For about the same money, you could get this Union 36. But, it says the sails are in "good" condition. For this kind of boat, I think a very thorough survey is absolutely required.
1979 Union 36 Sail Boat For Sale - www.yachtworld.com
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Old 03-09-2015, 00:46   #13
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

Well said, Steady Hand.


Personally, I feel the layup on the NorSea is scanty (and I know a few have circumnavigated), but I watched the hull deformation of one going on its trailer in Berkeley Marina some years ago, and I found it scary.

As to the Union. I know of two of them sunk because of failure of the butterfly hatch, when a large wave crashed down on it. Both in the vicinity of Cape Mendocino, iirc.

Nope to either, as far as I'm concerned.

But, as a learner boat, the Norsea would be (as SH attested), easier to take out and enjoy and learn about *stuff* in. The Union 36 is a big heavy boat, and won't teach the OP as much, IMO.

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Old 03-09-2015, 07:56   #14
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

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Originally Posted by brownoarsman View Post
And, after throughly enjoying sailing the Gulf Stream north from the Bahamas, and not really enjoying the motoring I had to do on the Chesapeake these last couple of days, I can't even contemplate motoring the ICW south. I think I'd go crazy.
Just made it to So FL after staying inside the last couple hundred miles. The plus side is that you get to see some really cool little pockets of rural coastal America, esp thru SC and GA. Tons of great people, history and pristine natural beauty.

But damned if it's not a truly maddening endeavor! When you get caught motoring against a 3 knot current, already bearing a heading 180 degrees off because of all the twists and turns in the route...

PLus the ICW is terrifying
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Old 03-09-2015, 09:31   #15
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Re: Union 36 or Nor'Sea 27

I second a Tanya 37. You can single hand it easily.

Also consider older ALLELUJAH /Ingrid 38 Westsail 32.
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