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Old 17-01-2021, 06:29   #1
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Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

Hi All,

Im in the process of figuring out what model of ~27 boat I should get for Great Lakes cruising. I dont have much experience with keelboats common to Ontario/GL region, but I thin the main criteria are quality of build, sailing performance, handling in heavy weather, draft, and comfort. Then, balancing the differences in inherent qualities of each model with the accessories that come with each specific boat (ie, how much better of a craft is A than B, if B has more valuable accessories). The main models I see available are CS27, Catalina 27, Niagara 26, but there are of course many more. Here are some main questions I hope to address:

- How common is rot of cored deck/hulls, leading to softening and eventual major repairs? I hear this is something to worry about with the Niagaras.

- How much will the difference in draft (ie. between 4-5) matter when navigating shoaly channels and trying to get into anchorages? And how much will displacement matter on a typical GL blow? The Catalina 27 for example has the shallowest draft (4), but is the heaviest, so seems like maybe the safest in challenging situations, whereas CS has a much deeper draft but is supposed to sail very well upwind. Niagaras may be too light to handle a big blow?

- How big a difference is there between the performance, reliability, and lifespan between gas and diesel inboards? It seems diesel is the gold standard (Yanmar, specifically?), but I see a lot of Atomics and OMC sail drives as well. Also, is it generally possible/easy to swap out a gas for diesel for a reasonable price?

- I dont see a huge difference in deck/cockpit and cabin layouts between them, but if anyone has advice for some of the more important things to look for Id be glad to hear it.

Sorry for the long post but lots to think about. Any advice is welcome.

Cheers
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Old 17-01-2021, 06:49   #2
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

The price ranges may be out of date, but theyll give you an idea of the relative values:
Used Sailboat Models in Central Canada
24' to 27' LOASailboats in Canada - 24' to 27' models
27' to 30' LOASailboats in Canada - 27' to 30' models
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Old 17-01-2021, 08:19   #3
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

The CS27 comes with a lead shoal draft option which is 4'. Mine had that. It will not point as well as the deep draft version.



The CS build quality is remarkable for a 27 footer. It has an integral pan in addition to a thick hull. Deck rot is on par with any aged sailboat. It will handy heavy weather better than other 27 footers in the category. It is a tank. All come with inboard diesels.



On the downside, the cockpit is cramped. So cramped that it made me buy another boat. If it's just you, no problem. The interior is fine and quite roomy.


The Catalina is a prettier boat with a much larger cockpit and easier ingress to the cabin. It's a fine boat. Most come with outboards.
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Old 17-01-2021, 16:06   #4
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

CS 27 for $2,500.
https://www.kijiji.ca/v-view-details...dId=1546181071

I'm looking for a strong cruiser. Mostly single handed. I'm not tall (5' 8")

Comments?
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Old 17-01-2021, 17:37   #5
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

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Originally Posted by EarlWer View Post
CS 27 for $2,500.
https://www.kijiji.ca/v-view-details...dId=1546181071

I'm looking for a strong cruiser. Mostly single handed. I'm not tall (5' 8")

Comments?
It looked much nicer with the black topsides it had in 2004
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Old 18-01-2021, 05:19   #6
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

Thanks for the information everyone. I have seen the Kijiji post for the CS27. That’s one of the contenders. I’ve been monitoring the used boat forums religiously for years and feel I know the expected price range for these types. The hard part is knowing what characteristics specific to the various models separate them WRT suitability for long distance sailing on the Great Lakes. Let me know if anyone has any more advice on that.

Thanks
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Old 18-01-2021, 05:46   #7
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

The C and C 27 Mark III is a great boat, almost 28 feet long. Way more roomy and comfortable than the others mentioned. The MK 4 is also a nice boat, newer design, just a little bit smaller. Mirage 26/27 also nice.

Draft in this size range of boat, which will be less than 6 feet, will not be an issue on the lakes, so I would not worry about that.

A diesel is far superior to an atomic four or an OMC sail drive. I would not consider buying a boat without one.
With all of these boats there is a strong possibility of wet coring. Some in the deck can be repaired but if he hull is wet I would walk away.

A good survey will detect this, if it is done competently, they are not always unfortunately, so get a good surveyor. Alternately buy a moisture meter, they are less than $200 and you can quickly determine if a boat is worth a further look.
Good Luck
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Old 18-01-2021, 05:53   #8
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

A friend of mine has a CS27 for sale, it's not listed on any public site though. The engine is and drivetrain is pretty much perfect, (he is diesel sailboat mechanic, and a very good one in my opinion!). The interior has been professionally detailed recently. Has self tailing winches. Sails are older, and it the red cove stripe really needs a change. Shoal draft with wheel steering. I believe the price is around $9000. I can grab his phone number if you want. It's in Toronto.


As for the $2500 one. Well, that's a great price, but considering I sold my CS27 for $13,000 last year, I have to think there may be issues with it. Maybe not, you never know, but I would be wary.


If you want to look at the refit of mine that was done by the previous owner, there are over 200 pages and 300 photos here: The CS27 Ravat Chronicles


It may give you and idea of the workings of a CS27. There are also some survey tips in there.
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Old 18-01-2021, 06:47   #9
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

I hear there are some of the older Cape Dory 27 boats in the Great Lakes area. Many are in good condition and worth looking at.
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Old 18-01-2021, 07:20   #10
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

You don't mention budget restraints and what you want to do with the boat. Also, light air performance is really important on most of the Great Lakes where summer winds are often slight. There is a big difference between heavy wind performance and being able to deal with the odd, sometimes vicious, squall that might last for 10 minutes. Heavy air performance means dealing with 20 to 30 knots all the time like around San Francisco. There are huge numbers of suitable boats, lots of C&Cs being obvious. A Nonsuch 26 could make a lot of sense.
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Old 18-01-2021, 07:44   #11
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

There are quite a range of boats that could fit the OP's needs. Gord posted links to a nice summary site that shows the typical Great Lakes fleet.

But indeed, it really does matter what your budget is, and even where you plan to cruise. Why 27 feet? I've always liked the CS, but for family cruising (two adults and one or two kids) of anything more than a couple of nights, you're going to find this boat pretty cramped. The tankage and storage is fairly small. If we're talking three or four people, for journeys that aren't just marina hops, personally I'd look more that around the 32-foot mark.

And you mentioned the Great Lakes, but there's a wide range of different conditions to be found on Lake Superior vs Lake Erie. And AiniA is correct; during the prime sailing season (May through September) you are more likely to encounter light airs than storm conditions. Not that you won't encounter both, but you're more likely to dealing with too little wind than too much.
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Old 18-01-2021, 08:03   #12
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

Quote:
Originally Posted by J.Marsh View Post
- How common is rot of cored deck/hulls, leading to softening and eventual major repairs? I hear this is something to worry about with the Niagaras.

Depends on the age and maintenance history of the boat more than the made and model



Quote:

- How much will the difference in draft (ie. between 4-5) matter when navigating shoaly channels and trying to get into anchorages?

In the GL it depends on water levels. Right now the water is high and you won't have much trouble.





Quote:

- How big a difference is there between the performance, reliability, and lifespan between gas and diesel inboards? It seems diesel is the gold standard (Yanmar, specifically?), but I see a lot of Atomics and OMC sail drives as well. Also, is it generally possible/easy to swap out a gas for diesel for a reasonable price?

There are many threads here on the Atomic 4 with the most recent being a few months ago. Might want to take a look since the usual posters may be less willing to rehash the topic. Short version is that parts and service are still available and there are sailors who make them work. They can be reliable especially in fresh water if they are maintained and upgraded with electronic ignition and a modern alternator. They are not suitable for extended motoring e.g. great loop due to poor fuel economy and therefore limited range.


For a 27' boat old enough to have a gasser it usually doesn't make economic sense to spend $20,000 on a diesel conversion.


If you are looking at older boats then some of the diesels are pretty awful too and in some cases parts are no longer available.



OMC saildrives had a unique form factor and are nearly impossible to replace with anything else, and parts are no longer available. I would not buy a boat with one.
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Old 18-01-2021, 08:07   #13
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

I sailed the Great Lakes for only a few years, so I am by no means an expert. There is a lot of water to cover up there - have fun!

Catalina 27 is a popular (i.e. easy to find and easy to resell) boat. We had an old ASA school boat from the late 70s that never had little attention given to her, and she held up very well. The problems were all relatively minor. My friends tell me that some Catalina's have the "smile" issue where the keel begins to sag - so be sure to check that seam closely.

If you are open to 28', a few more possibilities open up such as Alberg, Ontario, Contessa and others.

Under 30' is a great way to keep the cost down. Try to find something that is not in need of major repairs (something that has been updated along the way). I don't know what lake you are in, but if you have to come up from Erie or St.Claire, the engine is going to matter - so think that piece through.

Scope out some of the hard storage yards and ask the owners if there are any that people are looking to sell - some of them sit on the hard for years. That translates into a lot of elbow grease for a cheap price on the boat. Nearly everything is fixable - but it's time and money (always more than you think). It's a boat... In a short season like the Great Lakes, you may want to pay more to get on the water, versus spending a full season doing re-fit.

As with all things boating - preference, preference, preference.

Enjoy your journey.
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Old 18-01-2021, 08:08   #14
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

I bought an Aloha 8.5 (28') last month.
4.5' draft, 13hp Westerbeke diesel.

I haven't sailed it yet, but it's got a great reputation and looks like it'll be nice to sail. There are a few for sale on the Great Lakes in the $10-$16K (cad) range.
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Old 18-01-2021, 10:43   #15
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Re: Advice on the best ~27er for Great Lakes Sailing

Wow...you cover a lot of topics in your original post!

I've been sailing the Lakes, mostly Lake Ontario, for most of my life, and owned 8 boats so far. Would not consider myself an expert, but I do have a lot of first hand experience.

First, why 27 feet? Don't get stuck on a number. Get the best boat you can find. These days, finding a good used boat is difficult. Covid changed everything.

I would strongly recommend the C&C27. I owned a mk2 and later a mk4. They meet all your criteria. Pretty common, since they were manufactured here on Lake Ontario, and priced nice for any budget. The main concern is deck rot, but by now most have had that repaired. The A4 is a good engine, and fine for lake sailing. Yes, it burns a lot of fuel and is noisy as hell. But its a sailboat...use the sails. The mk 2 (early 70's) is a strongly built boat of high quality. Sails fast, points high, and roomy below. Tiller with an ST1000 autohelm is my preference...a boat is not a car, no steering wheel required.

The down side of the C&C27.... mk1 and mk2 have no anchor locker...if you like anchoring (like I do) this can be extra work. If you like to motor, or just don't want gasoline aboard, the mk4 and mk5 mostly came with inboard yanmar diesels...and excellent engine...but these usually get much higher prices on the used market.

If you have kids, or are budget minded, you might consider a C&C25mk1. It's a small boat with a big boat feel. Usually powered by an outboard, its easy to replace the engine with a modern one of your liking.

Replacing an inboard engine will cost more than the boat is worth. Swapping an A4 for a diesel is very expensive, time consuming, and just not worth it.

You mentioned draft. There is a HUGE difference between 4 feet and 5 feet. The C&C25 draws 3 foot 9 inches. I could go ANYWHERE in that boat. I could squeeze into the shallow end of crowded anchorages and creep up to shallow docks. If I got stuck I would literally get out and push. I later had a Pearson 30 with 5 foot draft...and I was bouncing off rocks and dragging through the mud often. In the 1000 islands, you want shallow draft. Shallow draft means protected anchorages and quiet nights.

I live in Kingston and happy to answer any specific questions about C&C25 and C&C27, or sailing in the 1000 islands. Good luck on your search...whatever boat you buy, you are going to have some great adventures!!!
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