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Old 25-05-2004, 20:41   #1
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Bristol Channel Cutter

We are interested in a new 34 Bristol Channel Cutter. Is anyone out there familiar with, have sailed on or owned one of these boats. We would dearly love some opinions before actually engaging in the process. We are clear about the specs and the designer, Lyle Hess. We know it is a slow boat to China, which is okay with us. We are wannabe liveaboards, and are interested in this boat for the potential of bluewater cruising and passage making although we would probably start with coastal cruising. Early retirement, too!! Any replies or open correspondence would be greatly aqppreciated!!!

Thank you!

Captain Kirk

PS NOT USS Enterprise
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Old 26-05-2004, 18:48   #2
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This topic came up recently on the Sailnet BB here is a link to that discussion:

As I more or less said in that discussion, I guess the first question is "Where do plan to sail this boat?" and the second is, "What do you really plan to do with the boat?" That question would still seem to apply. Your description sounds like you have some long vague range distance cruising goals, but will be using the boat as a liveaboard and coastal cruiser. That is not a great use of this boat.

I also assume you are talking about the Lyle Hess designed Bristol Channel Cutter 28 (which is sometimes listed as 34 feet overall, but it is a 28 footer on deck which is the convention by which boat lengths are generally cited). The Bristol Channel Cutters are a reduced scale, yacht-ized interpretation of an approximately 100 year old working water craft that in its day had an excellent reputation for seaworthiness. The interpretation is quite liberal and so it should be seen as a type unto itself but the basic design principles of the BCC 28 represent the best thinking of 100 plus years ago with but a very few tips of the hat to the things learned since.

There are two ways to look at a boat like this.

On one hand, in their day (i.e. circa 1880-1910), these boats represented a reasonable standard of speed and a pinacle of seaworthiness. The sea has not changed in 100 years so why should yacht design? These boats have successfully ventured offshore in a wide range of conditions and so are a proven quantity. They offer quite a lot of carrying capacity and interior space for a 28 on deck boat. They are comparatively easy to handle in a wide range of conditions. They are simply rigged. The better finished ones are an absolute jewelbox, beautiful to see and touch from every angle.

On the other hand, if you are of the other mindset, we have learned a tremendous amount about seaworthiness, performance, motion comfort, and ease of handling in the 100 years since this was represented a highly sophisticated design. If you are in that camp, you might liken this to driving the best made 1910 automobile from that era. It would be a great car for that era but there would be a lot of shortcomings that have been addressed in more modern designs. Like any traditional design, this was a design that reflected the limitations of materials and knowlege of that era. We have better materials and knowledge and so no longer need to live with those limitations. We would no longer use 1910 methods of surgery, why would we use 1910 sailing technology?

Continuing that line of thought, these are extremely short boats for their weight, so they have all of the maintenance costs, and difficulty of handling large sails, docking etc of a longer boat but with few of the advantages in accommodations, motion comfort, performance, or seaworthiness of the longer design.

It is all in how you see things.

In some kind of objective sense, these boats really are about as good as a small traditional cruising boat can be. Some were owner built and so the interiors and rigging can vary quite wildly in build quality, but the hulls and decks were generally robustly constructed. Most that I have seen have been nicely constructed. The interior layouts have varied from layouts that were a very romantic and nice coastal cruising/liveaboard layout that probably would not work very well offshore, to about as nice an offshore layout as you could fit in a boat this length. For a boat of this type they offer a fairly high amount of performance. They have a nice slow pitching and rolling movement which is very appealing to many who venture offshore.

They are not without negatives. No matter how you look at these boats, they are obsenely expensive for what they actually offer taken on any objective scale (of course objectivity typically has little place in selecting a sailboat). Most have a tremendous amount of wood on deck and so are comparatively high maintenance for a boat this length and which from my perspective would be a deal killer if I was thinking about long range voyaging. They are next to useless as sailboats in winds under 8-10 knots or so. By any modern standard they are quite slow and do not point or run very well. They roll and pitch through mercilessly large angles and can pitch themselves to a dead halt in a short chop and moderate winds. Thier high drag means carrying a lot more sail than a boat this length would typically need to carry meaning a lot more sail to trim and a lot more sail to buy and maintain.

That is not as big deal offshore when you are typically deciding which day, if not which week, you will be tacking, but makes them a bit of a pain in the butt for coastal cruising's constantly changing conditions. In most respects these boat are as expensive to maintain as 35 of so footers. Most yards that I deal with charge a premium to paint the bottoms on boats like these because there is as much surface to paint as a there is on modern 35-38 footer. Burned by having bowsprits and dinghies in davits taking up a lot of un-paid for dockspace, more and more marinas are charging by overall length so in many cases you would be paying dockage for a 36 footer and only getting the advantage of living aboard a 28 footer. Because of their high drag to length, these boats are also fitted with engines that would be adequate for a much longer boat, and so require the fuel capacity of a longer boat. While the many of the interiors fitted to these boats are really neat, they are dark, cramped, and poorly ventilated when compared to the better more modern offshore designs.

I guess I would summarize it like this, if your primary concerns are aethetic, you are a very experienced sailor, you prefer spartan but beautiful accomodations, you have no concerns about finances and you are planning to spend a lot of time making long distance voyaging, then a boat like the BCC 28 might make sense for you. If your goals are mainly coastal cruising or living baoard or island hopping, with a less frequent jump offshore, and you are a less experienced sailor, if you want all of the comforts of home, and you are a bit budget challenged then a longer more modern boat of a similar displacement might make more sense for you.

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Old 27-05-2004, 05:13   #3
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I just looked at the bristol on yachtworld and a used 28' is $185,000. How much would a new one be? It is a beautiful boat but 28' for $200,000. ...WOW!
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Old 27-05-2004, 05:18   #4
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It's hard to add much to what Jeff said, except that if you really want a BCC, no other boat will do. They are head turners and as you row away from one, you will smile.

Friends of ours are retiring from the cruising life and are selling their BCC. They are anal about the boat and it shows. If you're interested, visit their website:
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Old 28-05-2004, 18:22   #5
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Hi all ,

Thanks for the responses, and especially yours, Jeff, it was very thorough and well-considered and offered us additional insights which I plan to study more carefully over time.

BTW, this is a 34 on deck, 43 overall. It was made in 1998 in South Africa. WE have talkd to the builder about the layup etc. Recently, the forms were sold to a fellow in Canada who is the exclusive producer of these 34 LOD Channel Cutter boats. We are familiar withthe 28 but think it might be too small to comfortably liveaboard. THe 34 is for sale for 129000 USD. However, it recently listed as sale pending so we probably will not get that boat.

Since this is a current question for us, we do have something of a short list of boats. I would ask you, Jeff (or anyone else who may care to respond) as you piqued my interest, which of the more modern designs would you recommend for liveaboard, coastal cruising, island hopping and occasional passagemaking, for two people only? I see you answered this on hte sailnet post but if you have anything to add it would be appreciated. We like some of these boats also. The poster on Sail net who asked about the BCC sounds a lot like us

Thanks again for your responses!
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Old 26-05-2013, 07:00   #6
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Re: bristol channel cutter

I have a 34 , it is fast, interior is well laid out . I have bunks for 6 comfortably( 2 doubles, 2 singles. Most of the pictures on channel cutter yacht web site are of "halflucky" . Of course I have a fortune tied up in it but u could probably build for around 4 to 450k new , 3 to 4 years . Bryan Gittins has 2 in his yard south of Nanaimo now ( both sold )
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Old 26-05-2013, 08:32   #7
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Be sure to check out hans christian 33s. Heavy and compact. We are new owners of ours but love every inch of the boat. Look for a solid deck version and the pre87' built in the hansa yard seem to be the best.

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Old 26-05-2013, 08:51   #8
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Re: bristol channel cutter

I love the BC cutters. Sailed along with a Falmouth 22 (the smaller cousin) extensively and it kept up with my older design 30 footer fine. But realistically, for the price it would be real tough for me to buy a BCC. You get a 28 foot boat for the price of a 40 footer, you pay for moorage for a 35 foot boat. If you are into that generra of boat, for the price, go out and buy a Cape George 36-40. Great looking , built very well and lots more room.'-cape-george-cutter/227466
"I spent most of my money on Booze, Broads and Boats. The rest I wasted" - Elmore Leonard

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Old 26-05-2013, 09:12   #9
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Re: bristol channel cutter

I will second the Cape George boats, well built and lovely lines....
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Old 26-05-2013, 14:25   #10
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Re: bristol channel cutter

Has anyone weathered some good storms or rough weather with the Falmouth 22? That design really appeals to me.
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Old 27-05-2013, 09:50   #11
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Re: bristol channel cutter

Seems to be the same boat as the 28.... just smaller. Suprisingly good headroom below.
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Old 27-05-2013, 09:53   #12
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Re: bristol channel cutter

I would love to get a Cape George 38 or 40 if I ever get something bigger than my current boat.
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Old 27-05-2013, 10:04   #13
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Re: bristol channel cutter

Have you looked into a Cape Dory? They are old school full keel narrow wine glass hull shapes. Very comfortable in a seaway and very sea worthy.

That Cape George is a beauty.

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Old 27-05-2013, 11:28   #14
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Re: bristol channel cutter

Don't forget to look at Valiant 40's and Passport 40's. Built like tanks and a bit old fashioned looking but with modern hulls below the waterline with fin keels and skeg hung rudders. Both are good candidates for liveaboard and offshore, and for coastal where their 6' draft is not a problem.
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Old 27-05-2013, 11:45   #15
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Re: bristol channel cutter

Gozzard might be worth a look? They make some nice salty looking boats with more modern design and do custom interiors.
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