Our Cal 20

My brother and I picked up a 1967 Cal 20 for $600. It had sat on barrels for about 8 years, but we restored it over a three month period and learned a great deal. We posted sets of pictures throughout the process, and here’s a link to the final set (maiden sail):


The funny thing about Cal 20s is that they have a real following. There’s an active fleet that races locally, and serious members of the local sailing community own and sail them. They hit a “sweet spot” of being affordable, easy to maintain, fun to sail, and are relatively seaworthy for a 20 foot boat. Down in California they are sailed to Catalina Island on a regular basis, and one was sailed to Hawaii.

Anyway, we love the boat and even sail it in the winter. They are available in the $2k to $5k range in much better shape than the one we started with.

An Introduction

A quick intro: I built my first sailboat in a high school shop class and sailed it happily for several summers on a small lake on the Oregon coast. After that, I sailed Laser IIs for a semester in college, and my father built a cold-molded Moth and Shellback Digny that I got to sail.

After many years of not sailing (19?), I bought some sailing books at a used book sale about a year ago (Maiden Voyage was one of them), and got interested again. Since then, my wife I have picked up our first two ASA certifications, joined a local sailing club, and bought and restored a Cal 20 with my brother. We sail weekly, often with our two kids (6 and 8 years old). Pics of our various exploits are at


At the moment, we’re considering owning a larger boat of our own (28-30 feet) or with another family. Alternatively, we might just charter for awhile in Puget Sound. We look forward to getting our bareboat certifications in May, and hopefully our advanced cruising and costal navigation certifications at some point after that.

Eval of an Islander 36

It was pouring rain, but we enjoyed climbing through the Islander 36. The good news was that my wife and kids liked it (a lot), and my co-captain felt we’d be able to handle it just fine. It seemed like a comfortable size for a month or more up on the inside passage toward Alaska.

Things I liked: most of the teak inside was nice, and the 3 cyl 30 hp Yanmar has around 1500 hours or more on a rebuild, but it is the original ’72 power plant. I liked the hart inverter and five new batteries, very nice stainless winches, and the base of the mast showed no corrosion at the step. I also liked the tiller and the looks of the standing rigging. There were no obvious blisters on the deck or topsides. It was a ‘tall mast’ with a 53 foot clearance height. There was a dodger and full length bimini, which needed the clear plastic replaced but we appreciated the rain protection while in the cockpit.

Things not so great: there was some general cracking on deck, but nothing looked structural. (There was less than what we just repaired on our ’67 Cal 20.) There was some significant rust and flaking on some of the keelbolts. With the help of the pouring rain, we also found more evidence of leaks than we would have liked, on both sides of the cabin (puddles under pads, some damaged wood). There was not visible leaks from the windows, but the water may have been running internally. All of the wood on deck would have to be refinished or replaced.

It was too wet to pull off the sail cover and inspect the main sail. We didn’t take the time to look at the sails below decks. There’s six sails, but no roller furling. The sellers have had the boat for 4-5 years, but it was the owners before them who put the serious mileage on the boat (racing, a trip to Hawaii, etc.). As a result, not everything may be fully functional, like the autopilot. Most of the electronics, like the radar, looked about 5-6 years old. The GPS/Chartplotter looked newer, maybe 2 years old.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun to look at, and the price wasn’t bad. The six foot draft wouldn’t be the best for the Columbia River or parts of Puget Sound, but this could be a great boat (when brought up for specs) for longer coastal cruising (if the claims of good sailing characteristics are true). Maybe we’d take it south at some point in the future.

What we need to think about is the optimum length for us. Now that we’ve seen an Islander 28 (great for day sails and shorter trips) and an Islander 36 (possibly great for the “big cruises” and for our growing kids), we hope to find some good examples of appropriate 30 and 32 footers to consider. The traditionalist in me wants to see a 30 foot Cape Dory, while my performance side wants to see a lighter C&C with good light air performance. Budget-wise, they’re roughly in our range now, and more easily in range in 12-15 months.

Meanwhile, I hope we can sail our Cal 20 tomorrow. I wish we had more Sabre and Tartan sailboats on the west coast to look at (not to mention Bristols).

Checking Out an Islander

We’re checking out a local 1972 Islander 36. I’ve been impressed by all the owner information and enthusiasm at http://www.islander36.org/, and at first look the boat looks in solid condition. It’s a Hawaii vet and won its class in the local Astoria to Victoria race.

According to my research, we’ll take a close look for mast step and keel bolt corrosion, and blisters. We’d also have a full survey done. Since it’s a 72, there’s a chance it will have fewer blister issues. It has a tiller, which I like, but that might affect resale value. The diesel has about 1400 hours on it, and it has six sails but no roller furling.

This boat might be too big for us, but it’s fun to consider. It has a six foot draft, and for the first year we’d use it mostly for cruising the Columbia River. After that, we’d like to take it off-shore (coastal) up to Puget Sound for as long as 4-6 weeks. We have two kids (6 and 8 years old) who are likely only to become larger as they grow older, so…

Another boat we like locally is a 1979 Islander 28 (four foot draft, no furling, was also raced). We like it a lot, but we’re not sure it will be as stable for the off-shore passage north (especially if the kids were along), or for how long the four of us could be comfortable aboard. However, it could be a better choice for a few years, since nearly everything on it would be less expensive to replace or repair (compared to the 36).