There is nothing like lying flat on your back on the deck, alone except for the helmsman aft at the wheel, silence except for the lapping of the sea against the side of the ship. At that time you can be equal to Ulysses and brother to him.   -- Errol Flynn

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    The Vessel...

    s/v Drifter is a Westsail 32, built in 1975. The Westsail 32s were production fiberglass sailboats, built between 1971 and 1980. Approximately 830 were built, about half of them in kit form (Drifter is a factory-built boat).

    Drifter At Anchor

    History of the Westsail 32

    The Westsail 32 design has a long history. The hull shape is descended from the double-ended Redningskoite pilot and rescue boats designed by the Norwegian naval architect Colin Archer. These boats were designed for extreme seaworthiness in the rough conditions of the North Sea.

    In the 1930's the Redningskoite was scaled down to 32' by William Atkin of Huntington, Long Island. Numerous "Erics" and "Thistles" were built in wood, some of which became famous on ocean passages. In 1943 Argentinean Vito Dumas made his historic, 14 month singlehanded circumnavigation aboard a boat identical to the Archer-Atkin design. In 1969 England's Robin Knox Johnston set world records with his 313 day nonstop single handed circumnavigation. And in 1969 Frank Casper won the Cruising Club's Blue Water Medal for his circumnavigation, again aboard an Archer type hull. In 1969 WIB Crealock converted this famous wooden double ender design into fiberglass. Since then, cruising purists are making memorable voyages with their fiberglass Westsails, too, as they wend their way around the world. Several Westsail 32 owners, like their forbearers are singlehanders seeking the fields of solitary ocean pastures.The Westsail 32 is a direct fiberglass descendent of the Norwegian pilot boat designed around 1900 by Colin Archer. The first "redningskoites," 47' long, were used to transfer port pilots out to visiting vessels. On the return voyage the skipper had to singlehand these boats, so manageability and safety were their most important features.The Westsail's reputation as a sturdy, safe, comfortable pasagemaker has been well documented and speaks for itelf. If you've seen the movie or read the book "Perfect Storm" you're already familiar with it. The S/V [Sailing Vessel] "Satori" featured in the book & movie was a Westsail 32. What they did not tell you, however, is that the boat weathered the storm without major damage... washed ashore, and was later retreived by the owner. Satori still sails today.

    The Kendall 32

    In 1969, Californian Larry Kendall decided that a boat like Suhaili would make his ideal long-distance cruiser, specially if built in glass-reinforced plastic (GRP). A couple of his friends were also interested, and together they thought that moulding the boats from fibreglass would save some money. Kendall asked yacht designer William Crealock whether there might be a market for a heavily-built, long-distance, fibreglass cruising sailboat; Crealock's opinion was that "you might sell ten or a dozen". This was enough for Kendall to go into business, and Crealock set about converting the Atkin design to GRP, resulting in a hull shape essentially the same as the original Eric/Thistle. The resulting Kendall 32 was a limited success; the company was short-lived, however, and became insolvent after two years in operation.

    Westsail Corporation

    In February, 1971, S. Snyder Vick, a young electrical engineer, and his wife Lynne, bought the moulds for the Kendall 32 from Kendall Yacht Corporation. Kendall and five other employees were hired to continue production. Production started in 1969, beginning by finishing three boats for Kendall buyers for between $15,000 and $20,000 each; however, Crealock was asked to design a modified deck layout and interior, and the Westsail 32 was born.

    The Vicks put in place an impressive promotional campaign, focussing on the world cruising lifestyle. The dream of buying a boat and sailing it off to exotic foreign locations struck a chord with a surprisingly responsive public; the company's quarterly magazine, Windbag, was essentially a forum to promote the boat, but had over 5,000 subscribers (all except boat owners paying for the privilege) at one point. Special "Owners' Boat Shows" were held, and owners were recruited as sales representatives.

    Demise

    Despite the company's sales success, it never achieved financial success. The usual practice of taking payment for a boat only upon delivery created a credit gap for the company, and this gap grew larger with the booming sales, as the number of boats in production at one time increased. This problem was exacerbated by the announcement of the new Westsail 42 and 43 in 1974; the new boats sold strongly from the preliminary sketches, but the larger boats involved an even longer build time and larger capital commitment. The commitment to deliver boats for a price agreed at the start of production made the company especially vulnerable to inflation in materials costs. In an effort to meet demand while reducing the strain on production, many boats were sold as kits. A book was written to accompany the kit, Ferenc Mate's From a Bare Hull; a later edition of this book is still selling as a popular reference on home boatbuilding. Also see "The Finely Fitted Yacht" by the same author.

    The Vicks' business inexperience, and lax production efficiency, meant that despite technically showing a profit, the company struggled to stay solvent. The firm went into bankruptcy proceedings in early 1977. Although the company restarted under new management, the financial problems continued, and Westsail Corporation ceased operation finally in 1981. The firms' achievement remains impressive, however; in just ten years the company built some 830 Westsail 32s (as well as the 28s, 42s, and 43s built), a phenomenal rate of production for such a large boat, and made a lasting impact on the world of cruising yachts.

    Design

    The Westsail 32 is a heavy-displacement sailboat designed for ultimate seaworthiness, at the expense of performance. She is massively constructed, and fitted with a comfortable and roomy interior. The "W32", as they are often referred to, was very heavily built and has taken many people on trouble-free voyages and several circumnavigations. Often thought of as a slow boat, the long waterline and incredible load carrying capabilities of this vessel make it an excellent cruising boat.

    Construction

    The construction is extremely heavy, which appeals to many prospective cruisers. The hull is made of hand-laid fibreglass, in 12 layers, alternating woven roving with chopped strand mat, set in polyester resin. This results in a solid hull whose thickness ranges from half an inch at minimum to almost an inch. This is considerably more than most equivalent boats. The deck is half-inch plywood sheathed in GRP; the bulkheads are also plywood, tabbed to the hull with fibreglass cloth. The ballast is 7,000 lb, either lead and iron (earlier boats) or all lead, installed inside the keel (which is part of the hull shape) and set in resin.The trade-off for the construction strength is weight; at 19,500 lb, the Westsail is exceptionally heavy for a 32-foot boat. This hampers performance, but on the other hand, Westsails are affected relatively less by the large weight of stores and equipment required for long-term cruising (2 tons or more is quite typical).The 400 kit boats sold were (except for a few) sold as complete hulls with ballast installed and the deck bonded on; it remained for the owner to fit out the interior and deck.

    Deck and Sail Plan

    Most Westsail 32s were rigged as cutters; ie. with a single mast, mainsail, forestaysail and jib. The forestay terminates on the bow; a six-foot bowsprit supports the headstay, and the backstay terminates on a short boomkin, bringing the overall length with appendages of the typical boat to 40 feet. The shroud chainplates are bolted to the outside of the hull, making for a strong and reliable design, with clear side decks, at the expense of some sheeting angle for the jib.The deck layout is geared towards ocean sailing, with wide side decks giving easy access forwards, and high bulwarks with high lifelines for safety. The cockpit is very small; this helps seaworthiness, as the weight of water which can be loaded onto the boat by a wave is limited. However, comfort in the cockpit is not helped.

    Roomy Interior

    The payoff for the short cockpit is a surprisingly roomy interior. The boat's maximum beam, already roomy at 11 feet, is carried much farther forward than in most boats; coupled with a headroom of 6 ft 2 in, this produces a remarkably spacious interior.A number of different interior layouts were produced at the factory, with an even greater variety produced by home builders of the 400 kit boats sold. A typical layout will feature a galley and sizeable navigation station with a quarter berth aft, with two sofas or a sofa and dinette, a head and hanging locker, and a V-berth forwards. A common layout had pilot berths behind the settees. The quality of finish in the kit boats varies enormously, with some being well above factory standards.

    Performance and Seaworthiness

    The Westsail's no-compromise approach to seaworthiness is carried through into her sailing performance. The heavy, full-keeled hull makes for good tracking offshore, coupled with a safe-feeling and quiet ride, but with limited performance. The overall effect is that the boat will get to wherever it is headed, but that it may take a while. Nevertheless, the Westsail is praised by many owners for being able to make a reasonable pace, particularly with a good wind. Indeed, in the right conditions the boat can perform well, as seen in the 1988 Pacific Cup, won (on corrected time) by the Westsail 32 Saraband in relatively light winds. The same boat finished third in 1990.The Westsail's seaworthiness is attested by many stories of groundings, rollovers, and even collisions with freighters survived by the boats. A well-known example is Satori, a Westsail 32 which was abandoned during the famous Halloween storm of 1991, but which survived unscathed despite being washed up on shore.

    Westsail's Impact on Cruising

    The Westsail 32 had a tremendous impact on the cruising world, and on the boat industry. The most immediate impact, of course, was on the 800-plus owners of the boats built. With her massive no-nonsense construction, the Westsail largely delivered on the promise of a boat that could take its owners anywhere in the world, and surprisingly many boats have in fact been sailed to exotic locations, even if performance was a disappointment for many owners. The overwhelming majority of the boats are still fully seaworthy, and in fact hold their resale value very well.Westsails continue to be cited as the epitome of a seaworthy cruising boat. In discussions of seaworthiness versus performance, the design is frequently cited as "one end of the spectrum" (for either good or ill). The Westsail's reputation is usually summed up as "built like a tank, but unfortunately sails like one too". Nevertheless, the boat is still often praised as a design which "has a larger, nicer interior; can carry more, is more comfortable to live aboard at anchor and during passages; will last longer; will be more forgiving of owner neglect and mistakes; has a better chance of surviving groundings and other mishaps; and quite likely will hold its value better".The success of the Westsail spawned many imitations, and led to a huge revival in "Archer-Atkin" double-ended designs, with boats such as Babas, Tashibas, Pandas, Hans Christians, Lord Nelsons, CTS, Tayanas, Pacific Seacrafts, and more. Subsequent designs, however, have sought to improve on the Westsail's sluggish performance, typically featuring a cutaway forefoot, lighter build, and larger sail plan. Many of these boats were built more cheaply in Taiwan.

    Westsails carry on the traditions set by her ancestors

    1. The double ended full length keel sailboat is a sea kindly hull form that has a well balanced helm, and is easy for one person to sail. The outboard rudder is a natural for self steering gear when the captain wishes some time off. The hull is deep enough for all internal ballast that is bonded in place forever.
    2. The canoe stern has been with mankind since the beginnings of civilization and have been especially popular in European countries, but they are quite rare, as they are difficult and expensive to construct in wood. In fact, the most exclusive sailboats Europe produced often had canoe sterns.
    3. Construction of the Westsail hull, is enormously rugged; it is 1/2" at the rail, 3/4" at the bend of the bilge, and over 1" in the keel. One 32 was T-Boned by an ocean freighter off the coast of California. No lose of life occurred and the boat was able to make port. It was repaired and is in service today. Another survived the "Perfect Storm" and except for the Coast Guard forcing the Captain off the boat survived the surf and is still sailing today. For most sailing experiences, the boat is considerably overbuilt. However, this excess material could be valuable if one had an unexpected encounter with ...anything out there.
    4. Westsail's hull to deck attachment is the strongest in the industry. The deck is through bolted and bedded in a flexible polysulfide which cannot crack, reducing leaks as much as possible.
    5. All rigging and deck hardware is oversized stainless steel. The exposed chain plates are readily accessible for maintenance. They are made of 1/4" x 2" stainless steel flat bars. Standing rigging is 1/4" 1 x 19 and turnbuckles are 1/2" with toggles.
    6. Westsail masts are extra heavy duty aluminum . Finished with paint, they need little or no maintenance.

    Specifications

    Length On Deck: 32 ft
    Waterline Length: 27.5 ft
    Length Overall: 43 ft
    Beam: 11 ft
    Draft: 5 ft
    Displacement: 19,500 lb (8,800 kg)
    Ballast: 7,000 lb (3,200 kg)
    Sail Area: 629 sq ft (58.4 m2)
    NavReference.com
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