There was a time when I thought power was the thing -- faster,
louder, and leave a big wake...However time passed, I matured, and I
became hooked on the quiet intellectual challenge of sail.
Here's a great perspective on the sport from the editor of
"When you are sailing...you are continually
assessing depth, current, wind speed, wind direction...What lies
aroung the next bend or headland? Will you need to tack, gybe,
shorten sail? Is there enough water to take shortcut A around
shoal B or should you just play it safe? Can you make enough
speed under sail to ge home before the tide turns, or will you
need the engine? There may be other activities or disciplines
that engage so many senses simultaneously, but I am hard pressed
to name any. And to think that most of these questions and
calcualtions skip along the surface of your subconscious mind,
while the conscious part enjoys the sun on your face and the
wind in your sails"
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When it came time to choose a vessel, I looked at big boats; however, at 5 knots it
takes a long time to get to prime cruising grounds. Purchase
price, hauling, rigging, maintenance costs, and slip fees are also a factor. Plus I wanted a boat
I could easily rig and sail alone. Thus, a trailerable
sailboat seemed the most logical choice.
The downside of
a trailerable is the relative lack of space for cruising and that
you are limited to sailing in coastal and inland waters. That's OK
with me since I don't intend to to spend more than a couple of
weeks at a time aboard.
There are a number of excellent small sailboats. A
few are still in production. A review of John Vigor's "Twenty Small
Sailboats to Take You Anywhere" lists a few older models
with good reputations. I like the Dana 24 and the
Hake Seward 26RK is an attractive choice; they are the right
size, have that classic look, and can take rough weather. However,
they and other similar production boats are either out of my price
range, not really trailerable over long distances, and/or require
a pretty big vehicle to tow.
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As a result, I decided to focus my search on the
so-called Class C "Clorox Bottles" by Hunter, Catalina
In the beginning, I was not really looking at water-ballast boats.
I initially favored the Catalina 25 wing keel because it gets high
marks for sailing characteristics and shoal draft. The Catalina 22
is also a an excellent choice with over 15,000 produced and
still going strong, and the Macgregor 26 is a very popular family
first sailboat. However, I was looking for more cabin space and
"big boat feel" than any of the alternatives provided. I looked at a couple of Hunter 26s
and compared them to the newer H260. If you want to see the
differences between the H26 and H260 click on this link. When my wife saw the H260
cabin size and openness at a boat show, and I checked out the
ease of rigging and launching
the H260, the other alternatives quickly lost
Overall, I've been surprised and pleased at how
well the H260 sails in a variety of conditions. Once properly
trimmed, the boat settles into a comfortable grove and
tracks nicely. Easy and fun to sail single handed, the large main provides
plenty of power in light winds and the furler headsail makes
balancing the sails easy. In sum, its sailing characteristics
compare favorably to similar fin keeled boats I've
sailed. More importantly, this is a great shoal
draft boat -- you can easily run it up on the beach or back it
up to some rocks and step ashore. More than once I've spend
the night "anchored" in water that did not reach my
The advertised 5000+ pound displacement of the
H260 allows it to sail like a bigger boat. Based on an actual dry weight
of 4400 pounds (vs. the advertised 3000lbs), the boat's displacement may actually be quite a
bit higher. We've been through some fairly rough weather together
and she's never given me cause to worry about her seaworthiness.
However, I would not consider taking her too far off shore as this
is still a Class C boat.
sailors often ask how stable the H260 is as compared to similar
size boats. In a recent
hunterowners.com forum on sailboat design, Glen Henderson, head
designer for Hunter Marine said:
"The 260, like all keelboats can invert. There is a point on the stability curve where the boat is more stable upside down. I did not design the 260 but I would take an experienced guess that would be around 105 degrees. Less if you have people hanging on to the windward lifeline. That is why the boat is rated CE
category C. To get the boat over that far it would take a largish wave or other external influence. The wind alone will not roll the boat over unless the wind was so strong (over 30 knots) that the windage of the hull has enough wind pressure on it to drive it past the limit of positive stability. It would take lot. Prudent seamanship will minimize the
When asked why the H260 was a little wider than
most trailerable boats he responded: " I think the designer (Chuck Burns) probably
figured that effort was worth the extra hull form stability and extra room inside. Hull form stability comes with added beam (as a rule). I remind you that I don't know the exact numbers for the boat so I am
taking a guess."
a video of the H23.5, an earlier version of the H240/26/260
during a capsize test. Watch how the crew tries to capsize the
boat. A float was attached to the top of the mast and there was
additional flotation in the cabin as a safety measure. Note how the rudder comes out of the water at about
degrees thus righting the boat.
Tucked away in a quiet cove
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All boats have some warts and unique characteristics
and the H260 is no
exception. Here's a
few that deserve mention.
The H260 is a safe family boat,
not a racer. You'll easily achieve hull speed of 6.4 kts. in
light air, but if you like playing with the rigging to squeeze
every ounce of performance out of a boat, you'll be
disappointed with the lack of a backstay, traveler, or jib
fairleads. With a PHRF
rating from 216 to 224 you'll spend a lot of time at the back
of the pack.
The power is in the main. Even experienced sailors are surprised how quickly
the boat can become overpowered in winds approaching 15 kts. In gusty conditions
it's important to tend the main or the H260 will round up on
you. Although not as "tender" as other boats of the
same length, it's important to reef early; once properly
trimmed, the H260 sails fast and handles well reefed. This
boat can also handle significant weather. Also, the swept back
spreaders restrict how far the boom can be let out and mainsail
chafe is a possibility.
Sailors are a very conservative
lot. As a result, there is a lot of
misunderstanding and misinformation about water ballast boats.
It's important to understand the advantages and
disadvantages of this form of ballast. Some of the most
anti-water ballast sailors have never sailed this type boat. There is a pretty
complete discussion about small water ballasted boats at this link.
Much of the information on this site also applies
to the earlier version H26 and in some cases its smaller cousins the H23.5 and H240.
I can't take much credit for originality in anything here. If you
get ideas for some of your own projects from these pages - share
them with us.
note: If you are a trailer sailor, consider joining the Trailer Sailors Association.
You'll be glad you did. We took a trip to the Canadian North
Channel last year with over 50 boats from all over North America
and had a great time.