Sailboat Saturday: Columbia 29

While I’ve been delayed in writing this, the post on Craigslist continued to be available. Perusing the internets for a fun sailboat to highlight I found this ad for a Columbia 29.  The basic specifications:

$1500 o.b.o.
1964 Columbia Sailboat Model C-29
1997 15 hp Honda Outboard – runs great
Presently on the hard
Includes five jack stands

Columbia 29 sailing


Columbia 29 on the hard

Columbia 29 interior

Columbia 29 settee

What makes this a good potential liveaboard?

Well, a few things stand out to me. First, at 29 feet, this is slightly larger than the Cal 28 I lived aboard, making me just a little bit size jealous. It’s a good length for single-handing, and the layout down below appears to be usable in the same capacity.

Also, the hull form is something you won’t find being used much in newer vessels. A decently long keep with a protected rudder. See the layout drawings found at one of the Columbia 29’s owner websites here.

Some of the data on this model:

Length Overall 28′ 6″
Length Waterline 22′ 6″
Beam 8′ 0″
Draft 4′ 0″
Displacement early 7400, late and MkII 8400 lbs.
Ballast (lead) early 3120, late and MkII 4100/4120 lbs.
Fuel Capacity (with inboard) 12 gal.
Fresh Water Capacity 35 gal.
Sail Area 382 sq. ft.
Head Room 6′ 0″
Power – Concealed outboard well (standard), Inboard 8 HP Palmer (optional)

Note that last point, a big seller for me: an outboard well. In this case the specific boat had an outboard mounted on an external bracket. Not bad, but not great either. In my estimation the outboard well is one of the most unappreciated features in these 1960-1970’s era sailboats. Check out James Baldwin’s excellent builds over at Atom Voyages for examples of this feature being added in after market.

Factors to consider:

Certainly lots of things to wonder about with this specific boat, such as:

1) Price: given the low selling price ($1500 at the time I’m posting this) my spidy-sense is kicking in. Part of the price is due to a desire to sell quickly, but this also likely means there’s equipment missing or in need of replacement. Much like the Watkins 27 we looked at early, I’d look into what basic equipment is already provided and the state/health of these things. If I had a fictional budget of $8000-$10,000, there’s probably a lot that could be done. Such as:

– Buy a good gallon of epoxy and fillers to tackle any fiberglass projects that would crop up. It’s easy to learn to use, and given the vessel’s age there’s likely a number of holes and areas which could benefit from some structural loving.

– Electronics: I’d like to think I’d be cautious, but given the age and potential budget, there’s probably a lot that could be done to add some modern conveniences where they are absent. A good depth sounder, compass, and maybe a small chart plotter wouldn’t break the budget and could be found used on eBay or with further Craigslist searching.

– Propulsion: given the low price, I might consider changing out the engine. The 15hp would likely fetch something when sold, but a newer model high efficiency/high thrust long shaft would be a nice-to-have feature and probably better mileage. Brand new with controls and such it may run into the $3000 range, but is worth the money.

– Liveability: Much like the Watkins we covered, some self-sustaining gear to provide a better liveaboard situation, such as solar or wind power, possibly an additional deep cycle battery or two for house loads, and maybe a DC-powered freezer/fridge unit.

Of course, the trouble with low-price fixer-uppers is being honest about the need-want decisions. A diligent owner could really stretch their dollar and get a lot of boat for their money. At the same time, it’d be easy to sink a bunch of cheddar into low-priority fixes or conveniences which don’t improve the value or utility of the vessel.

In closing, there are a few other Columbia 29 resources I found. Given this one is on the hard, in a perfect setting to give it a good survey and dig into any problem areas, there’s a lot of potential for this particular vessel and this model in general. Sta y tuned for the next installment.

Sailboat Data basic coverage

Write-up at Bluewater Boats

4 thoughts on “Sailboat Saturday: Columbia 29

  1. Pingback: Sailboat Sunday: American Galaxy 32 | The Young Liveaboard

  2. We owned and enjoyed one of these for over 4 years here in Michigan. We just sold and upgraded to something a little bigger. I’d say your Cal 28 probably has more room than one of these. Very small on the inside but extremely seaworthy boats. The only spot there is 6′ head room is in the dead center of the saloon. I’d ALWAYS hit my head going forward, and the water closet space was pretty tight. We had the original 1961 MKI model with the original Atomic 4 30hp engine. I believe they all came with the Atomic motor except the first few. The engines are fantastic running machines and can be kept going with only a small amount of funds and maintenance. As you said the main problem with these boats is the mast compression beam. It is common to see the beam repaired and then a post set underneath it that in turn sits atop the keel. This is a great and permanent fix that greatly improves the boats reliability.

    We once rode out a particularly rough day on Lake Michigan when the winds picked up from 15-25knts to 45-55knts with gusts to 60knts. The ways built to 8-10 feet all the while we were flying along running dead downwind and surfing with a reefed main and genoa, we were hit 12knts more than once. The scary part happened when I had to go forward to reef the main (With jacklines and harness used). My wife had to steer, and the steering was pretty tricky in those seas and speeds. I had the boom prevented with a line to the forecleat(second mistake, first being I didn’t reef earlier). We ended up getting the main backwinded with the boom prevented off to one side. It effectively hove us to, only we were broadside on to the waves. We took 3 waves directly on the beam and slide/rode down the face of them. We came very close to getting the spreaders wet and from there it surely would’ve rolled on us. Alas she didn’t roll and I scurried to the cockpit and fired up the engine to throttle it into the waves so I could get the sails under control.

    I’d much rather have an inboard than an outboard. Having owned sailboats with both the outboard was much louder, and more vibration inducing than the inboard ever dreamed of being. While cruising at 6.3knts the Atomic 4 would burn just .7gallons per hour. I’m not sure if you’ve priced an outboard recently but to get a new unit even around a 8-10hp which could move this boat at 5knts on a calm day would be more than $3k I’d think. Especially if you want the throttle controls ect. Then you have the problem of the engine coming out of the water with every passing wave. This got really annoying on a 6 hour passage with only 2-3ft waves on my 22ft boat. The Columbia has a tendency to hobby horse pretty badly in in 3-5 ft waves, which is made worse with weight in the bow or stern. So throwing a nice big anchor on a roller and a 60-80lb outboard on the very rear will end up giving you a very unpleasant ride. Better to stick with an inboard with the weight centered and low in the hull. At least in this boat in my opinion.

    Overall we loved the boat and shed more than a few tears when we finally had a buyer for ours last month. The mahogany veneered plywood interior is beautiful. The sheer line, the spoon of the bow, and the wine glass transom are all things of beauty. They would always put a smile on my wife’s and I’s face when leaving or coming back to her.

  3. Hi Travis,

    We currently own a Columbia 29 that we originally put together in New Bedford MA and sailed down the coast to Brunswick GA. Like the one in the ads it sold for cheap (2500$) with the difference it was an abandoned project boat. I refitted her in 6 months and liveaboard with my wife and a cat for other six months before stepping again on land and and re-doing a lot of work on the boat.

    It’s a tiny boat inside, as Andy said, but very beautiful, and she sails great. We sailed her Offshore from New Bedford to Norfolk, and then again after Beaufort NC, during winter.

    Unfortunately the lazarette is not big enough for a tilting outboard like James Baldwin’s. ad the tiller post is in the way of a possible custom locker. I have an electric inboard that works fine, it just needs an insane amount of batteries.

    If this model still interest you, you can find more info and some videos of the trip on my blog: lapossibilitadiunisola.wordpress.com

  4. Hi Travis,
    Did you buy the boat? If you did I am sure you are not sorry. That is one of the best bargains in a coastal cruiser you can find. Even at three or four times that price it is a better boat than most that languish in most marinas. I have one and for the kind of cruising I do, around the Channel Islands, it is great, big enough to feel comfortable in but small enough to sail in anchorages and pull up the anchor without a windlass. And she loves to sail in any kind of weather. And with that long keel and rudder attached I never worry about going over kelp or crab trap lines, there are no keel bolts to check and she is so tough I am confident she can survive a strong blow. Mine was not built for an inboard so I do have the outboard on the transom. It is not pretty but due to my well-designed custom made lift the engine does not have problems coming out of the water.

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