"..it is easier to sail big in a small sailboat than it is to sail small in a big sailboat. You can either spend $20,000 to buy a trailerable boat and make it sail big or you can spend $95,000-$110,000 buying and properly equipping a 35-ft sailboat."
              Jerry Cardwell "Sailing Big on a small sailboat"

 

 

 


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 SAIL. 

"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" 

Hunter 260
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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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Easily Beached
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As a result, I decided to focus my search on the so-called Class C "Clorox Bottles" by Hunter, Catalina and Macgregor

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 ground. 

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 knees.

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

New 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 risk..."

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." 

Here's 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 45 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 boat likes to sail fairly flat -- that means you should focus less on pointing ability and more on speed made good to windward (VMG). In other words, pick your upwind target and then head off a few degrees keeping the boat at a reasonable heel.

  • 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.

  • This boat weighs almost 6,000 lbs including the trailer, engine and other stuff so you must have an adequate tow vehicle. More on towing 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.

A final 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.