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My 1966 Columbia C26 MK I
Hull No. 256 is For Sale

Columbia C26 MK I side viewI began my search for a replacement for the Aquarius A23 trailerable sailboat which had served me well for 6 years, but also became a bit too small for my Lake Superior explorations. One priority became clear... I needed a bluewater capable boat, something which would better handle the unpredictable nature of Kitchigumi.

I spent hundreds of hours on the Internet looking for a quality boat, under 28 feet and less than $15000 USD. During this time I ran across a blog with exactly what I needed.

James Baldwin’s has provided me with a plethora of information on what makes a bluewater boat. His reference article on choosing a small voyaging sailboat (from his Good Old Boats List) was an excellent resource. The only problem was most of the boats making the list were either too big or out of my price range.

About this time, a boat came up for sale at Barker’s Island Marina, WI. Low and behold it was a Columbia C26 MK I... a boat listed easily within my budget. What I found was a highly customized pocket cruiser which had a rare inboard power option.

The following information comes directly from Mr. Baldwin’s fine article. I will first quote Atom Voyages, then explain why my C26 MK I meets or exceed his advice. I then advise you to check out the following boats and compare them to my C26 MK I in terms of quality and value for dollar spent:

20' Pacific Seacraft Flicka -

27'3' Pearson Renegade -

26' Catalina Capri -

27' C&C 27 Mark II -

27' Ericson ERY27 -

25.33' Irwin 10.4 -

27' Morgan 27 -

Columbia C26 MK I outline
columbia C26 MK I on trailer

Most of the boats built in the past 30 years do not have keel-hung rudders and many of them perform well and have proven to be safe, particularly those with skeg-hung rudders, where the hull adds some strength and protection to the rudder. Though I didn’t include most of these good boats on my list, it’s mainly because the attributes of the keel-hung rudder are more important to the offshore voyager than an extra half-knot of speed or improved steering in reverse.

The Columbia C26 MK I has a keel-hung rudder which does a lot to protect the propeller and has tiller steering which greatly decreases the amount of stress on critical components. And typical of the mid 60’s, the hull is overbuilt.

Columbia C26 MK I quarter view at dock

Most of the boats on the list have fiberglass decks cored with balsa wood and this can be a problem. It’s long been and still is a fairly standard construction procedure, but it would be better for longevity of the core if they had used better construction techniques to prevent water intrusion into the core or better yet, used closed cell foam core or even the heavier plywood core or solid fiberglass lay up.

The Columbia C26 MK I cabin top has been completely rebuilt to the highest standards with foam coring replacing the original wood. In addition to the cabin top, additional side stays have been added along with a removable inner forestay bringing the center of gravity closer to the centerline when flying the storm sail.

Columbia C26 MK I cabin top

Older boats will require more upgrades (time and money) simply because of their age unless a recent owner has already refit the boat. Many of the boats on this list were built over forty years ago, so virtually all their systems – rigging, engine, rudder, deck core, electrics – will require repair or replacement. In most cases it is wiser to buy the fully upgraded older boat, if you’re fortunate enough to find one, and pay a premium price up front than to get involved in a major reconstruction project at a bargain price.

This Columbia C26 MK I has been completely upgraded with quality Blue Sea, Paneltronics, ProMariner, Marinco electrical systems. Aircraft style storage along the cabin top, new fuel tank, all new hoses, standing rigging... the works. Everything noted in the paragraph above has been done — it’s why this C26 MK I is a premium sailboat.

Columbia C26 MK I salon forward

Why not list bigger boats? My feeling is you should get the smallest boat that will suit your requirements rather than the largest boat you feel you can afford. A boat any larger than around 30-foot and 5 tons means significantly bigger, heavier, more expensive gear, higher maintenance costs and more labor to maintain and operate. Maintenance and equipment costs can double between a 28 to a 38-footer.

A Columbia C26 MK I fits in smaller slips although she has as much room as many 30 footers, while fitting in slips which are hundreds of dollars less to rent... this savings in slip fees will offset the higher original purchase price in a few years.

Columbia C26 MK I additional side stays

When things go wrong on a big boat they go wrong in a big way – you can’t manhandle a jammed furling genoa on a 45-foot boat in a gale like you can on a 28-footer. Nor can you pull up the anchors by hand on a windy day. Granted, a heavy displacement boat closer to 32 feet is potentially safer and better suited for high latitude voyages. But a smaller, less-complex boat will give you as much or more pleasure and is safer to sail in most situations.

This Columbia C26 MK I has been updated with bluewater features such as additional side-stays and heavier bracing throughout which creates an extremely stiff boat capable of some seriously scary weather. Put it this way... the boat will take far more punishment than most seasoned crews can handle.

Columbia C26 MK I salon aft view

A final word of advice to the novice sailor - resist the temptation to undertake a major refit and extensive modifications on your new old boat right at the start. It’s best to make only the obvious repairs needed and go out and sail locally and on some coastal vacation passages to learn exactly what is and what is not needed for you. Otherwise you may end up spending years and many thousands of dollars more than expected modifying your boat and then find out those great ideas you had during the refurbishment did not work out that well at sea.

This Columbia C26 MK I is a complete package with new 12 volt DC, AC wiring with 30 amp service and a charging system meant to handle a starter and two house batteries. It has double the storage of any other C26 in existence, great galley, 1000 watt amp and a bilge as clean as the day it was launched. Thousands of hours have gone in to bringing this beauty in to the 21st century. You needn’t do anything but sail it.

Below is a breakdown of the actual cost (less labor) in 2012 purchase/upgrades:
1966 Columbia C26 upgrade costs
If interested call Lance... contact information on the contact page or 763.521.5276.

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