Many thanks to Karen at Good Old Boat Magazine for sending me the text and pictures for this reprint as well as securing John Vigor's approval. I apologize in advance for any errors which might appear. In an effort to match the high standards of the magazine, I attempted formatting with which I have had no previous experience. I strongly suggest that you go to their website and request a trial issue. I'm sure that you will like it. - Howard
John Vigor has sailed for more than 40 years and logged some 15,000 miles of ocean voyaging. In 1987 he and his wife, June, and their 17-year-old-son sailed their 31-foot sloop from South Africa to the U.S. This series of boat reviews is based on articles from John's book: Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere, which is available from The Good Old Bookshelf.
Allied Seawind II
Beefy and Fit for Sea
By John Vigor
The Allied Seawind II is the sort of world cruiser that will appeal to those who can't stand crawl-only headroom. She's one of the roomiest 32-footers around, one of the heaviest, and one of the fittest for sea work. She's ready for the ocean without any beefing up or modification.
This also makes her comparatively expensive to buy and maintain, but if you have $35,000 to $45,000 to spend on a 10- or 12-year-old model, she offers very good value for the money. Furthermore, her fine reputation makes it likely that you'll recover all or most of your investment when you're through cruising.
The Seawind II's slightly smaller sister, the original 30-foot 6-inch Seawind ketch built by Allied Yachts, was the first fiberglass sailboat to circumnavigate the world.
In 1975 the company started production of the Seawind II, designed by Annapolis-based Tom Gillmer, a naval architect with a talent for designing salty-looking, seaworthy cruising yachts. Gillmer added about 18 inches to the old Seawind's waterline length and made her a little fatter, which added more than a ton to her displacement.
She came in several versions: the ketch was standard, but you could also order a cutter or a sloop. To some critical eyes, the ketch rig looked cluttered on a boat with a 25-foot waterline. The mizzen got in the way in the cockpit and added little to performance. The simpler cutter rig better complemented the cocky sheerline and the handsome proportions of topsides and coachroof. It also made her handier on the wind. (Dick Manual, contact for the Allied Seawind II Owners' Association, tells us: "One hundred twenty-nine vessels in total were made; we have been tracking 90 on our roster and, of those, 11 are cutters and five are sloops. At least one of the ketches is rigged with a removable inner forestay to yield what you might call a cutter-headed ketch. I have running backstays on my mizzen mast and a halyard to hoist a mizzen staysail. We have owned our boat for 14 years, which tells you what we think of our Mermaid." -Ed.)
The Seawind II was designed for low maintenance on deck. There are a few teak trimmings, such as the toerail capping and the handrails on the cabintop, but no acres of leak-prone deck planking, for which buyers of older boats may be truly grateful. If you're one of those owners who actually enjoys sanding and varnishing and who derives pleasure from the deep honey-gleam of brightwork, there are plenty of places on deck where you can add teak or mahogany trim. Most owners will surely opt to retain the Seawind's rather bland, sterile look, however, and thereby convert varnishing hours into sailing hours.
With a sheerline that rises attractively to a buoyant bow and a stubby sprit, this boat exudes an air of power and purpose. Gillmer got the proportions of freeboard and coachroof sides just right, providing good headroom below without resorting to slabsided or boxy construction.
Her underwater profile is conventional for a cruiser: a full-length keel with the greatest depth right aft and a long, sloping cutaway forward. There's plenty of lateral surface to dampen rolling and provide inertia, which will help prevent capsize when she's lying ahull in heavy weather. There is also a long straight section at the bottom of the keel, which will settle her comfortably when she dries out against harbor walls or jetties in foreign ports or rides up one of those rickety foreign marine railways for hull maintenance.
Both hull and deck are fiberglass, the hull being a solid hand layup and the deck a sandwich of two layers of fiberglass with a core of balsa wood, except in a few areas where it, too, is solid for compression strength.
The ballast keel, a hefty 5,800 pounds, is cast lead, encapsulated in the fiberglass hull, and the rudder is a large barn-door affair that swings from the aft end of the keel and is controlled by a wheel.
Her aft end is cut off short in a transom, a feature that contrasts strongly with the moderate overhang in the bows, but which somehow blends better with the cutter rig than the ketch rig.
The hull-to-deck joint consists of outward-turning flanges, through-bolted and covered with a hefty aluminum rubrail that adds greatly to the boat's salty appearance. On the interior of the boat, the joint is glassed over for its whole length. There should be no chance of leaks from this very substantial joint.
The watertight cockpit is quite large but its sole is high enough above the waterline to ensure rapid draining in the event of a pooping. A good bridgedeck at the forward end of the cockpit prevents water from flooding into the cabin in the event of a wave coming over the stern, and lockers under the seats on either side will hold all kinds of gear needed at sea. And - just to prove this boat is a little more luxurious than the rest, despite its sterile look on deck - there is a freshwater shower housed in a recess in the cockpit well, an indulgence that seems almost decadent in a 32-footer, but one that will be very welcome in tropic climes as long as the water supply lasts.
The standard engine is a Westerbeke diesel delivering 27 horsepower, which works out at about 4 hp for every ton of displacement - a comforting amount of power on a boat of this type. Like most long-distance cruising boats, the Seawind II uses a standard three-bladed bronze propeller. Any drag it causes is more than compensated for by simplicity and reliability.
As noted, this is a big 32-footer and it certainly shows down below. Up forward there are the usual V-berths, but placed in the same cabin with them is a wash basin to starboard and a hanging locker to port.
The head and shower compartment (another decadent shower, this time with both hot and cold water) lies aft of the main bulkhead and, oddly, has two doors, one leading directly forward into the forward cabin and the other leading at a right-angle into the main saloon.
On the starboard side of the main cabin, the head compartment and the starboard transom berth extend back to the companionway steps. To port, however, the transom berth starts at the main bulkhead and the L-shaped galley occupies the space between it and the companionway.
Practically everywhere you look there is stowage space - behind and under berths and in drawers, cabinets, lockers, and cubbyholes. There is never enough, of course, because the more stuff you can stow away, the more stuff you acquire; but compared with most other boats of her length, the Seawind II is cavernous.
The standard masthead ketch rig enables the Seawind II to set a lot of sail off the wind, including a mizzen staysail. And since world cruisers mainly do go downwind (at least, they do if they have any sense), then perhaps the ketch rig is more logical.
The problem with it is that this boat isn't quite big enough for two masts and their associated standing rigging and cordage. It makes for a lot of clutter, particularly in the cockpit, and the windage on two sets of masts, shrouds, stays, halyards, and sheets is detrimental to windward performance.
The ability to sail to windward in really heavy weather is a cruiser's ace in the hole. No matter how much effort and thought is put into preventing it, there comes a day in the life of most cruisers when it becomes necessary to beat off a lee shore in storm-force winds. Ketches can do it. Colin Archer's famed rescue lifeboats could tow two embayed fishing boats to windward in atrocious weather, very slowly but surely. But on a smaller boat, a sloop or cutter rig will do it better.
The cutter rig was optional for the Seawind II, but it is the more practical, particularly if the jib is set on a roller furler.
She's no round-the-buoys racer, but there's no reason why the Seawind shouldn't turn in a respectable 150 miles a day in the trade winds.
With her hefty beam, she's not particularly close-winded, but her ability to stand up to her canvas will get her there in the end. The ketch's sail area, at 555 square feet, is enough to provide plenty of drive, even in fairly light conditions, and while the cutter loses area (512 square feet), the gain in efficiency makes up for it.
In the trade winds, the cutter can run dead downwind behind twin foresails, with or without part of the mainsail set, but the ketch would probably do better, be more comfortable, and make better use of the mizzen staysail by tacking downwind 20 degrees either side of the rhumb line.
Under power, that Westerbeke should allow her to cruise at 6 and peak at around 7 knots.
It seems almost unfair to list minor complaints as weaknesses, but as the Seawind II has no known major weaknesses, we are forced to fall back on petty nitpicking:
• The side decks are too narrow. It's not easy to make your way forward dragging a sailbag. The shrouds get in the way. In fact, most people hop up and over the coachroof when they want to go forward.
• It's hard to get to the engine. That's not an uncommon fault, but in a boat this deep and beamy, one might have expected a little better. It's a major hassle even to check the oil level.
• There have been complaints that the anchor rode chafes against the forward pulpit stanchion when the bow rollers are used. For the same reason, you can't store your anchor on the roller because the stanchion gets in the way. Either the stanchion or the rollers should be modified.
Robert and Sharon Cuzner keep their Seawind II ketch, Silver Spray, in Anacortes, Wash. They picked her up in Marblehead, Mass., in 1980 and sailed on her for two years, first heading north to Maine and Nova Scotia, then south to Florida, the Keys and the Bahamas.
After sailing out to sea from the Bras D'Or Lakes in Nova Scotia, they hit an extended gale. "The forecast was benign," says Sharon, "but after we'd been out about 20 hours the weather deteriorated. It blew hard for three days. We pulled down the mainsail, then the mizzen. We left the foresail up until last because she wants a headsail always. Then we wondered if we should take it down, but neither of us wanted to go out there. Robert said: 'If God wants it in, he'll take it in.' So we continued broad-reaching under that 100-percent jib and did 125 miles in one day with the Aries [wind vane] steering."
Between Marblehead and Maine, Silver Spray hit a whale. "We rode up on the back of it," Sharon says. "The boat sort of went sideways. We smelled it and felt it, but it was the middle of the night, so we couldn't identify it, but we think it was a humpback."
In Port Charlotte, Fla., Silver Spray ran aground on sand. "It took us an hour to get off," Sharon remembers. "A powerboat took a line from the mast and laid her over on her side, and we eventually slid off."
But the biggest beating Silver Spray ever took was back in Marblehead. The Cuzners were worried about whether there was enough water over the ledge there. They were right to worry. Their ketch ran onto the ledge at 8 knots.
"We bounced off a rock that took a chunk out of the leading edge of the keel," Sharon says. "It measured about 3 inches by half an inch, but the damage was confined to the fiberglass, and it was easily repaired. There was no structural damage."
After their trip, they trucked Silver Spray back to Washington state, full of admiration for her toughness.
• A laminated oak beam under the mast is backed up by an oak compression post. Keep the foot of the post dry. "We found water there, because there is no easy access to the forward bilge. The anchor locker drains through there, and when we checked with other owners there was always water there, which will rot the post."
• The accommodation is fine for offshore work. "It's not very pretty, but it's strong. We put a crashbar in front of the stove to keep the cook from being thrown into the stove."
• The Cuzners replaced the original alcohol stove with a Taylor kerosene stove. But wasn't it a hassle to have to prime a kerosene stove all the time? "I like priming it better than I'd like propane in the bilge," Sharon says.
• The standard galley sink fills with water on one tack and overflows into the ice box. To halt the flow, the Cuzners fitted a seacock on the sink drainpipe.
• They made no structural modifications whatsoever for deepsea work. "She didn't need any."
• The Seawind II was easily handled under all conditions. "I handled her alone," Sharon says. "No problem."
Allied Seawind II
In Comparison• Safety-at-sea factor: 8 (Rated out of 10, with 10 being the safest.)
• Speed rating: Reasonably fast off the wind and capable of good daily averages on an ocean passage.
• Ocean comfort level: Plenty of room, stowage, and amenities for one or two adults; still reasonably comfortable with two adults and two kids. Will handle four compact adults for trips of a few days.