Why I Bought the Ericson 25, Part III

If you happen to have read, in its entirety, the previous posting, "Why I Bought the Ericson 25, Part II," it should have become clear to you, as you made your way through those heaps of information, that as my research progressed, I became more and more enamored with classic, full-keeled, heavy-displacement boats in the 25-27 foot range. Yes, those beauties, with their steady, graceful curves, drew my attention repeatedly, but like most dalliances, when the charm of appearances and the stirrings of emotion give way to cool analysis and level-headed scrutiny, the attraction slowly fades. This posting tells the story of why I abandoned those full-keeled boats in favor of a boat that served more utilitarian interests, and how my search for that functional, though less-attractive boat, led me to the classic, shallow-draft, heavy-displacement cruiser that was both functional and beautiful, the Ericson 25.

When I concluded my research, I had created a short-list of six, full-keeled, heavy displacement, affordable used boats from the 1960s and 70s in the 25-27 foot range: the Cape Dory 25D, the Pacific Seacraft 25, the Contessa 26, the Pearson Ariel 26, the Bristol 27, and the Albin Vega 27.
Cape Dory 25D
Pacific Seacraft 25
Contessa 26
Pearson Ariel 26
Bristol 27

Albin Vega 27
As I described in my earlier posting, all of the above boats, with the exception of the Bristol 27, had ballast, displacement, and beams that were similar to the Ericson 25 that I eventually bought (with its 2,500 lbs of ballast, its displacement of 5,400 lbs, and its beam of 8 feet). The Bristol 27 was the exception, insofar as its displacement was over 6,000 lbs.

With this list of six boats in hand, my next task was to whittle down the list, so that I could, at last, arrive at my top choice, and thus begin a search for this particular boat. The length of the boat, the availability, and the affordability were my primary criteria in this whittling-down process. On account of these criteria, I was especially drawn to the Albin Vega 27.
Albin Vega 27
There were almost 3,500 of these boats produced by Albin from 1967 to 1979, and as I said in the previous posting, most of the ones I saw for sale were $10,000-$15,000. Some, though, were in the $6,000-$10,000 range. With its good reviews and its proven record as an ocean cruiser, I was convinced that the Albin Vega 27 was the biggest and best trailerable cruiser for me. I was so confident of this, that I created an account with the American Vega Association as I began my search for a great Albin Vega 27 as close as possible to my home in Charleston, South Carolina.
Albin Vega 27
Obviously, I never went so far as to purchase an Albin Vega, so I must digress briefly, at this point, to say that if I were to do it all over again, the length of the boat would be less of a concern. At this time, I considered the length of a boat to be a sign of more interior space. Thus, a 27 foot boat should be more spacious than a 26 or 25 foot boat. As I've since discovered, however, that is not always the case. The Ericson 25 is an excellent example. Many people will tell you that, on account of its design (its deep lead belly and its curvaceous bottom), it's much more spacious than many boats in the 27-30 foot range.

Also I must stress that, at this time of my fixation on the full-keel, heavy-displacement boats, especially the Albin Vega 27, my sole guiding principle in terms of trailerability, was simply that the boat be legally trailerable. In other words, it had to have a beam no greater than 8.5 feet, the maximum legal width on federal four-lane divided highways and interstates.
Sure, I had detected, here and there, in the process of my search, some online chatter about the difficulty of trailer-launching full-keeled boats, but often, as many of you well know, there are frequent false trails that present themselves on all forums, as you try to distinguish the truly wise from the wise-cracks, and as you scroll endlessly through one thread or another, with some threads leading to treasure troves of helpful information, others leading to nothing more than dead ends. Sometimes it can feel like a road to nowhere with a dark cloud overhead, sort of like the way it feels from time to time when driving through the expansive stretches of desert land in the American West.
Big Bend area of West Texas, Summer, 2007
I enjoy challenges, though, and to my mind, launching a full-keel boat was simply something that would require a little more research, a little more thought, and a little more effort. That I was ready and willing to give.

As I read more and more online, I continued to encounter references to a certain technique that some people had used for launching full-keel boats with some success - that of backing the trailer deep into the water with a chain or tow-strap serving as a trailer tongue extension, a long and flexible link between the tow hitch and the trailer. Curious to know more about this technique, I decided that the best person to consult was Carlton Poulnot, a seasoned mariner from a long line of Charleston seafarers. I had met Carlton aboard the Spirit of South Carolina, during her transit down the coast, from Charleston to Beaufort, SC in the spring of 2009.
Spirit of South Carolina
If you've read Part I of "Why I Bought the Ericson 25," you might recall that on that transit I devoted my attention to plotting our course on paper charts through the identification of coastal landmarks and inlets through use of a hand-bearing compass.
My activity caught the attention of Carlton Poulnot, who, casually and confidently, would quickly correct any statement I might incorrectly make about a coastal landmark or our present location with regard to that landmark. As the time went along, a conversation developed, and I discovered that this Carlton Poulnot was not only a co-owner of Ashley Yachts, a Charleston-based yacht brokerage, but also a delivery captain, who had sailed up and down the coast and back and forth to the Bahamas for much of his life. He was an amiable and engaging man, one who would offer me lots of valuable advice from time to time over the years to come.
So when I had, at this point, decided that I needed some expert advice on whether or not this trailer-launching technique for full-keel boats was a viable option, I thought that there couldn't be a better person to turn to for some sound advice. Carlton confirmed that this technique was indeed a common one, and he said that he himself had used it at some point in the past to launch some boat that was in his charge at Remley's Point, a known deep-water ramp just upstream from Charleston Harbor. We didn't talk about the time of the year or the day of the week that he and his helpers performed this operation, but I would guess that it was on a weekday morning when the weather was cool. Otherwise, they would have inflamed the barley-fueled tempers of a lot of recreational boaters and sport fishermen.
Typical scene at Remley's Point on the weekends, and when the weather is nice.
Carlton Poulnot added, though, that it was important to know well the length of the ramp under the water at any ramp you might choose to use. Otherwise, you run the risk of backing the trailer off the end of the ramp and getting it stuck in the mud, or worse, sunk in a depression - a depression caused by the repeated revving of outboard motor props, as owners of large powerboats attempt to push their vessels up onto their trailers at the end of the day.
Remley's Point on the Wando River, with the Ravenel Bridge and Charleston Harbor downstream
I thanked Carlton for this advice, and as I began to think about everything he said, I slowly started realizing that if I had to rely on this technique to launch the full-keeled Albin Vega 27 all of the time, then I would be limited in my choice of launch points. In other words, I would always have to put some time and research into trying to figure out if one ramp or another was going to be deep enough for me to use this technique.

Nevertheless, not wanting to give up the fight, I continued to look around for some other way around this problem. It was about this time that I, at last, found a series of pictures that someone had taken for the purpose of demonstrating this technique. I include these two pictures here only as teasers, so that you will visit this site and see first-hand this excellent, illustrated explanation by the good folks at Schroth Fiberglass on Lake Travis, near Austin, Texas (www.schrothfiberglass.com). Schroth Fiberglass is a boatyard, and one of the services its performs is the launching of keel boats at a nearby boat ramp. The picture below, of course, shows them at the beginning of the process. They have backed the trailer down to the edge of the water, and they are about to chock the wheels of the trailer and then unhitch it from the truck.
The next picture I've included shows the truck at the top of the ramp preparing to lower the trailer into the water by means of a lengthy tether. Notice how desolate this ramp is, when we compare it to Remley's Point above. Although I've never been there, I understand that Lake Travis, just like Charleston Harbor, is a happening place on the weekends and in the summers. I would think that the fellas at Schroth Fiberglass performed this task on a weekday morning in the off-season. Notice that the hardwood trees in the background have no leaves, or perhaps just early springtime buds.
Maybe there are other well-pictured explanations that have appeared online since the spring of 2009 (I don't know), but at that time, this one, by Schroth Fiberglass, was the only one that I could find. If you've taken the time to read their web page on this subject, you've recognized the same thing that I myself recognized in 2009, that this can be a time-consuming and also risky process. Did you catch what they said about the person whose trailer broke free?

Taking what I'd heard from Carlton Poulnot, and taking what I had seen on the Schroth Fiberglass website into consideration, it seemed that my last hope for knowing exactly what it would take to launch a full-keeled Albin Vega 27 was to find someone who had actually done it.
An Albin Vega 27
My wish was soon thereafter realized when I made a phone call to the West Coast and spoke for at least an hour to a man who had just recently sold his Vega. He was a personable type, and I suppose he had some time on his hands, so he spoke freely about his experience with this boat, both at sea and at the boat ramp. If I remember correctly, I phoned this fellow, because of an advertisement I had seen somewhere for an Albin Vega 27 that was for sale with a trailer. At any rate, this man said that he lived about an hour north of San Francisco and that yes, he had indeed trailer-launched his boat using the tow-strap technique. He said that at the beginning of every season he would tow his boat down to Sausalito, where he would perform this technique. It was something that attracted the attention of many an amazed on-looker.
Golden Gate Bridge with Sausolito in the Distance, Summer 2009
At the end of each season, this former Albin Vega 27 owner would perform the whole operation in reverse and then tow his boat back to his home for the winter. This fellow was skilled in metal-working and was well-versed in the details of trucks, boats, and trailers. When asked the length of time that it took him to perform the launching and retrieving operations, he said that he could do each in about two hours, that is, after he had gotten good at it. This two hour block on either end also included stepping the mast and unstepping the mast, but it was clear from the conversation that the bulk of the time was devoted to the launch and retrieval itself. When asked if he would perform this operation on a regular basis, his response was unhesitatingly in the negative. I thanked him for his time, and as I hung up the phone, I knew that my vision of owning a full-keel boat such as the Albin Vega 27 and trailering it to far-flung places and launching it without problems at any ramp of my choosing was no more.There were just too many pieces of evidence and voices of experience telling me that this was not a viable option.

At this point, I began to reflect on where I was, and where I had come from, and I realized that I had allowed myself to be carried away and governed by appearances rather than by practical necessities. After all, I had started this search with the goal of having a cruiser that I could trailer to destinations far away from my home waters. We were a family accustomed to traveling long distances. I mean, dang it, we had just driven over 7,000 miles from Charleston to California and back, and that was just one of our many big journeys of this nature.
Waves of grain  during our trip through the Great Plains, Summer 2008
So what I really needed was a boat that would allow us to trailer it and launch it in areas at least as as far off as the Great Lakes, New England, or the Florida Keys, if we so wished. At the same time, this boat needed to be hearty enough to travel the coastal waters in these distant areas and our own.

With all of this in mind, I turned back to my original list and began to reexamine some of the smaller and lighter boats that I had considered before I had become engrossed with the full-keel, heavy-displacement boats I had found in John Vigor's Twenty Small Boats to Take You Anywhere.
I didn't return to those boats I had initially researched from Jerry Cardwell's Sailing Big on a Small Sailboat, or Gregg Nestor's The Trailer Sailers Owner's Manual - boats such as the Catalina 22, the Rhodes 22, or the Com-Pac 23IV. Those boats were too small for my cruising purposes.
Catalina 22
Rhodes 22
Com-Pac 23IV
Nor did I return to the Hunter 25. It's interior was not suitable for cruising, and the boat was too expensive.
The MacGregor 26 didn't attract my attention a second time, because it's a motorboat with a mast.
The Nimble 24 didn't get a second look, because of its flat-bottom, its light displacement, and its price-tag.
Nimble 24
 Same reason for the Seaward 26RK - flat bottom, light displacement, and steep price.
Seaward 26RK
I didn't return to the Com-Pac 25 either, because of the size of its keel and because of its price.
Nor did I return to that series of boats designed by Carl Alberg, you know, the Sea Sprite 23, the Alberg 22, the South Coast 23, the Kittiwake 23, and the Cape Dory 22.

Alberg 22
South Coast 23
Kittiwake 23
Cape Dory 22
All of those Carl Alberg boats in the 22-23 foot range not only had full keels, and thus trailer-launching issues, but they all had small cabins that were not suitable for cruising, at least from my standpoint.

No, instead of returning to all of the above named boats on my original research list, I turned instead to those two boats I had investigated in that little gap between my fascination with the 22-23 foot Carl Alberg boats and the full-keel, heavy-displacement boats. I'm talking here about those boats associated with Olin Stevens and George O'Day, the Dolphin 24 and the O'Day 25.
Dolphin 24
O'Day 25
Both of these boats where larger and heavier than the 22-23 foot Carl Alberg boats, yet at the same time they were smaller and less heavy than the full-keel, heavy-displacement boats. Moreover, both of them had swing-keels which allowed them to be more easily launched from a trailer.

I thought the Dolphin 24 was a beautiful boat, both inside and out, as I said in my earlier posting.
Dolphin 24
Dolphin 24
I was, however, concerned about its draft and how the size of its fixed keel might affect its trailer-launching capabilities at the average boat ramp I might encounter.
Dolphin 24
I had been encouraged by the picture I found of a group of people launching a Dolphin 24 at a ramp. Nevertheless, this photo could have been simply a moment in the start of the lengthy process of lowering the trailer into the water by means of a tether. Notice how shallow the water is in the area behind the trailer. The truck is already close to the water and the keel is not even wet.
Dolphin 24
I also was dismayed that there were not many of these Dolphin 24s for sale online.

The O'Day 25, on the other hand, was not scarce but abundant. After all, almost 3000 of these boats were  manufactured in the 1970s and 80s. Moreover, the fixed, shoal-draft keel of the O'Day 25 was much shallower than the Dolphin 24, and it appeared that it was designed more deliberately with trailering and trailer-launching in mind.
O'Day 25
One thing I kept having trouble, with, however, was the appearance of the boat. The O'Day 25 was just not as attractive as the Dolphin 24, or the full-keel, heavy-displacement boats that had lured me in their direction so easily. This boat had fewer graceful curves and more sharp edges and straight lines.
O'Day 25
Nevertheless, I decided that now appearances were of little concern and functional and practical elements were instead paramount. With this frame of mind, then, I decided to look more earnestly at this boat to see if I might find others who had purchased it for its functional qualities and had found it to be a capable coastal cruiser.

What I discovered when I turned my attention more fully to the O'Day 25 was that there were indeed some people out there who had used the boat in a manner that accorded with my coastal cruising interests. For example, I found somewhere online (I neglected to record the sources in my notes) where two different people, Stan Wyllie and Lee Huddleston, described their sailing of the O'Day 25 to the Bahamas. I also discovered a website by a fellow named Michael Caldwell about this trip to the Bahamas and elsewhere. I present these findings below.

O'Day 25 Owner Number 1, Stan Wyllie
O'Day 25
"Stan Wyllie sent in this picture of Revelation, a 1982 Oday 25' Sloop sailing in the Atlantic outside Daytona Beach, Fla. II used to sail my O'Day many times to the Abaco Bahamas and several times sailed it from Walker Cay to Daytona Beach, Fla. It takes 29 hours. I don't have my boat anymore -- I live in the north Georgia mountains now and I hope whoever has the boat now sails it as much as I did. I've sailed the Gulf Stream in my O'Day 25 when other bigger and stronger boats wouldn't. She sailed with a bone in her teeth.'" 

O'Day 25 Owner Number 2, Lee Huddleston

"I have owned and sailed an O'Day 25 since January 1980. I have also
sailed in the Bahamas and parts of the Caribbean, among other places.
The O'Day would be excellent for sailing to and in the Bahamas. I
have the keel/centerboard version which would be outstanding for all
the shallow areas in the Bahamas. Especially in areas such as the
Abacos, the O'Day would be better than a lot of larger boats.

That being said, I cannot recommend the O'Day for the rest of the
Caribbean. The boats were built stronger than many other brands at
the time, and her design is much safer than others of the same size
(e.g., full bridge deck rather than companionway extending to the
cockpit sole), but I feel that she is just a little too small for the
larger seas of the Caribbean. The O'Day 25 would handle the heavy
stuff better than you could, but it would be an uncomfortable ride.

The O'Day 25 was/is a very good boat. Designed well, built strong,
good accommodations for her size, reasonably fast (I just won a
regatta in my old O'Day 25 two weeks ago), and can be trailered around
the Country to lots of great lakes, bays etc. She was designed for
lakes and coastal sailing, but the Bahamas are just next door.

I you have any specific questions about the O'Day 25, just ask."

Lee Huddleston
s/v Orion (O'Day 25)
s/v Truelove (Mauritius 43)

O'Day 25 Owner Number 3, Michael Caldwell

The above testimonies by Wyllie and Huddleston were good pieces of evidence, but even more helpful was the website I discovered by Michael Caldwell at www.knotink.com. Caldwell documents a lengthy single-handed cruise that he made from Long Island, New York, down the New Jersey and Delaware portions of the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW), through the Chesapeake Bay, and then down the ICW through the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida all the way to Key West. He also documents a separate branch of this cruise where he takes his O'Day 25 to the Bahamas and back. Of additional help is the detailed inventory that Caldwell provides. All of this made it clear to me that the O'Day 25 was capable of carrying large amounts of equipment necessary for cruising.

All of the information provided by Wyllie, Huddleston, and Caldwell appeared to me to support the claims that had been made by the O'Day Company itself in its promotional literature for the O'Day 25 in the 1970s. This was a capable boat that was suitable for coastal cruising. Moreover, it was the largest truly trailerable cruiser that was available. I'll include here three of the several advertisements that I found (along with the transcriptions that accompanied them).

Promotional Advertisement Number 1, 1974
A week aboard still won't convince you it's only 25'

The new O'Day 25 … sleek and stylish.

Today's biggest trailerable cruiser. Broad beamed for live-aboard comfort. Wide, flat decks invite sunbathing, provide racing safety. Two separate cabins.

Her galley is aft under a spacious companion-way hatch. She sleeps 5. Generous stowage space. 5'6" headroom in main cabin. Enclosed head.

C. Raymond Hunt Associates designed the O'Day 25 sailboat for family sailing enjoyment. Safety and performance, too.

Her keel is molded with the hull. 1,500 lbs. of inside ballast. With her centerboard raised she draws only 2'3". Her tabernacle makes stepping the mast a single-handed job.

Here's a 25 you can take with you on vacations, or trailer to far away regattas for some exciting racing. Balanced outboard rudder, too. She sails … just as good as she looks.

It's the new O'Day 25 … backed by O'Day's 2 year Gold Medal warranty.

Length: 24'10"
Beam: 8'
Draft: Centerboard up 2'3"
Sail Area: 270 sq. ft.
Designer: C. Raymond Hunt Associates

O'Day Fall River Massachusetts 02720

Today's best built sailboats. Safe. Easy-to-sail. Backed with a 2-year warranty.

Now … manufacturing facilities in California, Indiana and Massachusetts for shipping economy, parts availability and improved service.

The O'Day Gold Medal Fleet … 10 Great Boats from 12' to 32'. Send $1. for Catalogs plus 38-page book "Have Fun Learning to Sail" to Dept. Y104

Promotional Advertisement Number 2, 1976

O'Day 25 Yacht: Five Critical Things To Look For When You Buy A Compact Cruiser

(And how the O'Day 25 measures up)

Look for sailing performance
No matter how sleek she looks, how opulent below, no cruiser is worth considering if she won't perform under sail. Will she go to windward in a chop? Will she sail at all if the wind is light? Is she a stubborn monster when you want to tack?

Here's how the O'Day 25 measures up:
  • We built the O'Day 25 with both a centerboard and a keel. There's 1525 pounds of lead in the keel to keep her on her feet. And make her sure and seaworthy.
  • The centerboard gives her six foot draft. Which makes her fast and close winded. And helps her track when the waves build up.
  • But she's a gunkholer too. With 2' 3" draft (board up), for slipping into secluded coves. Or exploring shallow bays and rivers.
  • We fitted her with a powerful outboard rudder. So the O'Day 25 doesn't hesitate when you want to come about. She handles with unusual precision.
  • She has what offshore sailors call a "forgiving" hull. She compensates for the little errors even expert skippers sometimes make.

Look for a cabin that works

A spacious cabin is important, but what really counts on a cruising boat is the way the space is used.

Privacy is essential. For people who must live in each other's company for days on end. Warmth is welcome, when it's wet and forbidding outside.

You must have decent space for cooking. Space for keeping clothes and bedding dry. Space for plotting a course in comfort while the boat's heeled over.

Here's how the O'Day 25 measures up:
  • Raymond Hunt and Associates designed our boat. They insisted on a galley usable under sail. They put it at the cabin's after end. Close to amidships, where the pitching of the hull is the least. And close to the companionway, so the cook can keep in touch with the cockpit crew.
  • We layed out galley storage where you can get at things without having to crawl into the bilges or reach over boiling pots on the stove.
  • Our designers also insisted on a cabin table stable enough to use for navigation. Big enough for four at meals. Four full-sized people.
  • We built in bunks for five. You may not use them all. But we know how handy an extra bunk can be -- when you need some place to quickly stow a sail. Or spread out a series of bulky charts.
  • The bulkhead between the cabins makes the O'Day 25 an honest, private, two-cabin boat. And the passageway between closes with a solid door. Not a flimsy curtain.
  • There's plenty of storage: under the bunks, in cockpit lockers, on main cabin shelves, and up in the forepeak. For the endless anchor lines and sails, spare batteries and tools, fittings, gadgets and gear that make a cruiser self-sufficient away from home. 


A sailboat has to stand extraordinary punishment. The pressure of rushing waves. The heavy stresses on her rig. The corrosive power of salt water.

Only uncommon materials will survive. But they're expensive. Stainless steel. Tempered Dacron sailcloth. Braided lines. Solid teak. All are specified for the O'Day 25.

Painstaking construction is also costly. Our hulls, for example, are made with hand layed up fiber glass. Others spray in chopped up fiber. Our way is stronger. Longer lasting. But it's more expensive.

Promotional Advertisement Number 3, 1979
O'Day knows that if adventures aren't limited by shorelines, good times can't be limited by poor performance. So we built a maxitrailerable 25 footer that can hit the road like a Greyhound scenicruiser, and still hit the water like a scolded dog.

The performance standard that John Deknatel and the Hunt Associates' designers created for the O'Day 25 Sailboat has been a rude shock to many a hot MORC racer. Yet the interior squeezes every inch of usability out of a very big space.

Whereas some 25 footers are designed to sleep five, the O'Day makes five feel right at home, and stows their gear as well. The forward cabin is a double.
The head, sink and vanity are enclosed. The galley is sensibly aft where air is plentiful. In a pinch, the cockpit can hold eight.

But big as it is, the 25 Yacht retains a clean and classic yachty look. And popular as it is in the centerboard model O'Day also offers the 25 Sailboat in a fixed keel version for those who would sacrifice easy trailering for ultimate performance.

Put the O'Day in the hands of a young cruising family an will seduce them into summers of controlled indolence. Put it in the hands of a young hotblood, and it will startle the local MORC and PHRF racing fleets.

So if you and your family are ready to push back a few horizons, the O'Day 25 Yacht is right behind you. Because O'Day has been building affordable trailerables, daysailers and yachts for 20 years, and we know what you want.

The O'Day 25 Trailerable Yacht

Bangor Punta Marine

Fall River, Massachusetts 02722
Additional manufacturing facilities in Costa Mesa, California


By the time I had finished reading the testimonies of the three O'Day 25 owners, Wyllie, Huddleston, and Caldwell, and by the time I had read all of the old promotional literature by the O'Day Company, I was convinced that the O'Day 25 was the largest and the most suitable boat for me according to my definitions of what a trailerable coastal cruiser should be.

At this point, therefore, I was ready to move forward with an active search for an O'Day 25 in the vicinity of the Carolina Lowcountry. We had returned from our farthest and final family camping trip out West. We had made it all the way to California and back, and now my wife and I were ready to take our adventures in a new direction. Now was the time, we figured, that we should at last buy that sailboat we had been talking about. The summer was waning. If we acted now, so our thinking went, we would have enough time to secure a boat, make any repairs that were necessary, and set off on a family cruise the following summer, perhaps to the Florida Keys.

I searched here, and I searched there, and at last I did indeed find an O'Day 25 in the area, not in the immediate area, mind you, but at least in our area of the country. Much to my surprise, and my delight, it was listed in Oriental, North Carolina, a small town on the Pamlico Sound known for its concentration of sailboats. I was familiar with Oriental, because we had spent two summers in the area of the Outer Banks and the Pamlico Sound while my wife conducted research on a beautiful coastal bird known as the oystercatcher. Everything about this O'Day 25 in Oriental, NC seemed to be right. Yes, it did seem to be right, and with that I picked up the phone and made the call - the call that would lead me not to the boat that just seemed right, but the one that truly was, the Ericson 25.

That phone call and the trip I would make to Oriental that would lead me to purchase this truly right boat are the subject of the fourth and final part of this posting, "Why I Bought the Ericson 25."