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Buying the Capri 18 and bringing her home.

After a long hard look for a sailboat for my family, I purchased a Catalina Capri 18 back in February 2006. It's a 1990 model, with the standard keel, and a Honda 5 HP kicker. My thought at the time had narrowed my choices to a Precision 18, a Oday 192, or a Capri 18. I wanted the boat to be trailer able, with a big enough cockpit to take my whole family (my wife Suzanne, Helen 8, Andrew 6, Teddy 4), and with a cabin that I could occasionally take an overnighter with one or two of the kids.

I've learned over the years that time isn't money, but it's not really free either. Spending time working on the boat takes time away from my family. I really like fixing things up, so I was looking for a good compromise. Not a big project, but not so nice I had to pay too much.

As luck would have it, I found a very sound Capri 18 for sale in Schenectady at the Yankee Boating Center. I'm just south of Rochester, NY, but I was heading to Boston for business, and made arrangements to look at the boat on the way. Harry from Yankee met with me and we went to take a look at the boat. It was sound, although dirty, but I had restored an old Snipe and an O'day Daysailer, and I know what cleans up, and what cost money. This boat would clean up real nice.

What I really liked was that the boat was moored for much of its life, and the Gel coat was in amazing shape. To be honest, the boat didn't seem to have been used much. It was sitting on a LoadRite trailer, which had a little surface rust, but was sound, other than the tires. I made an offer which was accepted (who else was buying boats with snow on the ground?), and took off for Boston. Harry towed it to Schenectady, and three days later, on my way back, I picked it up in Schenectady. I had Harry order me some new radial tires on rims, so I mounted those with a borrowed jack and lug wrench. The only wildcard was the motor, which I insisted payment for the boat was contingent on it running. We put it in an outdoor test tank (brrrrr!) and it fired right up. Satisfied, I ran to the DMV to register the trailer, bank for the funds, and back to YBC to hook on.  

My tow rig is a 2001 Dodge Grand caravan with the tow rig. I can definitely tell the boat is back there, and pulling onto the NYS thruway, with a strong headwind, my gas mileage dropped from low twenties into the mid teens. It tracked nice on the new tires, but the trailer has no brakes, and I worried about being able to stop fast if necessary. I'm guessing the boat and trailer and gear are in the 2500 pound range, and I think I need to eventually get brakes for the trailer.  

I pulled it into the yard on a Friday evening, right outside my kitchen window. The kids were outside in no time, and were playing pirate right away. To be honest, they've had the money we spent worth of fun before we even got it in the water just playing on it. 

 The Big Cleanup

That weekend (about 45 degrees out) I spend scrubbing. I tipped the boat so the stern was low, and got out a scrub brush. All the cushions and gear came out and was set aside in the basement, for an inventory. I'd factored in replacing the teak around the companionway, but to my surprise, a little simple green and a scrubby sponge had the wood looking like new. In the end, the only thing I would have to replace was the hatch itself, which was teak plywood, but had delaminated, and a piece of teak at the bottom of the companionway that acts as a step into the boat. It was a little beat up, so I made a new one.  

Amazingly, the cushions cleaned up nice. Catalina had put zippers on all the covers, and after taking out the foam, a run through the washing machine gave them a new lease on life. I m sure I will eventually recover them, but for now they are good. Over the next few couple of months, I replaced the halyards, the Mainsheet, bought a new boom vang (there wasn't one), a new battery, and a hand-held VHF. I bought a new porta-potty, and the original cooler was a little grungy, so I bought a new one of those.  

The sails were in pretty nice shape, but the batten pockets had suffered a little, so a couple of night with a needle and thread cured that. When the weather turned a little warmer, a buffer, compound, and then wax made her look almost new.

My previous Oday Daysailer had a couple of easy to reach shelves under the cabin top, that I kept a lot of accessible stuff (gloves, suntan lotion, sunglasses, VHF etc.) in, so I made some shelves for the bulkheads out of cherry that I tinted to match the interior teak. I noticed on the Capri18.net website (thanks Erik) that someone had added a step into the cockpit. It's a long way down, so a folding step was purchased from C-ME sales (great people and prices) in Buffalo. What a huge improvement!

The little Honda was put in a test tank and started up. It ran ok, except at idle. A little teardown of the carburetor and some compressed air through the jets made it run great. The funny thing was that after I put it together and started it up it was running really fast. Apparently, it had been running lousy before and the previous owner just upped the idle to keep it running. I made a little chain with a turnbuckle the keep the motor from bouncing when towing. I just can't figure a good place to stash this motor during a drive. Being a 4 stroke, you really can't lay it down, and the trailer winch post is so close to the end of the tongue you can't fit a motor. So this will have to work.

The interior wood was oiled down with lemon based oil, and the exterior teak was sealed with teak oil. My neighbors were admiring the work, and it really was starting to take shape. The boat did not have a mast crutch, so I bought a Step-Up crutch from Catalina direct (I bought the vang there as well, they have really competitive prices, if you aren't in a hurry). This thing is really nice. It extends to tip the mast up at a pretty good angle, and then you just straddle the mast and lift it with your legs. It's a good thing, because I pulled the halyards out and threading them back through the mast was an hour or two of frustration. A fishing pole, 20 pound test, and a big sinker were my eventual tools of choice.  My niece Julie and daughter Helen were a huge help!

The tiller on the original was a solid piece of wood (pretty sure ash). It had been exposed to the elements for so long, the varnish was gone and it was grey. Luckily, it was strong, so I bought a piece of mahogany and a piece of ash. I ripped strips with my table saw, and then I clamped them to the old tiller, with west system epoxy. It took a while, but in the end I had a nice blank that I used my band saw and router to shape into a much better looking tiller. Of course it was at that time that I realized that new tillers just like the one I built were for sale at Catalina direct for 59 dollars. I'd only seen them in West Marine's catalogue for $163. The bottom line is I got a nice tiller that I can say I made. Buy yours if you need one!

One thing I have to say is that the build quality of this boat is really good. I can't get over how nice everything is finished, and how everything has held up for 16 years. I realize that may not be the case if the boat was in salt water, but all the stainless rigging and lifelines look like new, the gel coat is in really nice shape, both above and below the waterline. The boat never had any bottom paint, but was moored for many seasons in a freshwater lake.

One thing you might want to know......the mast isn't hard to put up. I am in decent shape....6', about 180, and I don't have any trouble putting the mast up. I had a lot of practice with my Daysailer, and that boat is a lot harder than the Capri 18. The procedure is:

  1. Put the masthead fly on.
  2. Unleash any tie-downs.
  3. Roll the mast towards the back of the boat, until the mast step bolt can be inserted. I lift the whole mast to get the upper shrouds past the mast step yoke.
  4. This ones important....straighten out all the shrouds, and halyards, so when you put the mast up, nothing is tangled.
  5. Extend the Mast step to it's top position (I actually use the second from top). 6. With the cabin top closed, straddle the mast. grab the mast, and WITH YOUR LEGS, lift the mast up. Watch as it goes up and be sure the turnbuckles come up straight, so they don't get bent.
  6. With the mast up, pin the forestay. It's helpful to have someone else do this, but I've raised the mast about 20 times in working on it, and I have managed each time.

 The First Sail

It was the last day of school for my 6 and 8 year olds. They left on the school bus and my wife left to volunteer at the school, leaving just Teddy (4) and I for the maiden voyage. I cleaned up a few loose ends, checked the tire pressure and away we went. We stopped at McDonalds in Lakeville, because Teddy was hungry, and while he ate, I made a pre-launch checklist. I had towed the boat to Conesus Lake, which is one of the Finger Lakes of NY, closest to my home. There is a NYS launch ramp along the east side of the lake, and Teddy kept himself busy as I went through my pre-launch checklist.

It did take me an hour to rig, but I was making a second list on ways to save time for the next launch; Silly little things like replacing clevis pins with circular clips to Ball-Lok style pins. I'm going to put elastic bands around the two pairs of shroud turnbuckles so they stay upright when hoisting the mast so they don't get bent......little things like that.

Anyway, when finished, I extended the tongue on the trailer, and backed to the ramp. I knew from previous experience with my Daysailer years ago that this was a shallow ramp, but with my minivans tires 1/3 in the water, the boat was high and dry. Bummer!

I thought I was going to have to go elsewhere when a fisherman saw me and suggested that the center area of the ramp was much steeper. He was right. By the time I got the wheels of the van wet, the boat was floating. Teddy stayed inside the boat in his spiffy life jacket while I parked the van. When I got back, I started up the motor and backed out. The little Honda pushes the boat right along. And the tiller doesn't seem to be able to contact the propeller.

Teddy was really excited as we motored. I failed to mention that this was one of those high humidity days with little wind. I almost went to work that day and skipped the launch because I really don't enjoy bobbing around or motoring. All the sudden a steady 5 knot breeze started, increasing to close to 10 knots or so and we were sailing. I'd lubed the sail tracks and all the pulley sheaves with McLube, and everything worked perfect as I raised the mainsail. I cut the motor as I raised the Jib. It always seemed overkill to have those Lewmar winches on the cabin top, but they came in handy as the main lifted the boom. The sails filled in nice, and with a little tweaking, we were moving at a good clip.

One thing I like was that in the flat water of a protected lake, the extra weight of the boat kept it moving when I would pinch. My old boats were so light that in light winds, a pinch would just stop the boat, and you would have to fall off a little to accelerate again. Teddy and I sailed around for awhile, until we got hungry. I knew my wife would be showing up with my two other kids, and I hadn't brought anything for them, so we dropped sailed, and tied up at the boat launch. We drove the van to a little general store that is almost within walking distance of the launch and got cookies, chocolate milk, and a couple tootsie rolls for the kids. My wife showed up with the kids, and we all jumped aboard, and were quickly on our way. My 6 year old son Andrew really took to the tiller steering under motor, but when it was time to sail, my wife edged him out and took over. The winds were a steady 10 knots, and she kept a nice course, as we reached back and forth across the lake. There was a slight weather helm, but only big wind will let me know how balanced she is.

Soon it was 6:30, and time to go. But we apparently needed one more adventure. A kid on a wave runner had run out of gas, so I towed him across the lake to the ramp, where his family was waiting. It had to look pretty funny to see this sailboat pulling this really sleek looking wave runner across the lake.

Tearing the boat down was uneventful. One thing I couldn't get used to was the lack of any water in the boat. No drain plugs; no swing keel pivot bolt leaks (Daysailer), no water spray (Snipe). I won't miss that at all. Pulling the boat up on the trailer was easy. I used my set-up checklist in reverse, to put everything away. Having a cabin that closes is so nice. With my other boats it was always a chore to move things that would blow out of the boats into the van. The same thing happened at home. I just pulled the boat beside the house, unhitched it and that was it.

There are lots of things to tinker with to make it a better boat, but I can't think of a more fun first day. Plus the kids can't wait to go again, and that justifies it all.

 The second Sail (first overnighter!)

I bought a whisker pole and some cockpit cushions for the boat. The cockpit cushions are Sopac closed cell foam and really work great. I made a few other modifications to the boat to facilitate faster launch and retrieve.

As luck would have it, there was a window of opportunity to go sailing by taking Monday and Tuesday off this last week. Sunday evening I towed the boat to Seneca Lake, and launched from the State Park Marina. My second try at rigging the boat got me down to about 45 minutes. My biggest problem is getting the pin into the trailer extension without help. I've got to think of something the help me get that done.

We launched the boat and went out into the lake with my wife Suzanne, three kids, and my Father. It didn't seem crowded, and we had nice 15 knot wind, and the boat really sailed well. It's kind of funny that it doesn’t feel like you are moving that fast, and truthfully, it's not a racing boat, but it has a freight train like ability to keep on moving, even when inexperienced helmsmen pinch too much or sails aren't trimmed properly. Even my wife commented that in the kind of gusty winds we were in would have been an adventure in the Daysailer or Snipe, but the Capri just didn't feel overpowered.

We sailed directly downwind for a couple of miles with the whisker pole deployed, and you could really fill the effect of getting the jib into the act with the mainsail. I'll eventually add a larger headsail, but the stock sails worked good in the conditions we had. My little Honda 5 hp ran good but would inexplicably just die after idling fine for a while. There are quite a few things that could cause this, but we'll get it figured out eventually. Overall we had a great sail, bringing the boat to the dock after dark, with the running lights on. My wife stayed at my Dad's cottage with Andrew, my 6 year old, and Teddy, Helen and I stayed on the Capri. Rain forced me to eventually close the front hatch and the companionway. We'll work on ventilation this winter.

Improvements

One of the things I noticed when I bought the boat was that all the turnbuckles were bent. It turns out then when you put up the mast, the nature of the way the shrouds are attached to the turnbuckles lead them to get sort of "caught". The leverage you have with the mast lets them bend easily. An easy fix to this problem is to take a piece of bungee chord and tie it tight around the turnbuckles (see picture)

 

 

   

 

 

   

 

This site was last updated 12/16/08