BOATOWNER’S BOAT REVIEW
Westerly Centaur 26 By Jack Mooney The Westerly Centaur 26 and her current owners.
any readers of SOUTHWINDS are cruising wanabees, who can’t see their way clear to spend tons of money for a “cruisable” boat. Then, there are others, like Sandy and I, who are willing to make compromises that allow us to enjoy the cruising life on a limited budget. We began our cruising life in 1993 in a Challenger 32, named Utopia, in which we cruised from San Francisco to Florida. Then Sandy got the nesting urge, and we bought a home in Hudson, the skinny-water capitol of Florida about 30 miles north of Tampa Bay. With our 4’10” draft, we could get out only on the high-water day of the month. So we were limited to cruising without day sailing. A new boat was in order. It was goodbye to our beloved Utopia and hello to Utopia Too. Our requirements were: strength and stability, threefoot draft, six-foot headroom, comfortable sleeping space, a decent head, an adequate galley, a comfortable cockpit, and enough comfort for a six-month cruise. Because of our age and limited income, we would restrict ourselves to the United States and the Bahamas. Therefore, many blue water cruising goodies were not needed. We found that the Westerly Centaur 26 fit these requirements. It has bilge keels that give it a three-foot draft, with 2,800 pounds of ballast. Each boat carries a Lloyds molding certificate. It was designed and built in England, so it is strong enough to han-
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dle the North Sea. Some Centaurs have been delivered across the Atlantic—“on their own bottoms.” In 2001, we found a 1970 model in St. Petersburg for $7500. It did need some modifications to increase comfort and other needed features. It had a two-cylinder Volvo diesel and fair sails. We painted it inside, top and bottom. We added an outboard motor bracket for our 9.9 HP dinghy motor that serves as a backup for the 30-year-old diesel. We added a six-inch foam mattress to provide sleeping comfort. The mainsheet was moved from the end of the boom to midboom to provide more cockpit space. A bridge was built over the companionway to carry the mainsheet track. The two-burner alcohol stove is adequate for cooking. Sandy uses a pressure cooker for many meals and has used it as a Dutch oven to bake bread. I built a fiberglass dodgerBimini that gives six-foot headroom and has a window for viewing the mainsail. A 110-watt solar panel is mounted on the Bimini behind the backstay. Sandy sewed isinglass curtains that roll right down, and bug screens for the cockpit. We eventually added an Engle freezer/refrigerator, which we usually have in the freezer mode to store food and make ice for sundowners. Every morning, we swap a water bottle for the frozen one in the freezer and put it into the camping cooler that serves as an icebox.