Thursday, October 27, 2016

Differences between Columbia 43 Marks

Columbia produced three versions of the Columbia 43: the original Mark I, a keel-centerboard version called Mark II and, after 1973, a Mark III. There's a lot of myth and misconceptions about the differences, especially between the Mk I and Mk III. I hope to cut through most of this.

Differences by the numbers

The following information came from two Columbia brochures. One is likely for the original model, which was offered as with a fin keel or with an abbreviated fin and swinging centerboard. The MkIII specifications came from a general Columbia brochure (circa 1974) which included the C-43 MkIII.

                      KEEL         KEEL/CENTERBOARD     MkIII
LOA                  43'3"            43'3"             43'9"
LWL                  32'8"            33'0"             32'8"
BEAM                 12'4"            12'4"             12'4"
DRAFT                 6'11"       4'11"/10'3"            7'0"
DISPLACEMENT         22,200           23,500            22,200
BALLAST              10,300           11,600            10,300
SAIL AREA           810 sq ft        810 sq ft         852 sq ft
OPTIONAL POWER              Palmer M60                 50 HP Perkins 4-107 Diesel
WATER                48 gal           48 gal            50 gal
FUEL                 50 gal           50 gal            50 gal
VERTICAL CLEARANCE   58'4"            58'4"             64'4"

Keel differences 

The big difference between the three Marks is in the keels. The Mark I has a cast-iron keel with an intricate shape when viewed from fore or aft. The Mark II has a keel stub, which houses a centerboard. The Mark III has a fiberglass and lead keel the same depth as the Mark I, but with a much shorter chord (the length between the front of the keel and its aft end).

A Mark I keel viewed from the stern.
The Mark I cast-iron keel has a beautiful shape that could only be achieved with a strong, heavy material like iron. It is narrow close to the hull to create a more hydrodynamic shape and then flares out near the bottom to put more weight lower increasing its leverage.

Mark III. Notice the shape of the keel and the skeg-hung rudder.
The designer of the Columbia 43, Bill Tripp, Jr., was rightly famous for his keel-centerboard designs, so you would expect that as an option. Of the three Marks, the Mark II is the most rare. It is also 1300-pounds heavier than either of the other two. I don't know how many Mark IIs Columbia produced, but I have never seen one offered for sale. I imagine the Mark II was somewhat more expensive than the Mark I. Unless shoal-water capability was critical, most owners would skip the extra initial expense and the added maintenance. The keel is the only difference between the Mark I and the Mark II.

When the Mark III came along in 1973 (four years into the production run) it had a new keel with lead ballast and a shorter chord. The lead ballast was necessary because the keel was smaller, which gave it less wetted surface. It also put the ballast lower to accommodate the six-foot taller mast with its higher-aspect rig and 5 percent more sail area.

Rudder differences

Standard Mark I and II rudder.
The optional, skeg-hung rudder on a Mark I looks different
 from the Mark III.

The Mark III rudder was redesigned as well. Instead of the scimitar-shaped balanced spade on most of the Mark I and II models, it has a skeg-hung rudder. I say "most" of the Mark I and II boats because Columbia offered a skeg-hung rudder as a option for the earlier models. Some owners of these boats assume, because it has a skeg-hung rudder, it is a Mark III. It ain't necessarily so.

Bow differences

The Mark I bow on my boat Oceanus.
The bow on the Mark I and II sweeps upward in a beautiful line typical of Tripp designs until it gets to within six inches of the deck, where it goes vertical at the hull and deck joint. I don't know why it was designed and built this way. It could be to keep the boat a half-foot shorter and thus make it rate lower under the CCA (Cruising Club of America) rule, or to make the hull and deck joint easier to build. For whatever reason, the beautiful line of the bow looks broken at the top.

The Mark III carries this line to its logical conclusion, thus lengthening the base of the foretriangle (and the total length of the boat) by six inches. While this improves the aesthetics of the boat, the real reason was to increase headsail area, thus making the Mark III more competitive under the new (at the time) IOR (International
The bow of Magic Woman, a Mark III based in Monterey, Calif.
Offshore Rule). Which brings us to...

The rig

The rig on the Mark III is closer to an early IOR rig than a CCA rig. The headsail area is larger because of the six-inch extension of the bow and a six-foot taller mast. Columbia shortened the boom on the Mark III to give the mainsail a higher aspect favored by the IOR rule. The total rig change increased the sail area of the Mark III from 810 square feet to 852 square feet, or about 5 percent. The lion's share of the increase was in the foretriangle.

Different deadlight

Distant Dreamer, a Mark III based in Japan, shows the two portlights on the cabin sides.
The Mark I and II had the trademark long Columbia deadlight on the 43's small, gun-turret-style house. Most, but not all, Mark IIIs have two smaller rectangular opening portlights on each side.

What remained the same?

Just about everything: Same deck layout, same interior, same construction methods (except for the lead keel), same hull shape, same headroom, same cockpit configuration, in short, all the things that made the Columbia 43 the best selling of Columbia's big racing boats.


Encore heading for the finish in the 1971 Transpac Race where it was the overall winner.
Columbia wanted a great race boat when it commissioned Tripp to design what became the Columbia 43. Specifically, Columbia wanted a boat that could win the Transpac, which starts in Long Beach, Calif., and ends in Honolulu, Hi. That's exactly what they got. In 1971, Encore (a Mark I), won her class in Transpac, and was eighth overall in the fleet. In 1973, after the IOR replaced the CCA as the official rating rule, Columbia introduced the Mark III to keep the model competitive a little longer.

Now that most sailing competition is handicapped under the PHRF (Performance Handicap Rating Formula) the boats are again winning silver. The Mark I has a PHRF rating of 102 and the Mark III has a rating of 96.

Which of all the three models makes a better boat? It depends on its intended use. Since most Columbia 43 owners use their boats primarily to cruise I would venture to say the Mark I gets the nod because of its smaller headsails, shorter mast and the longer, stronger keel. But many owners love cruising in their Mark IIIs. All three variations are on the mark.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sailing the Kona coast on the Island of Hawaii

The sunset from beautiful Kealakekua Bay.
We could have stayed forever in Honomalino Bay, but there was no place to get water, so we headed to the next anchorage, Hookena.

As we entered the bay, a long rock wall with white letters spelling “Aloha” greeted us. We anchored next to a tall cliff riddled with holes and caves. The noise of the water echoed off the wall and back to us. Adjacent to the cliff is a beautiful beach with a popular campground and a dozen or so homes up from the beach.

It's hard to imagine now, but a century earlier Hookena was the major port in south Kona with regular visits from steam ships. We could see the remains of the old wharf and landing. In 1889 Robert Lewis Stevenson came to Hookena to escape the noise and confusion of Honolulu. While we were anchored here I read one of his short stories set partly in Hookena.

We visited the week before school started. There were lots of local families camping there, enjoying their last week of freedom. People are naturally curious about us when we come ashore. We often get peppered with questions. The most common is “What do you eat?” followed by “Do you sleep on your boat?” “How long did it take to sail here?” and “Are you scared?” We answer their questions and, if we like them, them to swim out and visit us, but this rarely happens.

The morning of our second day at Hookena, we looked out and saw three preteens (a brother, sister and the brother's friend) swimming to our boat. We recognized them as questioners from the day before and invited them aboard. We fed them cookies. The next day their older sister and mom swam out to visit us. It was a fun!
Although found on reefs throughout the topical Pacific, yellow tangs must like Hawaii the best. There are so many of them Kona get's its nickname "The Gold Coast" from their great numbers.
We enjoyed snorkeling every day at Hookena. The predominant fish is the ubiquitous yellow tang. There are so many on the Kona side of the Island of Hawaii that it is often called the Gold Coast. We even saw a rare color variant of a yellow tang that was mostly white. Some people call these ghost tangs.
Ghost tang.
We went scuba diving one day with our friend Garry and two of his guests, Ginger and Grant from Texas. We started at the old ruins of the wharf and found interesting rock formations including an arch near the point. The coral is healthy and abundant and so are the reef fish. Virginia saw a reticulated butterflyfish, an octopus, a pair of lined butterflyfish the size of dinner plates and other of our favorite rare fish. Diving the Big Island is always a treat.

Most mornings we were greeted with a pod of dolphins swimming around the boat. They usually stayed a couple of hours jumping and spinning around our boat. Brandon would don fins and mask and join them in the clear water. He would stay in one spot and let the dolphins swim past him. Virginia usually preferred to watch them perched on the deck box. She felt she could see more of the action that way.
Swimming with wild dolphins a Kealakekua Bay.
Some people are weird about swimmers in the water with the spinner dolphins. We are strongly against chasing or harassing them in any way. If you quietly stay in one place the dolphins usually come to you. They seem as interested in us as we are in watching them. A couple of locals who frequent the beach told us that last winter the park was closed because of an outbreak of Dengue Fever in the area. They admitted sneaking in while the park was closed and said they never saw the dolphins come into the bay to swim. Their opinion was the pod wasn't interested in visiting the bay when there are no swimmers to play with.

The Big Island is strict about staying anchored in the same place for more than 72 hours. We pushed our luck and stayed five days before we moved on.

The base of the Capt. Cook monument. 
Our next stop was Kealakekua Bay, best known as the place where Captain James Cook was killed in 1779. The main attraction to this bay is the Marine Conservation District in the north part of the bay and the monument memorializing the spot Cook died. The bay is rightly famous for its coral heads and many varieties of reef fish.

The first morning we were here, Virginia paddled over to the monument on the kayak. Brandon hung on to the back of the kayak for part of the way and swam part of the way from where we were anchored to the monument, about a mile. The effort was worth it. The coral and reef life near the monument was the most beautiful we have ever seen. Snorkel boats and guided groups of kayakers filled the water, but even that couldn't spoil the splendor of the surroundings.

You can't anchor or land a kayak anywhere in the marine conservation area near the monument, so we took turns: one of us staying with the kayak while the other climbed a badly-corroded steel ladder to view the Cook memorial.

Up to this point we hadn't encountered any other cruising boats in Hawaii, But we did meet an ex-cruiser while anchored at Kealakekua Bay. One afternoon, after returning from visiting the monument, a woman named Gretchen swam up to the boat and introduced herself, She said she cruised the South Pacific for a couple of years about a decade ago. We invited her aboard, handed her a towel, and had a wonderful visit. She now lives nearby Kealakekua, but she was born and raised on Kauai.

We enjoyed two beautiful sunsets and a very protected anchorage in Kealakekua Bay. There was almost no motion at night, almost like being in a marina -- not like most of the other anchorages that are open to waves and swell.

We weren't about to push our luck with the 72-hour rule at this anchorage and only stayed two nights then sailed on.
Sunset at Kailua Kona.
Our next stop was the busy town of Kailua Kona. We anchored just out of the harbor and next to a popular swimming lane. All day local people swam by our boat. Many of the swimmers would stop and visit with us. We enjoyed talking with them and several of them told stories about other boats who anchored without regard for the coral. They were impressed that Brandon always dove on the anchor to make sure it or the chain was not a danger to the coral.

Kailua Kona is the tourist hub of the Big Island and we enjoyed walking around this cute shops and historical sites. We ate some pretty good fish 'n chips at a restaurant with a great view of our boat. We also called our Uber girl, Gigi, and arranged for a Costco run and to pick up other supplies.

At anchor in rolly Kailua Kona.
The anchorage is well known for being one of the most consistently uncomfortable anchorage in the islands. We are pretty tolerant of rolly anchorages and were comfortable for the first four days. Then the wind and waves started coming from different directions and we soon learned why no one stays long in Kailua Bay. We decided to leave the next morning.

Alas, our charmed life turned against us. Our engine didn't want to work well. We messed with it all day and got it to function well enough that we could leave the next morning. It wasn't working perfectly, but we were able to get out of the harbor, put up our sails and head to Nishimura Bay, which is on the north end of the Big Island.

There we would wait for fair winds to cross the Alenuihaha Channel. This small bay had a rock wall and beautiful trees amid big lava rocks. Underwater was beautiful as well with plenty of coral and fish. We wished we had taken a picture but we didn't. The wind howled the two days we were anchored so we didn't dare go ashore or snorkel. We were safe in our little bay: while the water was calm in the anchorage, just outside we watched the white caps and big waves march by.

Short drying time in windy Honomalino Bay.
We finally met another cruising boat. They were a California couple who sailed their Hunter 45 sailboat to Hawaii four years ago. They now keep it in a Honolulu marina for most of the year while they are home in California and cruise the islands for a couple of months in the summer. They were headed to Hana on Maui. The day they left the winds looked wicked.

The U.S. Coast Guard warns the “channel is generally regarded as one of the most treacherous channels in the world because of strong winds and high seas.” The channel creates a venturi effect between two of the world's tallest mountains – on Maui, Haleakala and on Hawaii, Mauna Kea. The current generated by 2000 miles of trade winds is forced to funnel in between the two islands making for a strong current.

Our fair winds showed up the next morning, Aug. 16, and away we went. Like many of our passages, we were told how bad it would be. Once again, nothing evil happened and we actually enjoyed the windy sail to Maui. After all, why have such a great sailboat if you can't have wind to sail? Five hours later we dropped our anchor in a big sand patch at Big Beach on the south end of Maui.
Crossing the Alenuihaha Chanel was a blast!