A Columbia 50...
A newer cruiser / club racer...
A great "all purpose" sailing boat. Works extremely well at sea for long periods of time in all weather conditions (enormous stability; lots of reserve buoyancy; easily handled sailplan; efficient flush deck layout; well protected aft cockpit; interior cabin, head, galley, navigation, dinette, sail storage, foul weather gear layout designed for at-sea functionality, etc).
Overbuilt by modern standards. No known hull failures or blistering reported. Proven durability. Balsa core deck subject to problems if deck penetrations not well sealed.
For many people 50 feet just “seems too big.” They are concerned about slip fees and the cost of equipping and maintaining such a “large” boat. Yet the waterline length, beam and even sail area of a Columbia 50 is often comparable to a modern 40 foot boat. With a few exceptions, many of the ownership costs can be similar.
Excellent sailing qualities on all points of sail in all weather conditions. No “bad habits.” Performance not dependent on use of a large genoa. Low wetted surface aids light air performance. Heavier displacement aids heavy air performance. Shorter waterline (gets longer when sailing) limits practical speed potential to about 8.5 knots.
Fully depreciated, price depends on boat condition only. Generally speaking Columbia 50s represent excellent value on a “dollar per length or pound of boat” basis. Normally you can expect to sell a Columbia 50 for something similar to what you paid for it.
Time and money invested typically well rewarded for an owner who knows what he is doing and who does not want to be limited by size/design characteristics of a smaller, newer boat.
Most Columbia 50s have, by now, had several owners, each of whom had his own ideas about modifications made to the boat. Often there are items that need to be changed, reworked, renewed and so forth. These changes typically benefit from the close involvement of a knowledgeable owner to control cost and ensure quality.
Greater emphasis placed on design features that are valued for short-distance sailing or when in port (light weight, large sail plan, greater hull volume, less ultimate stability; less reserve buoyancy; deck layout often encumbered; interior layout based on separate cabins for couples in port rather than for at-sea watchstanders, minimal storage, etc)
More carefully engineered and typically lighter construction. Often unknown durability but generally expected to be good because of use of vinylester resins, etc.
Cost and the feeling that 50 feet is “too large” will drive many buyers to smaller boats. Yet the overall size, comfort, and weight of a Columbia 50 actually make the boat easier to sail and handle than a smaller, lighter boat that is more affected by sea state. Of course close-quarters maneuvering is always easier in a smaller boat.
Sailing qualities entirely dependent on design/ designer. Often some inherent limitations (eg, sails well downwind but not as well upwind, rounds up when overpowered on a reach, etc). Longer waterline and lighter construction can result in higher speed potential, especially on race boats with a large sailplan.
Will be many times higher for a new boat--even for one of lesser size / capability. Used boats generally offer less boat, less quality or inferior design for the money spent than a Columbia 50. Either way depreciation is often a significant factor for a newer boat in a cost-of-ownership analysis.
Simple, quick solution for someone who just wants a boat to sail and is not too worried about features that may only be fully realized when sailing long distances or spending long periods of time aboard.
Often not-so-good at sea for people who want to sail long distances and know how design differences play out in that environment. (If two double-berths in port is a primary goal, then just about any modern boat will do!) Lesser designs often fade into anonymity and can lose tremendous value over time.
In summary, Columbia 50s seem to work well for knowledgeable sailors/owners who are "involved" with their boats and who appreciate their many carefully developed design details. Although Columbia 50s are no longer competitive on the "grand prix" racing circuit, they will always be well suited as club/classic racers or as long or short distance coastal cruisers. Those who have distant horizons in mind will find the boat well suited to ocean passages especially in comparison to newer boats that are better suited to near-shore sailing, sometimes with marginally better performance in that environment (due to longer waterline / less weight / more sail area).
Columbia 50 Owners' Network
- Life Begins at 50! -
- Life Begins at 50! -