The Columbia 50 has a number of design features that, especially taken together, distinguished it from other boats in its day, and that are even more unusual in comparison to modern boats. Each one is a credit to the genius of Bill Tripp and the attention he paid to getting the dimensions just right.
Of course many racing boats have and have had flush decks because they make a boat easy to work. Just how much of a difference it makes is easy to underestimate if you are accustomed to a big trunk cabin taking up the entire middle of the boat. When you sail on a Columbia 50 for the first time, though, most people quickly get the message. There's enough room to walk around up there...for three people to stand and have a conversation while the boat is sailing along and not feel cramped at all...to run from one side to the other to grab and "this" or a "that" and not think twice about it. There's enough room to put things there too, like Dorade boxes, "granny bars" near the mast, dinghies, kayaks, liferafts, paddleboards, spinnaker poles and reaching struts, rolled up awnings, an anchor windlass, water or fuel jugs, and so forth. Of course you want to be careful not to "junk up the boat" too much, but the point is that all that flat deck space is a wonderfully versatile and useful feature of the design that you can set up just the way you want it.
Mast-Mounted Halyard Winches
First winches were mounted on the mast, then we moved them to the deck adjacent to the mast, and now the trend is to run everything aft. As anyone on a race boat will tell you, the easiest way to use a human body to pull a sail up is to "jump" the halyard. So simply put, if the winch is on the deck or back aft, it takes two people--one to jump and one to tail or, alternatively, raising the sail is going to be very inefficient. And when it comes time to lower a sail, if you're at the mast you're right there to gather the sail up and stow it, put sail ties on it, or whatever. If you're in the cockpit it simply is not nearly as convenient. Of course if the boat is arranged so that going forward and/or working the deck is not easy, then that would be another factor. But in a Columbia 50 keeping the halyard winches on the mast is simple, efficient from many perspectives, and just works extremely well.
If you look carefully at some of the drawings you can see that Tripp had in mind rigid dinghy storage behind the mast, and this works extremely well--so much better than on the foredeck. If the dinghy is inverted the midships hatch can still be opened and the dinghy helps keep spray from coming below. An 8-foot dinghy like a sabot is an easy fit, and some boats have gone up to 10 feet with their dinghies. One problem that has arisen in more modern times is that the use of rigid vangs impacts the dinghy storage space a little, or vice-versa, so that is one area where the owner must decide what the best compromise is for his purposes. Another thing that works well, if a rigid-inflatable dinghy is carried, is to put it behind the mast as well, inverted and facing aft, and deflated, on longer passages. A 10 foot rib is easy to carry this way, and an 11 foot one would probably work as well.
The "doghouse" is, of course, a Bill Tripp trademark, and on the Columbia 50 it exists in an absolutely optimal dimensional state. From the "on deck" perspective, it provides wonderful shelter for the cockpit without taking up too much room on the deck, even moreso when a dodger is fitted. The relatively narrow width of the doghouse means the side decks around it are wide and easy to traverse and the helmsman's view forward isn't impaired any more than it has to be. It's height means it can be a very comfortable backrest for anyone sitting on the deck facing outboard, and it also positions the grabrail optimally for anyone going forward from the cockpit. And on some boats it also serves as a perfect location for the mainsheet traveler. The one negative of the doghouse in some people's minds is one of aesthetics; it seems a little too high. Consequently many of the Sailcrafter models have lower doghouses which often look great but sacrifice many of the advantages cited.
Cockpit (seats, storage, helmsman separated, mainsheet, primary and secondary winches, lazarette, water capacity, drains, depth, backrests, sleeping, cushions, width, seating for dining with a table, lazarette
rig (sloop/yawl/single spreader),
sleeping, eating, relaxing, standing watch
fuel and tank capacities,
fuel consumption and handling under power
storage locker opposite head
Columbia 50 Owners' Network
- Life Begins at 50! -
- Life Begins at 50! -