Saturday, March 24, 2007

North Star -- Ericson 32

Destination: Avalon Harbor, Catalina Island

Overall North Star is a very solid boat, it handles well, running rig is in good condition, sails are easily adequate for cruising. Its fiberglass exterior has been well maintained and is free from damage. A peek at the bottom while we were dipping the leeward rail at one point tells me that divers swim this boats on a regular basis.

In short: hull, rig and power plant appear to be professionally maintained, as well as seaworthy.

The only thing visually negative about the exterior of this vessel is its teak trim, which has been badly neglected. The varnish or urethane has worn off most of the smaller pieces completely, and the wood is gray and cracked. All of the larger pieces are well on their way to looking the same. This is admittedly a minor point, it wouldn't stop me from chartering this boat again, but if the objective happens to be entertaining clients, North Star will tend to be a bit aesthetically challenged.

As for equipment, in addition to the standard fare, North Star has a couple of very cool gadgets on board, that really enhance the cruising experience:

One is an auto helm -- hardly a necessity for an overnight trip to the islands, but even so, a huge convenience! No more a slave to the binnacle, a skipper is free to fine-tune the sails, take a few photos, or do whatever else that might ordinarily interfere with tending the helm.

The other is a remote microphone for the VHF, with its jack wired back to the cockpit. Not a whole lot to be said of such a thing, but if you've ever lamented the unworkability of typical above-the-chart-table placement of the ship's two-way radio, this feature will be a big plus.

Down below deck the cabin is comfortable and efficient, cushion fabric is in good shape, and berth arrangement is workable. Galley is typical. A modern stereo and 6-CD changer keep the background music flowing. In general the interior is consistent with expectations.

But I had a couple of nit-picks, the main one being weak latches on the doors for the hanging locker in the fore peak. While underway these doors would not stay latched, they swing with the motion of the boat, and slap the bulkheads as you roll with the swells. The noise that this makes becomes irritating in a heartbeat! It's simple enough to fashion makeshift stopper that lasts an hour or two, but it's one more thing to tend... Suffice to say that new latches would be high on my wish list for this boat.

Also, the cabin sole is in need of a little TLC, a power sander and a gallon of urethane would a long way here; and a cracked bilge board at the base of the companion way makes for an odd sensation as you go below, particularly while underway.

The only serious complaint I had with this boat was an apparent wiring problem in the binnacle. The back-light in the compass is dark most of the time, flickering occasionally with vibration. This is cause for concern because the compass light shares a circuit with the running lights; a short to ground would take-down the whole circuit, and little could be done about it while underway. I also couldn't get the navigation instrument cluster to come on, though I didn't try very hard (more interested in my new hand-held GPS, than in trying to figure it out.) I did notice that some bare wire is exposed, due to lack of a grommet and/or strain relief where wires exit steel tubing. Some attention is needed here.

In closing, we had a great trip, and enjoyed the boat. Next time out, North Star won't be my first choice, because minor annoyances give me incentive to see what else the fleet has to offer. Otoh, if it fits my size needs when availability of other yachts is constrained, I'll take it again without hesitation.

  • Seaworthy: Yes
  • Would charter again: Yes
  • First pick of the fleet: No
  • Overall value: Very good
  • Problems: wiring to binnacle, locker door in fore peak