Early Owners Stories

Michael Zorn
W32 Polaris
WOA Forum - July 2013

Westsail had its problems. They could have been easily avoided. The first major problem was water leaking past corroding gudgeon bolts into the ballast cavity, causing the boiler punchings to rust and expand threatening the integrity of the hull.All those sailing entusiasts at Westsail did not think of filling the gudgeon location area up with mishmash (asbstos mixed with PE resin to the desired consistency).

Nobody cared that the gudgeons and stainless steel bolts would cause a strong electrolytic reaction. I do not know how many boats had that problem before that was corrected. When I bought my first W32, an all lead ballast was offered in response to that occurrance. The boat I ordered had then the all lead ballast, I assembled the interior, added an engine, rigging, no tanks yet and launched the boat in King Harbor, Redondo Beach, California.

The boat floated nose down. I immediately notified Westsail Corp and "they" said that they would fix it by adding ballast into the stern cavity. - One advantage an all lead ballast had, was that the old ingot and punchings combo was too risky and took too much potential storage volume of the keel space. Also a boat was pictured on a "Windblown" issue with two CQRs hanging from the bow sprit, and I intended to carry at least as many (see my blog in a decades ago westsail blog about Hurricane Iwa on Kauai in 1982).- Yeah, they added a ton of lead in my precious bilge space, but not enough to allow for two 35 CQR on the bow without the bobstay fitting being permanently under water, unless I store the anchors elsewhere when parked in a marina. Anyway, having the ballast right up to the aft cabin sole, instead being the space for fuel tanks was ridiculous, and I wanted the agreed to storage space there.

A friend from UCLA law school had the same problem with his W32 and decided to cancel the sale, saving all the head aches. I knew that the Westsail company was barely "staying afloat" themselves and they would not/could not give me my money back and compensate me for my time building the interior. I instead asked to have the problem fixed and I hired an attorney to deal with the legal issues. A meeting was set up with Westsail Corp, Bill Crealock and myself and the attorney. In the meeting my attorney was insulted, Bill Crealock also claimed that the extra ton would make the boat sail "smoother" to which I replied that the Disneyland submarines would run smoothly too, because they run on tracks in the pools.

In the end, we agreed to have the ballast rmoved aft, and the additional added ballast removed. I am asking myself how did Bill C. get jobs designing other boats after this fiasco?.- To allow Westsail to fix the boat, I sailed it down to Newport Beach and tied it up in one of the Westsail Corp. slips there. The boat was totally empty, except for my installed interior furniture, and with a minimum of weight it actually sailed very well. In Newport Beach, Westsail started to work on the boat, and it turned out that the three keel castings were also set into steel punchings not mishmash. It was clear from their attempts to move the ballast, that the project was not workable.

We settled for a newy boat with two of the ballast castings placed into a position at my direction, and the balance in lead ingots uninstalled just stored in the aft end of the keel cavity, a new interior with a few modifications installed to bring it up to state the first boat was built. The rigging was not set up, I took the new boat from Newport to Redondo with no problems just under engine power ( that is the subject for another day). I took the ingots after measuring the keel space to a lead casting company and had them cast long bars which I fitted into the aft space behind the big castings. In Redondo I filled in the space aft of the two already installed castings with castings I had made from the ingots and beddded them in thin mishmash and a hint of catalyst in the space aft. The ocean water temperature is below 60 degrees Fahrenheit and it would take the polymerisation (chemical hardeing process) a long time to occur safely.

After finishing all this, I ended up with a boat that floats on it's lines with two CQRs, 450 feet of chain underneath the V berth. My boat is distinctive in that it has a stainless steel bowsprit of my own design, as I wanted to have a place to sit watching the fish swim in the bow wave. The bow sprit I had made by a fabricator that made the ones for the Islander ketches. Same with the boomkin, it has a stern anchor set up, but that was more problems in Hawaii during a tropical depression, as I should have allowed the boat swing more in a crowded anchorage.

There are other improvements that could have and should have been made. It is not too late for a talented individual to do them if a custom boat would be built today. The hull halves where they joined underneath on the keel were not finished, causing growth there and making it difficult to clean the hull. The wooden boomkin is the attachment for the main sheet , but one can not add a wind generator there. That is why I went for a stainless steel boomkin, and to be able to hang an anchor there. That was in 1976 and effective wind generators were not available. Nevertheless, I bought one while in London from Thomas Foulkes (probably not in business anymore), and that was a disappointment. No wind generator mast for that needed.

My solar panels I kept on deck, as I had them on there in light weather on the ocean( My Volvo MD3B had a waterpump problem leaking water ito the crank case in midocean, disabling the engine). While living aboard in Redondo Beach/King Harbor the output of the panels was not great either in the late 70s, but ten of them at least ran all the lights, and a tiny BW TV, not enough for the fridge. The wiring of the dock was defective and nearly sank a large trawler. So I ended up having "green" power by supplying my own.

In retrospect, Westsail Corp and Bill Crealock should have avoided that problem with the nose down. In those days, b.c. (Before Computer) one did physical testing. If not a scale model mockup, the the real thing, without assembling would be floated, because once you glue the lid (attach the deck permanently) shut, you cannot lift the ballast with a crane and this test would be a cheaper than the legal costs dealing with unhappy customers. There are other areas of criticism, but after all these years let us not hurt each other even more.

There were other issues happening with Westsail: Such as the hull and deck joint did not fit properly together, and when I through bolted the genoa tracks, the bad assembly became a liability as the stress caused the 1.5" thick mishmash filler between the deck and hull to crack. Westsail Corp, when they opened the East cost plant, needed a second set of molds. TheCalifornia hull mold stayed, and a new hull mold was built for the East Coast. The West Coast got a new deck mold. Finally both sets of molds mated properly on the subsequent hulls and decks constructed. It is difficult to predict the shrinkage on parts the size of boats when the polyesther resin cures. I do not blame them, it happened with other boat manufacturers too.

I do not know what Westsail Corp did to make the returned boat acceptable to the prospective purchasers and if the next owner had a competent marine surveyor to protect himself. The boat is likely in Southern California judging by the hailing port, but my experience with it would have precluded me from trans oceanic voyages in it in the condition Westsail sold it to me.

Michael Zorn
W32 Polaris

Bud Taplin
Now, even I know the rest of the story.

I had heard rumors from a number of my old friends that still worked at Westsail about the screwup of the placing of the three pieces of cast lead ballast, and the problems with the first few of the boats that were ballasted with the cast lead.

The mistake was made by the engineer that Westsail had working at the time and the decision was made to go with cast lead ballast.  I do not recall his name though, as I was no longer working for Westsail.  I believe that there were only five to ten boats affected before the problem was corrected.  It took that many boats because of the time delay in getting the first one in the water and discovering the problem, and Westsail was laminating at least a W32  every two or three days.



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