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Sailing Short Stories

The Com-Pac 27

The Com-Pac Factory had built 3 successful models and it was time for a new boat. Bob Johnson of Island Packet had designed the Com-Pac 19 and he was a good friend of the Hutchinson family just like Clark Mills had been a good friend and designer of the Com-Pac 16 and 23. Gerryís father Hutch played golf with Clark Mills. Anyway, designers get a small part of the profit on every boat built. Itís to their benefit to do a good job and Bob Johnson did just that. The plans were really well though out and the boat looked great on paper. The next job was to make the tooling for the hull and deck. Art Muroney was a well know master carpenter in the Clearwater, Florida area. He started on the hull and it took him almost a year to make the hull plug out of wood. It was a beautiful thing to see. It was big and perfect from side-to-side and end-to-end and top-to-bottom. The deck didnít take as long as the hull and the deck had that traditional Com-Pac look that was so successful on the first 3 models.

Artís son was working as the Shop Forman at the time and Com-Pac had a large crew of experienced boat builders building the smaller boats. 1986 was a perfect time to build the Com-Pac 27. Business was good and the cost of doing business was reasonable. The 27 was going to sell for $36,000 and as a dealer, I had to come up a way to get this boat to my customers. A dealer has to buy a boat from the Factory when ordered and the money has to come from somewhere. The Com-Pac Yacht Association of North Carolina was going strong in the mid 1980s. Gary and Jean Sigvaldsen were the club doers and shakers that made the club work for 20 years. Club members would start off with a 16 and then trade it in on their next boat and so on. With the 27 coming, we were going to see lots of used 23s on the market and we did. The Factory traded me one new 23 for 2 used 23s to help me reduce my inventory of used 23s. That helped some, but we still had a yard full of 23s.

Of the 41 boats The Sailboat Company sold, 2 boats didnít have sea hoods. The sea hood is the cover over the sliding hatch that has those pretty brass dorade vents. The sea hood cost an extra $600 at that time. All but one of the boats came with the standard 11 hp Universal diesel that was really a Kubota engine painted brown. Two of the 41 boats had larger 18 hp, 3 cylinder engines that we installed here. The one factory boat that didnít have a Universal motor was one that had the export model 18 hp Yanmar. Yanmar parts are available World wide and that why Com-Pac used that brand of engine for their export models.

The picture below is hull #13, Thor in the Neuse River. Can you see the stretch marks 1/3 of way back in the genoa and the tell-tales flowing back? Good balance and good speed.

All of the early boats didnít have shore power and it wasnít an option. The Sailboat Company installed shore power on almost all of the early boats and Com-Pac picked up that option soon there after. Everyone wanted furling gear on his or her boats and we mostly installed Harken Furling. Harken is really quality and everyone liked that brand of furling. Most of the early boats were shipped to an Oriental, NC yard were we swaged a furling gear fitting to the headstay. They had the swaging tools and we didnít. Several of the early North Carolina 27s made their initial sea-trial voyages from Oriental to Duck Creek or Fairfield Harbor. Fairfield Harbor changed their name to Northwest Creek Marina when the business was sold many years later. Lots of the trips were made during the winter and it was cold outside. Since the Neuse River is big and wide and with almost no one on the river when it's that cold, I would set my wheel steering brake and go down below and let the boat do its own thing. I didnít stay down below that long, but one time I had a fisherman knock on the hull and ask if anyone was on board. One time I had a gearshift cable problem and had to have my first mate do all the shifting from start to finish. I gave orders from the cockpit and the slave in the engine room responded with the appropriate action. After getting several angry verbal comments from down below, I considered closing the seat hatch, but then I would had a mutiny on my hands and no hot food for a long time to come.

The early boats came with Johnson Sail masts and booms. They are the mast and booms that are painted white. All the early boats had the brown cove stripe that no one liked. The Factory said it was an earth color and just about any canvas color would go with that brown cove. It took a few years, but we finally convinced the Factory to get rid of the brown color. I think the first all white hull was a 1989 model. The newer boats also had 4 ports on a side and that really made a big difference in looks. I have considered changing an older boat to 4 ports, but never did. The early boats had a hull to deck joint connected with threaded bolts. Over time, the bolts would get loose and the joint would leak in the head and galley areas. The fix was to caulk, clamp, drill and install screws. The fix worked and that solved the leak problems.

The owner's that installed larger engines wanted more speed. I donít think they produced more speed, but they did have more power in difficult weather conditions. Leaving Adams Creek with 25 knots of wind on the nose, my standard 27 could barely make headway with the engine running at maximum cruise speed. After leaving the straight channel that was directly into the wind, I pointed the bow towards home and unfurled the jib and boat speed jumped from very slow to 6 knots. If you travel long distances, a bigger engine is desirable. One of those big 3 cylinder engines went to the Kitty Hawk area and the other one Richard Summers took to Key West and Texas. That's the person that made all those long distance trips up and down the east coast in a 27 and circumnavigated the eastern United States in a CP-23D.

After changing the engine in Richardís boat, I did my test at Duck Creek. The propeller that I picked was the wrong propeller. It had too much pitch and I could do wheelie in the Marina. Going from 0 to 4 knots was really fast and thatís where my speed stopped. The next guess was the right guess and the boat had a little more speed and lots of power. The 3 cylinder Universal engine is really smooth and sounded like a V/8 automobile engine. I really liked that engine. The boat that went to Kitty Hawk also needed a short mast because it was going to live behind a bridge. I measured and we cut the mast 12 inches. When you cut the mast, you also need to do the shrouds and the furling gear. This was the second type of furling gear on the 27 and it was being supplied as standard on the 27. We didnít have to change the boom or the bimini with the 12-inch modification. The customer hit the bridge one time on a high tide with his mast fly and he wanted a shorter mast again. I decided we could do another 6 inches without doing the impossible. Although cutting it down was close to being impossible. I think that boat is still in the Kitty Hawk area and Richardís boat is living in the lower Neuse.

A customer that was having a hard time getting good with his 27 wanted me to sail with him from Oriental to Fairfield Harbor and tell him what he was doing wrong. It turned out that he was trying too hard. The boat will sail it-self hands-off. In almost any wind condition, trim the sails and set the wheel brake. The boat will sail a course until the genoa luffs just a little and the boat falls off just a little and then the boat will come back on course as before all by itself. When the genoa luffed just a little, the main behind the CLR pushed the boat back on its original course. The next time the helmís person has to do anything is when it time to tack. Thatís what I call a balanced boat. The owner said his boat sailed better by it-self than when he was at the wheel.

We raced and cruised the 27 all over North Carolina and beyond. My engine sucked air while I was getting ready for a PHRF race on the Neuse. We had lots of wind and waves. I needed to sail home to Duck Creek from the Fairfield Harbor area. I decided not to race in the 50 plus mph winds. I decided not to bleed the engine in all that wind and substantial seas. I put my second reef in the main and started sailing toward home without a jib. The wind was on the nose. The second reef didn't give me enough sail power to go to windward and I though I needed more sail. I changed to the first reef and the boat sailed really well. With just enough mainsail, the boat had enough weather helm to point well and it had enough power to make the miles. I sailed inside Duck Creek and found a wind shadow inside the cheek. Bleeding the engine was easy with less wind and wave action. The 27s did pretty well racing in North Carolina. We could out sail an Island Packet 27 boat for boat. Now and then we could win over other cruising boats if we happen to be better sailors.

Of all the Com-Pacs, I think the 27 is the most sociable boat. 2 couples can sail, eat and sleep on board in great comfort. The little boats are too small for 2 couples including the 25. The 35 certainly can handle 2 couples, but it has lots of overhead. The 27 can handle one or two people at a time or can be very sociable and cruise 2 couples.

Hull #4, Percy coming back from Cape Lookout in the Ocean. Sometimes the ocean can be like a pond. If it had been blowing big time out the south, we would have taken the back-door to Beaufort

The 27 did local cruising really well because 2 couples could play games on the table with sitting room on both sides. Some larger boats are too wide to play games, cards and sometimes seat 4 people at the same time for dinner. Thatís because they canít reach the table even with a table extension. The 27 is just right for entertaining 4 people. It can also be sailed well by 2 people. At night, one person can shower on board and the other person can shower at the marina a so both can be ready at the same time to go to dinner. It is the best boat to take to the Outer Banks and Cape Lookout. Living on a 27 when you get to where you going is good living. You can sleep four people well on a 27 if you know how to do it. Everyone will sleep well unless someone snores. Some people say that I do, but thatís not true.

The first thing I did when I sold a 27 is to show the new ownerís how to park the boat at a marina. 27s travel a lot and itís from marina to marina in most cases. Parking a 27 with grace and style is important. One little secret is ďknow what the current is doing before you untie from the dockĒ. I think I had 600 people looking at me leave the dock in Beaufort, NC. The current got me and the club called me Captain Crunch from that time on. No damage, but I looked bad.

I wish the Factory could still build 27s for $36,000. The next best thing is a used 4 holer 27 with maybe a new bigger engine. A little bit of restoration and it could be almost as good as a new boat. The next step is to go and see all those wonderful places on the ICW.