This pocket cruiser and popular club racer is built for speed and comfort
What to look for
Like any boat that’s 40 or more years old, the T26 isn’t immune from the ravages of age. Owners report problems with mast steps sagging, decks suffering from water infiltration and tillers unable to withstand pressure. In many cases, owners found the mast began compressing into the deck whenever the standing rigging was tightened. Potential buyers should inspect the coachroof bridge for signs of weakness and obtain a price quote for the cost of strengthening the cabintop. The hatch on the foredeck has been cited as a problem area on older models. These were replaced on newer models with aluminum-framed, smoked-Plexiglass hatches.
The T26 is a masthead sloop and its 33-foot anodized aluminum mast means less concern about sailing beneath bridges. The mast is deck-stepped. All standing rigging is 1x19 stainless wire. On some models, a boomed, self-tending jib was an option. The sloop has a relatively large, self-bailing cockpit with high seats. The cockpit has a bridgedeck to keep water from entering the cabin. Older models have a recessed mainsheet traveler, which doesn’t interfere with those seated forward in the cockpit.
Spacious is the word below deck, considering the boat’s overall length. The main cabin offers 5 feet 9 inches of headroom and for taller sailors the ability to completely stand up in the companionway when the sliding overhead hatch is drawn open.
The older models sleep six, albeit snuggly with two in the V-berth, four in the settee berths. The V-berth benefits from an opening overhead hatch for light and ventilation, and features shelves to each side. The cabin has a quarterberth aft on the port side, and a double berth on the settee in the dining area. There’s another single settee berth to starboard on the older models.
The head, immediately aft of the V-berth, is curtained or otherwise partitioned to separate it from the rest of the boat. A hanging locker is located directly across from the head.
The cabin features a double-leaf folding table in the dining area, and a small galley with icebox, sink and stove on the starboard side. Over the years, Tanzer introduced interior changes. On older models, the V-berth can be completely closed off as a separate compartment, while the later version is wide open.
The cabin interior on older models is teak veneer, later replaced by simulated woodgrain vinyl.
The vast majority of Tanzer 26s were sold with long-shaft outboard engines, although an estimated 5% of the boats made between 1974 and 1985 were equipped with a Japanese-built Yanmar inboard diesel. A sturdy, non-corrosive bracket was mounted on the transom to lift the outboard completely out of the water.
The original Tanzer 26 brochure describes the boat as both speedy and responsive, and fast enough to win races. It is credited with having a forgiving nature, and while it can be easily sailed by two, it has been the choice of singlehanders. Owners say speeds of 6 knots or more are not unusual. The T26 has a PHRF rating of 216. As one review noted, “These boats have a reputation as a good club racer, but they are equally well known as a comfortable cruising boats that can easily accommodate an average size family.”
T26 owners take pride in the fact that hull No. 226 sailed across the Atlantic twice, including one passage from New York to Lorient, France in 29 days.
The Tanzer 26 is a practical, dependable, relatively low-cost pocket cruiser that can take its owners competitively around the buoys or on more adventurous passages.
SAILING’s Value Guide
(5-sailboat rating system)
PRICE: The price of a Tanzer 26 can range from $3,500 for a 1981 model to nearly $9,000 for boats in New Jersey and Wisconsin. ‘SVG’ RATING: 3
DESIGN QUALITY: A fiberglass masthead sloop, the Tanzer 26 is all about function over form and features a fin keel with transom-hung rudder. ‘SVG’ RATING: 3
CONSTRUCTION QUALITY: The hull is a single unit of hand-laid fiberglass. Hull and deck are mechanically fastened, then glassed over for water tightness. The ballasted fin keel is cast iron and fastened to the reinforced hull with half-inch diameter stainless bolts. The fiberglass rudder is mounted to the transom. ‘SVG’ RATING: 3
USER-FRIENDLINESS: The ability to singlehand a Tanzer 26 is among its most frequently cited benefits. Skippers talk of sailing in 25 to 40 knots of wind with little difficulty. ‘SVG’ RATING: 3
SAFETY: The sloop has a self-draining cockpit. High cockpit seat backs provide protection and excellent visibility for the helmsman. A bridgedeck prevents water from entering the cabin. ‘SVG’ RATING: 3
TYPICAL CONDITION: Owners and potential buyers report the Tanzer 26 stands up to the test of time. Although the needed upgrades are often evident, they do not detract from the boat’s safety or handling capabilities. ‘SVG’ RATING: 3
REFITTING: The first generation of T26s had three or four portals per side. A major design change occurred in 1979 with hull No. 300 when all T26s featured a single long window on each side. Owners devised an improved rudder that has been widely adopted. ‘SVG’ RATING: 3
SUPPORT: Tanzer 26 owners are an active group, with a Facebook page and other online sites. Tanzer 26 parts are available at www.tanzerboatparts.com and www.tanzer-26.com. Information is also available via the Tanzer Owners’ Association Newsletter by email CharteJo@aol.com. ‘SVG’ RATING: 3
AVAILABILITY: Approximately 20 of the 960 Tanzer 26s were on the market in late fall 2018 on both coasts of the United States and in Canada. ‘SVG’ RATING: 3
INVESTMENT AND RESALE: The Tanzer 26 has a relatively low market value, with most boats selling for $4,000 to $5,000. The price is often influenced by the year and condition of the outboard engine and the sails. Parts are easy to find and the boat is simple and cheap to maintain compared to other sailboats in the 25- to 27-foot range. Owners point out the Tanzer 26 can be adapted for use at training camps for young sailors and as club racers, which increases the overall demand. ‘SVG’ RATING: 2.5
OVERALL ‘SVG’ RATING: 3
Draft shoal 2’8”
Displacement 4,350 lbs.
Ballast 1,950 lbs.
Sail area 282 sq. ft.