A sturdy, surprisingly roomy pocket cruiser to sail the world or the lake
Pocket cruisers have always attracted sailors for a variety of reasons, whether they're young people first entering the market, empty-nesters making the decision to downsize or simply enthusiasts seeking entry to shallower bays, coves and harbors. Ideally, these little yachts offer a blend of cruising comfort and performance in an efficient package.
The challenge is finding the right blend without too many compromises, and that's exactly what designer W.I.B. "Gentleman Bill" Crealock had in mind when he designed the Dana 24, built by Fullerton, California-based Pacific Seacraft.
Crealock's years of cruising experience and distinctive designs have made him one of the world's leading authorities on performance cruisers. He has commented on the importance of control and balance, particularly when the yacht is short-handed on a bluewater voyage-and that performance is only one of numerous aspects that must be included in the design mix.
Given the punishment a bluewater boat may have to endure, integrity in construction is also a critical factor, and Crealock considered Pacific Seacraft to be just the right manufacturing partner. Fortune magazine listed the boatbuilder as one of 100 U.S. companies recognized to be the finest of their kind in the world; it was the only sailboat manufacturer represented.
Long known for solid construction and attention to detail, Pacific Seacraft has produced more than 2,000 boats to date, from the Crealock 44 to the Dana 24. While the Dana 24 was out of production for a few years, its popularity never waned. Thanks to that, and the resurgence of the small-boat market in recent years, brand-new 24s started coming off the Pacific Seacraft line in 2002.
Big cruiser in a small package
The Dana 24 captures the essence of Bill Crealock's work. It features a balanced, efficient sailplan with manageably sized individual sails, a high ballast ratio and a sophisticated hull design. This gives her striking maneuverability on all points of sail, and it allows it to provide good windward performance, a feature often lacking in many pocket cruisers.
This sturdy little yacht also is very forgiving. While it has the comfort, balance and speed of its Pacific Seacraft 34 and 37 sisterships, the 24 is easily managed by a short-handed crew or a singlehander. And it's trailerable, giving its owners enviable flexibility in selecting new cruising grounds.
Part of the Dana 24's appeal is its traditional appearance, from its beefy bow pulpit and sweet sheerline to the chrome bronze deck hardware and teak loop handrails on the cabinhouse. This classic feel extends belowdecks, where the saloon exudes the warmth of hand-rubbed oiled teak, with teak joinery and cabinets above a teak-and-holly sole.
With 6 feet, 1 inch of headroom, the Dana 24 feels like a much larger yacht. Stepping down the companionway, to port you will find a full galley with a gimbaled two-burner propane stove with oven and broiler, a large insulated icebox, a 10-inch-deep sink with hand-pump and a fold-up extension to the counter space. To starboard is the walk-in head compartment, which incorporates the head, a sink with hand pump, an integral shower pan and a hanging locker for wet gear.
Four people can sleep comfortably aboard the 24, with two 6-foot, 6-inch settees and a forward berth that is 6 feet, 8 inches long and 6 feet, 9 inches wide. The yacht offers additional storage with two large drawers and a drop locker beneath the berth, cabin shelving with removable fiddles and a hanging locker with a louvered door for extra ventilation. A dining table slides out from under the V-berth. With a clever hinged center, it fits neatly around the interior post, and it can be used fully or partially extended.
This is a lot of boat in a small package. There's a reason why several Dana 24s have circumnavigated.
Taking on a classic
Liveaboard cruising was the name of the game when we set out to find our next retrofit, and the Dana 24 seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Quite a few Dana 24s are available on the used-boat market, from California and Washington to the Eastern Seaboard, and we found that prices ranged from $45,000 for a 1985 model to $115,000 for a 2004 boat.
We found the right boat for $51,000, a 1988 with a Yanmar 2GM20F 18-horsepower, two-cylinder diesel engine. It featured the eight round portlights of the older Danas; Pacific Seacraft replaced these with rectangular versions in the newer models.
This Dana 24's previous owner must have had cruising on the brain as well, as the yacht was outfitted with a fairly new electronics package, an autopilot and a brand-new canvas dodger. He had replaced the mainsail cover and the cockpit cushions for the 24's two 6-foot, 3-inch seats, and we were pleased to see the yacht's halyards and two single-line reefs led aft to the cockpit as part of Pacific Seacraft's "Singlehander's Package."
Our biggest concern was the engine, as it had more than 2,000 hours on it. Immediately we enlisted our nearest Yanmar dealer, who inspected the engine and gave it a tune-up. If it has been well-maintained, marine diesels can average 5,000 hours before a major overhaul; fortunately, ours fell into that category.
The boat was solid, and the engine had plenty of miles left in her. So, when we considered our next project, we envisioned what we would need for extended cruising in our Great Lakes home waters. We started with the cabin.
It's all about the environment
Good ventilation not only increases liveaboard comfort, it also extends the lifetime of your cabin equipment. While the Dana 24 features eight opening portlights and a forward hatch, we decided to install two dorade vents in the cabintop, forward of the dodger and just aft of the hatch. We chose Chesapeake Teak dorade boxes and 3-inch cast low-profile cowl vents, which came equipped with stainless-steel deck plates, for a total cost of $618.
A dorade box is a single-chamber system with a baffle between the air intake and the interior to prevent water from entering the interior. To install the vent, we wanted to first make sure that it wouldn't interfere with wiring, internal structures or on-deck equipment and walking areas. We created a cardboard template of the vents to guarantee good placement, and then we traced the box's outline on the deck.
After we cut the bottom of each box to fit the deck's camber, checking it frequently to ensure proper fit, we used a jigsaw to cut the holes. We purchased some 3M 5200 fast-curing polyurethane adhesive sealant so we could seal the cut deck core and avoid future problems with rot.
We added weep holes on each side of the boxes, forward and aft of the baffle for good drainage, and secured the boxes to the deck. Finally, we used Dolfinite bedding compound to firmly seat the boxes. This tan, heavy-bodied compound provides a waterproof seal, yet still allows easy removal if necessary.
While summer days in the Great Lakes can be hot and humid, evenings tend to cool off nicely-particularly in the northern lakes. We decided to forgo an expensive air-conditioning system and instead rely on natural air flow from the vents, portlights and hatch. To deal with the occasional stuffy evening, we purchased a simple Guest 900 marine cabin fan from Redden Marine Supply for $89.44. The 71/2-inch, 12-volt fan draws 1.2 amps and features 120-degree oscillation.
A heater, however, would prove useful for extending our cruising season into the spring and fall shoulder months. A previous owner must have agreed, as the boat was already equipped to handle a three-inch flue. We selected a Sigmar 180 stainless-steel diesel cabin heater from Go2Marine. It has the same flue size and outputs 6,000 to 18,000 Btu-more than enough for the Dana 24's cozy cabin. The 18-pound heater stands 20 inches high and is 10 inches in diameter; it has a hinged bronze top and even a small cooking surface. We chose the brass model to complement the 24's classic interior.
Prepare to launch
While the Dana 24's existing sails were adequate, they weren't holding their shape as well as we would have liked. So, we decided a new suit would be the right way to start off the next sailing season. Fortunately, since the 24 is back on the production line, we could go straight to Pacific Seacraft. For a total of $3,493, we purchased an Ullman 7-ounce, full-batten mainsail with two reefs and an Ullman 7-ounce, 110-percent genoa with reef.
For an additional $440, we got the roller-furling headsail upgrade. While you do lose a little sail area with the system, we felt it was a worthy trade-off. To increase the Dana 24's user-friendliness for short-handed sailing, we also found two Lewmar 30BST two-speed, self-tailing winches online through WMJ Marine for $1,560.
We were almost finished. While the previous owner had cleaned the 24 up reasonably well, we noticed some stubborn spots in the deck's nonskid coating. 3M's nonskid deck cleaner did the trick. We also turned to 3M to handle the moderate oxidation on the boat's topsides. We purchased the company's marine cleaner-and-wax combo, a light rubbing compound with a blend of waxes. One application cleaned, polished and protected the oxidized surfaces.
Since we still had a little left in our $8,000 retrofit budget, we splurged and purchased a Force 10 Stow N' Go propane barbecue with a cockpit rail mount for $170. Nothing is better for a festive afternoon at the marina or cool evenings in a secluded anchorage. And now, for approximately 15 percent of her purchase price, our Dana 24 was ready to cast off the docklines come spring.
Displacement 8,000 lb.
Ballast 3,200 lb.
Sail Area 356 sq. ft.
Project list and cost summary
1988 Dana 24 $51,000
1. Engine service/maintenance $400
2. Teak dorade boxes $288
3. Stainless steel cast cowl vents $330
4. 3M Fast-Cure 5200 Polyurethane Adhesive Sealant $14
5. Dolfinite Bedding Compound $33
6. Guest 900 marine cabin fan $89
7. Cabin heater $893
8. Ullman full-batten mainsail $1,915
9. Ullman 110% genoa $1,578
10. Roller-furling upgrade for headsails $440
11. Lewmar self-tailing winches $1,560
12. 3M Marine cleaner & wax $27
13. 3M Nonskid deck cleaner $20
14. BBQ w/rail mount $170
Total retrofit work $7,757
15% of purchase price
Grand total $149,325