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The Bristol 29.9 came out in 1977 as a way to tap into the market for roomier, more modern sailboats while maintaining the Bristol reputation for tough, seaworthy vessels.
Designed by Halsey Herreshoff, the 29.9 is a departure from his earlier full-keel designs for Bristol, with a long fin keel and a rudder protected by a full skeg. Still, it was built with offshore in mind.
Bristol even briefly promoted the 29.9 as a Midget Ocean Racing Club (MORC) candidate, although it was never seriously considered by anyone as more than a PHRF club racer for going around the buoys.
In a September 2011 online comment, one owner vouched for the seaworthiness of the 29.9.
“You can take a 29.9 anywhere and in any weather you are dumb enough to sail (in). We’ve owned Paloma since she was almost new and sail offshore most of the time. We have sailed her all over the Gulf of Mexico, including the 600+ mile trip to Isla Mujeres several times and the Galveston to Vera Cruz race three times,” said John Shasteen of Houston Tx., owner of Paloma, a 1979 Bristol 29.9.
“Twice, over the years, we have been caught in Force 10 storms, the most recent was in March of ’08 – according to Coast Guard New Orleans, and confirmed by Coast Guard South Padre, the winds were 50-60, gusting higher and seas were 28-30 feet in the area were were in — we ran before the storm for some 36 hours before it finally abated – we worried for ourselves, but not for Paloma.”
Bristol built more than 215 of the 29.9s from 1977 to 1986, promoting it largely as a roomy cruising sailboat for its size.
“Herreshoff … located the engine way aft for better utilization of interior space. This, plus ample beam and over six feet of headroom, provide exceptional spaciousness and convenience for her size,” the Bristol brochure said.
The 29.9 is a beamy 10 feet, 2 inches that even allows for a small chart table at the head of the quarter berth on the port side, a rarity in this size of sailboat.
Otherwise, it was traditionally styled with a V berth up front, with a head to port and hanging locker to starboard behind it and a salon with double settees, one of which converts to a small double.
The galley had two versions: In one, the sink was traditionally located near the companionway hatch, where it could get in the way of someone not watching where he is going. In the second model, it is forward of the stove.
As with most sailboats, Bristol built too many berths — six. The 29.9 can carry a couple comfortably, as well as a couple of small children, or two couples who don’t mind being up close and personal.
The 29.9 came out as Bristol was transforming itself into a top-notch sailboat builder, so the gear was all best quality for the time and the wood was mahogany and teak. The cabins were beautifully finished.
Some of the 29.9s came with a centerboard and more shallow draft. If you buy one of these, know that you have to have to pay regular attention to the centerboard cable. If it breaks through negligence, replacing it is difficult work.
As with all older sailboats, have it checked out thoroughly if you are considering a purchase.
Conditions vary widely because some owners didn’t do required maintenance, and even small vessels can require thousands of dollars in repairs and upgrades if they were neglected.
Hull type: Fin keel
LOA: 29.92 feet
LWL: 24 feet
Beam: 10.2 feet
Draft: 4.4 feet (keel; 3 feet, 6 inches (centerboard)
Displacement: 8,650 pounds
Designer: Halsey Herreshoff
Water tank: 63 gallons
Fuel tank: 18 gallons
Motion comfort ratio: 23.36
What the Bristol brochure said
“Quality Protects Your Investment!
“A yacht is a big investment. Minimize depreciation . . . increase appreciation . . . go the quality route! Bristol-craftsmen have been instilled with the “quality policy” since our pioneering days in fiberglass. Our criteria . . .outstanding performance and accommodations, superior marine materials and workmanship,excellent factory warranty and followup service, and pride in the ultimate craft. Our models from 22 to 40 feet reflect the Bristol tradition. The new Bristol Classic 29.9 is typical:
“Dual-purpose design. The Bristol 29.9 is designed for successful racing under MORC and IOR . . . with unusual accommodations for her size. The waterline is long in relation to over-all length. The lead ballast is positioned for low center of gravity . . . for good sail-carrying ability. The aft rudder, with fixed skeg, provides positive steering control and assures exceptional directional stability.
“The designer, Halsey C. Herreshoff, located the engine way aft for better utilization of interior space. This, plus ample beam and over six feet of headroom, provide exceptional spaciousness and convenience for her size . . . as drawings and/or a personal inspection show. Each “warmth-of-wood” interior is fabricated individually of quality woods . . . glued and screwed (stainless steel and brass screws). . . not stapled or air-hammered together.
“Quality construction, for example, is evident in the deck-to-hull joining. The deck is laid inside the hull on an integral flange (see sketch)… in a sealant-type bedding compound and securely fastened (to- gether with teak-trim toe rails) with stainless steel bolts. The resulting joint is extremely strong and tight.
“Bristol quality features: hulls made by hand lay-up process using full-strength resin; best available spars and rigging . . . up to off-shore cruising specs; anodized spars . . not spray epoxy or lacquer-protected; ports are Almag 35 high tensile aluminum alloy. . . not plastic with outside finishing ring; teak hand- laid cabin soles in most interiors; generous use of Philippine/Honduras mahogany and best available teak; exposed interiors of hull are gel- coated for easy cleaning; top grade marine hardware (Shaeffer Marine, Nicro/Fico, Ros- tand ports, Edson steering systems, Merriman tumbuckles, etc); Bomar hatches; stainless steel anchor roller stemhead; seacocks on all thru-hull fittings; Woolsey marine finishes Woolsey Vinelast=AE bottom paint; heavy 3/8″ lifelines; heavy pelican hook; stainless steel fastenings on all deck and hull hardware; weld- ed bow and stern rails; Lewmar winches; plus a long list of other standard and optional equip- ment for customizing your Bristol Classic 29.9.
“BRISTOL CRUISING 29.9
Yanmar 15 H.P. Engine
Manual Bilge Pump
Lifelines and Stanchions
2 Burner Recessed Stove
Anodized Mast & Boom
Genoa Track w/Block on Slide
1 Opening Port
Anchor Roller Stemhead
1 #8 Lewmar Jib Halyard Winch
1 #8 Lewmar Main Sheet Winch
2 #30 Lewmar Jib/Genoa Sheet Winches
1 Standard & 1 Lock-in Winch Handle
10′ Genoa Track
2nd Bow Cleat
Fuel Tank Capacity – 19 Gallons
Bow Water Tank Capacity – 38 Gallons
Keel Water Tank Capacity – 25 Gallons”