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The Bristol 26, also known as the Sailstar 26, was marketed in 1968 as a spacious sailboat in the days when sitting headroom was not unheard of in vessels this size.
“This is the space age, and Halsey Herreshoff has made the Bristol 26 synonymous with space. It is the only 26-foot boat on the market with a fully-enclosed head, dinette, hanging locker, and sleeping accommodations for five,” the Bristol brochure said.
“It offers full headroom below and an extra large cockpit. Compare her size-wise with boats up to thirty feet long. The magic word is ‘spaciousness. ‘”
More than 230 of the B26s were manufactured by Bristol from 1968 to 1978 in a keel version that draws 3 feet, 10 inches and a centerboard model that draws 2 feet, 10 inches with the board up.
Drawings show that the B26 has a long fin keel with a spade rudder, as opposed to other Bristols of this era, which have full keels with rudders attached to them. Still, this is a seaworthy and stable boat, with a motion comfort ratio of 23.75 that is far better than most 26-footers.
With a beam of 8 feet, spacious may be going a little too far in describing the B26, and sleeping five adults would definitely be cramped for all but the closest of friends, but the cabin is respectable for a boat this size. Headroom is about 5 feet, 10 inches.
The stern has an outboard well with storage for a gas can. It includes an aperture on the transom that makes it possible to tilt the motor out of the water.
“This enables you to eliminate most of the fouling and corrosion of the lower unit,” Bristol said in its brochure.
If you’re buying a B26 and want to install a new outboard, it’s a good idea to measure the engine and the well, which was designed for older and smaller two-strokes instead of today’s heavier four-strokes.
One thing to look for is the depth of the bilge area on a B26. Also, make sure that the resin sealing the ballast from the bilge is intact. (This is similar to the situation on the Bristol/Sailstar 24.)
The reason is that some of these sailboats had lead as ballast; Others had concrete and metal. The B26s with concrete and metal ballast have very shallow bilges.
“If it is deeper, 4-6 inches, you probably have the lead slug and resin fill. That is best! But either are OK so long as no water gets into the cavity!” wrote one Bristol 26 owner in an online posting in 2012.
The danger, the post said, is that water will leak into the cavity if the resin sealing the ballast from the bilge deteriorates.
“OK, It probably will never happen in Florida … However, I personally know 2 owners of 1960s Bristol (Sailstar) yachts who have found their boat’s keel cracked in half during our COLD winter weather (in Minnesota).
“Upon examination, both the man and the lady owners of 2 different yachts could see the hull split in half, on the keel portion. Concrete containing ferrous metals, which had rusted, creating a 7 to 1 coefficient of expansion, were the culprit of the yacht’s self destruction, neither could be repaired.”
Regardless of the climate a B26 exists in, any water in the ballast cavity should be drained, and repairs made so that it doesn’t happen again.
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: 26 feet
LWL: 21 feet, 10 inches
Beam: 8 feet
Draft: 3 feet, 10 inches (keel) 2 feet, 10 inches (centerboard)
Displacement: 5,700 pounds
Designer: Halsey Herreshoff
PHRF New England: 240
Motion comfort ratio: 23.75
What the Bristol brochure said
“Cruising Comfort! This is the space age and Halsey Herreshoff has made the Bristol 26 synonymous with space. It is the only 26-foot boat on the market with a fully enclosed head, dinette, hanging locker, and sleeping accommodations for five. It offers full headroom below and an extra large and an extra large cockpit. Compare her size-wise with boats up to thirty feet long. The magic word is “spaciousness”. Another word is quality control… which includes tank testing.
“Easy to handle! Bristol 26 is standard as a deep keel model. Also available as an option in keel-centerboard design for shoal draft advantages … ideal for exploring inland lakes or shallow bays. Her shallow draft also makes her trailer-ability and outstanding feature.
“Quality bargain! Bristol 26 is a lot of boat for the money. It is priced to put comfortable family cruising within the reach of those who want the pleasures of boating without the high costs usually associated with such spacious accommodations. The 26 gives you the performance and liveability of a Herreshoff design, the lasting value of quality Bristol construction, and freedom to find new horizons of family fun. Try her on for size!
“Bristol 26 standard equipment
“Hull & Deck:
“Molded high-impact fiberglass reinforced polyester resin is entirely hand layup (no gun-chopped fibers)…and is largely woven roving , strongest material available. No fillers are used. Hull and deck thickness vary to suit structural demands. Deckhouse, deck and cockpit are molded in one piece. Deck is mechanically bonded and sealed to hull. Opening forward hatch (translucent) with molded (watertight) gasket receptacle. Full-width non-skid Dexoleum on deck and walkways. Painted boot on waterline. Vinyl anti-fouling bottom paint.
“Exceptionally large self-bailing with a hinged, scuppered cockpit seat hatch over port sail locker. Non-skid Dexoleum on cockpit floor.
“Completely enclosed and includes a transom aperture that makes it possible to tilt the outboard motor and raise the lower unit out of th water. This enables you to eliminate most of the fouling and corrosion of the lower unit.
“All hardware is satin finish chrome-plated bronze or high tensile alloys.
“Exceptionally roomy layout … convertible dinette to two (2) 6′-2″ long berths. Two V-berths forward…6′-2” long. Quarter berth. Five (5) mattresses of polyurethane foam, vinyl cover. Completely enclosed head with dependable Wilcox-Crittenden toilet. Galley counter. A molded fiberglass headliner is standard throughout. Icebox. Interior finish…satin finished mahogany bulkheads and trim.
“Spars & Rigging:
“Standard rigging includes modern masthead rig with fully anodized mast and boom. Stainless wire shrouds. Chrome-plated turnbuckles. Running rigging is Samson (Dacron) yacht braid.
“Long list of quality equipment permits outfitting this craft to custom standards. ”