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The Cape Dory Typhoon - America's Littlest Yacht

By JimmyBlues

There's a saying in the boating world, which to some degree applies to all boats, be they inexpensive or prohibitively so.

A boat is a hole in the water into which one throws their money (and in some instances a good part of their life savings).

Another saying is that being on a boat is a lot like being in prison with the chance of drowning.

Now given the two aformentioned statements, one might wonder why someone would want to attempt the hobby/sport of recreational boating at all.

However, once one gets past the frightening hyperbole of this hobby, it can be quite the enticing mistress (at least the boats themselves can be). And for this author, sailboats in particular, have worked their magic spell on me.

Once one overcomes any fear of the water and learns to maintain a healthy respect for it, boating can become one of the most enjoyable combinations of adventurous excitement, tranquility and release from the daily stresses of life, that exists.

There is the smell of the salt air, which not only clears one's lungs but also one's mind, while endowing them with a healthy appetite at the end of the day.

Then there's that ruddy complexion that all sailors get after being out on the water that exudes the picture of health.

Once one has experienced life on the water or as some like to say - boating life - the next step is choosing a vessel which will at the very least, serve their basic needs.

Once one has decided whether to purchase a sailboat or a powerboat, and established a price range for the vessel, the next important decision is in regard to the vessel's seaworthyness.

The next aspect to concentrate on will be the boat's accomodations.

How many berths will the boat have?

Will it have a full galley; a full head; an engine?

These are all variables to be considered when making one's purchase.

And if you are purchasing a powerboat will the vessel use gas or diesel engines?

If a sailboat, what type of sailing configuration will the vessel use?

Last but not least, how large will the boat be?

This aspect is key, since once the boat reaches a certain length, trailering it may become difficult. For this reason many people choose starter boats at under 20 feet. This enables them to trailer the boats and dry sail them. Or if necessary, they can even launch them and then purchase moorings in which to keep them on during the season, instead of having to deal with launching the boat and hauling it back on the trailer each time they use it.

There are numerous choices to make in sailboats ranging from one designs which are specifically built for racing and competing against the same types of boats, to daysailers, weekenders and long range cruisers.

Depending on one's purpose, the choices are wide and varied. While some sailors prefer the more contemporary designs, others enjoy the classics such as Alberg, Sparkman and Stevens and Herreshoff, just to name a few.

Seldom if ever do the designers actually build the boats they design, instead, employing a quality boat builder, who enlists these naval architects to design boats based on their specifications.

The boats must meet certain criteria in regard to their beams, waterlines, sail area, draft etc. Above all though, they must be seaworthy, reasonably comfortable and attractively styled.

The Cape Dory Typhoon

One of this author's particular favorites and the subject of this article, is the Cape Dory Typhoon daysailor; a Carl Alberg design of the 1960's, which was constructed for roughly 20 years before being discontinued.

And while the Typhoon is only 18 and half feet long, she's as stylish a sailboat as has ever been built.

Her wineglass stern is an immediate eye catcher, and bespeaks a simpler time where the clean lines of a traditional sailboat were of paramount importance to its owner, as opposed to the modern day, where a beamy boat with a long waterline has become the standard which most boaters seek when purchasing a sailing vessel.

The Typhoon is certainly classic in her appearance, with relatively low freeboard and a nice clean sweep of the hull ending with a graceful yet subtle arch at the bow.

The liberal use of teak on her topsides also adds a warmth to her traditional lines and the combination is quite beautiful to look at.

However, the Typhoon Weekender is not just a pretty face. She displaces roughly 2000 lbs, of which nearly 50% of this weight can be found in her keel.

The Typhoon's full keel makes her very seaworthy, and allows her to ride the waves as well as a much heavier vessel. She is a might tender though, given her relatively low draft and 6' 3" beam. However, nothing that would cause a problem to an experienced captain.

The Typhoon is quite capable in light air, despite her traditional low aspect rig. Her niche is definitely heavy air though, where her nearly 50/50 displacement enables her to cruise nicely, even through 3 to 4 foot waves or more. She is easy to handle and can be roll tacked in a hurry in close quarters should the need arise. Afterall, she is only a little over 18 feet, and only a ton in displacement.

The Typhoon is as capable off the wind as she is heading into it, and can also be had with an optional spinakker if so desired.

And while she will not outrun newer designs of the same length and displacement, she will certainly give them a run for their money. However, when the winds start to gust, and the seas become a might more than your average sailboat can handle safely, the Typhoon will still be out while the rest of the fleet has high-tailed it back to shore.

As with all Cape Dory Yachts, the Typhoon also has a reputation for easily coping with heavy weather. This author can recall on more than one occasion, people seeing me heading out on very windy days while making the comment: "today's a Typhoon weather day."

And how right they were. They certainly knew of this little boat's reputation for seaworthyness.

And I can state without a doubt that while she may not be the dryest boat in her class, she is certainly as seaworthy as any to be built in the last 40 years.

Nearly More Than A Decade & A Half In Production

The last of the Typhoons was built in 1985, and at that time there were roughly 2200 of them in existence. Typhoons were constructed in three different configurations; the first being the weekender which had a full cabin; the second, a daysailer with a cubby cabin; and finally an open cockpit version of which only a handful were ever built.

While they do come on the market from time to time, finding used Typhoons that are in good condition for sale will take patience. And locating Typhoons that are in excellent condition will take time, since they are rare. As such, one must be prepared to pay a premium for such boats.

Moreover, if you are financially well to do and the Typhoon catches your fancy, RobinHood Marine, in Cape Cod, Massachuetts, maintains the original moulds for it, and for a considerable sum will build you one with a slightly more detailed interior than the original had.

While it has been years since this author has checked with RobinHood, roughly 16 years ago the base price of a Typhoon was $19,500; this was the base price for the boat less sails, engine, trailer and miscellaneous items.

After all these years one may conclude that a newly minted Typhoon will now run her buyer between $30,000 and $40,000, depending on how well equipped they want their boat.

Given that nice used Typhoons do occasionally show up on the used market, and cost roughly 20 percent of the aforesaid price bracket, you may want to take your time and wait for an excellent used one to come on the market before making your purchase, and spend the thousands that you save, on maintainance, yard fees, and the myriad of other miscellaneous expenses that come with owning a boat.

In any event, whether you buy a new Typhoon or a well used one, she'll give you years of enjoyment, and many wonderful memories to look back on.

In the Typhoon, Cape Dory has really built one heck of a little boat!

Regardless of what boat you own, may the sun shine on you and the wind always blow from the stern!