It was December of 2018 when we closed on our most recent sailboat, a 1990 Kadey Krogen 38 Cutter. After ten years of sailing around Galveston Bay, this was supposed to be our “forever boat.” It was supposed to be a comfortable weekender with space for friends that would provide a great platform to cruise the Caribbean when we were ready.
Kadey Krogen took a lot of design risks with this boat. I think the flush deck makes the entire thing look like a bathtub barge, but my wife loves the look of it, so I put my personal tastes in style aside and gave it a chance. The upside to the flush deck is that it creates an incredibly large, beamy interior. Unfortunately that spacious interior is broken up in a way that leaves occupants constantly crawling around each other, feeling cornered, crowded, and always in the way. The fixed keel model is not quite as bad as the centerboard models because at least the U-shaped settee has access on both ends instead of requiring someone to scoot around the table and remain trapped in the corner the duration of a meal, but the unique galley design manages to completely block access to the companionway, the aft cabin, and all of the electrical panels at once.
On my 27′ Starwind, the galley sink was under the cockpit overhang requiring one to hunch down under the overhang in a strange position to wash dishes. It was so uncomfortable, and I hated it so much that I vowed never to have another boat with a sink under the overhang. The same goes for the entire galley in the Krogen. I absolutely hate it. I understand that there could be some benefit to bracing yourself in the narrow hallway while using the galley underway, but that idea in no way makes it worth the tradeoff of completely blocking the use of the companionway and the traffic flow of the entire boat.
Now let’s talk about that aft cabin. Mary fell in love with it because it has a queen size bed with a window to look out at the anchorage, and a big hanging closet. I will say, the closet it great. I will also say, the area under the bed provides pretty good engine access. It’s not GREAT, but it’s better than on our last boat. However, before we even started looking at boats, we agreed that we did not want a pullman berth that required us to climb over each other to get in and out of bed. The bed in the aft cabin of a Kadey Krogen is a pullman berth. It’s just turned sideways, so it’s even worse than a pullman berth because if you were to use it underway, you would literally have to change which end of the bed you had your head every single time the boat tacked. In the course of the past year I’ve gone from being so excited about that large bed and nice cabin to hating that cabin and bed just as much as I hate the galley and just as much as I hate the crowded one-way-in-one-way-out couch situation. If I’m on the inside, I spend the night pushed into the wall under the overhang. If I’m lucky enough to get the outside, I get pushed off the edge. It’s guaranteed that somebody gets woken up and climbed over at some point every night for a visit to the restroom or to take dogs out, etc.
So let’s talk about the head. The KK38 was one of the few vessels that had a separate shower stall in the head. That was on our list of things we wanted. It seemed great. All in all, over the course of the past 18 months, I think we have used the shower three times. Turns out, we didn’t really need a shower. Meanwhile, there’s no sink in the head to wash your hands. After using the restroom you have to make your way to the Vberth, galley or aft cabin to wash. Having sinks in the bedrooms but not the bathroom makes absolutely zero sense to me. I don’t get it.
Now, if the boat sailed great, and we were having exciting adventures on it, I could live with the inconvenient interior features. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t.
This issue is on me. I knew better than to buy a boat sight unseen, but I got caught up in the excitement and said, sure let’s roll the dice. The previous owner made some interesting rigging changes. The boat came with a non-original mast with a very early version of in-mast furling. Even with the entire system serviced, a brand new sail made just for it, and lessons on how to properly furl the sail in and out, it still took a half-dozen tries yesterday to get the sail out without the furler jamming up. We also have no steering lock or autopilot, so it turns the entire process into a complicated multi-person job with multiple trips to the mast to re-align the furling line to make sure it doesn’t overwrap, etc.
Another huge issue is the Westerbeke W-46 diesel. My Starwind had a Westerbeke 10-Two, and after seeing the prices Westerbeke wanted for a starter and rebuild kits, I literally threw it away and bought a Kubota-based motor. My research and experience has proven that Beta Marine and Yanmar are the two solid, affordable choices for sailboat diesels. You avoid Volvo and Westerbeke like the plague. However, we ended up with a Westerbeke motor and generator. That’s fine until something breaks, and we lost the water pump a couple months ago. It was $940 to get a replacement. The same style water pump on a Ford car engine is literally $30. I searched and searched for a Mitsubishi pump that would fit or for some other alternative. That ridiculous water pump is literally 20 percent of the cost of putting a new Beta Marine 50hp in the boat. It killed me inside to finally do it, but we had no choice.
Unfortunately, the Westerbeke isn’t through with me. While it now runs great in neutral, the transmission is screaming in gear, so I’ve probably got to tear that apart next. As I was investigating that problem I also noticed that I think we have a crack and leak where our stern tube come through the bottom of the boat. Again, not something we could have even guessed at with this boat had we seen it since it was sitting on the hard and couldn’t be put in the water before purchase. Another reason we should have walked away.
Project boats are fun when the projects are small and inexpensive. They’re not fun when they require cranes and thousands of dollars.
With any project, it wouldn’t be so bad if you at least knew you could recoup what has been spent. Unfortunately, to me, the long term value of these boats looks bleak. Of course, that’s not what the owners group will tell you. But I see the same issue with the Mercury Cougar’s owners group. From basbeball cards to beanie babies, people want to believe that what they’re invested in is worth more than it is. I think the “bargain” estate sale price we paid is actually probably not far from the realistic value of these boats in good shape. That puts us extremely upside down on this project, but at some point you have to let go of the money to hang on to your sanity.