Line drawings





Draft ……….……………………………………………………………………………………………..3’8”

Displacement……………………………………………………………………………………….7,500 lbs

Ballast……………………………………………………………………………………………….3,500 lbs

Sail Area…………………………………………………………………………………………….347 sq. ft

Sail Area/Displacement……………………………………………………………………………….14.79

Capsize Ratio………………………………………………………………………………………………2.04

Motion Comfort………………………………………………………………………………………….21.71

Displacement to LWL…………………………………………………………………………………….252

Mast ht. above DWL ……………………………………………………………………………………38’7”

Fuel………………………………………………………………………………………………………20 gal

Water…………………………………………………………………………………………………….40 gal


Berths ………………………………………………………………………………………………………..5


Cay of Sea

Bimini, side cockpit curtains and wind scoop are essential warm-weather gear.

Cay of Sea in her hot-weather canvas.  Bimini, cockpit curtains and wind scoop are essential warm-weather gear.

General Description: Our 1981 Watkins 27 is one of the stronger coastal cruisers afloat, featuring thick hand-laid glass, and spars and standing rigging that are factory up-sized for a larger, heavier boat. The fit and finish of interior furniture is average to better-than-average, and the interior combines a fiberglass pan with teak veneer plywood bulkheads, teak trim, and teak accessories like drawer fronts, louvered cabinet doors, fiddles, companionway stairs, and teak ply stowage cabinets above port and starboard berths.  On the “cheap” side, the fold-away dining table is plywood topped with plastic laminate, and of course, the galley countertops are plastic laminate also.  Original cabin lights were also a money-saver for Watkins, and I have finally replaced them with heavier-service all-metal fixtures and LED elements.

Head:  For a 27 foot boat, her head compartment is capacious, nicely appointed with teak accessories, and offers a fair amount of stowage.  Unfortunately, the factory-finished bulkheads were delivered with a garish yellow and green striped wallpaper – we finally painted it white a few years ago, and it has improved the space immeasurably – now it has the classic look of white bulkheads offset with bright-finished teak trim.

Accommodations:  “Designed” to accommodate 5 sleepers, anyone who has been on a boat this size for more than an hour realizes how impractical 5 would be overnight.  The Watkins 27 is the perfect small cruiser for two – spacious, in fact. Accordingly, we dismantled the quarterberth to port, and dedicated it to stowage, ensuring that we would never be tempted to take on another person overnight.  The port side settee is a full-length seating area, on which any adult can stretch out.  The starboard side is short – maybe 66 inches.  This would be appropriate for a child or a smaller adult. These berths are more comfortable for sleeping if the seat backs are removed, which makes for a slightly wider bed.  My wife and I sleep in the v-berth, and are reasonably comfortable, though it takes a bit of getting used to.  We modified the cushions in the v-berth because we noticed that sleeping oriented with our heads aft, we felt like we were lying down hill.  To accommodate, we built up the v-berth cushions under our shoulders to about twice the thickness originally, then let it taper to the single thickness as distance closed to the waist area.  I also converted the hanging locker to shelves, and this has turned out to be a much more practical use of space.  Now when we cruise, there are no gym bags full of clothes to move around the boat because our clothes are stowed in the locker.

Galley:  Typical of small boat designs, there is too much function intended for too little space.  The galley on board Cay of Sea had everything in a very small space to starboard.  We moved some of that function across the aisle when we installed an absorption alcohol stove (Origo 3000) in the area to port where the fold-down chart table is.  The chart table now supports the stove when we’re cooking, and the stove stows behind it when not in use.  This frees up the galley counter area considerably.  We filled the old stove cutout with a plywood panel which created a large, uncluttered work area for food prep.  It also provided access to a large area for stowage underneath.  The sink is well done on this boat. It’s angled towards center in it’s own island, which gives you more work room, and it’s deep – probably 12 inches.  Water doesn’t spill out, it drains on either tack, and it contains our water filter pitcher when we’re under way.  We’ve replaced the pressure water system with hand and foot pumps. The ice box seems okay to us.  In hot weather we can get about four days with 20 pounds of ice.  In cooler weather, several more days than that.  I did install a weather strip around the perimeter of the lid, and we cover the contents with an insulated reflective blanket.  A shelf inside the cooler helps organize the contents.

Galley counter and cabinets

Galley counter and cabinets

Stove in the stowed position. It sits between the fiddles on the deployed chart table when in use. This photo shows the outboard fiddle getting it’s last coat of varnish.

Looking to port from the companionway ladder

Looking to port from the companionway ladder

Port-side settee and cabinet.

Port-side settee and cabinet

Starboard-side settee and cabinet

Starboard-side settee and cabinet

Looking forward

Looking Aft

Looking Aft

Overhead looking aft

Head door

Inside head

Lavatory and cabinets

Overhead and opening port

Former hanging locker, now shelve for clothing stowage.

Former hanging locker, now shelve for clothing stowage.

Vee-berth looking aft and to port

Vee-berth looking aft and to port

Starboard side looking aft

Starboard side looking aft

Inside fore hatch

Outside fore hatch, with UV cover

UV cover off.

Design Strengths-Weaknesses

Beam and Ballast:  She’s a broad boat.  Her 10 foot beam gives her a lot stability, which is good, because she loses a bit of stiffness due to the concrete and steel used for ballast in her encapsulated keel cavity.  A lead keel necessarily carried low, would help her to stand up to seas better, heel less, and carry through chop a little better.  As it stands, however, she is a seaworthy boat even in bad weather.  In fact she can take a lot more bad weather and chop than her crew.  Her broad beam also provides a generous proportion of living space for two.  The difference of interior space compared to a Pearson Triton (a narrow boat) is remarkable.  There is a trade-off for sailing quality, though.  A narrow boat with lead ballast is going to go to weather with more authority, whereas the Watkins tends to pound when the chop gets steep, and strong wind moves forward of the beam.  This is mitigated somewhat by her slack bilges – she has a deep rounded shape coming together at the broad cruising keel (see photos below).  Average windward performance is also directly attributable to her broad beam.  She’s just not going to shoulder to weather like a narrow boat will.  This is not to say she won’t go to weather – she will.  However, sail area management is very important in blustery conditions.  She will go to weather much better if kept on her feet, reducing heel by shortening sail, and not pinching on a weather tack. These techniques will keep her bow from blowing off, and maximize her momentum through short chop.

Rig:  With a Sail Area/Displacement of 14.79 and draft of 3’8″, this boat is not going to win many races.  Again, the nature of the ballast (concrete and steel) and the size of the rig limits her acceleration and stiffness.  Deeper draft and lead ballast at the lower leading edge of the keel would make her stiffer.  As she is, more sail area can certainly be added, but the limiting factor is always going to be sailing comfort and effectiveness.  Generally, more sail area will produce greater angles of heel, which is not ultimately faster.  Our particular boat would benefit a great deal by a brand-new suit of custom sails, as our main is second-hand, and the jib is original.  Proper sail shape with stiff new sailcloth would improve our boat’s performance a good deal.  Still, we are not talking about J24 performance here.  Rather, maximizing the performance of a beamy, heavy cruising yacht that will never be nimble.  The forestay and backstay are sized at .25 inches, with the other stays at 7/32″.  I don’t have the cross-section of the spars at my finger tips, but they are substantially and appropriately sized  You would expect to see them on a larger boat.  This is a robust rig, designed with Florida and Bahamas cruising in mind to accommodate skinny water with her shoal draft and sudden tropical squalls with her heavy spars and rigging.

Safety Off Shore:  The yacht designers say the capsize ratio benchmark for offshore work is any number below 2.0.  And the lower the number below 2.0, the more certain a boat will right itself in a knock-down.  The W27’s capsize ratio is 2.04.  That may lead you to conclude that we shouldn’t go offshore.  The raw number, however, doesn’t really address ultimate seaworthiness. Conservative sailing combines hull shape and stability with choosing a weather window and assessing conditions, and having a well-prepared boat with crew who knows how to handle her.  Any crew can get any boat into trouble by ignoring the weather and not knowing what to do.  On the other hand, a crew who knows their boat and her limitations can safely survive rough conditions with little risk.  We’ve been out in rough conditions with 40 mph winds.  It wasn’t a lot of fun, but there was very little danger, and the boat handled it fine.  We kept sail area to a minimum and used the engine judiciously when needed, and got wet with spray.  We didn’t heel excessively and kept the boat under control.  In fact, we’ve never even come near to a knock-down.  I guess the longer you sail, the more opportunity there is for that to happen, but so far not yet.  Another piece of offshore design orthodoxy is that the cockpit should be small and fast-draining.  We truly don’t meet this criteria because our cockpit is huge.  It is wide, as the stern of the boat is broad.  This can be a problem in rough conditions, because it is difficult to brace yourself comfortably and securely in the cockpit.  The cockpit would also hold an impressive amount of water if she got pooped, some of which would leak directly into the bilge due to our engine access panel that is cut out of the face of a cockpit locker.  So large diameter cockpit drains are a must.

Can’t give you the full profile image because of the way the boat is parked, but you can get an idea of the hull form.

Bow-on View

Cockpit – the locker face on the starboard side is cut down to within two inches of the deck to provide easier access to the engine.

Inboard face of cockpit locker cut out to ease access to engine and stuffing box.

Inboard face of cockpit locker cut out to ease access to engine and stuffing box.

Transom and Cockpit

Gear and Ports:  Some of the gear on the standard boat is a bit lightweight – her travel/mainsheet arrangement, for instance, consists of single blocks port and starboard acting in conjunction with two single blocks mid-boom.  Logically speaking, it’s not quite enough mechanical advantage when the wind pipes up, and although I haven’t had any failure in the blocks themselves, I would feel better if they were a bit heavier duty.  This is a way in which Watkins saved a few coins in production.  Watkins Yachts also fitted her (and most of her cousins) with plastic opening ports – some of them fairly large. The large size is a good thing.  The plastic, however, has limitations.  When reasonably new, they seal well.  As they grow older, UV takes its toll on the material, and eventually the dog flanges become brittle and break off.  When that happens, the ports no longer seal – even with one flange broken – then the entire port must be replaced.  $150 each for the large ones.  Not so bad, I guess.  I find myself in the same position as Watkins Yachts when it’s time to replace ports.  The bronze, steel, or chrome ports are prohibitively expensive for this low-budget sailor, so plastic ports are the natural solution. And they work for quite a few years, to be fair – this current set is going on 11 years and still work fine.

These are plastic ports, made by Gray/Pompanette, that are installed in Cay of Sea.  Ours are the white ones, third row down.

Marginal mainsail adjustment

Engines:  I repowered our boat at about year 26 of its engine’s life.  The original engine was a 15 hp raw-water cooled Yanmar diesel (model # 2qm15) that was wearing out in the top end.  Watkins used several of the low-horsepower engines in the 27, including the YSM 8, and 12.  Not sure why different engines were used, unless it was a buyer option that generated the variations.  Many folks have repowered their 27s with various engines, including Perkins, Yanmar, and Beta.  I looked into rebuilding my old engine, but the raw-water cooling made that an unrealistic idea.  Too much corrosion for too long.  I replaced it with another Yanmar: A new 2gm20f.  This is a fresh-water-cooled engine that produces 16 hp.  It’s a good fit for this boat, and it’s been absolutely trouble-free.  I now have 700-plus hours on it (installed in 2006) and it runs wonderfully well.

The old Yanmar 2qm15, no longer manufactured. It was a noisy beast, but served for 26 years before the top end began to wear out.

This is our new engine, now also discontinued by Yanmar – 2gm20f. They stopped manufacturing this engine the same year I had it installed – 2006.  This engine makes half the noise the old one did.

Other modifications and repairs:  Because the old ports were all leaking, the wood panels below were rotted out from fresh (rain) water intrusion.  I have rebuilt all of these – four panels in all.  Three from new lumber, using the old rotten panels as templates, and one original I was able to salvage and reenforce with some new lumber and judicious use of epoxy resin.

This panel, above the settee back cushion, is built from new lumber. I was able to reuse the plexiglass sliders from the old panels.

This panel was salvaged – mostly original lumber, with some new pieces to strengthen, that were epoxied into place.

My wife built the new cushions throughout the boat, replacing the hideous old, 70s-80s era Herculon. I’ll spare you the photos of the new sanitation system.  I replaced every hose, valve and fixture in the holding tank/toilet system and replumbed the toilet so that it flushes with fresh water pumped into the head’s sink, rather than seawater (it is also plumbed to flush with seawater, if needed).  This has completely eliminated smells from the head. Last fall, due to an aging back, I designed and built an anchor platform.  This has made a huge improvement to handling the ground tackle.  Built from two oak planks laminated together, I fashioned slots for the axle upon which the roller turns, epoxied onto the platform at the correct angle to capture our anchor as it is rolled onboard.  I refinished and reinstalled the platform recently to make up for the make-do finish I applied when initially installed. Since the platform is constructed from red oak (a tough, but rot-prone wood) I encased the finished platform with 3 coats of epoxy, then applied 6 coats of varnish.  I’m confident this will preserve the structure through all seasons with a new top-coat of varnish spring and fall.

Installation phase - Sealant doing its job

Installation phase – Sealant doing its job

Installed with stainless fasteners.

Installed with stainless fasteners.

DSC_1608Conclusions:  Watkins 27s are rugged, spacious boats that can make careful offshore passages in selected weather.  Not fast, but very sturdy, these boats are comfortable coastal cruisers which can be comfortably provisioned and cruised for weeks at a time.  Our longest trip was 10 days, and we felt like we could have been comfortable for a longer stretch given more lay-over time with the travel schedule.

  1. Jan Sopoci said:

    Nice job of “putting it all together”!

  2. Great Web Site from a fellow Watkins owner! You need to cruise on down to Norfolk!

    • I agree John. That would be a nice cruise. Nice meeting you in Deltaville this May. Hope you are sailing more and working less this year.


  3. Richard said:

    I appreciate your site. I have a 27 Watkins in Sarasota FL. and enjoy her very much. I was thinking of going larger but have decided to stick with the 27. We appreciate the room and handling, never made us feel uncomfortable in rough weather.

    • They are very comfortable sailboats. I am always amazed at how spacious our boat is, how attractive the lines are, and how competent she is on the water.

      Thanks for the visit!


  4. Tom and Dale "Eclipse" W27 Moon, VA said:

    Thanks Rick, It is always a pleasure reading your blogs and viewing your photos. Your descriptions also remind me of WHY Dale and I are Watkins owners. The 2013 Watkins Gathering is shaping up as far as number of boats is concerned. We have seven boats committed at this early date so far which, I understand, is just one less than the record of eight attendees at a previous raft-in. Now, the hard work of planning activities begins. We need to get together in the near future to compare notes and ideas.

    • Great numbers for the rendezvous! Ruth and I would love to drive down and “sample” a place for dinner with you guys, and talk about events/activities. Winter months are good for that, ’cause I’m definitely not getting any sailing done now – nor boat work for that matter.

  5. Anonymous said:

    Great story. I am considering a 27 myself and your project is very inspiring.

  6. I think they’re great cruising boats, all things considered.

  7. Watkins 27 owners letter to view and talk 3-6-12

    Dear Watkins Owners:
    I would like to visit and view your Watkins 27, as I think the Watkins 27 would fill my needs for a relatively shallow draft, well built, cruising boat to live aboard from Maine to the Florida Keys and the Bahamas, visiting the Chesapeake in the spring and fall. 
    I like the heavy standing rigging, chain plates and tabernacle. I plan on reinforcing the tabernacle for easier raising and lowering the mast. May want to visit the canals of Europe and France so a tabernacle will facilitate this. I would probably ship the boat there.
    I currently own two Tanzers a 22 and a 24.5′ 7.5, like the Tanzer but looking for more room.
    I live on the Chesapeake Bay in St. Michaels MD.
    Any help, advice or insight you can give would be welcome: email, text or phone.
    Thanks for your help.
    My best,
    Michael Egnatz
    Voice/text cell: 219.405.2028
    Mail: PO Box 631
    St. Michaels MD 2166:

  8. Michael,

    You are welcome to visit us in Deale – although Cay of Sea is something of a mess right now – I have a large project going on at the moment, which will only get larger in the weeks to come. Perhaps when I’ve finished and put the boat back together you would like to come over for a visit. Or it is likely we could rendezvous in St Michaels, as that is only a day’s sail from Deale – and we like sailing over there!

    Fair winds,


  9. I recently discovered the Watkins 27 – what a great boat and reasonable price You have done a magnificent job renewing her, absolutely beautiful!!!.

    • Thanks for your comment, August. The Watkins 27 is a very nice boat, and very well done cruiser. You can spend a long time on a boat like this, and not feel too cramped. They are one of the best values for old boats out there, but buyer beware. They are all long in the tooth now, and they can easily come with all the typical problems a 30-plus year old boat can offer.

      We’ve owned Cay of Sea for 11 years now, and we’ve done a lot of work on her through the years. She still needs more, of course, but the refit never really stops throughout ownership. It’s just a constant cycle of maintenance and keeping ahead of the problems before they become too expensive, or safety concerns.

  10. Anonymous said:

    Great report. Very Informative. Thank you!

  11. Thanks for the post. Very Helpful… We just picked up a 1979 36 AC hull #13 and have lots of questions. I would love to ask about some of the undocumented features you have learned about so I do not have to go through the school of hard knocks.

    • Really? Is that photo of a huge catamaran on your website also your boat? And now you own a Watkins 36 AC too? Maybe I’m misunderstanding something.

      I’m not really up on the W36s. It is so much bigger than my boat that they used all different gear, and of course the construction of the boat is completely different. I recommend that you join the Yahoo Watkins sailboat group at this address: There are a number of W36 owners on that site who can help you.

  12. Adam D. said:

    I’m thinking about doing a very similar swap from a 2QM15 to a 2QM20. I’d like to get in touch with you, and ask for some advise.

    Please get in touch,
    Adam D.

    • Hi Adam,

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the 15 and 20 were built on the same block, and therefore would likely have the same mounting dimensions. I found that dismounting and reinstalling the engine was not difficult at all. It’s not heavy – under 250 lbs – so you can lift it easily with a come-a-long suspended from the boom. I did modify (enlarged) my engine access panel, which made the process much easier. I brought the engine forward out of the compartment with the boom vang – you need to apply forward force as you lift up. Just go slowly, stop a lot and look around. I set the engine on the cabin sole on 6”x6” beams once it was clear of the engine compartment.

      Reinstallation is the process in reverse. You’ll need an aft attachment point for the boom vang to pull the engine back into the space as you lift.

      Measure the engine mountings carefully to see if the 15 and 20 mounts are compatible. You may need to modify the beds. If so, I would advocate building a mock-up of the mounting points out of plywood so you can use that to make adjustments in the engine beds.

      Feel free to call or email. I’ve also sent you a personal email .

  13. kevincurranuw said:

    Hi Rick,

    Great site. I came across your site while looking for some help with my latest boat fix it job.

    I own an older Newport 30 sailboat and am always trying to breathe life into it. Your site has lots of good info for boat projects, so thanks!

    I write a sailing blog that covers DIY projects and sail trips around the west coast of the US. Any interest in exchanging blog links?


    • Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for the contact. I like your site and the kind of information you include. I’m looking forward to digesting your boating insurance information in particular, as at this point, I think I pay too much for mine.

      I have listed your website on my blog roll. Just go to my home page and you’ll see it in the right sidebar.

      Again, thanks for the contact.

      Rick Bailey

      • kevincurranuw said:

        Thanks Rick,
        Yeah – it is about time for me to decide on a new policy as well.. I better re-read my own article.
        I am putting your site up on my boat blog roll right now.

        Fair winds,

  14. Ed said:

    I enjoyed and learned a lot from you on Your Watkins 27, I am looking at buying my first Cruiser. While I like Shannon’s and Island Packet’s they are too pricy for me. I also like the S2 8.5’s Since I am a DIY type of guy and don’t mind learning from experts. I tend to sail conservative, never been into burying the rail. Looks like a Watkins 27 even if it needs a lot of work might be the boat for me.

    • Ed, they are great cruisers. At this point, they are all old and are subject to the typical problems all old boats experience. If/when you buy your boat, just resign yourself to having to address some of those typical old-boat issues. Example: this year I’m planning to recore my side decks and replace chain plates. After 35 years, this isn’t an unreasonable expectation. What is unreasonable is expecting a 35 year old boat to be trouble free, and only cost $6k to purchase!

      Thanks for your comments!

      • Ed said:

        Question on the bowsprit on your Watkins 27. On brochures, etc. I have seen a bowsprit attached. but on many of the 27’s for sale, there is no bowsprit. Also do you like the pedestal wheel configuration or would you prefer a traditional tiller?

      • My boat did not have the anchor platform. I designed and built that myself to accommodate my (then) Danforth. My “new” Delta 33 doesn’t fit in it very well, so I need change it to hold the Delta more securely.

        The platform was a buyer option originally, and many w27s don’t have it.

        On a boat this size, I think a wheel is impractical and soaks too much cockpit space – unless you can install a reverse-oriented wheel, like the Allied Seawinds have. But there are no Watkins with that installation from the factory. So I continue to really prefer the tiller.

  15. Ed said:

    I seriously looking into a couple of 27’s for sale in Virginia (brother works at Newport News shipyard), both around 10K. Just from the photos, they would need a lot of work. I dream of crossing the Atlantic. I figure with watching the weather, I could make it across with no trouble in the Summer for Halifax to Ireland. I been across the Atlantic (Naval ships) about a dozen times all times of the year. February was the worst. August was the best.

    • Ed, I think you could do it in a w27, if it was properly prepared – but that’s true for even the most seaworthy boats – all need fairly extensive preparation.

      $10k seems a little high for w27s that aren’t in really good shape. As you know, this is a buyer’s market for sailboats – you can get a lot of boat for not much money. Although my boat is in really good shape (still few projects to complete :)), I don’t think I could sell it for even half of what I have in it. If these boats aren’t in good shape, look elsewhere.

  16. Ed said:

    Of the 27’s I found so far, The photographs with them look okay. But before I spent money on a survey. I am going to give them a good look. While I am not a qualified boat survey. One of my Jobs for many years was conducting intense material inspections on Navy Ships Boats 26 to 56 feet to identified any problems. We had a stack of preventative maintenance procedures to follow. But the kids never like it when going out on the water. I would always make them use the emergency tiller. Or simulate a engine break down and having them dropped anchor. I would shake my head watching the boat crew dig though the boat gear to get the anchor and rode out.

  17. Anonymous said:

    Question. On boat insurance. What companies would you recommend? Not thinking full coverage would be affordable on my pension. Since I am planning to live aboard and when weather permitting let the wind take me wherever

    • I’m insured with Progressive for full coverage and an agreed upon replacement value not to exceeded $20k. I would have look up my policy to give you my annual premium.

      I don’t think there is any such thing as “affordable” coverage for the live aboard no matter who carries your insurance. In many ways, they are just like auto insurance when it comes to claims. They will pay out MUCH LESS than the actual value that you derive (as a result of your live-aboard status). Typically, you could not replace or contract a professional repair for the settlement they would provide. Here’s a link to an article I wrote concerning this very issue.

  18. A great summation of the possibilities of sailing beyond the shore with a Watkins 27. Getting hooked on owning this boat. I think we found a possible right here on Long I. Not yet for sale, but yard owned and maintained. A good start in seeking a new ride.

    • Nice to hear from you, Adam. Thanks for your perspective on the throttle/gear cables. Were I venturing off for an extended cruise, I would definitely carry spares.

      Good luck with finding a W27 you like.

  19. Ed LePera said:

    I been looking at other boats. But keep,coming back to the Walkins 27. Been reading what others say about then and then I read. Sailing around the world Alone by Joshua Slocum. I think he would have loved the Walkins 27 and there heavy rigging couple along with the available storage. Now i am working on my financing to buy one. Cutting out stuff I don’t need to buy it with a bank looking over my shoulder Thanks for the articles and replying

    • Glad you found the blog helpful. Good luck on getting a great W27. Just remember, even if it seems to be in great shape, you will doubtless need to do some work on her. Any boat that’s 30+ years old is going to need attention. Don’t be surprised by what you have to do to get her shipshape, comfortable, and reliable. Only way to avoid having to do work (i.e. regular and deferred maintenance, and refitting unserviceable areas is to buy a boat that’s had a recent complete refit.

  20. Michael Thomas said:

    Rick, I enjoy reading your blog and your work has given me motivation to fix a few things on my 1979 W27. One issue that I need to address some time in the future is a soft spot on the cabin on the starboard side just forward of the companion way hatch. I have virtually no experience with epoxy/fiberglass so I have been contemplating approaches to minimize the likelihood of a bad cosmetic result. One of my thoughts is to fix the cabin deck from below. If I cut out athwartship panels from the cabin overhead, I can replace the core and reuse the removed panels. I would then hide the panel seams teak strips similar to the overhead trim pieces on your boat. Did you add these trim pieces? Do they serve a purpose of than accent trim?

    Mike Thomas
    Merritt, NC

    • Hi Mike,

      Those trim strips were original to the boat, though I’ve refinished them.

      If I had a soft spot, I would not fix it from below. Gravity is not your friend when laminating glass and replacing core. I’ve seen the results of an “inside job” done by the boat owner, and it was an ugly mess – much more difficult to get right, or remediate, than if it was done from the exterior.

      The reality is, once you’ve opened up the deck or coach roof, you’re pretty much committed to some level of deck painting to make it look right.

      Eventually I will open up my side decks and recore, and I’ll use new laminate to build up the deck – I won’t reuse the old outer skin – I think it’s nearly impossible to make the deck look good again if attempting to use the old outer skin. Using new laminate and thickened epoxy fairing compound, however, allows one to do a multi-step build up of the deck material – and allows one to do until it looks good. The wonderful thing about resin and glass is that you can keep redoing an area until you’re satisfied with the looks of the repair – you can even grind out all of your previous work, and start over. But inside the boat, working over your head with dripping resin, sticky glass and core material that wants to drop down all over you all the time . . . What a mess – and in the space where you want to spend comfortable, cozy time at anchor. Even with plastic sheeting draped everywhere, it would an indescribably messy job.

      Do it from outside. Build up the laminate over new core, then smooth it all out with fairing compound. Paint – spot-apply if the situation warrants, or repaint a larger section, as the situation dictates. And good luck!!!

  21. Anonymous said:

    Thanks for your reply. Generally, my fabrication skills are such that my work is structurally sound but looks like hell. I have no experience with fiberglass, hence my reluctance. Perhaps I can find a small fiberglass job somewhere out of sight on the boat on which I can practice.

    I hope to demast next winter and address possible issues. I think some of my water ingress issues are the penetrations for the mast wires. I also need to take a good look at the chain plates.

    Again, thank you for your advice.


    • Let me assure you, you can do fiberglass work. It’s just not that hard – but like any untried skill, there’s a bit of anxiety. Once you do a small project, your confidence will be established. Starting small is a wise plan. Also, I recommend getting a book “This Old Boat” by Don Casey – perfect dyi boat book for the inexperienced. It helped me tremendously. Covers nearly every skill and task.

  22. Ed said:

    hello, finally narrow down my choice of Watkins 27 out there. am deciding to repower, am looking at a 3JH25 YANMAR to replace the 12 hp in boat.

    • I don’t think you will be disappointed with that choice. It may be a little more power than you need, but you will never regret having the extra umph when you’re punching into headwinds, steep chop and foul current.

      If you’re in the Chesapeake Bay area, consider coming to Watkins rendezvous this year, first weekend of June – Dozier’s Holiday Marina in Deltaville, VA. Meet fellow Watkins owners, and have a good time with us. It’s a fun weekend!

  23. Stephen Walker said:

    Hello Rick,
    Love the boat. You’ve done a great job restoring her. I just bought a 1979 27 Watkins and have a few questions if you wouldn’t mind sharing a little knowledge.

    There is a piece of steel that has serious corrosion under the helm running aft along the steering column. Mine is so corroded I cant tell how or where it terminated aft. I think it may have in some way either supported the rudder shaft or at least encapsulated it. Any information or advice would be appreciated.

  24. Natalie said:

    Hi, I’m new to sailing and have recently started looking for a boat to “get my feet wet” while I improve my skill set and gain more confidence. There is a W29 for sale in my area that I’m interested in, but I think it has a few problems with leaks in some of the portlights and hatches and some mold issues. I also don’t see a deck fill for the water tank. Is that a hard task to accomplish (fitting a deck fill)? It’s a 1984 and they want about $8000 – is it worth that?

    • Hi Natalie,

      The questions you pose are difficult to answer in short form. I’ll sketch some of my thoughts here, and then refer you to a couple of links to articles I’ve written about purchasing old boats.

      The truth is, when you buy a boat that is the age of all Watkins boats (last one built was in ’87, I think), there *will* be issues to address.
      All old boats have problems, but not all old boats have “terminal” problems. My boat’s an example of this. It needed a lot of work when I bought it, but it wasn’t a basket case. Through 15 years of ownership, I’ve addressed some serious problems, and fixed almost all of them myself. This is possible for you too. There are lots of resources of information to access when addressing any project on a boat. The questions you have to answer for yourself are:
      1. How bad (or good) is this boat
      2. Can I afford to pay someone else to fix problems? If not,
      3. Am I willing and/or able to do it myself and save 70% (or more) on the cost of repairs.

      What kinds of things would disqualify your purchasing this W29?
      1. A worn out engine
      2. A deck that is completely soft and leaking into the cabin. Limited sections of soft deck are not a disqualifier – depends on the size of the area and location.
      3. Severe corrosion on the mast and boom
      4. Standing rigging that needs replacement
      5. A mold-saturated cabin (we’re talking “aquarium effect” here). This would affect the cushions as well. In fact, it would affect every part of the interior. And, while it’s not impossible to clean a boat like this, you may not want to take it on, especially if you are sensitive or allergic to mold spores. Replacing cushions is certainly possible, but not cheap even if you do the work yourself. If you hire it out, stand by to write a big check.

      Things that are not disqualifiers:
      1. Leaking ports and hatches – these can be fairly easily replaced or repaired, and not too expensively, if you do the work yourself.
      – be aware that leaks from above (rain water intrusion) leads to rot of wood structures and panels that get wet. This can be fixed without too much trouble or expense also – again, providing you are willing to do the work.
      2. Bottom paint/anti-fouling paint replacement/recoating. This is simply regular maintenance, every year, or every other year.
      3. Worn out cutlass bearing (supports the prop shaft in the hull). Common maintenance issue.
      4. Woodwork that needs refinishing
      5. Various wiring projects and updates.
      6. Resealing deck hardware (stopping leaks)
      7. Installing deck fills
      8. Repairing limited areas of soft deck
      9. Replacing running rigging
      10. Lots of other stuff

      You can also get a boat that’s less than perfect and just sail it – as long as it’s safe to do so (like, the mast isn’t in danger of falling down, the engine starts and runs reliably, the sails are in reasonably serviceable condition). And when you’re ready to move up or on, sell it. You will doubtless lose some money, but there is no fix for that.

      Is $8000 a reasonable price for a 30+ year old W29? Impossible to say without looking at it. You can hire a surveyor who can help you answer that question, but you should be fairly certain this is the boat you want before you take that step, because you can pay as much (or more) that $1000 for a thorough survey.

      I don’t know where you live, but in my country (Maryland, USA) the boat market is a buyer’s market. Lots of great old boats for very little money – the catch? They ALL need some work. Here’s a little perspective: I bought my boat 15 years ago for $8000 – the owner was asking $12k. My boat has needed a lot of work, but ANY boat this age will need that kind of work. It’s just the life and times of old boats. Again, you can choose not to put more money into it beyond purchase (and moorage, and insurance, and registration, and . . . ), and accept the fact that it isn’t perfect. $8000 seems a little steep for a boat that you will sail with no improvements and no potential. If you want to cruise on this boat, you will want to put more effort and money into it, because it becomes both a place to live (even temporarily) and a mode of transport – you don’t want to live in something that’s awful, and you don’t want to rely on transportation that’s unreliable.

      Hope this helps answer some of your questions. The article links appear below for further reading.

      • Anonymous said:


        Thanks for the quick response and the information provided. I’m located in MD and I guess i’ll keep looking for a boat without so many issues. I don’t want to spend $1000 on a boat survey that turns out to be more than I can handle.



  25. Hi Rick; I’ve been an avid reader of your blog for a while. I bought a 81 Watkins 27 approx 4 years ago and have had a difficult time performing any maintenance as it’s on the hard, 2 hrs away. I recently bought a trailer and am anxious to be able to move it home this month to start a never ending project list of my own. I just want to say THANK YOU for such detailed accounting of your repairs and upgrades.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Mark. Good luck with your trailer adventure – Pulling a #9000 boat on a trailer is not an experience I relish, but having it near by is going to be worth it!

      Some unsolicited advice: Drive slowly :-)

      Good luck with all your projects, and don’t hesitate to give me a shout if you need another perspective.

      • Mark said:

        After new trailer brake/bearings, we got her home. Now the fun can begin. :) Trailered quite well btw.

  26. Rey said:

    Hello guys! I am trying to “unbend” our rudder on our 1980 27 Watkins, does anyone have any good tips? Dos and don’ts ?? We will gladly appreciate any help, can repair on rudder be done while floating at dock? Or must we haul out to remove rudder???

    • Rey, I’m assuming you mean that your rudder shaft is bent. I can’t imagine trying to fix that in the slip. It is possible that you can remove your rudder while it’s in the water, but holy cow. . . why would you even want to try?

      You need to haul your boat and drop the rudder in order to straighten the shaft. It’s heavy and awkward, and you’ve got some stuff to take apart below the cockpit sole. Haul the boat. You can service other areas while the boat is out of the water also. You may need to have the boat lifted while you drop the rudder, or you may need to dig a hole underneath it to get enough clearance to slide the shaft out of the tube.

      Good luck, and let me know how things turn out.


  27. Mark said:

    Hello Rick; Once again thanks for all the great posts. It looks beautiful up your way.

    I’ve just started replacing the rub rail and I think I’ll be forced to explore resealing the deck to hull join. I’ve linked to a few images.

    I’m not too sure what I’m seeing, but it looks like a previous owner touched this area before. The screw pattern looks very iffy. As if someone was trying to seal it better by adding screws.

    Have you done any work in this area on Cay-of-Sea?

    Thanks much
    1981 Watkins 27

    • Mark, it looks like your boat could have taken a hit in that area, and the irregular screw pattern is part of a repair. But. . . I would not credit the boat builder with a perfectly symmetrical screw pattern either. Boats aren’t typically built on a super precise, automated production line. They are mostly built by a crew of specialized laborers, and their work can be inconsistent, or at the least non-symmetrical.

      Are you seeing evidence of a leak inside the boat? If not, I would leave it alone. You’re looking at extracting about 600 screws, cleaning out the old sealant, reapplying sealant, and driving in new screws. . . Wow. That’s a lot of labor, especially if it doesn’t address any leaks.

      You likely do have leaks (I do!) but very well may have nothing to do with the hull-deck joint. My leaks come from a couple areas of rotten deck core along the cockpit side deck area (outside the cockpit combings) and leaks around stanchion bases. In fact, a hull-deck joint leak would be unlikely, because the joint itself is a shoe box, with the deck fitting over the hull.

      The Watkins hull-deck joint is very strong. If you want to be certain about it being sealed, I would suggest leaving the screws and joint intact. Clean and prep the area thoroughly, then lay fiberglass cloth (or tape) over the joint – maybe three layers – with epoxy resin. Then sand and fair the new glass. There will need to be paint or gelcoat applied after that, but I still think that’s a better approach to sealing the joint.

      The other option is to reattach the rubber rub strip, and don’t worry about it! If it doesn’t leak, it’s not a problem, and I’m sure that the joint itself is still strong.

      Hope this gives you a couple viable options to think about. I’m getting ready to haul for the winter next week, and have a few chores left before hand: change engine oil, then once she on the hard, winterize the engine cooling system.

      Good luck, and let me know what you decide to do.

      • Mark said:

        Rick; Thanks for the reply. Happy Thanksgiving!

        I agree with your thoughts on the screw pattern and a possible past repair. I would have thought the factory would have had better quality, though maybe not.

        After two years out of the water, I still have a wet bilge. So it’s obvious I also have multiple leak points on upper deck. Mostly around hatches and an old solar head fan. Then I have soft deck areas around the bow cleats and between the aft hatch and cabin entrance area.

        I have a windlass to install so I’ll be reinforcing the bow area anyway.

        Stanchions so far appear good. Hand rails and smaller hardware not so good – rebed.

        All on the repair list.

        The existing rub rail and track is shot. Heavily weathered. When I removed it there was a lot of trapped moisture. Likely from rain. I also found where a previous owner had caulked under the rail and on the outside of the installation screws which lends to attempts to address past leakage.

        Your advice is similar to options I’ve read from others discussing their same issue, but it really helps to see them outlined as you did here.

        I’ve got the rub rail stripped on starboard side and see a few instance of screws sitting in damaged holes

        I’ve probed the sealant and it’s a softer flexible type. So far it looks intact. I’ve tried to take a good look at the inside of the joint but have found the view mostly blocked by the inside overlap of the deck mold.

        Multiple screws rotate very easily when touched with a driver.

        I do see one positive inside leak area on port aft quarter side.

        I hate mission creep, but I think I’ll have to play a bit with one small area to determine time and energy required and compare it to my expected remaining life span.

        Since I have it exposed and weather is good I hate to pass an opportunity.

        I like the glass option and was mentally mulling that over too. Just not sure of the dollar expense on that one yet.

        So, I’ll most likely use a hybrid of all options.

        1. I’ll fill and drill obviously damaged holes, and holes with loose screws, as necessary.

        2. Inspect and probe the existing sealant. Possibly cut out a 1/2 inch of sealant from the bottom of the joint and add new 3M 5200 (or possibly just thickened epoxy).

        3. In areas of positive leaks; accomplish the above and glass over also.

        4. Adapt as necessary to whatever I discover as I go along.

        I believe whatever I do will be an improvement over the existing condition.

        And as long as I get to try out my new nifty 5 amp Dremel oscillating tool I’ll be happy. :)

        Thanks again for your time and willingness to share your knowledge!

  28. One more option, Mark – you can do a more localized repair to the affected area, rather than redoing the entire deck joint.

  29. Steven Osgood said:

    Hi I saved a 27′ watkins from scrap,cost 100.00 in processes of fixing it 1984 has a glass ceiling looks to be one peace.
    some soft areas in top side of cabin and deck. 25 years at Boston whaler till they moved out of ma, fix a lot of decks but this is a challenge. going to have to put scope in to see why its punchy, any one have any I dear in this boats deck ,what it has in decking ?

    • Steven, I think it’s mostly end-grain balsa, but I opened up the companionway hatch several years ago and discovered .5 inch plywood. No telling what you will actually find when you open up the soft spots, but I suspect most of it is balsa.

      • Anonymous said:

        Thank you I plan to send camera in between deck and ceiling to see if that is what they used give it a collinosapy. Lol

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