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In my life, I had never imagined myself at the helm of a 30-foot sailboat …

And even less dream of going around the world on board .. and yet!

Me captain?

Let’s say I was more of a motorcycle guy. I have been doing it for over 40 years. Of all kinds and sizes.

What I liked the most: the feeling of freedom!

But, over the years and with family life, the passion crumbled. So much so that I resigned myself to selling everything. And I did it without regret. I was looking for something else … a West? A sailboat?

Westfalia or sailboat?

Question that bothers me …

In the summer of 2016, the year of my “roadtrip” across Canada, I stopped at a friend’s house who had a lodge close to a marina. In the evening, we went to see the boats. I was curious to see. And also curious to know their value.

It didn’t take much more to rekindle the adventurer’s little flame …

I liked the ambiance of the marina. It was calm. There seemed to be a great camaraderie among the owners of the sailboats. They were almost all sailing ships.

The idea of buying myself a Westfalia also appealed to me. I have always liked this kind of vehicle. They are aesthetically beautiful and it’s a way of life that I like; it rhymes perfectly with adventure and freedom.

I admit having shopped a few. I even made an offer to buy.

I also spoke about it, of course, to my children. Westfalia or a sailboat? Since they spend a good part of their summer in a trailer, on a campsite … the answer was unanimous: a sailboat!

Okay, a sailboat! But which one?

I was asking myself a lot of questions: where am I going to go? What water will I be sailing in? The river? I’m a native of Saguenay, I can’t imagine not navigating the fjord! What type of boat do I need to navigate the river and the fjord? When you buy a used boat, a sailboat in addition, what should you look at? It is quite far from my knowledge of motorcycle mechanics, let’s say.

So I asked questions; and I had as many responses as respondents …

Buying a sailboat is not as easy as it seems …

I started by consulting the various sites selling boats, kijiji and company. I had no idea what to look for. And even less what price to pay. There were all sizes. But especially smaller ones, 18, 22 or 24 feet.

Besides, and to show you that I didn’t know myself at all, my first interest was in a small wooden boat. 18 feet. He was very handsome. A pretty sky blue. It looked a bit like a miniature fishing boat. With a small draft of 18 inches! I could see myself docking without difficulty on all the beaches of the St. Lawrence River ….

Fortunately its owner was honest. He kindly explained to me that this boat could neither navigate the river; it was too small, nor technically equipped to do so and with too small an engine …

Refine my knowledge ..!

So I had the good idea to ask on some veileux Facebook groups. And I learned a lot of things there. Among other things, that there were sailboats with an internal engine (called Inboard) and others with an external engine (I’ll let you guess what they are called …) and that that made a difference.

I was also informed about the size of the boats versus the height in the saloon. So for a 25 foot boat it would be difficult in the vast majority of cases to be able to walk upright inside. I will have to walk bend. Even though I’m not a very tall person, I’m 5.10 inches tall, spending my day bent over backwards didn’t really appeal to me. No matter how much time you spend outside on a sailboat, there are rainy days that require you to stay indoors.

Also, I knew there were tides and currents in the river, and in my beloved fjord, but I was told that navigating the St. Lawrence River was difficult. Very difficult. It seems, one of the toughest places in the world !?

So, before buying, I have to better determine my needs.

The serious analysis of my needs

And with this sailboat, what would I like to do? First of all, I want to be able to navigate the St. Lawrence River. In my corner, that is to say the city of Quebec. I also want to be able to sleep four people, so with my three children. I would also like it to be reliable, robust and easy to navigate for a beginner. I want to be able to move around standing inside.


  • I am looking for a boat with a solid hull
  • I don’t want to pay too much, my budget is limited ($ 10,000 max)
  • I want to be able to walk standing inside
  • I want to be able to accommodate at least 4 people
  • I wish to be able to navigate it alone
  • I also want it to be navigable on the river and the fjord
  • And why not in the ocean …
  • I would like it to be well equipped (sonar, GPS, solar panel, etc.)

Man in the early 50s, looking for a sailboat for adventures!

Now that my needs are well identified, here I am looking for the perfect sailboat for me!

I searched the sailboat sales sites. Kijiki. PACs. I also checked the Facebook groups and the boat sales pages. I went to see a few. A Mirage 25, too small inside. But a beautiful boat. A C&C 27, also a very nice boat. But, a lot of work to do …

Then, someone told me about an Alberg 30. The Caribou D. Marine boat according to him. My first instinct is to look a little on the Internet to see what type of boat it is.

I discovered this review by Michael McGoldrick on Wikipedia :

“The design of the Alberg 30 dates back to 1961, and some of its features and appearance are reminiscent of the old wooded sailboats of the 1950s and 1940s. It is interesting to note that when they first started making sailboats out of fiberglass, they tended to build up the hull and other structural areas to the same thickness that would have been found on wooden boats. This extra fiberglass resulted in extremely strong and rugged boats, and this is certainly true of the Alberg 30. In terms of both design and construction, it is one of the more seaworthy 30 footers available on the used market in Canada. Nevertheless, the age of the Alberg 30 design translates into a boat with a narrow beam and limited interior room, and its full keel means it will not have the same pointing ability as a fin keel boat. But the Alberg 30 has a truly devoted following who believe its time-honored appearance will not go out of style, and who appreciate the boat for its bluewater cruising potential. ”

This is a very interesting review of this boat. To learn that sh’s one of the most navigable boats on the Canadian market, that suits me well! I also realize that there is a great community behind these famous Albergs.

I continue my research, I watch somes videos on YouTube about this fabulous Alberg 30. I like its classic look. I must admit that I like her, already!

And, finally, I came across the story and the exploits of MONSIEUR Yves Gélinas. I bought his film with Jean-du-Sud and his book Jean-du-Sud and the Oizo Magik. I still listen to the film once or twice a year, especially when I have visitors in the winter. His book is permanently on my bedside table, on board and on land. Yves toured the world with Jean-du-Sud, her Alberg 30. An incredible story! I also read on his CapeHorn page for his cruise control that even after over 40 years the Alberg 30 was still the ideal boat for him. It was, I believe, the decisive moment …

I’m going to have to go see this splendid Alberg 30, the one named Caribou D.

Photo de Yves Gélinas
Crédit photo M. Yves Gélinas, photo tirée de son site web

The purchase of my sailboat

Many things could have influenced my choice. But the decision was nevertheless easy … as soon as I saw her, I understood that we were going to sail together her and me. I liked his strength. I loved her curves. I was in awe of this classic style.

From my checklist, I only respect a few points …
I don’t care, it’s to her and only to her that I want to entrust my memories!

Four years in dry dock. It’s trying for a sailboat. And it is also trying for those who would like to buy it. And I know it was moving for Michel, a very nice guy, who had owned her for several years. He must have given up on his project … for his own reasons.

The marine inspector from whom I asked for an evaluation will have to orient me well. I don’t know anything. And that’s exactly what he did. He inspected her from top to bottom. The boat could not go to sea in such a state. I would have major work to do to put her back in the water.

But, it is her that I desire … a crush.

Repairs, an inexhaustible mine of learning …

Or how to get to know your boat inside and out and be able to make repairs if something goes wrong!

Let’s face it straight away, the maritime world is a world apart. Everything I learned during my years on the motorbike or as an apartment owner, nothing prepared me for it. If you’re like me, and I’m assuming if you’re reading this you are, you don’t really know anything about it. Either way, I didn’t have any. Everything must be “marine” approved.

You have to think about safety first. Which makes good sense, because sailing with the fear that something will give up on us… uh no, not really!

I spent almost two months re-shaping this boat. I, who had no knowledge of fiberglass, learned. I’ve read quite a bit about it. Watched videos on YouTube, a friend came to guide me when I started, Réal. Later, Marco, who had already worked with fiber, also came to advise me. And then, today, I like working with this material. It’s pretty easy when you know a little about it.

I also did structural work, like the base of the mast. There, I needed Michel, from the Marina Le Bourg d’eau. A professional. I’ve learned to see it do it too.

I also made a multitude of other repairs / upgrades. And honestly, I don’t regret it. I now know my boat a little better. As of today, I’m still so bad at diesel. But, I intend to improve myself soon. If this famous virus can end up ending up …

My advice before buying a sailboat

The first thing I want to tell you is listen to your feeling. And then, do your checklist well. But, we must not be rigid either. I believe. As mentioned above, yes, I had to do a lot of work on my boat, but I’m glad I did. I know the operation better.

Anyway, here are my 9 tips before buying your first sailboat

  1. Do not worry, there are several for sale, you will find the one that will make you vibrate
  2. Try to identify your immediate needs, but also try to project yourself in time, in 5 years, 10 years …
  3. Don’t listen to everything you say, but keep your eyes or ears open
  4. A 30 foot boat is almost as easy to navigate as a smaller boat. If you really want to sail, start with a sailboat you can be comfortable in.
  5. Don’t be put off by the work to be done. Even though they are important. Unless you are not a manual guy, but not at all, you learn a lot to repair and improve your boat. And we save a lot too …
  6. Have it inspected by a certified marine inspector. You will avoid many unpleasant surprises.
  7. Do you have a boat in sight? Ask questions on the forums. But also take a look at what is being said on the internet. Sometimes you can find very interesting information there, like their little flaws that the seller won’t tell you.
  8. If you don’t have an adventurous spirit, opt for a boat with a retractable keel. You can then have fun on the beaches of the lakes.
  9. If you want to go to the river, buy a boat with an internal engine. At least 20HP for a 27 footer. I know some will tell you it’s not necessary, but why bother when you can make it easy?

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May Odin be with you!

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Louis Houde

Author Louis Houde

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