The story of Topaz Rival

16 September 2021 | Lymington
15 September 2021 | Chapman’s Pool
14 September 2021 | Weymouth
13 September 2021 | Weymouth
11 September 2021 | Bridport
10 September 2021 | Brixham
06 September 2021 | Dartmouth
05 September 2021 | Dartmouth
04 September 2021 | Dartmouth
02 September 2021 | Plymouth
31 August 2021 | Polkerris
29 August 2021 | Malpas
28 August 2021 | Falmouth
28 August 2021 | Helford River
27 August 2021 | St Michael’s Mount
23 August 2021 | Crosshaven
22 August 2021 | Approaching Ireland
21 August 2021 | Biscay
20 August 2021 | Biscay
19 August 2021 | Biscay

Topaz as purchased

17 December 2018 | Bristol
Martin Whitfield
So Topaz Rival became ours on 17 December 2018. What did we get?

She was built in 1990, but not fitted out and launched until 1996. It seems her original owner intended to do the fitting out himself but eventually this was done by Rossiter's Shipyard in Christchurch.

A fairly standard Rival 36 with retrofitted in-mast furling and a Bukh 36 engine, which looks like it has not had a lot of use. The 36 is a long encapsulated fin keeled boat with the rudder hung securely from a skeg moulded into the hull. A good seaworthy basic design from the late 1980s.

Down below she has a large double fore-cabin (minus the infill unfortunately), the "Jack and Jill" heads with doors to the fore cabin and the saloon. Two single berths in the saloon seats and a quarter berth on the starboard side under the cockpit. The galley is "U" shaped with double sink, cooker and fridge. From the one page paper instruction inside the oven, it appears like the oven has never been used!

The woodwork is lovely throughout and something everybody comments on as it is of a quality that is rare today (unless you have lots of money).

However, there are problems:

She has osmosis from sitting in the water for years and years.
The portlights are crazed, particularly on the port side which faced the sun in the 20 odd years she has been in the same berth in Lymington.
The lines and fenders are covered in mould and dirt. Everything is stiff through lack of use.
The standing rigging is original and needs replacing.
The instruments and radio are all from the 1990s and need updating.
There is a long list of "action" items from the surveyor before she can be considered ready to be moved.
There is an even longer shopping list of things to be done to get Topaz Rival up to scratch.

So why? Well, if we spend wisely we will have a new boat in all but name, but of a quality you cannot easily buy today without spending a fortune. The equation is a cheapish very old boat and lots of money on upgrading versus a more expensive boat 10-years-old with the need for slightly less upgrading. But even 10-year-old electronics are probably due for replacement, as would be the rigging fairly soon etc.

The beauty of Topaz Rival is that she has been purchased from the widow of the original owner (one owner from new), she has been lightly used, and is a blank canvas ready for upgrades of our choosing, rather than from someone else.

Why Topaz Rival?

10 December 2018 | Bristol
Martin Whitfield
Once the search had been roughly narrowed to a Rival 36 (or maybe a Vancouver 34) it was time to hit the internet to have a look at boats available.

Fortunately, there was a selection of Rival 36s for sale (Oct 18) but only a couple of Vancouver 34s and no pilot versions or Vancouver 36s which were the preferred models. There were two Scottish boats but these were put to one side initially as they were a long way away, and both had tiller steering. Although I have always liked a tiller, Dawn is not so keen and 36 feet is probably at the limit of where it can be hard to steer in strong winds unless you have the boat well balanced.

Anyway, this left three (and later four) boats to have a look at. A rangefinding expedition to two - one in Lymington and one in Bucklers' Hard was organised while the various features of the boats were compared in a spread sheet. Remember all the boats are at least 25-years-old and may or may not have had numerous modifications and upgrades over the period. All had their original engines.

We went on a cold and sunny November morning to Bucklers' Hard to Boat A. This had the original layout, a teak deck, in mast mainsail, original 30hp engine and had lived quite a bit of its life in the Mediterranean. It was a nice boat, but something didn't feel right about it. Moving on to Boat B in Lymington was like stepping back in time. Boat B looked like it hadn't been used, at least for a long time and was covered with a good bit of green and black neglect on deck and in the running rigging. Inside, the "Jack and Jill" heads layout was a plus and the woodwork was in fantastic condition, despite some leaks from a couple of the portlights. All the instruments were from the 1990s.

The paper analysis favoured the one other boat for sale, in Ipswich, Suffolk. A second trip was organised, and indeed Boat C was a lovely yacht in good condition which had spent some time in the Baltic. Many of the items, such as standing rigging, sails, electric windlass etc had been replaced. However, it was not to be. Despite telling the broker from Ipswich station that I was going to make an offer after consulting Dawn in Bristol, I got a phone call in Paddington saying the boat had been sold! Apparently, someone had turned up after I left and made an offer on the spot. Needless to say, for a boat that had been on the market for months I found this highly suspicious as the buyer was described as "local".

However, this put the focus back on Boat B. At the same time Boat D appeared on the scene, but his was the same layout as Boat A and still had all its reefing at the mast. And by then, I had fallen slightly for the neglected Boat B, a great blank piece of paper where everything could be replaced to our own specification. This was Topaz Rival.

Offer made, accepted. Survey done, osmosis discovered. New offer made and accepted. She became ours on 17 December in Lymington with the bonus of three months in Lymington Yacht Haven, time for us to get her ready for the journey back to Dartmouth.

Why a Rival

01 December 2018 | Bristol
Martin Whitfield
Why a Rival?

The story really starts the year before if not even earlier. Our boat history over a dozen years has been a Westerly Centaur 26, a Vancouver 36, a Southerly 42 and most recently a Cornish Crabber 26. All good boats and all good at a variety of tasks.

Last year (2018) I took the Crabber around the coast of Britain. What I learned was that this is a great boat for a circumnavigation - small enough with a lifting keel to get in any harbour or anchorage and big enough for fair weather sailing around the UK. For most of the time it was just me and one other plus dog, or just me and a dog so the Crabber was comfortable. It was also very easy to sail single-handed or short-handed.

However, by the time I got back I wanted to go further. Maybe to the Caribbean again or at least the Mediterranean. For this we would need something bigger. But bigger means more expensive and the budget was limited. Bigger also meant the likelihood of needing more crew so there was a limit if I wanted to continue to have an option to sail single-handed when necessary. So big, but cheap boats were also out.

We had crossed the Atlantic in Alice in Red, the Vancouver 36 which we purchased in Florida and sailed back to Bristol in 2013. So this would be big enough for the adventures ahead and I was pretty confident that I would have been able to sail Alice on my own. Funnily enough I had encountered Alice in Suffolk Yacht Harbour as we sailed around and made a serious offer to her new owner to buy her back as she looked a little unloved. His response was that she may have looked unloved but he had started a very serious upgrade and was not tempted in the least by offers of cash being waved in front of him.

So rebuffed, I started looking at similar sorts of boats. Vancouvers, Rustlers, Rivals, Nicholsons, Barbican's and the inevitable top quality Swedish yachts. The Scandinavians were ruled out pretty early due to expense. Nice boats, but the ability to maintain their prices has a downside - even 25-30-year-old boats were expensive and would probably need a good upgrade on top. Rustlers had joined the Swedes as the top end of any budget, probably due to their participation and success in the Golden Globe single-handed circumnavigation race. Most of the boats for sale have tiller steering and the mainsheet crosses the cockpit, both features Dawn and I are not particularly keen on.

As there were only 11 Vancouver 36s ever built it was not surprising to find that they are as rare as hen's teeth on the used market and are pricey when they do appear. The Vancouver 34 is more common but shares the tiller/mainsheet design with the Rustler. Good ones were also pricey as was the less common V34 Pilot which has the mainsheet on the coachroof. We had seen a Nicholson 35 and the interior is very much of its time and relatively cramped for the size of boat.

Which left the Rival 36. Offered with both tiller and wheel steering and with several keel and rig options, the Rival's basic design was very similar to the Vancouver and the interior was almost identical to that of the Rustler and Vancouver. And there were a few for sale at what seemed quite reasonable prices what you were getting.
Vessel Name: Topaz Rival
Vessel Make/Model: Rival 36
Hailing Port: Dartmouth
Crew: Martin Whitfield
About: Plus dog Buzz
Topaz Rival's Photos - Topaz Rival as purchased (Main)
Photos 1 to 11 of 11
Topaz on her original berth: She has been here for 20 years or more
The quarter berth: No to sure whether to believe this, but was told this was the original plastic cover!
Instrument panel: The depth and autopilot work, not so sure about the GPS!
Bukh 36: I’m told that Bukh paint is first class. Well this engine is 29-years-old...
Survey lift shows keel shape: Topaz is the scheel keel version 1.5m draft
Rudder and skeg: As Tom Cunliffe says “a wholesome compromise between precise steering at sea, comfort, and athletic steering in harbour”. We’ll see about the latter...
Dirt and mould: An image of neglect
Deck: Nothing that a good clean can’t solve
Crazy portlights: There are 10 of these...
49 Photos
Created 30 March 2021
Post Covid sailing
5 Photos
Created 11 June 2020
Winter refit at Baltic Wharf
38 Photos | 1 Sub-Album
Created 2 November 2019
A selection of pictures from sailing in 2019
31 Photos
Created 1 August 2019

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