(1 replies, posted in Repairs/Modifications/Upgrades)

Good day all!

I recently began paying attention to the shopping apps on my phone and noted that diesel air heaters have come down in price.  The video link here discusses the same. 


I am looking for opinions or experience with these things, particularly in connection with the Contessa 26. 

I have already installed a very nice electric wall heater at the base of the hanging locker -- it does a very good job warming up the boat when on shore power.  My inverter will also drive it with the limitation being the usual battery capacity.

Christmas is coming and I am thinking about purchasing one of these.  (Yet more crap for my poor Contessa!)

In addition to the cabin, I thought it might be fun to rig an outlet into the cockpit so that one can warm one's hands on a cold day.  Warmth is a high priority for my long-suffering spouse.  :-)

Where to mount remains a question?  The engine compartment makes the most sense to me, pushed up in the dead area between the aft edge of the compartment cover and the forward end of the lazarette.  An alternative would be beneath the cockpit seats on the port side, between the hull and the manual bilge pump.  It is another dead area on the boat.  Access to either location for maintenance is not perfect;  however it is a boat, and it seems that, by definition, access is always difficult.

Thanks all!



(0 replies, posted in Technical)

Good day all!

My 1976 Contessa came with a set of Aquatronic instruments.  Handsome analogue guages and a fascinating control box full of transistors instead of integrated circuits.

Aquatronic was made by a company called TekFlo in the UK.  That company no longer exists (of course).

This winter I found someone on E-Bay who was dumping a big box of this stuff -- from him I obtained a bunch of wind guages and their corresponding controller.  What is missing is the masthead unit.

I have since learned that all masthead units are not created equal.  Each counts in a different way.  Voltages are also different.  Since the manufacturer no longer exists what I need is either a dead masthead unit that I can dismantle to learn how it works, or a technical manual that explains how the masthead unit actually operates.

My shout-out to the group is in the hopes of tracking down more information (or a masthead unit!). 



(0 replies, posted in Technical)

Good day all!

My 1976 Contessa came with a set of Aquatronic instruments.  Handsome analogue guages and a fascinating control box full of transistors instead of integrated circuits.

Aquatronic was made by a company called TekFlo in the UK.  That company no longer exists (of course).

This winter I found someone on E-Bay who was dumping a big box of this stuff -- from him I obtained a bunch of wind guages and their corresponding controller.  What is missing is the masthead unit.

I have since learned that all masthead units are not created equal.  Each counts in a different way.  Voltages are also different.  Since the manufacturer no longer exists what I need is either a dead masthead unit that I can dismantle to learn how it works, or a technical manual that explains how the masthead unit actually operates.

My shout-out to the group is in the hopes of tracking down more information (or a masthead unit!). 



(3 replies, posted in Wanted)

Thanks Paul!

I will be in touch directly.


(3 replies, posted in Wanted)

Still looking for a trailer!

I also replaced my aging cloudy old compass with another. 

On the opposite side I installed an opening portlight for more light and air.  While it necessitated a big hole in the bulkhead, it was amply reinforced by heavy bronze frame of the port.

As I recall, the bulkhead was about 1/4" solid fibreglass in that area.

If I understand correctly, you will bond a piece of 3/8 smoked plexiglass over the hole and then install your instruments on the sacrificial panel.  To maximize panel strength in the area, as well as to tidy up the exposed wires and fittings inside the boat, consider adding a frame around the inside of the hole, perhaps 3/4" x 1-1/2" tall.  The frame will strengthen the hole addressing any concern that you had about panel strength and deflection.  Finish the box with an additional teak or plexiglass panel inside the boat.  This inside panel, screwed to the frame, protects the wires, hides the backs of the instruments and greatly strengthens what is now a structural box.

BTW, the Contest 101 is a handsome option and relatively inexpensive option.  It lets light pass to the interior and can be read from both sides.

Have fun!



(3 replies, posted in Sails & Rigging)

Not certain if this one made it into the Forums but I attach it here for interest.


Nice job!  To remove the mast you remove the mast base from the mast?


(5 replies, posted in Wanted)

I have a love-hate relationship with the head door on my boat.  Mine is a simple flat door which makes passing it, or even having it clear one's knees when sitting in the v-berth is a challenge.  More recent boats changed to a bi-fold design which would help a lot.   A good curtain might offer sufficient privacy and be much easier to live with.

The water tank I chose was the 150 litre version.

I think it is the same as this one:

https://www.westmarine.com/buy/plastimo … ecordNum=3

Vetus makes a similar tank.

My Contessa has a heavy fibreglass bin that lives in the cabin sole between the two settees.  The tank begins at the bin and runs forward to the V-Berth.  Careful of sharp fibreglass edges in this area -- not so much for you as for the tank!  This particular tank is a little big for the space -- instead of forming a cylinder as pictured, it will conform to its surroundings.  It means I won't get to carry the full 150 litres but it is more water than the boat originally carried.  I believe the old tank was 20 gallons but someone may correct me.   Depending on how you are using the bilge area you could look at the 200 litre tank -- it is the same diameter but longer.  As I said, I wanted to retain the use of the bin.  The area between the bottom of the bin and the top of the keel on my boat makes a nice wine-locker.

Beware of overloading the boat.  It is easy to do.


(10 replies, posted in General Questions/Comments)

Always remember (I tell myself thisall the time!) that the Contessa is a scale model of a real boat -- she is easy to overload and gear like a heavy boat on davits rarely fits properly.

Here is a question -- were you planning to carry an outboard for the inflatable?  If so, it might have more power than the 6.5hp diesel in my boat!

If not planning on a separate motor then what about an inflatable canoe?  Relatively inexpensive, easier to propel and takes up less space on deck.

Yes people read the forum, although less frequently than in the past.  We need more fun questions like this one.

I also have a 1976 Contessa. 

The water tank was under the the port side quarter berth, positioned forward so that part of the top of the tank projected 2-3 inches into the galley sink vanity.  The aft end of the tank was blocked in the quarter berth by a fibreglass panel about 26 inches aft of the galley.  On my boat frost had split the tank at its bottom outlet.  I had a grand fight trying to extract the tank without cutting the fibreglass of the quarter berth.  In the end I decide to scrap the tank -- I cut it into about a dozen pieces for removal.  I now have a Plastimo flexible water tank in the bilge between the head and the hanging locker.  My thinking was to lower the centre of gravity a bit and free space for storage in the quarter berth. 

If your water tank is gone then you have lots of options.  For example Ronco has a very rich catalogue of ready-made tanks.  https://ronco-plastics.com/     

If you want to replace the tank with something similar to the original then you will have to make a larger opening in the top of the quarter berth.  Remember that you will have to close this hole in order to sit down again!

If running twin potable water tanks I would valve between them.  You want to avoid having bad water on one side contaminating the other.

If trying the bilge as I did, the trick lies in the hose runs.  My cabin liner would not allow me to pass a hose from the bilge directly to the galley area.  Instead I ran the hoses forward under the v-berth and then back through the hanging locker to reach the galley.  It makes for long hose runs but has minimal impact on the boat and keeps everything hidden from sight.  I was only required to drill between the hanging locker and the V-berth.

Since I enthusiastically complicate my boat (not recommended!), a tee at the tank feeds a second outlet aft through the bilge into the engine compartment where the electric water pump lives.  My thinking was to make it slightly quieter and group all the mechanical systems in one place.  The water line then passes through the port quarter berth and back to the galley and a very small hot-water heater.  Hot water on demand is a nice luxury.

Good luck!

p.s.  If you do not plan on drinking the water in the tank consider plumbing the sink pump to a sea-cock and carrying potable water in 4-litre plastic jugs.  This is both easy and inexpensive.


(5 replies, posted in Technical)

There is another version of this tank which is about half the capacity.  It fits exactly like this but tucks in under the lip of the seat so I kept more of the locker opening free.  My little Petter sips fuel and for my needs it is quite sufficient.

Nice install BTW!


Shitty luck!

However, Kijiji is your friend!  There are at least half a dozen Contessa's between North Bay and Halifax.  Try the boats in North Bay and Ottawa!  There is a Montreal listing as well.  I know another couple of Montreal Contessa's whose owners may also be open to offers.  It comes down to what features you need and how much you are prepared to pay!

Good hunting!


Congratulations on your new boat and welcome to the forum.

Search the forums and ask your questions.  This website is a tremendous resource.

Check the route of the hoses.  On my 1976 Contessa the tank under the V-Berth is the holding tank -- sewage!  Sewage hoses regularly permeate with smell -- replace them and your boat will smell sweeter.

Look in the Gallery for photos.  There are zillions there.

From your description it may be that your berths have been converted to pipe berths which can conveniently fold out of the way.

For the V-berth there is a wooden insert which connects the two singles to make a relatively wide double berth.  Remember, this is a Contessa -- spacious it is not!



(10 replies, posted in General Questions/Comments)

I also have an inflatable which I hate and therefore never inflate.  Mine lives in the V-Berth lockers adjacent to the hanging locker.

For our little boats I think a folding dinghy is the answer.  A Portabote tied to the lifelines would be perfect in my opinion.  And I have had plans for Fliptail from WoodenWidget for ages.

So many projects and so little time!

Good hunting.


(2 replies, posted in Site Support/Comments)

This is a great site!  Thanks Adrian!


(9 replies, posted in Cruising)

Thanks to Oliver for the corrections.  Nice to know the builders were more on the ball than we guessed!

It would be interesting to see the effect of the lead ballast on the stability of the boat.  Lead would have lowered the centre of gravity of the ballast which should have made the boat stiffer.  I wonder if the difference is noticeable.

MatildaCO26 -- bravo!  I admire that you have a vision for your boat and have set about making it a reality!


(9 replies, posted in Cruising)

I bow to John's experience on this one.  No doubt you can load a lot on a Contessa.  I can easily stuff my car a couple of times over with all my junk.

The pamphlet for my 1976 JJ Taylor Contessa lists her displacement as 5400 lbs.  This is probably for a very empty boat!

I once read that the boot stripe on the JJ Taylor Contessas was set for salt water.  Because of the difference in water density, the boat sits deeper in fresh water.  Perhaps this is why my boot stripe is always partially immersed.  Having gone to the trouble of applying more than half a dozen coats of Interprotect to seal the bottom of my boat, it seems ridiculous to leave relatively porous gelcoat exposed to long-term immersion along the waterline.  On my boat the boot stripe is cream in colour, and hence is easily stained.  Therefore it is the most scrubbed area of my boat, and potentially the most worn area of gelcoat.  As you might guess, I have decided to raise the boot stripe this spring!

Now to and4ew's question:  The cockpit drains are about 4" above the waterline.  If you put a bunch of heavy people in the cockpit, the stern will depress, and water will begin backing up the drains onto the cockpit sole.  While this can be entertaining on a hot day with a merry crew, it poses great risk for the boat.  Most Contessa's suffer from poor seals on the cockpit sole panel over the engine compartment.  For my boat, if the drains back-flood then water will begin to pour into the engine compartment and the bilge.  Which moves water faster?  Two 1-1/2" drains fed by gravity, or a single 1-1/4" bilge pump outlet fed by a manual or small electric pump?  You can see how a couple of heavy rubber bungs might become very useful! 

Commercial ships are very interested in the figure TPI -- tonnes per inch immersion.  This tells the shipowner or captain how much cargo he can load for each inch the ship sits deeper in the water.  We can use this same idea to answer and4ew's question.

The waterplane coefficient is the the proportion of boat relative to the proportion of a box defined by length and breadth.  That is, Cwp = AREAwp / (LWL * BWL).  Unfortunately I've never seen this figure listed for the Contessa.  However we can make some reasonable assumptions and from there find the waterplane area (AREAwp).  (Sorry that I have not mastered subscripts on the forum!).

-- LWL for the Contessa is about 20ft.
-- BOA for the Contessa is 7.5 ft, so a reasonable guess at BWL is 7 ft.
-- If we look at the top view of the boat and estimate by eye the ratio of boat relative to the LWL and BWL box we might use a figure of 0.7.  Thus our AREAwp = 0.7 * 20 * 7 ==> about 100 square feet.  For this exercise we will neglect that the waterplane area changes as the boat sits deeper in the water.

Picture a slice of the boat taken at the waterline, one inch thick.  It would have a volume of 8.33 cubic feet (1/12 feet * 100 square feet).  A cubic foot of fresh water weighs 62.47lbs.  Therefore each inch you depress the Contessa corresponds to about 520 lbs.  For salt water one could use 64 lbs/ft3.  Therefore each each inch of immersion in salt water would correspond to about 533 lbs.  Personally I would use the fresh water figure as it is more conservative.

Now you can see where we are going -- by these estimates, if I put 2100 lbs into my boat (people, batteries, fuel, water, food, books, beach toys, etc.) then my cockpit drains begin to fill the boat and I am at risk of sinking. 

One other thing to consider might be to estimate the weight of water in the bilge, up to the cabin sole.  This would be the point at which you would be able to see that something was very wrong down below.  Until then the level of water in the bilge is invisible unless you lift a panel.  If your fully loaded boat can be filled to the cabin sole and not experience flooding from the cockpit drains then all is well.

As for weight distribution, if you can get the weight low in the boat, such as at the bottom of the bilge, then you can make the boat slightly stiffer -- it will heel a little less easily.  Put all the weight at above the deck and she becomes very tender and will try to flop around and shed all that deck cargo.  I encourage you to experiment with a bunch of people on a hot day!

This is not a bad exercise for sizing a trailer too.  Let's pretend that my boat is hauled out and put on a 1600 lb trailer.  For a dry empty boat weighing 5400 lbs the combination of trailer and boat weighs 7000lbs and could potentially be supported by two 3500lb axles.  However, my fully loaded boat might weigh as much as 7400lbs until I get all the tanks emptied.  This means that the axles of the trailer would need to be rated for an all-up weight of 9000 lbs.  Trailer axles are sold in steps so I would have to change from axles rated for 3500 lbs to axles rated for 5200 lbs.


(0 replies, posted in Wanted)

Good day all!

I am looking for the frames for a Natty Dodger for the Contessa.  I have a skin but not the bows. 

Given the cost to replace one of these, I wondered if there are owners out there whom have decided to not replace aging dodgers who might be interested in selling the hardware.




(5 replies, posted in Technical)

Ha!  I am glad it was not me!  It could have been though.  One year I launched with the valve for the head's overboard discharge open (for others reading in Canada it is illegal to plumb to this valve so it had never had a hose installed).  I happened to be present at launch and heard the water making a mess of the forepeak.  10 seconds and the valve was closed but had I not been present...

The problem for the Contessa is that the cockpit drain seacocks are virtually inaccessible if you need to get to their seacocks in a hurry.  I would have to notice the problem (i.e. water over the floorboards), not panic, find a screw driver (lockers are filling from below now), remove the cockpit floor panel (with so much water inside the boat the cockpit sole is now below the waterline so the drains are back-filling the cockpit) and then close the valves (which are now under water) -- all while more water rushes in faster & faster!  I would be sunk before I got them.

And of course there is the underlying assumption that someone is around to notice if I am not there.

I think that the real value of seacocks is the convenience of replacing hoses or related fittings while the boat is in the water.  BUT, if you maintain your boat, if you inspect, if you pay a little bit of attention, your hoses should be totally reliable.  And if you must have seacocks, put them where you can reach them in a hurry. 

I was on a big Hunter last year and noted that all the plumbing was led to one area in the middle of the cabin sole.  It was done for the builder's benefit since he could install all the through-hulls on a panel on a bench and then install them in the boat all at once.  From the user's perspective, it meant one stop shopping.  One area to check, one area to maintain, one area to run to if there is a problem.  While this is not practical for the Contessa, if I were determined to have seacocks and if I was prepared to re-locate the through hulls, then I would relocate the valves to the area between the batteries and the cockpit sole.  At least they would be in a place where I might be able to use them in a hurry.

The boat looks great.  Bravo on a good purchase!

Suggestion:  Go sailing with the rig as-is for this season.  The boat works well as-is and I think you should be very familiar with it before undertaking such a major change.  You need to know what you like and do not like about the boat, what your spouse likes or hates about the boat, and of course the costs for the project.  You may even decide that the Junk rig will not address the parts of the boat you don't like.  For example, the Contessa is tender and heels easily.  A junk rig will not change this.


(5 replies, posted in Technical)

Ha!  I am the expert on over-doing these boats -- did you see the monster sea-cocks I added for cockpit drains?  Completely unnecessary overkill!

Welcome to the world of Contessa's!

First, don't panic.  Your boat is over 40 years old and has not yet fallen apart.

And apologies in advance for a long post.

The foredeck of my 1976 Contessa makes a crackly noise but is dry and otherwise sound.  I have rebedded everything but the toerails on my boat which addressed any leaks due to absent and failed caulking.  I have found damp plywood under the poop deck (adjacent to the transom) due to leaking and poorly installed engine vents.  My firs suggestion to you might be to start looking at your boat in this area to learn how it is constructed. 

Your boat predates mine and is an early example of how boat builder's experimented with using cores to make their boats lighter.  For modern boats, the inner and outer skins are similar in thickness, just like the top and bottom of a steel I-beam.  This takes the best advantage of using cores (whether wood, balsa or foam) to lighten a panel.  In the case of our Contessa's plywood was used as the core (or the web of an i-beam) -- it is heavier than balsa but was commonly available and familiar to builders who were migrating from wooden boats to frozen snot fibreglass.

If you lift out one of the clamshell vents you will see that your deck is a sandwich comprised of gelcoat, between 1/4" and 3/8" of solid glass and resin, 1/2" to 3/4" of plywood and finally another skin of fibreglass which might be as much as 1/16" thick.  There are photos showing this style of construction in the gallery.

Also note that the plywood may not be fully encapsulated -- mine was not.  The builders laid a tow of wet glass over the plywood but left two of the four plywood edges exposed.  The good news is that in this configuration the plywood will dry itself out once you address how the water got there in the first place.  If you want to see another part of your boat, try lying on your back in the foot-well portion of your quarterberths.  There is no liner here and you should be looking up at the bottom of the winches and the reinforcements for the side decks.  The point to understand here is that the builder used the plywood to stiffen a spongy-feeling deck but the strength came mostly from the fibreglass and not the combination of glass and core.  For the most part, the bottom flange of the i-beam was never made so the real strength in the deck remains in the upper fibreglass layer.  Fibreglass is a plastic composite -- it is EXPECTED to flex -- so again, don't panic.

The crackle in the foredeck on my boat is an old problem and may go right back to the original construction of the boat.  It is not uncommon for boat builders to fail to use sufficient resin in layups and this leads to dryspots.  Wood and balsa commonly soak up resin like sponges and make leave the boundary between the core and the adjacent glass dry before the resin kicks off.  Also, remember that the core that Taylor's used for our boats was plywood.  In larger panels such as a cabin top, there may be a void between the flat plywood and the cambered deck.

Next step:  one area I would look at would be the condition of the mast step.  It is a poor design IMO and directs water into itself.  You should get a moisture meter and compare its
state to the rest of the boat.  You can learn a lot about your boat from a moisture meter and a few holes drilled upwards from inside the boat.  Also, follow your nose -- does the boat smell rotten -- moldy or mildew?  Do you see water streaks or leaks inside the cabin?  If not, then your deck may not be too bad.

The liner is just that -- a liner.  It is a skin which is loosely attached in a few places inside the cabin.  It is intended to hide the rough underside of the deck and reduce condensation.  In your Contessa it is not structural.

Something else:  rotten deck cores are a very common problem in all boats and there are many ways to make the repair.  Although I am in Canada, I have worked in the boat repair business and I would be shocked if a deck re-core for boat this size would cost more than $5k.  And you can help the shipwright along the way by removing and reinstalling various fittings (you'll be trading off epoxy rashes for days of 4200 stickiness but you will save a lot of labour as well as learn more about your boat).

Finally, my advice is the same as Seeadler's:  go go sailing.  The boat is great funm and even with a creaky deck it will be a pleasure to sail.  As you learn more about the boat you can decide what repair projects to tackle.



(5 replies, posted in Technical)

Question:  why screw it on instead of bonding with 4200 or 5200 or epoxy? 

Were you concerned about water intrusion into the bottom the keel?