Westsail 32



El Viajero on anchor in December 2008

under way with main and headsail set

the Skipper & his first Mate, Cutty the Portuguese Water Dog.


I have had my Westsail since July 2004. After exhaustive research I finally decided that this yacht was the ideal yacht for me.  The more I researched, the more I realised that there is no perfect yacht, but each is a compromise built for a specific purpose.

One great thing about Westsails is the association of owners (www.westsail.org) and the fact that many Westsails have an interesting history.

It was difficult to obtain a W32 in Australia, as they are an American production boat. I had considered buying one in the U.S. and sailing her back. I placed an advertisement on the owners association website in the U.S. hoping someone may be considering sailing to Australia. I received a response from an owner who was in Sydney. He had bought his W32 a few years ago, but hadn't done any sailing on it and was considering going overseas. It was timely for both of us and the end result was that I bought his yacht.

About the Westsail 32

Westsails have a wonderful history and approximately 800 of the W32's were produced for a very short period from about 1973 up until about 1980.  They are more of a little ship than a yacht and their sea keeping ability and build quality is legendary. 

It was the Westsail "Satori" that was the subject of the movie "The Perfect Storm" and below is actual footage of the real storm and Satori. What the video doesn't explain or show is that Satori, despite having had its skipper forced off by the Coast Guard, washed up onto a beach days later, undamaged. (see the link below to the true story for actual photos after the event).



The design is based on the Norwegian pilot/rescue boats designed by Colin Archer in the late 1800's, adapted by William Atkin in the 1930's and finally produced by the Westsail Corporation in Costa Mesa, California. The original Colin Archer pilot boat designs were 33ft in length, heavily constructed and handled by 2 men who would sail them to sea, often for weeks, enduring all kinds of weather. Finally they would find the ship they were searching for, drop the pilot off and the boat would then be single handed back to port.

If you are researching information related to Westsails, the following articles are worth reading.

History of Westsails 1

The History of Westsail Yachts 2 (.pdf document)

Article from Good Old Boat Magazine (.pdf document)

Article from Time Magazine

Click here for a brief outline by wikipedia. (weblink)

Article from Nautical Quarterly Magazine 1978

The Perfect Storm - the true story (and actual photographs) of the westsail 32 caught in "the perfect storm" which was the basis for the Hollywood movie of the same title.

Review of the Westsail 32 by Boat U.S



Length 32"
Waterline 27'6"
Beam 11'
Draft 5'
Displacement 19,500 lbs
Ballast 7,000 lbs
Sail Area 629 sq ft




History of El Viajero

El Viajero was built in 1976 being hull number 723 and one of the rarer late models with the improved cabin top and deck mould. Shortly after creating this website I was contacted by John Engel, who lives in the United States and he had seen my photos of  his old yacht.  It was such a great surprise to hear from John  and he was kind enough to provide some interesting history and original photos.  He bought the hull in 1976 and fitted it out, finally launching her in 1980 and named her "Walkabout".  I have to say that the fit out which John did is still in great condition and rock solid.  Thanks John.  In 1981 he married Joyce and in 1983 they set off voyaging together.

John & Joyce Engel - the builder & original owners.
The hull when originally delivered in 1976

John standing inside the hull prior to fit out 
Galley during fit out
The Engels' voyage was as follows:
1984 up the Gulf of California and over to the Marquesas then spent about a year in French Polynesia.  1985 sailed to Suvarov, and then eventually on to American Samoa;June 1985 sailed from Samoa to Fiji; 1986 headed to Noumea, but turned around and went back to Nadi. From there they shipped "Walkabout" back  to Tacoma, Washington. "Walkabout" was then sold to a young couple in Seattle.   They renamed her "Runaway".That was the last John & Joyce saw of their yacht.


Photo of "Walkabout" in California approx. 1984
Her  history from thereon is unknown until about 1998, when I believe "Runaway" was sailed from the U.S. to Australia again and in approximately 2001 she was purchased by Heli & Hannah in Pittwater, Sydney.   During the period 2001 to 2004, Heli made many repairs and upgrades to "Runaway" including laminating and re-setting the bowsprit and boomkin and among other things adding all new Raytech ST60 instruments, ST4000 autopilot and a beautiful new Broadwater marine stove/oven.
This is how she looked in July 2004 on the day of survey/purchase. That's Heli (the previous owner) showing me over "Runaway III" as she was then called.



After having spent time living and sailing aboard my W32 I am now convinced that I made the correct choice. To anyone who is considering a cruising yacht, I say to you, give the W32 a serious look. People say they are a slow design, and while it may be in light wind, when the weather gets heavy the W32 springs to life. On my first voyage from Sydney I hit some unpleasant weather and in 3 - 4 metre seas with 20knot winds she was way more comfortable (and capable) than I was. I recall being quite anxious tending to various things, worried about the weather, then sitting back and realising that this boat had everything under control. The autopilot would just take the nose off the wind when it gusted and bring her back nicely on course. She doesn't heel over like a racing yacht and I was cruising along at 6.5 knots with untrimmed sails as I hadn't a clue at that stage how to trim the sails for maximum performance. Below is an excellent description of the Westsail 32 taken from "A History of the Westsail"
(as edited by Lynne & Snider Vick):

"A number of people are concerned about speed, especially to weather. Westsails like wind. When the rest of your yacht club is heading for port because the winds have picked up, that's the time to sail a Westsail. Put a bone in her teeth and she will run like a happy dog. "


Westsail Racers:

David King raced his W32 Saraband to win the 1988 Pacific Cup Winner, sailing from San Francisco Bay to Kaneohe Bay, Oahu. A couple of years later he came in lst in Class and 3rd overall.

Carter Cordner with his W32 Kemancha, #809, took First Overall in the 1995 Marion-Bermuda Cruising Yacht race, edging out two -time winner Wildflower, a Bristol 40. Kemancha was the smallest boat entered in the fleet of 77 yachts, which ranged up to 54 feet.

Jim Barnum with his W32 Panacea won lst Place in the Chili Pepper Division of the Baja Ha-Ha race from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (800 plus miles). She was the smallest boat of the entire fleet of 36 boats.

James Wiley with his W32 Ave Del Mar placed first overall on best corrected time of 08:17:41 out of 19 boats that finished the Key West 2005 Rendezvous/race from Clearwater/Boca Grande/Naples Florida.


A Westsail 32 doing what it does best.



I was never thrilled with the name of my yacht when I bought her, and despite the fact that changing a yachts name is frowned upon by the sailing fraternity and even considered bad luck, I really wanted to put my personal touch on her. I also figured that Runaway III was not her original name anyway and after considering several names I was virtually forced to make a decision by reason of the shipping registration regulations in Australia. Her new name is "El Viajero" which in Spanish translates to "The Traveller".