1985 Westerly Sealord 39

S/V Spellbound If I were going to choose a boat because of a name only, this would be the boat.

Today we looked at S/V Spellbound, a Westerly 39 docked up in Blaine, WA. I’ve been waiting for months to view this boat and am surprised it is still on the market.

What it has going for it: the perfect size. It’s a stout boat, and a center cockpit. The deck layout is great. The wheel is positioned where I can sit on the top of the rear cabin comfortably, hold onto the steering wheel, and still see where I am going. You might think this is obvious but it is not. It has a full dodger and bimini, which is nice. There is a great cockpit table and cockpit seats are long enough to be comfortable. The traveler is mounted aft of the helmsman, making it easy to adjust the mainsail from the helm, and putting the traveler at the end of the boom where it can do the most good. The primary winches are large (but only single speed, alas). It has a decent sized anchor windlass. The deck is covered with non-skid and it’s in decent shape.

One of the cockpit seats opens up to a very deep lazarette, which is great for storage. Mike tested out the square footage.

I could smuggle Mike in this compartment.

On the inside, the layout is just about perfect. It has a reasonable galley, u-shaped, with cabinet space and a large enough fridge/freezer. There are double, deep sinks, and even a built in microwave. That’s a bonus since I don’t really care much about that.

The galley: small enough that you can brace yourself while underway, but plenty of work space.

The settees are nice enough and the back of each settee can be removed, enlarging the available space for laying down. If I wanted a deeper settee on one side, I could probably arrange it. There is storage space above and below the settees.

Andrew approves the settees.

Across from the galley there is a full sized navigation table, with storage. It is easy to sit at this desk, unlike some we’ve seen. Aft of the nav station there are sea berths, which could be left as-is, or that area would be a good place for a small workshop. The engine access is in that area.

The main cabin, all the way aft, is large enough to be comfortable and has storage in the form of cabinets and a hanging locker. It’s a versatile space, and has plenty of light as well as decent head room. There is a full head off this cabin.

The nav station, looking aft past the sea berths into the owner’s cabin.

Master cabin has a versatile bunk.

This boat also has a good sized v-berth cabin, with it’s own head and plenty of storage.

So what is the problem with this boat? (See update below, 11/2012) Well, there may not be one. At least not a serious one. We are not sure. There is definitely a bad leak in the forward head, and there is significant water damage to the wood trim in that room. It may be coming from a crack in the deck at the base of the forestay. That would have to be looked at seriously. I am concerned the forestay was tightened too much, putting stress on the deck of the boat. There are some electrical problems, and the bilges have a lot of water. There is water standing in the engine compartment as well. However, that is what a good survey is for.  Mike is concerned about the stanchions. They are all aluminum, and several are cracked. They probably need to be replaced with $tainless $teel. He also is concerned about the pulpit, which he says wiggles when it should not. All of the glass in the ports and the hatches needs to be replaced. All of the running rigging is worn.   So there will be some work that will have to go into this boat, for sure.  And it’s more than cosmetic.

I wish this boat was a cutter rig, but it’s not a deal breaker. It has everything else we want, almost. It’s probably a little sluggish in light air, and that’s a concern, but we might be able to overcome that a little with the right sail plan.

Smaller issues include replacing all the cushions (although that could wait, they are in pretty good shape), and putting a stove in. There is currently only a stove top propane burner installed. It needs a good stove/oven combo, so lay down $1000 right off the bat. The heads are a little weird  with the ‘flushing’ mechanism located well above the actual head. That’s a little counter intuitive, but I guess it must work. The holding tanks are metal. Mike doesn’t like that because of corrosion. We’d likely replace them. These are all things we’re prepared for, as we’re looking at older boats. It comes with the territory.

Take a look at where that pump handle is. You have to open the cabinet, attach the handle, then pump. That will never work.

At the end of the day, we like this boat. We like the look of it,  the way it is laid out, and the feel of it. We like the interior and think it would be a comfortable fit for us.  If it’s still for sale when Moonrise finds another home, it will be on our short list for sure.


Update on this boat November 3, 2012.  We traveled north to look at this vessel again, thinking we may be ready to place a bid on it. It has now been sitting for months and the rainy season is upon us. What a difference some rain makes.

Not a great photo probably because I was pretty upset at the condition of this boat. These seat cushions are completely soaked.

Apparently this boat leaks like a sieve, and from several places. The cushions on the settees in the salon are ruined, soaked through. You can see in the above photo, though a poor photo it is, that the wood above the cushion is getting moldy and is wet. In every cabin in this boat there are wet cushions, which is a darn shame because if not for this they would not have needed replacing immediately. Now they do.

Also I had mentioned originally that I was concerned about the babystay on the foredeck, thinking it may have been over-tightened and compromised the deck. Apparently that was correct. When we decided to look at this boat again, I did some  research and found this blog that shows this same issue on another Westerly Sealord. In that article, scroll down to the middle to the part about the babystay and take a look at the photo showing a gap at the bulkhead at the bottom. Apparently an overly tightened babystay pulled his deck and bulkhead upward because the bulkhead was not attached well enough to the hull. It appears that this Sealord has the same problem.  Of course, a surveyor would have to determine this for sure, but I’d be hard pressed to think that gap is being caused by any other problem, especially since this other blog shows exactly the same thing and also details how the owner fixed the problem.

You can see the gap between the bulkhead and the sole in this photo. The gap is about 1/2 inch wide. Not good.

This is still a great boat, and I really do like it. It breaks my heart that this boat has been left to languish at the dock, slowly getting ruined from water leaking in so many locations. How hard is it to put a tarp over the boom and protect such an investment?  What looked like a reasonable prospect in the spring is now looking like a project boat. And that’s a shame. I’d like to say that we walked away from this boat thinking we should make an offer anyhow. I’m sure our broker wished that, too. But we are sitting on it for awhile.


17 thoughts on “1985 Westerly Sealord 39

  1. Hi, Thanks for the review. Great move going for the Sealord.

    I have a Westerly Fulmer and I’m looking to go up to the Sealord sometime in 2014, which gives some time to sell the Fulmer and source a Sealord. However it seems that prices State side are a little high at the moment when compared with Europe since Westerlies generally sell in the USA for around 66% the tax paid European value.

    Good luck

  2. Thank you for your comment! It is so serendipitous that you commented on this article today as we are just in the process of looking at another Westerly and I am going back and forth in my mind about the benefits of each boat. It is a Conway we are now considering, but my mind drifts back to that Sealord and how much I liked it. It does need a lot of work.

  3. Hi, good to read your review of a tired old Sealord and I recognise some (all?) of her problems. I have owned mine, ‘Westerly Serenade’, since 1994 and have no plans to swap for another even though she is about to cost me $$$$$$ for her ‘half life’ refit.

    I’m not sure of the problems in the area of the frd head but the bad leaks in the saloon will most likely be a combination of chainplate / stanchion/ and window leaks. Yep I’ve had to do all mine over the years. The list of other jobs that I have done to keep her sailing would fill a book but I am sure there is nothing that wouldn’t vex you on any other boat of that age.

    All other things being equal she would be an excellent choice and is said to be the best design Westerly ever produced. I bought my boat in Thailand and have spent the last 9 years in and around southern Chile. I use the fore cabin for stowage although an occasional stray crew member is banished to that end of the boat. By use of a simple infill the after cabin bed converts into a good double and is my choice. Meanwhile the saloon has two good seaberths. As a load carrier she is brilliant. For a trip through the Patagonian Channels I can get 3 months stores for 4 people aboard without too much fuss. The deck aft of the cockpit is excellent for stowing a smaller dinghy.
    Yes, that one needs work but if the price is right and you make the effort she would be a good boat.
    Please email if you want any further info.

    • Hello Frank, and thank you for your detailed comment. We really still love that boat, in spite of all her problems. I think that’s the case with all really good boats. We know whatever we get will need work, but the price does have to be right for a boat with this much neglect. Quite honestly, I was in tears when I saw how she had been let go.
      The problem in the foreward head is one that someone else who owns a Westerly 39 has experienced. He wrote a detailed blog post about what he had to do to repair his boat when the same thing happened to it. That owner is currently in New Zealand (as I recall) and we were in contact with him before looking at this boat again. The repair is extensive and not for the faint of heart. We would be up for the challenge but paying anyone else to do it would be prohibitive. If you are interested in reading his experience, email us through our contact page and I will send you his blog address. I do not have his permission to post it publicly.
      We still haven’t sold our current boat, so we aren’t yet in a position to make an offer. But when she sells the Westerly 39, this one or another one, is definitely on our short list. We’ve liked every single Westerly we’ve looked at and that’s saying something. I believe we could actually live comfortably on that boat for many years. The only thing holding us back just now is the sale of our current boat, a Cal 34. Just cannot afford to have two large boats, you know what I mean?

    • Oh, and thank you for including where you sail your boat! That an area of the world that we are very interested in visiting via sailboat and we are looking specifically for a boat that will be comfortable for us on that kind of trip. Your experience with the Sealord is valuable to us, indeed.

  4. Hello again Melissa,
    Not sure if you received my email or not. That is a very interesting repair that was done on ‘Camomile’. As he said…’keyhole surgery’ but do-able.

    I have had a further look at your photos . That water damage to the locker front in the frd head is most likely caused over time simply by condensation behind the vinyl lining running down and accumulating on the floor of the locker and then wicking up behind the varnish on the locker face. (I hope that makes sense). As built the end grain of the plywood isn’t sealed . I had the same in my after head… it cleaned up OK. I have had all of my locker fronts off so that I could instal half decent insulation inside them, its not a big operation. It also makes access to the stanchion bases easier.

    What engine does she have? The MD17D may look agricultural but is nigh on indestructable.


    • Hi Frank,
      I think the emails go to Mike, so I’m not sure if he’s received it yet as he hasn’t been on line today. Yes, the boat has the engine you’ve named and it has 1733 hours on it. Not too bad. I know some boat engines, like our Westerbeke, are actually retrofitted tractor engines, which makes it possible to find parts at a lower price since they don’t always have the word ‘marine’ in front of them. You have to know what you are doing, though. I leave these things to Mike:) Your comment about the water damage does make sense, but there is so much leaking on the boat it would be hard to tell. If what you say is true about this boat, then it’s been left to do damage for some time. We are still interested in the boat. In January we will make another concerted effort to sell Moonrise and if it’s still available we will look at it again. None of the problems are unfixable, or deal breakers. But they have not budged on the price is about a year. That does not bode well. One thing we’ve learned when looking at boats is that unless we are ready to make an offer, we can’t give our hearts to a boat because they will just get broken. It’s sort of like houses: you have to be willing to walk away and take the chance someone else will buy it. I guess that’s where we’re at right now, but I try hard not to think about it too much. 🙂

  5. Hi – I was actually just looking at this boat online yesterday and have now just stumbled across your blog and this boat review. Strange coincidence! Great info on this boat. It has been on the market for quite a while now and we were wondering what its condition was like. Really useful to be able to see your pictures and read your thoughts. Cheers – Ellen

    • Welcome, Ellen. Wow, I’m sorry to hear that boat is still on the market. Yes, it’s been a long time since it was listed. I wish someone would buy it and fix it because it would be an excellent cruiser. But it does need work, unless some of what we saw has already been fixed. That’s always a possibility.

      • I bought this boat.. Lots of work to do, but the price reflected this. I’m very excited, and will be sailingher to Alaska soon

        • How wonderful! I am so glad this boat found an excited new owner. We would be pleased to know how she comes along. I have many times thought about that boat and what a worthy endeavor she would be. All the best of luck to you! And do let us know how she works out.

  6. Hello. It is very interesting to read about the wonderful Westerly Sealord. I buy a Westerly Sealord in Holland two Years ago. She is a fantastic Boat and i make a refit cince 2 Years. My Sealord had no leak problems and the Babystay is in good condition. I Isulatet ihe inner side with 20 mm Isotherm and renewed the Headlining. It was a horror job but now she looks like new. You can see some Pictures on my Blog.

    • The Westerly Sealord is a great boat. I visited your blog http://morianblog.wordpress.com/ and see you are in Yarmouth and the Solent just now. It looks like a wonderful destination. The Sealord that we looked at has been bought and is being restored to her rightful glory. Lets hope she is on the water and sailing soon.

      • She is now in Seward Alaska! 1500 miles or so; some toils with equipment and crew, but we made it. Lots of prep, time and money into the trip, which was a delivery trip, so not a lot of time sightseeing -in some of the most beautiful areas on earth, the Inside Passage. Lots of bear, whales, jumping fish, porpoise and rain. 12′ seas, 25kn winds- no problem. What a great boat! After on last sail, I will put her on the hard in a few weeks and the real work begins.

        • Congratulations on your successful cruise to Alaska. I would say that 1500 miles should have shaken out most of the issues for you. We are really glad to hear that this Sea Lord has found an excited and capable new caretaker. I know she will give you great pleasure.

          • years and thousands of hours and dollars have gone into this boat. Blister repair rudder repair new engine and sound insulation, dropped keel deck repair, hardware replacement, new port lites, wiring batteries, windlass, wind gen. Beautification is next. I must love this thing! Crossed the gulf of AK again for fun, wandered the inside passage, then back to Seward again. Our second home; sometimes our first.

            • Chan,

              I love hearing this. Thank you for taking a chance on this beautiful boat and making her the kind of vessel that that makes the world a better place.

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