Buying a P26
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I get a lot of email inquiries from people who are thinking of buying a P26 asking what they should look for and watch out for on the boat. I have made this page to try and answer those questions. I will limit the discussion to issues that are particular to the P26. There are other issues like rigging condition and finish condition that are common to all boats.

I am not a professional surveyor or a naval architect/engineer. I am just a Pearson 26 owner. I would recommend getting any boat you are interested in examined by a professional marine surveyor before you enter into a purchase agreement. As with all information on the internet I suggest you seek additional sources and draw your own conclusions.

My P26 Description from Sailnet's Boat Check

Maintenance and Design || Rudder | Cockpit Floor | Deck Leaks | Hull/Deck Joint | Keel | Wiring | Fuel Storage ||
Handling || Weather Helm | Motoring | Motion ||
|| Pricing || More Info Sources | Books ||

Rudder Shaft and Bushings
Click for Enlarged Image The biggest maintenance issue on the P26 is the rudder bushings and rudder shaft. The P26 rudder shaft is aluminum and can be subject to excessive corrosion and wear at the bearing surface. This can lead to a rudder failure (I know of two instances). Rudder failure means the rudder breaks at the lower bearing, falls off the boat, and sinks. This is bad. Another problem with the aluminum shaft is that it gets worn by the plastic rudder bushings. This results in a loose rudder that knocks about in waves. This is a separate problem from the corrosion weakening of the shaft but it can exasperate the weakening by increasing dynamic loading on the rudder shaft as the rudder knocks about. Check the wear in the rudder bushings by grabbing the rudder at the tip and seeing how much play it has. Ideally it should have none, more then 3/8" or so is probably too much. Rudder bushings are available from D&R Marine (see parts page).
Details on my repair of the rudder bearing surface
Cockpit Floor Delamination
Click for Enlarged Image The rudder tube on the P26 comes up through the cockpit floor (also called the cockpit sole) at the aft end. The tube is fiberglass and is tabbed onto the bottom skin of the balsa cored cockpit floor. The top is sealed with silicone and finished with a plastic cap on the cockpit floor. The cap is held down with screws that go right into the balsa core. After a few years water can find it's way past the seals and into the balsa core. This results in rot of the balsa core and delamination. The cockpit floor becomes squishy and hollow sounding when wrapped with the handle of a screw driver.
Details on my repair of the cockpit floor
Deck Leaks
Click for Enlarged Image I don't think the P26 has any special problems with deck leaks. The places to check are, anywhere there is hardware (e.g. stanchion bases, tracks, blocks, cleats, etc), chainplates, windows, mast step, and hull/deck joint. Leaks can lead to core delamination as with the cockpit floor, bulkhead delamination and water damage in the case of the chainplates, rotted plywood core under mast step and rotted mast support beam in the case of the mast step, and wet lockers and bilges.
Hull Deck Joint
Click for Enlarged Image The hull/deck joint on the P26 is an outward turning flange covered with a vinyl rub strip. The joint is glassed over on the inside. My boat has had no trouble with the hull/deck joint but damage can occur from poor boat handling and collision with objects. The vinyl cover can be replaced. It is available from D&R Marine (see parts page).
Cast Iron Keel (more info)
Click for Enlarged Image The keel on the P26 is external cast iron. It can be a maintenance headache if it's not properly sealed and painted. It's not very hard to do that but if it hasn't been done it will need to be. I think the best treatment is to sandblast the keel, prime it with a bare metal primer (I used a zinc chromate primer), seal with an epoxy barrier coat (I used Interprotect 3000) and apply bottom paint appropriate for your location. West System recommends stripping to bare metal then immediately covering with epoxy and working the epoxy into the cast iron surface with a non-ferrous wire brush (e.g. brass or stainless). This serves to lift any oxidation that has started to form on the surface (it starts to from immediately) and suspends it in the epoxy. I have not tried this but it makes a lot of sense to me. It may be best to work in smaller sections with this method. Or better yet have a team to apply the epoxy right when the stripping is done.
Pearson did not use the best wiring on the P26. All of the OEM wiring I have seen was non-tinned copper and is quite susceptible to corrosion, especially in salt environments. I don't think it's any worse the contemporary boats in it's class. Fortunately the electric system on the P26 is pretty simple. Unfortunately the interior lighting wires run above the headliner and are un-serviceable.
Fuel Storage
Click for Enlarged Image There was no dedicated fuel storage on the P26 before the 1975 model year. In 1975 Pearson did some redesigning of the cockpit and added a "cubby hole" storage space to fit a 6 gallon fuel tank. The engine well was also enlarged. More details on the changes to the P26 over it's production run can be found on my P26 Production Timeline page.
Mast Step
Click for Enlarged Image I have noticed what I think may be a slight weakness in the Weekender/OD cabin top. I have seen several with a depression at the mast step. I think the cabin top is not as stiff as the standard 26 because it is a larger flat span. The standard 26 cabin has a step just aft of the mast step and I think this stiffens the deck a lot. So if I were looking at a Weekender or OD I would look carefully at this area of the cabin top. It is probably from the deck core collapsing from water intrusion (it's plywood under the mast step) or from the mast compression posts (on either side of the door to the head) collapsing a bit. Through some water on the cabin top around the mast step. It should run off. If it pools up the boat may need some attention there. I think this would be a fairly simple problem to remedy by reinforcing the deck support and the core under the mast step if it was wet.

Weather Helm (Photo of sailing in windy weather)
Click for Enlarged Image Some people think the P26 suffers from excessive weather helm. I do not agree. I think most reported weather helm problems are the result of sail choice and sail trim problems. I can go out in 20-25 knots with a working jib and reefed main and steer with my fingertips. The boat is easy to balance in all conditions I have experienced. Weather helm is only a problem on the P26 when you have too much sail up for the conditions. The P26 has a flattish bottom and seems to develop weather helm as it heels. Keep the heel to no more then 20 degrees by choosing the right sails and you should have no weather helm problems. Some people seem to think that performance under sail means dipping the spreaders in the water. I guess that's OK if you like going sideways, but no sailboat is designed to be sailed that way.
Click for Enlarged Image The P26 is outboard powered. The outboard is in the center of the transom in a well. I think the outboard configuration on the P26 is about as good as they get. It sits low and centered and it's easy to reach. The boat backs very well and you can swivel the rudder around 180 degrees for excellent steering control. You can also turn the motor for additional steerage control in tight quarters. In heavy steep seas the motor can lift out of the water but once we learned the boat we had no real trouble with this. The entrance to our harbor can be quite choppy under some conditions and we learned that when we had some sail up to pass through we were always fine.
Boat Motion in a Seaway (Photo of surfing on waves)
Click for Enlarged Image The hull shape of the P26 (fairly flat bottom) gives it good form stability. This helps stiffen the boat and resist heeling. It also makes the boat a bit less comfortable in steep chop (like I regularly experience on Lake Erie) then a rounder or more V bottomed boat might be. That's not to say it's a bad boat in rough conditions. I think it's very good. But I find it necessary to steer off waves more to keep from slamming as hard. Carrying a little extra heel (15-25 degrees) can also help by presenting a more rounded shape to the waves. It is a 26 foot boat so comparisons should probably not be made to larger boats. Properly trimmed the P26 can be quite fast and stable off the wind in the right conditions. We have surfed ours to 10 knots.
Overall Impressions (Photo from the cockpit)
Click for Enlarged Image Overall I think the P26 is an excellent sailing boat. It is easy to handle, predictable and forgiving. With good sails and a good bottom it is also reasonably fast. We have never felt like we were out in conditions beyond the boats capability. That is not to say it can take anything, it is a 26 foot boat built with coastal cruising and daysailing in mind. Like any boat the P26 has it's limitations. So far they seem to be well beyond the sort of sailing challanges we take on.

Typical pricing for a good P26 seems to be in the $6,000 range. This will vary depending on equipment, location and who knows what else. The sites listed below have a lot of P26's listed and might give you an idea if the boat you are looking at has a fair price. They may also lead you to the boat of your dreams. They are by no means limited to the Pearson 26.
American Boat Listing
Yacht World | P26 Listings on Yacht World


Web Sites
There is more P26 info to be had on the internet. The following sites have photos and info:

Dan Pfeiffer's P26 Page (you're here now!)
This takes you back to the front end of my boat site.
Stuff on my site... | Pyxis Home Page | P26 Specs and Info | P26 Production Time Line | Repairs and How To page | Projects Page | P26 Owners | Photos | Index ||

Corey Swanson's Pearson 26 Page
Corey has made some radical modifications to the interior of his P26 Courtney. He has built an L-shaped galley in the aft/port side of the cabin. The work is excellent and he has posted a lot of nice photos on his web site.

Ed Vorbach's Pearson 26 Page (and more)
Ed has some nice photos of his P26. He also has a scan of an original P26 sales brochure as well as other Pearson sales brochures.

SailNet is a great resource for all sorts of boat info including P26 info. SailNet has a service called Boat Check where owners off all sorts of boats add their names to a list of people willing to share their knowledge. Many of them have posted reviews of the boat for you to read. The P26 is well represented on Boat Check. SailNet also sponsors email list groups for lots of different owners groups including Pearson. The Pearson group is very active with a lot of P26 owners. They have a searchable archive of email list messages and an FTP site where the Pearson owners have started an FAQ and info site.
Boat Check - Look for reviews under Pearson 26 and Pearson P26 on Boat Check
SailNet Pearson Email List
SailNet Pearson FTP Site (With FAQ)
SailNet Email List Archives ... Search the Pearson List


Practical Sailor
Practical Sailor reviewed the P26 in the April 1, 1999 issue. The review is 4 pages and includes some interesting Pearson history and comments from P26 owners. I think it was a pretty good review of the boat. I found a few minor factual errors in the article but nothing that was too significant. PS has a fax service where they will fax you a copy of any boat review they have done for $5.25/pg (P26 is 4 pages). A better deal by far is to buy their 2 volume set "Practical Boat Buying" with a collection of all of the reviews. This is revised regularly but probably won't have the P26 in it yet but ask them. There are fascinating reviews of a few hundred sailboats in the collection. As with any source of information (including this web site) you shouldn't take it as the last word. But it is a nice information resource.
Click here for my response to the PS article on the P26...

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Sailing Magazine
Sailing Magazine reviewed the P26 in the August, 2001 issue. It was a very positive article and offered an excellent description of the boat. There were a couple of points that needed clarification. After 1975 both the P26 and P26 Weekender/OD had dedicated fuel storage. The P26 has a cubby hole like storage for a 6 gallon tank in the cockpit, the Weekender/OD has a fuel tank locker in place of the port cockpit locker.

Sailing World
Sailing World Magazine highlighted the P26 in the February, 2003 issue in an article titled, "Priced to Sail, PHRF Gems Under $20K." It was a very positive discussion though they got a few facts incorrect. They said over 1800 had been produced, all in RI. It's really a bit over 2100 including all variants (over 300 Weekender and OD's) and there was a second production plant in League City, Texas in the middle 70's where many One Design versions were produced. They said the OD has five berths, it's actually four - double v-berth and two quater berths. They also listed the Catalina 27 and C&C 27 as alternatives. Both of these are quite a bit larger then the P26 and are a lot more in line with the P28 than the P26 (especially the C&C 27 which is 27' 10"). A better comparison would be the Catalina 25, Hunter 25 and C&C 25.

Books on Boat Buying, Surveying, and Design

Gustafson, Chuck (1991) How to Buy the Best Used Sailboat, Hearst Marine Books
This is an excellent book full of good info for the first time boat buyer. I found it immensely useful when I was looking. It will help you choose the boat that best suites your sailing needs.

Mustin, Henry C. (1994) Surveying Fiberglass Sailboats, International Marine
A guide to surveying with excellent illustrations and photos. This is a shorter more direct book then Ian Nicholson's "Surveying Small Craft". I found it a better place to start and an easier read with more, and better illustrations.

Nicholson, Ian (1994) Surveying Small Craft, Sheridan House
A detailed book about surveying all sorts of small boats. Lots of basic info on design and construction and how to spot and evaluate problems. It could use more illustrations and there is sometimes a lot of talk about who should pay for certain repairs. While this certainly has relevance to the overall subject it distracts a bit from the technical discussion.

Brewer, Ted (1994) Understanding Boat Design 4th Ed, International Marine
A great book to start learning about boat design.

Marshall, Roger (1986) A Sailors Guide to Production Sailboats, Hearst Marine Books
There is some good general info on choosing the type of boat that best suites your needs and specifications on a lot of boats that were in production in 1986.

More book info...