The new Columbia 30 would have attracted attention even if it were just an average white boat. The resurrection of Columbia Yachts is a story in itself. But Vince Valdes has grander aims than just bringing his father's old company back to life.
The marketplace will have to decide what to make of a high-end 30-foot sportboat that's weekend-cruiser friendly, but Valdes is betting plenty of people will want a hot-rod boat they can share with the family. When you're sitting in the stylish interior with Valdes and designer Tim Kernan after a day of sailing out of Newport Beach, California, it all makes sense in that infectious way things do when you're talking to people who just love their boat. From the easy trailerability of a crank-up keel to the sexy recessed red lighting in the cabin, from the stout cassette-mounted outboard rudder to the original covestripe and logo, these two young men dreamed up their ideal of a 30-foot speedster and took their best shot, with papa Dick Valdes looking over their shoulders and occasionally reminding them of his mantra for success: accommodations, accommodations, accommodations.
For once it's okay to lead off talking about the interior, because I won't have to work hard to convince you that this boat—light, stiff, slippery, and all-carbon—will haul the mail. I didn't get to sail it in a lot of wind, but the last time I checked in on the hot-rod car scene, a big block hemi in a stripped-out chassis was guaranteed to scream—same thing here.
So how is the interior, really? Comfy, not a copycat exercise, and it feels right. You can find roomier 30-foot interiors on less-expensive boats, but they won't be racing in this company. Details: The four underseat storage lockers will hold whatever, but they're insulated and can serve as iceboxes if need be. There's 5 feet, 10 inches of headroom, and, as Valdes points out, "for most women, that's enough." The vinyl-like finish on most interior surfaces is appealing, but it's a finish, not a weighty liner: accommodations meets speed, with berths fit for basketball players.
Forward there's a watertight bulkhead, and to handle the mast-keel loads there's a unidirectional carbon-fiber backbone intersecting major longitudinal stiffeners. Lifting the keel takes place entirely, neatly, inside the cabin. The keel housing constricts legroom, but the alternative is a different boat. Oh, and you won't be sniffing diesel as you swirl your Cabernet, because the Yanmar, small enough to be cranked by hand, is sealed off from the interior and can be accessed only from the cockpit.
In the light breezes common off Newport Beach, the Columbia 30 sailed the way I would want a boat to sail. We took on a brand-new larger speedster from a well-known builder and beat it upwind and down. Whether I was crewing or driving, it was easy to do my job, even while being introduced to a few innovative pieces of gear.
Crossing the boat was easy (whether driving or crewing), working the cockpit was easy, and lounging dockside in that same huge, inviting cockpit? That was way easy.
Builder: Columbia Yachts, 714-773-9212, http://www.columbiayachts.com
$79,600 (base after 20% factory discount from $99,500 list price FOB Fullerton, CA).
Draft (keel up/keel down)
Sail area (100% foretriangle
433 sq ft
9-hp Yanmar diesel with saildrive