Website Update Log

- A Boat Review from a Cruising Perspective -
Our Pearson 424 Ketch

Introduction:  What follows is a set of observations on cruising & living aboard our Pearson 424.  They were written, consecutively, during a Caribbean Circle, as we prepared for an Atlantic Crossing to Britain, during a 5-year period of European cruising and, most recently, when preparing for and then doing a Pacific Crossing to Australia..


Initial observations, written in 2002 after a Caribbean Circle

 What follows is a general set of comments in response to questions we have received about our 1979 Pearson 424 Ketch. It attempts to hit a few ‘high spots’ and offer some general sources of info about this Pearson model.

 We purchased our ketch from its first owner in 1995. It had been used as a ‘day sailor’ by a Bank Officer and was all but unequipped. We spent four years using it as a getaway cottage from our week-day jobs while equipping it for offshore cruising. We had very little experience in sailing it prior to our departure in March of 2000 from St. Pete, FL, although we had owned & cruised three previous boats.  Consequently, the lens through which we view our 424 is that of extended cruising and living aboard rather than locally sailing and/or racing her. During the fitting out period, we found the boat to present few surprises and be very comfortable for dockside living aboard.  Handling her underway was not too much of a challenge for the two of us once we became accustomed to her size. We are both, at this time, in our mid-50’s and healthy but not hard-core physical specimens. And keep in mind that the designer, Bill Shaw, pitched this boat for retired couples to sail from New England down to the Caribbean and back.  His design brief resulted in a  shallow draft with a wide beam carried far aft to provide a large cockpit and roomy aft cabin plus much cockpit storage.  He designed a low-profile ketch rig to provide lots of sail plan options but with sails of manageable size. The boat was popular enough to generate requests for sloops & cutters as well, over a production run of about 6 years.  Ultimately, it was replaced by the center-cockpit 422 sloop as Pearson continued to try and appeal to buyers who were in the charter business.

 The boat’s general construction seems adequate in our opinion for offshore sailing (meaning multi-day passages but short of all-seasons trans-ocean passages and high latitude sailing). By now (Spring, 2002), all 424’s will be at an age where the original life span of much essential gear has been or soon will be reached (engine, v-drive, fuel tank, rigging, pumps, hatches, etc.) and many 424’ are now going through a recycle program if not being fully refurbished. They have a traditional appearance (on the water and within the cabins) and also are more functional at sea than many contemporary designs, in our opinion.  They are well worth the unavoidable costs of upgrading that comes with all used boats.  However, don’t permit yourself to be surprised by the considerable effort and expense of bringing an older boat up to date.  It is hard, expensive work to do right.

 Her sailing performance and diversity of sail area choices deserve a special note.  424’s have a wide sheeting angle (with no inside genoa tracks), a relatively shallow keel, a wide water plane with a ‘barn door’ full-skeg hung rudder, along with a low profile ketch rig.  This combination prevents her from being a fast sailing boat on a beat.  It also encourages the crew to keep low angles of heel – ‘keep her on her feet’ – to avoid excessive leeway and allow her to point well under foresail and main.  On the other hand, the versatility of the ketch rig provides for a wide range of sail combinations while keeping the size of the sails, and therefore their handling by a small crew, quite reasonable.  For those who would note she has a low sail area/displacement ratio (SA/D), don’t overlook the fact you can almost double her sail area by hoisting an asymmetrical spinnaker and a mizzen staysail in lighter conditions.  As one friend likes to say, “That mizzen staysail is your turbocharger.”  It is also the rarest of sails in that it is inexpensive, easy to stow, and easily raised, trimmed & dropped.


424 Info Sources:  There are several available sources of further info on 424’s, including:

1.     A Blue Water Cruising 424 boat review. It not only does a good job of giving the production history & multiple floor plans available, but also references numerous comments from several knowledgeable owners. You may also find this at…

2.     The Pearson 424 website (, which will provide access to some information on this boat and also a listing (fairly current) of 424’s for sale. Another source of ‘for sale’ 424’s can be found at

3.     Using the email address will connect you with a representative group of 424 owners who frequently share info on repairs, upgrades, etc. This will confirm both the wide-ranging upgrades necessary for boats of this age group & the variety of ways owners find to address them.

4.     There are many 424’s out cruising and, for those of you thinking of using a 424 in that fashion, you would find it helpful to strike up a longer conversation with 424 owners who perhaps have cruised in areas similar to your plans and/or have had the kind of upgrade plans that match your budget & preferences. One simple way to find owners who are cruising (or have cruised) their 424’s is by using the Member Search feature inside the Seven Seas Cruising Assn. website (, and sorting not by member but by boat brand.  And if you are planning to cruise your 424, why wouldn’t you want to join the largest cruising organization in the world? We suggest you take the Virtual Tour at

5.     Finally, if you’ve found this you have found John Stevenson’s comprehensive website that features his 424 Ketch, SARAH.  Don’t miss the many ‘discoveries’ and improvements that John has made about SARAH during his 10+ years of 424 ownership.


As for Patricia & I, we’ve visited the Chesapeake Bay from Florida’s west coast, taken the boat back down to Florida and out thru the islands to Trinidad in the SE corner of the Caribbean, and have now sailed the boat westward via Hispaniola, Jamaica, Grand Cayman, the Honduran Bay Islands and on to the Western Caribbean. To date we’ve had only one real surprise from the boat itself (see discussion on fuel tank cleaning below) altho’ it’s fair to say we invested substantial sums to upgrade it.  In short, to date we are pleased with her as a cruising boat in Caribbean and coastal USA waters.


Upgrades & Mods:  Every boat being prepped for cruising seems to reflect a somewhat unique set of preferences by its crew, their planned itinerary & their checking account.   FWIW, here are the main areas where we invested time, effort and money:

1.     Replaced all rigging (standing, running).

2.     Because our 1979 Westerbeke diesel was low-time, we invested in rebuilding the peripherals. To date, this has proven a good choice but repowering may be necessary while we still own the boat and are cruising her.

3.     We basically rebuilt the DC electrical system while keeping the battery boxes & DC/AC panel. The new, larger wire cables and fuses coupled with a pretty basic (these days…) complement of equipment (Freedom 10 inverter/charger, AmpTech alternator, Link 2000R ‘manager’ and a mizzen-mounted AirMarine wind charger) have made life very enjoyable and we don’t begrudge one cent of the expense or the sweat it took to get it all right.  And – knock on wood – we’ve yet to have an electrical casualty of any kind.

4.     We added a wind vane self-steering system (a Sailomat 601 in our case) with the intention it would be our primary self-steering system.

5.     Our boat’s hull had previously been ‘peeled’ and sealed with West System epoxy. We’d guess this work was not only required but also the norm, based on others’ comments.

6.     We rebuilt the icebox, making it much smaller but also more energy efficient. We chose a 12V holding plate system (a larger Isotherm ASU unit) and new Force 10 propane stove – plus figuring out how to store propane on the boat – to make the galley meet the needs of the crew. All three steps are constantly appreciated – no regrets here, either.

7.     We added a SSB radio since Jack’s a ham and, with the addition of a PTC II ‘modem’ to the Icom 706 radio & SG 230 tuner, we are able to get ALL the weather info (sat pics, wind/sea charts, text forecasts) plus email (even including small jpeg attachments). This of course has nothing to do with our boat being a 424 but it has been perhaps the upgrade that added most to the combined “safety and pleasure” category.

8.     And finally, there are about 200 other, more minor, less costly (well, some were less…) and time consuming things we’ve done to customize the 424 to our needs (canvas, cushions, radar, screens of all types, etc. etc.). This is just the norm for boats that become homes, it seems.


Finally, let’s mention what we haven’t done (or found a need for yet).   We have no watermaker, as the 150 gals seems adequate to date, given that we’re in an area of the world with a ready supply of water everywhere. However, we have built a good deck collection system to collect rain water, which has proven very useful.  No below-decks autopilot, not that one wouldn’t be great to have.  This was just a monetary choice for a helm-mounted one vs. spending 3-4 times as much for something far better.  What made this possible was that we did add the wind vane – essential gear for extended offshore cruising, in our opinion – to which we can marry a tillerpilot when conditions go light, so our helm-mounted autopilot isn’t our sole means of self-steering.  We have no ‘dedicated navigation’ or ‘network electronics’ package – nor even any electronic charting capability when we left the U.S.  We initially used a Yeoman Navigator Pro, which links a GPS to paper charts for navigation.  But electronic navigation was quickly becoming more capable and less expensive, and so we adopted laptop digital charting during the course of the Caribbean Circle.  And one last thing to mention, which was a surprise, is that having the boat’s fuel tank ‘cleaned’ via a local vendor before the Caribbean Circle did not prevent us from having the stand pipe in the fuel tank, fitted with a screen by Pearson, fill up with crud and starve the engine’s fuel system of its fuel supply.  What this really suggests is that, by now, most 424’s should probably be replacing their fuel tanks.

 Our impression is that Pearson 424’s remain a popular and a respected choice for sailors who harbor the dream to ‘live aboard & cruise’.


Observations after a Transatlantic, Florida to Britain via the Atlantic Is. -  2003

 Here are a few additional comments that probably should be included, based on our further upgrading of WHOOSH in late 2002 and a subsequent Trans-Atlantic passage to Europe.

 Could WHOOSH do Europe?  While the choice of new cruising grounds is a personal one, our decision to do so is in part a reflection of our confidence in our 424 for extended, in-season, temperate climate offshore sailing. She has a few liabilities – e.g. her large cockpit in the presence of heavy following seas - but also many virtues in our view.  These have proven to be a versatile, suitable rig that’s manageable by a small crew, 2 or 3 functional sea berths (depending on your view of the aft cabin double), a useable galley offshore, and what we find is a comfortable motion. And besides, we’ve filled her cockpit a few times and were frankly surprised at how quickly she emptied and how well she handled the momentary weight.

 Mods for Ocean Crossings:  There were two key projects we felt an Atlantic crossing dictated:  repowering and adding an inner forward stay.  (If we weren’t already using a wind vane, installing a vane would have been the third one).  Repowering was in our view required because of the extensive use we’ll make of the power train over a period of years vs. the elderly age of the existing gear.  We had no desire to be in Turkey or up a Spanish Ria with a failing Walter V-Drive, pretty much an American piece of hardware, and parts for the W60 diesel had become very difficult to locate. The inner stay (a Solent Stay in our case, not a staysail stay) is mandated by the need to have headsail options beyond simply reefing or furling a genoa on our Profurl. And I should also mention that we elected to replace our fuel tank when repowering.  Many 424’s have by now suffered failed fuel tanks and ours was 23 years old when the old engine was removed.  This was an easy choice given the tank’s immediate access while the engine is out (and zero access when the engine is in place).

 It’s been interesting to look with a fresh perspective at WHOOSH, since we no longer saw her as a ‘Caribbean cruiser’ but now had to view her as a ‘European’ cruising sailboat. Where we could take mostly comfortable climatic conditions for granted before, we now had to think about increasing cockpit shelter, having multiple heat sources onboard and, especially challenging to any North American boat, readying her for the European infrastructure that we’ll need to use while there. We hoped to test a variety of changes we made in preparation for 230V AC electricity, different types of LPG tanks, and a mix of other simple but important differences.

 As this Addendum is being added, we are currently settled into a berth in London after a comfortable, surprisingly enjoyable crossing of the Atlantic by just the two of us…and we didn’t need to rethink or rewrite any of what was initially written in 2002.  I think that means 424’s are ‘honest boats’ and what you see is what you end up getting.


After three years of European cruising - 2006

 I add this only because three more years of European cruising seasons are under our belts and there could be the chance for some further surprises…but such is not the case.  We have yet to experience true gale or storm force conditions over a sustained period of time aboard WHOOSH.  So the boat's performance in truly ugly weather remains untested by us.  However, the one 'new experience' we've had more recently was when sailing from Falmouth, England across the Channel and then across the Bay of Biscay to the middle of Spain's north coast.  Biscay is always somewhat of a threat, even in summer, due to the non-stop frontal systems that sweep through Northern Europe, the large portion of the Bay that is quite shallow, and the presence of tidal currents which can work against the wind.  Our passage in June, 2005 was our fastest yet, so perhaps it serves as a good benchmark for what we, an older short-handed crew who sail the boat conservatively, can get out of her.  We did a tidal stream-neutral 170 NM in our first 24 hours out of Falmouth, and averaged 150 NM/day over the 500 NM route, all while sailing the boat quite conservatively.

 The other data point this passage offered us is that, while fast for us, the passage was damn rugged, certainly harder over that 3-day period than anything we have seen before for a similar time period.  The boat did fine, although it was one of those passages where you end up finding vestiges of salt water everywhere and wonder where it all came from.  For me it was - once again - validation that the boat is relatively easy for a short-handed crew to manage provided you stay ahead of the weather with the sail plan.  And more so than any previous passage, it validated the effort we put into adding handholds from the companionway into the main cabin; we were hanging onto one or more of them non-stop.

 When in small Scandinavian harbor basins, we wished WHOOSH were shorter.  When we played with the idea of putting her for the winter in Sweden and returning the following year, we wished she wasn't so big as it was quite expensive to pull the stick and store her ashore.  Maneuvering against some tidal current, in a small harbor with perhaps wind from an unhelpful direction, we wished she backed like one of the fin keelers.  So in these respects and others, the 424 is not the perfect boat…although what is?  But as our skills built we found her size to become less of an issue, and adding a MaxProp did help in maneuvering her in tight quarters.  We continue to feel good about the boat as both a home and a sailing vessel, and have yet to find a major fault with her.


Following a Transatlantic from Europe to Florida via the Caribbean - 2009

 With the march of time, and as technology and one’s experience evolves, there continue to be  changes surface which to seem appropriate.  For example, we found AIS to be especially useful in crowded Med waters with its massive shipping.  And we’ve opted to install a direct GPS-to-(Helm) Autopilot link because there are times when that seems to make sense, although others when remaining in direct control of the boat seems safer.  And it’s worth noting that the Canaries-Trinidad leg was our our most trying passage to date.  It was our longest (3000 NM) passage and included 15 days of 4 meter seas and steady 20-30 kt winds.  We continue to find her seaworthy, comfortable as a home but with a layout that’s functional at sea, a better and faster passagemaker than her low profile, low SA/D rig might suggest, and a good compromise size-wise.


Final Thoughts after a Pacific Milk Run – 2011

 We added some additional gear to the boat because of our decision to enter the Pacific and accept the longer passages and less developed areas that come with that cruising territory.  The main additions (and brief comments about living with them) follow:

l  Spectra Watermaker:  Wonderfully reliable (unlike many we've heard about), relatively energy efficient (the 1 gal per amp/hour rating proved true), and certainly a labor-saving device given the jugging and dinghy work required to otherwise fill the tanks.  See our notes on choosing, installing and using a Spectra unit in the Pacific section.  Two thumbs up.

l  Aquair Tow Generator:  This was added for the dual purposes of eliminating the need to run the engine at sea (for battery charging), when oftentimes one consumes the most amps to run the boat, and for arriving in port with full water tanks  (since tow-generated power is 'free'). You can read about how this worked out in the Pacific section, as well.  Two thumbs up, one of them from the clumsy skipper.

l  Honda E2000i “Generator”:  Carried to reduce the cost and wear & tear of charging the batteries with the main engine, so in a sense it was the counterbalance to the at-sea tow generator.  Wonderfully efficient, always reliable, easily stowed. Two thumbs up.

l  AB RIB:  We thought the rough coral and constant use of a dink in the Pacific mandated a RIB, but we were still using an Achilles 10' inflatable floor dink. The compromise was to buy a used RIB, stowed on deck in front of the main mast, and carry both.  Definitely drier and more stable than the Achilles...but really not necessary. We saw the same wide selection of high-priced to bargain basement dinks in the Pacific we've seen everywhere else.


As for the boat itself, once again no surprises and good passages.  Our 3,000 NM to the Marquesas from the Galapagos once again averaged 150 NM/day, from ITCZ calms to reinforced Trades.  That seems a reasonable daily mileage to expect from her in mostly steady winds over an extended passage.


Best wishes from the crew of WHOOSH – Jack & Patricia Tyler


© Jack Tyler, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2011