Raven 26: History and Maintenance.
To meet the growing need for a safe, well performing cruiser/ racer Owen Wooley decided to design and build a timber production yacht suitable for families. This yacht had to be big enough to take the family sailing and its design was inspired by flush decked mullet boats which, with their raised decks maximised interior room. This yacht was to become the Raven 26.
The initial boats were built in glued double skin timber sheathed both sides with glass and epoxy however after building “Raven” he decided the method was too time consuming.
He exhibited “Raven” at the Auckland boat show in 1969 and gained an order for another timber boat from which a GRP mould was taken (Raven 2). The mould is believed to have been put aside for some months while Owen focussed on building several commisioned launches.
Don Moseley and Mick Elmes, owners of Ideal garages, asked to use the mould for production. This was agreed to and the company “Glass Yachts” was formed for the purpose of building the Raven 26's. Te Tahi was the first glass Raven 26.
In around 1982 Colin Gestro and Theo Perry bought the moulds and a few more boats were built but at that time there was litle demand and customers were looking for something larger. As a result production of the Raven 26 ended and the Raven 31 was then designed and built.
Over 150 Raven 26's were built over a period of years in two main variants, the Mk 1 and from 1979 the Mk 2.
The original 2 boats (Raven and Raven 2) were of timber hull/deck construction and a mould was taken from the second, as stated above to build the hulls in GRP.
The Mk 1's were manufactured between 1970 and 1979 by Glass yachts. The timber deck had a unique feature as the interior was moulded and then the end grain pine blocks laid which resulted in a pleasing decorative interior finish. The deck and cockpit was sheathed in glass and cork granules used to provide a non slip surface on the deck sections. Later Mk 1 models had a ply deck and composite cockpit instead of the glassed ply.
The earliest boats can be readily identified as they had no forward anchor well provided.(Blue Raven #5 has no anchor well but Te Tahi has one ??)
The deck on the Mk 2 (1979 on) was made from balsa sandwich composite and incorporate 2 rails from the aft bulkhead to the forward hatch, a fairing was also provided.
Differences in the keel design were also introduced from 1979. The Mk1 had a bolted on keel attached with seven 5/16” bolts. In the Mk 2 the keel was manufactured with ballast set in resin inside a moulded keel.
About half a dozen boats were built with the “conventional” cabin trunk and timber deck configuration but the hulls were from the same mould and simply cut down in freeboard height.
Interior configurations vary as many boats were fitted out by the owners.
Some have a saloon type seating arrangement (Pt or Stbd sides have been observed) but the most common configuration consists of galley and storage to Pt with seating on Stbd side, almost all have quarter berths and the forward arrangements typically consist of toilet to Pt with V berth and storage under.
Although susceptible to water ingress the Mk 1's have good cockpit storage in side and aft lockers, in the Mk 2 this is generally “unused” space above the quarter berths but access for an aft locker is provided
The design worked well with Owens stated goals of designing a safe, well performing cruiser/racer and he opted against the trend at the times for light displacement. With medium displacement and relatively slack bilges his design made for comfortable passage in a seaway and good balance.
It is clear that the design provided good balance and sailing with any combinatioin of sails will result in little helm weight. In fact even sailing under main or genoa / job alone a good degree of balance with no significant helm weight is felt while still being able to make reasonable passage to windward.
The large 150% overlap No 1 genoa is probably the most commonly seen headsail and with 260 Sq ft of sail up front care must be taken to prevent oversheeting and closure of the “slot” with consequential mainsail backing which impacts performance. This can also be corrected, to a degree, by running the genoa cars aft and opening up the upper section of the sail which improves drive but reduces pointing ability. This “slot closure” is more common with older sails which have stretched to varying degrees.
The No 2 or No 3, the latter generally recognised by the strop above the head, both set well in suitable conditions. The Raven 26 can comfortably carry full sail up to 20 Kn and above that options for reducing sail are varied but progressive main and headsail reduction is preferred.
Setting a No 3 when wind conditions increase and managing balance and heel angle via mainsail reefing or traveller adjustments works well for most owners.
Mainsails can be found fully battened or with conventional battens in a variety of cloth weights and normally have provision for two reef points. A third reef is almost certainly not required and if the wind is greater that 35-40 Kn the boat is better handled on #3 headsail alone.
With masthead spinnaker set the boat can get good downwind speed in the right wind and sea conditions. Reaching with spinnaker up can be exciting at times and care needs to be taken if any significant heel is encountered as, in these conditions, the rudder can “let go” resulting in a round up or broach. This is not uncommon to many yachts and only occurs in race situations when hard pressed.
Rigging some barber haulers for the spinnaker sheet and brace is a good idea to increase control over the spinnaker. I have some that are simply attached to eyebolts installed into stanchion bolt locations with quick disconnect clips, ie: no blocks or pulleys, keep it simple!, is always a good idea.
With headsail “gull winged” the boat can develop a degree of rythmic rolling if the upper sections of the sails are not kept under control, while this can be disconcerting it has never lead to a broach type situation.
Seas that would stall smaller / lighter boats do not appear to worry the Ravens when hard pressed although the leeward bow can pound quite hard in short / choppy seas when going to windward.
Most boats now have the mainsheet traveller mounted on the deck and attached mid boom but some owners initially opted for sheeting from the aft end of the boom to the cockpit floor with no traveller arrangement.
Many published statements have been made about the Raven 26's handling and sea-keeping abilities, some of these are copied below:
They are as “safe as houses”, can go anywhere without any trouble and therefore have great appeal to first time keeler owners.
She is well balanced, consistent with her safe all rounder status. Her stiffness enables her to carry full sail in up to 20 knots without any trouble, the new sailor caught with too much rag up will not have much to fear.
The boat has an easy motion in a seaway, and although not capable of bursts of speed that some of the lightweights exhibit, it will maintain a surprisingly high average speed over a wide range of weather conditions without stressing the crew.
Another consequence of the hull shape is the ability to carry a much heavier load than most boats her size without slowing her down too much.
As a step up from a smaller boat or trailer yacht this comfortable and sea kindly little craft would be hard to beat.
The Raven is not a downwind flyer, but has a conservative all-round performance still respected all these years after she first entered our waters.
Maintenance / possible things to watch out for:
With any boat approaching, or over, 40 years old maintenance and repair becomes a fact of life and my experience has been that there is not much that cannot be corrected with some pre planning, good tools and trade practices. Some potential problems are also pretty easy to prevent.
To simplify the listing I have broken the types of things I have found or are aware of into groups, hull/rudder, deck, rig.
Interior inspection of furniture, wiring, plumbing and engine installation is thought to be relatively straightforward and poor quality installations or defects should be self evident.
If in doubt get it inspected by a pro and a pre purchase inspection by a qualified boatbuilders is always a good idea and generally worth the money spent when bargaining a final price.
Hull / rudder:
Stemhead fittings, many are bronze castings attached to the deck structure. When dry and in good condition this arrangement will have a long life but crevice corrosion to stainless hardware can let you down when you need it. Check the underside of the stem fitting and particularly the steel stem support which is prone to rusting. Some boats, many with roller furler modifications, have had this replaced with a “wrap around” design of fitting bolted through the deck and hull sections.
Through hull fittings, simple maintenance items when hauled out but watch out for old style plastic fittings that can crack if loaded up with the internal pipes. Bronze fittings are common and readily inspected inside and out.
Modifications for sensors. Most are OK if left alone but I removed and reglassed a few old / redundant ones.
Rudder is of balanced design with steel torque tube. If removing make sure you have enough height in the cradle and watch out as it is a heavy beast. The design is pretty solid but water can get into the core if damaged, especially prone is the spot where the torque tube enters the rudder itself, water here will be a major repair best left to pro's.
Rudder bearings: trick statement as there are none. The upper end is a bronze fitting which is pretty easy to cleanup and shim if necessary but there is no lower bearing. Rudder slop can be caused by wear to the fibreglass at the bottom of the hull tube, easily reglassed to limit movement as long as the torque tune is still in good condition. Also check inside to make sure there is no damaged to the upper and lower ends of the through hull tube section, they were simply classed into position when built and this area is susceptible to impact damage.
Cutlass bearing: mine is a standard 1” bearing which was easy to replace after cutting it through with a hacksaw, you will need to rudder off to get the shaft out first though and check the length of the bearing and clean out the shaft tube if necessary prior to installing a replacement.
Keel join area (Mk 1), easy to inspect when hauled out. Keel bolts are located at the bottom of the inbuilt water tank, any signs of looseness or corrosion to nuts / studs etc is cause for concern. Some owners have had to get their keels recast with new studs installed. Others have dealt with damaged bolts by “partnering” bolts. Neither approach is an easy fix.
Hull condition, most boats will have had some blisters in the hull by now and many have been skimmed, dried out and epoxied to prevent subsequent osmosis damage.
Bulkhead tabbing, generally these areas are very well built but any degraded tabbing will need replacement. I found some broken tabs under the cockpit seats by the aft quarterberth bulkhead after noticing the seat moving when stepped on. Probable cause was heavy feet when boarding.
I can only talk about the Mk 1 from experience:
Stanchion bases, check the bolts. I had a crew member lean on a stanchion one day and she broke a single bolt. After feeling bad for a while about busting my boat I reminded her she had done us all a favour as on inspection about 50% of the bolts were severely crevice corroded. In fact most were not bolts to start with they were lengths of threaded rod with nuts at each end, all replaced and bases resealed.
Timber condition. Local damage to the glass coating or poor bedding of fittings can lead to water ingress with nasty results. Pay particular attention around the anchor well cutout and pulpit bases where wear or damage is probable. Local wetness around fittings can be dried out over time and, unless rotten, cutting back the glass and digging out a large sections of the deck timber is probably not justifiable. Serious damage, resulting in significant strength loss and hence movement, should be visible by inspection.
Hull deck join area, while not a problem on my boat I am aware others have had “issues” here. Main areas are up front by anchor locker and under cockpit “gunwhales” where water (in the side lockers) can affect the joining timbers from below. Water leaks will inevitably occur with this problem and it can be hard to fix.
Deck to main bulkhead join, this is a glassed joint and I found some cracking and old repairs that needed attention on the upper edge. Complete grinding of all loose joint glass and replacement with epoxy resin / uni cloth will last another 40 years plus. Incidentally I found the original tabbing in this area quite brittle but only ground out the damaged parts (about 12” each side)
Re Mk 2 its pretty obvious that deck hardware bedding into a composite/ balsa core needs to be in good condition and stress cracking is indicative of core crushing or other damage.
The rig is a pretty simple design and strongly specified. Defects to standing rigging may not always be obvious to the inexperienced and many may be quite old by now. Check it thoroughly and if you cant maintain decent tension in the rig look for compression of the mast step, deck area or post base area itself.
Some things I have found that needed to be corrected are:
Chainplates, these are pretty strong but the weakness is the bolts to the bulkhead. On mine they were 1/4” galv gutter bolts going into (approx) 3/8” holes. I drilled the whole lot out to 10 mm and used stainless hardware. The plates had some light corrosion and salt deposits on the rear faces which cleaned off easily, The “U” bolts are a simple design but watch out for deformation or crevice corrosion. The deck holes should be well sealed and, preferably oversize and epoxy plugged prior to drilling.
Backstay fitting, the original design attaches this bronze fitting with a single tensioned stud. Mine was bent and cracked. I replaced the stud and added two 8mm bolts to prevent bending loads on the fitting. These bolts were backed up with a stainless doubler under the aft deck. I have observed this type of “fix” on many Ravens.
Cracked tangs, the upper mast tangs were of welded construction and had cracks around the welds. It is not known if they were original but the welding looked like it had been done with gas not MIG / TIG. I remade the complete upper tangs.
Mast step / compression post. I found compression occurring around the mast step / deck area. I replaced the wooden step and dug out all of the end grain timber and replaced with solid epoxy / glass to eliminate all compression.
Compression post, originally made of steel tube they corrode at the bottom end if water gets in. The mounting area to the hull also needs to be in good condition, mine had loose tabbing to the hull which I also replaced.
The Raven 26 is a pretty well proven boat and the hull is strongly built.
Many have travelled offshore, some to Australia, one to the west coast of the USA and many up to the Pacific islands.
Raven 2 (sail # 975), the second timber Raven 26 from which the mould was taken for all glass boats, successfully competed in the Round North Island 2 handed race in Feb / Mar 1977 crewed by Kevin Kelly and Laurie Needham from Panmure. They came 3rd on handicap and 14th overall in the fleet of 38 that started.
Classic New Zealand Yachts
Seaspray April 1973
Boating World, September 1993
Boating New Zealand April 2008
DB Yachting Annual 1977