“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

Ernest Hemingway
Columbia Sailing Stargazer

Stargazer resting easy at her slip overlooking the Nassau Peninsula Wildlife area.


They say that great things come in small packages! And so that is true about how we feel about our boat. The Columbia 8.7 was one of the first of a series of modern small cruisers built by Columbia in the late 1970s. These were all given metric length designations to distinguish them from Columbia’s older boats. Most of which were designed by Bill Tripp. The metric Columbias—the 7.6, 8.7, 9.6, 10.7 and 11.8—were drawn by Alan Payne an Australian. He also designed the America’s Cup challengers Gretel and Gretel II, two of the more competitive boats to participate in the Cup races prior to 1983.

Columbia Sailing Stargazer

Stern view showing the 9.9 outboard we used before re powering with a Vetus diesel

The Super Cruiser

Columbia labeled the entire Payne line as “wide body super-cruisers.” The implication being that the boats were designed exclusively for cruising, and that you were getting more boat per foot of length. In fact, the metric Columbia’s are a few inches beamier than most other “modern” cruisers of the late 1970s. They are also quite a bit wider than slightly older style cruising boats of the same period. By way of comparison, the Cape Dory 28 has a beam of 8′ 11″; and the Cal 2-29, 9′ 3″. Our Columbia has a 10′ beam and it makes all the difference in being comfortable and feels roomy for it’s size. We have lived aboard ours full time for three years so far. It has become very much a part of our Cruising Life.

Columbia Sailing Stargazer

View from the spreaders

Our boat is fitted with a tiller, which comes up through the deck at the aft end of the cockpit. This keeps the cockpit uncluttered. Some later boats were equipped with pedestal wheel steering, which eats up a lot of cockpit space.

We don’t see a reason to have wheel steering on a well-balanced boat this size.  Although there may be some ego satisfaction that comes from thinking you’re sailing a bigger boat! If you want to sit outboard to see the sails better, get a tiller extension. It’s simpler and cheaper to install than a wheel.

Sailing Performance

You might think that a cruising boat designed by one of the more successful 12-meter designers would be a real screamer under sail. The 8.7 is about 500 to 1,000 pounds heavier than other boats of her size and type.  The rig is still only about average in size. In winds of below about 10 knots, owners report that the boat is no faster than other boats of her type.

One big performance plus is the boat’s balance under sail. A large number of owners say the boat is perfectly balanced on all points of sail. It also handles very well in all wind velocities. Part of this probably stems from the shape of the stern. The pronounced tuck in the stern that creates the wineglass transom also creates a fairly symmetrical water plane, which stays symmetrical as the boat heels.

The 8.7 is quite stiff. The hull is slab-sided amidships, with a hard bilge turn that is practically a chine. This form provides a lot of initial stability as well as increasing interior volume. Follow this link to the full Practical sailor review of the Columbia 8.7 .


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