Differences between the

"old" and "new" Tanzer 26's


My Tanzer 26 was built in 1975 and is one of the older models (Sail #28). I have noticed that people are often surprised by the differences between this older model and the newer Tanzer 26's. As a result, I thought it would be worthwhile to review the production history of the T26 and point out some of the differences between earlier and more recent models.

The Tanzer 26 was designed in 1974 and close to a thousand were built before the model was phased out in 1985. For all practical purposes, the Tanzer 26 remained essentially the same boat throughout its production run, although a design update in 1978-79 resulted in a number of noticeable changes - the most prominent being a new window configuration. I would estimate that a little over 200 of the older designs were built, meaning that the newer model constitutes the vast majority of T26's that made it out of the Tanzer factory.

It is also interesting to note that while most Tanzers were manufactured at the company's home base in Dorion, Quebec (a Montreal suburb), they were also produced in Edenton, North Carolina, and Arlington, Washington. I'm not clear if the Tanzer 26 was built in both US locations.

A New Window Configuration

As already mentioned, a new window configuration was introduced with the new model. It consists of a single long window on each side of the raised trunk cabin, while the older models have 4 windows (the same portlights found on the Tanzer 22) on each side of the boat in the area between the deck top and the rubrail. This arrangement means the older models have a total of 4 windows in the main cabin, 2 in the head, and 2 in the V-berth compartment. Note that some of the older T26's were also built with only 3 windows on each side. I believe (but I'm not sure) that this 3 window configuration was more common on boats built in the United States.

From the exterior, I prefer the appearance of the long window on each side of the trunk cabin. This arrangement also frees up the space needed to apply the boat's name in the area between the deck top and rubrail (which I think adds a touch of class to the T26's). However, from the interior, I'm partial to the window configuration found on the older models. On my boat, for example, it's possible to survey the going-ons in the anchorage while comfortably seated in the main cabin (or on the head, for that matter). Moreover, my kids like the windows in the V-berth because it allows them to check what's happening outside without having to stick their heads out of the hatch (which is usually screened in when we are sleeping for the night).

A Better Hatch

The forward hatch is one area where there has been a definite upgrade. The newer T26's are equipped with aluminum-framed polycarbonate (smoked plexiglass) hatches - versus - the heavy solid fiberglass hatches that come with the older models. Many people have installed a clear ventilator in these pre-historic fiberglass hatches. A by-product of the newer hatch arrangement is that it frees up the forward facing wall of the trunk cabin. Tanzer wisely installed an opening port in this spot - which is great for added ventilation.

Other differences between the older and newer models include exterior handrails that are about a foot and half longer on the earlier Tanzer 26's. Furthermore, the older models have recessed mainsheet travelers, a feature which makes it a little more comfortable to sit in the forward corners of the cockpit. On the other side of the coin, the newer models have non-skid surface on the narrow portion of the deck on each side of the cockpit (what could be considered the top of the cockpit coamings). This is a sorely missing feature on the older designs.

Interior Differences

The interior also has a number of noteworthy differences. The newer T26's have better access to the V-berth compartment, including a cut away that allows people to "step into" the forward cabin. On these boats a curtain is used to separate the head from the V-berth area.

By comparison, the V-berth in the older T26's have no cut away, but can be completely closed off from the rest of the boat with 2 sliding doors. This arrangement clearly provides more privacy from the head than a curtain, and our kids like the fact that they can close off the forward cabin to create their "own" room. However I find that the lack of a cut away and the frames which support the sliding door restrict easy access to the V-berth area.

It should be noted that when the filler cushion is inserted in the cut away, the V-berths on the newer and older models provide the same amount of sleeping room.

Our 1975 Tanzer has a sink and hand pump unit which slides out from behind the head. I'm not sure if this was a standard feature on the older models, or simply an option which was ordered with our particular boat.

A Starboard Berth

The main cabin of the older boats has a feature that often surprises owners of the newer models. There's room to sleep an adult on the starboard settee. This is accomplished by having a slightly smaller galley area, and a foot well for the sleeping individual which extends under the counter. This arrangement means the stove is mounted on top of the galley counter.

On the newer T26's the galley is slightly larger and has an opening which allows the stove to be installed at counter height. However, this eliminates the space for the foot well, and the final result is a starboard settee that is only large enough to sit two people. Personally, I don't like this arrangement, but it is a feature which is also found on larger Tanzers, including the Tanzer 8.5 (a 28 footer) and Tanzer 31. It should also be noted that on the newer models, the back rest of the starboard settee is a board which folds up to form a chart table.

Because of the lack of a berth on the starboard settee, the newer T26's have a port settee that converts into a double berth. With a little ingenuity, it's fairly easy to implement the same arrangement on the older Tanzers.

Veneer Finishes

I have also noticed that the table which folds against the bulkhead is a little longer on my boat than what I have seen on the more recent T26's. Additionally, the main bulkhead on my boat is finished with a teak veneer. It certainly looks a lot nicer than the simulated wood grain vinyl found on later Tanzers, but I can't help notice that I'm bragging about having a real veneer finish.

Another difference is that the area under the companionway ladder is wide open on the older models. While this makes it easy to store large items in this part of the boat, it also means everything remains visible from the main cabin. On the newer T26's, this area is enclosed, but the space is accessible through two reasonably large doors.

A final word - I should again emphasize that the Tanzer 26 has remained essentially the same boat throughout its production run. With the possible exception of the windows, most of the differences I have pointed out would probably not be noticed by the casual observer looking at the older and newer models for the first time.

Written by Michael McGoldrick.
© Michael McGoldrick, 1998.