This page is dedicated to all things technical about the Alcan/Alwest Housecruisers.
The first article “Alcan Hull Dynamics” is based on my research into re-powering Buster, our Alwest 370. When I first approached Volvo with the idea, I received a bit of a cold shoulder. The sales engineer seemed to think that the hull was a “semi-displacement” configuration and started designing the power system around this assumption. Somehow I needed to convince this fellow that the boat was light enough to plane and that he should contemplate something a little different. I am not sure I ever convinced him of this need, but I know for sure that he would be surprised by the performance of my boat. I would hope that the next person doing a re-power with Volvo will benefit from this experience and get a slightly better gearing to permit efficient operation with Volvo propellers. I, had to resort to Mercury propellers to get the boat moving acceptably.
There was a terrific article in “Sail” magazine dealing with the advantages/disadvantages of the two metals. This article covers off the strength, weight, and other properties of the two metals in a relatively balanced fashion.
The “Electrical” page contains schematic diagrams of the AC and DC systems of the Alcan/Alwest boats. The set of diagrams is incomplete as it does not cover every year/model. However, the differences from one model to the next are sufficiently minimal that the diagrams should provide a useful starting point.
The “Equipment” section is a series of scans of the manuals for the various pieces of equipment originally installed in the boat. There are a number of vendors for each piece of equipment, but this page provides the most common parts.
The story of developing a home-brew chart-plotter using parts from a Police car computer.
2007 article by Rob Farrow on re-skinning the superstructure of a 1972 Alwest 370. This article deals with one of the weakest parts of Alwest construction; the aluminum clad plywood superstructure. The lower parts of the plywood near the deck surface can become soaked from rain water and splashing and will eventually rot. See how Rob dealt with this problem.
Download the PDF – Alwest Superstructure
Another article by Rob Farrow. This time, he installs teak plank decks on his 1972 Alwest 370.
Download the PDF – Alwest Teak Decks
Swimming from an Alcan/Alwest is a bit of a chore. The built-in ladder is hard to use as it is mounted on a negative slope. And the only practical way to dip your feet in the water is to throw the rest of your body in with them. In this article by Rob Farrow he installs a swim grid on his 1972 Alwest 370.
Download the PDF – Swim Grid
The holding tank on the Alwest 370 is typically located inside the vanity in the head. This is:
b) a waste of space
In this article by Rob Farrow, he relocates the holding tank under the floorboards.
Download the PDF – Holding Tank Relocation
Have you ever thought about redesigning the interior layout of your Alwest? I did. I didn’t have any sort of CAD program, so I imported some of the brochure drawings into PowerPoint and traced over them with lines and curves to produce some handy pictures for sketching.
The Alcan/Alwest boats are a terrific platform for coastal boating. However, the means of carrying a tender was left to the owner to design. The pilot house roof is wide open on models not equipped with a flying bridge. The sun-deck over the lower cabin is spacious and able to accommodate relatively large (and heavy) tenders. But the most convenient way to carry a dinghy is on davits off the transom. In this article Rob Farrow constructs davits to mount a dinghy on the transom of his Alwest 370.
Download the PDF – Alwest Dinghy Davits
One of the best things about an Alcan/Alwest is the big windows that let the breeze flow through . . . . except when it is raining. The slope to the cabin sides will even let a straight down rainfall come in the windows on both sides at the same time. In this project, Rob Farrow shows his design for a simple window awning to allow you to open your boat windows even when it is raining.
Download the PDF – Rain Awnings
The original galley on an Alwest is relatively well laid out, but could use some modernization. In this project, Rob Farrow shows his new galley.
Download the PDF – Galley Replacement
Joe Foster of Florida found an amazing package of blueprints when he purchased his 1969 Alcan 370 “The Islander” then named “Good Time Annie”. Joe was kind enough to get some good quality pictures of the blueprints and send them to me to publish on the site. There are 30 blueprints in total available in JPG and PDF format.
Alwest (and some Alcan) boats have a “passive” cabin bilge vent on the port side of the superstructure, just aft of the window in the head. This passage comes up between the shower and the superstructure and appears to be designed to use the temperature differential between the cool bilge and warmer cabin wall to create a “chimney effect” to draw air out of the bilge.
Download the PDF – Bilge Ventilation
I suffered a loss of steering with the 36 year-old steering cable decided to fail. In this article you can see the technique I used for an emergency field repair of the cable with materials on hand in the boat. I also show a picture of a more robust repair from another Alcan owner (my father).
Despite their size, the Alcan boats do not have luxurious sleeping quarters. In a model of efficiency, there are no permanent sleeping accommodations except on boats equipped with the “Cuddy Cabin” option. The Cuddy Cabin is under the pilot-house included a finished plywood interior and cushions fitted to the irregular shape. See what Rob Farrow does for sleeping accommodations and the additional article on the lower forward berth on Catherine Ann.
Download the PDF – Alwest Berth Arrangement
Alcan boats are different from most other boats. The design is very strong, yet light. They require attention to their construction to store them on dry land without damage.
In one of his most ambitious projects to date, Rob Farrow replaces the aluminum railings on Catherine Ann with more traditional wood and stainless. The results are stunning.
Download the PDF – Wood & Stainless Railings
If you own one of these boats and have the original steering equipment then you know what drove Rob Farrow to install hydraulic steering. The original push-pull cable steering system used on many of the boats was acceptable, provided the cable was not worn and the mechanism at the wheel was in good shape, and provided that the cable didn’t have too many bends, and provided… you get the picture. The second steering station on the flying bridge made for a more complicated system that did nothing to help the control and ease of steering. In this article, Rob replaces the old cable system on Catherine Ann with a hydraulic system.
Download the PDF – Hydraulic Steering
The Onan 6.5KW generator that was standard on many of the boats is probably still going strong on many. In this article Rob Farrow describes a couple of modification he performed to reduce the cost of parts and to improve battery charging on Catherine Ann.
Download the PDF – GenSet
The bellows on the older Volvo Penta outdrives should be inspected regularly and replaced when required. In this article, Rob Farrow provides information on removing and replacing these parts. It is not all that complicated, but there are lots of things that would be easy to do wrong that could be costly.
Download the PDF – Outdrive R&R Revised
One feature that was missing from the original boat is a good way of handling the ground tackle. The boats were sometimes equipped with rudimentary deck chocks for an anchor and there is some hint that a bow roller could be provided, but these were nowhere as useful as a bow-sprit with built-in anchor handling equipment.
Download the PDF – Bow Sprit Article
Below the forward cabin on the Alwest 370 is sufficient space for a sleeping cabin. This was planned for in the original design by the addition of side portlights and an air scoop from the forward deck.
Download the PDF -Forward Berth Article
The top deck on any of the Alcan/Alwest/Alloy boats is a great place to lounge about . . . but definitely needs a sunshade in the heat of the summer.
Download the PDF – Stowable Top Deck Sunshade