A Short List of Centerboard Cruising Boats

Posted by at 01:16PM - Comments: (16)

November 20, 2012

Being stuck on the west coast of Florida, with two shoaling channels offering the easiest access out to the Gulf of Mexico, Iíve suddenly become more interested in centerboard cruisers. Generally, Iím not a huge proponent of adding moving parts to a cruising sailboat, but the attraction of being able to make reasonable progress to windward, feel secure in a blow, and explore skinny-water paradises that are off limits to conventional offshore designs is hard to resist.

Charlie Morgan's Morgan 41 is a Florida favorite.

So this week, I started a short list of 35- to 45-foot boats that looked interesting to me. Some Iíve sailed on; some I havenít. Practical Sailor has reviewed several of these boats. (Iíve provided links to the reviews of boats we have looked at.) Iíd be interested in adding to this list and hearing thoughts from other owners of centerboard cruisers.

They are listed in no particular order.

1. Krogen 38. I grew up down the street from the Krogen family on Key Biscayne and had the chance to visit Jimís design studio when I was just starting out as a reporter back in the 1980s. This is a pure cruising cutter that Krogen designed for himself. It has two bronze centerboards, one in front of the other, making it very easy to balance on long passages. Pros: This is a robust, three-cabin cruising boat with a loyal following. Cons: Cored hull and teak decks on boats of this age can be landmines. Are two centerboards double trouble?
2. Morgan 41. Iíve sailed on a couple of these sloops and like the way they look and sail. The boatís heritage gives it a loyal following (a good thing to look for in any used boat). Pros: Storied design, with a good deck layout and comfortable motion. Cons: Finish quality varies greatly as many were owner-completed. Factory interior is pretty basic.
3. Tartan 37. A classic Sparkman & Stephens design. Three different couples my wife, Theresa, and I cruised in company with in the Caribbean had Tartan 37s, and all of them were happy with the boat. Pros: A very popular dual-purpose classic with good bones. Cons: A bit pricey for the size and vintage, and not as spacious as contemporary 37-footers.

The Tartan 37 remains a popular boat in shallow cruising grounds.

4. Ovni 43. In the Pacific and Southeast Asia, we sailed with two different couples cruising aboard these aluminum boats, made popular by circumnavigator, rally organizer, and author Jimmy Cornell. Pros: Tough aluminum construction, good track record. Cons: High price, and used boats are hard to find.
5. Block Island 40. Iíve never sailed on this fabled yawl designed by Bill Tripp, but PS Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo often cites it as an example of rugged construction. Pros: Proven offshore design with a cult-like following. Cons: Many of the older Block Island 40s require expensive upgrades that will quickly eat through a cruising budget.
6. Bristol 35.5. This Ted Hood design marked Bristolís push into the big-boat market under Bristolís boss Clint Pearson. Pros: This is a solidly built and popular Bermuda veteran. Cons: Totally enclosed cable makes it difficult to service. Not as spacious as contemporary cruisers in this size.
7. Sabre 38 MkI or MkII. Iíve sailed several Sabres, ranging from the older Roger Hewson designed 34s to the new-generation Jim Taylor boats, and have always been impressed with the way they handled. Pros: Sabreís craftsmanship is generally above average for production boats. Stick-built interior is more amenable to owner conversions. Cons: Outside of the Northeast, Sabres do not carry as much value as some other brands.

I initially thought Iíd dig up 10 boats, but with Thanksgiving around the corner, the crush of work and family obligations, Iím calling this project to a halt for now. Happy Thanksgiving! Iíd love to hear some other suggestions to help round out the list!

Comments (13)

Maybe the price of a Bermuda 40 kept it off this list but it definately needs to be there. No cable to break either, it has a worm gear for the board. Draft is 4'3" with the board up so you can tuck right in those secluded coves. With a non cored hull nothing will ruin your day either. A dream to sail as well.

Posted by: Edward S | November 27, 2012 5:16 PM    Report this comment

I owned a Pearson 36 (1985) Centerboarder for years. Never had a problem with the cable. Good sailor.

Posted by: Michael S | November 27, 2012 2:02 PM    Report this comment

Assume that air draft is not an issue? You can expect additional maintenance issues. I do endorse using high tech line instead of cable. There is the Seaward 46 but if a used Tartan isn't in the budget that surely is not. There are some Nightwind 35's around but they tend to have very different finish levels and at this point they are getting on in years. But they are very shoal and can be fast. Brewers are a good cruising choice. Obviously on the W Coast of FL you should have a good selection of Morgans. I'd stay away from the bilge keel approach- SW FL is a light wind area and there is not enough tide to dry it out even if you wanted to.

Posted by: KIM B | November 26, 2012 7:58 AM    Report this comment

Bilge keels, as is popular in the UK, example s like Moody's 34 and 37 from the eighties. Hard to find, but no moving parts, stout build, comfortable motion and, a bonus, able to dry out and stand on the keels.

Posted by: ERIK W | November 24, 2012 4:37 PM    Report this comment

The Bristol 38.8 sloop, designed by Ted Hood/Dieter Emphacher has great sailing characteristics and a well crafted roomy cabin. Draft is 4'6" with CB up, 10'3" down so there is good upwind and downwind performance. Shares the enclosed CB cable issue of the 35.5, but not an insurmountable problem. Steve

Posted by: STEPHEN Z | November 22, 2012 8:48 AM    Report this comment

Shannon 37 centerboard draws 4-3 up & under 9' down. Dedicated winch with SS cable lifts in 12 turns, almost too easily. I have a 1987 cutter-ketch and she sails like silk. s/v Silk

Posted by: Marshall T | November 22, 2012 6:38 AM    Report this comment

A Brewer 12.8 or a Brewer 44 wiuld also be a possibility They sail like a dream plus have lots of volume for cruising. 4.9 board up 8.6 board down. Fort Myers Shipbuilding did a wonderful job making these in the late 80's

Posted by: Frederick C C | November 21, 2012 7:03 PM    Report this comment

A classic: Pearson Invicta ! A poor man's Bermuda 40 by Wm Tripp.

Posted by: Warren G H | November 21, 2012 5:05 PM    Report this comment

Have a look at the Morgan 383/384. I was looking at the Tartan 37s and found this really great boat. It has a five foot fixed keel - no moving parts ..........

Posted by: shorton912 | November 21, 2012 3:36 PM    Report this comment

Has anyone ever modified a shoal draft to add a centerboard? Can it even be done?

Posted by: Jerry S | November 21, 2012 11:52 AM    Report this comment

The Tartan 40 fits the bill nicely. 4'9" board up, 8'6" board down and sails like a dream.

Posted by: James D | November 21, 2012 11:22 AM    Report this comment

Southerly 42? Saw one at a Boat Show really nice boat and a long history of North Atlantic sailing and Center Board experience.

Posted by: Steve M | November 20, 2012 10:00 PM    Report this comment

A Searunner 37 trimaran has a 3'2" draft with the board up and a 6'5" draft with the board down. Unlike most centerboards Jim Brown designed the board with huge bouyancy. You crank the board down. If you strike something board can be set to pop right up. It's saved me a couple of times.

Posted by: DOUG K | November 20, 2012 5:07 PM    Report this comment


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