Boat Reviews

Crealock 37

A conservative boat that is sold as a

The Crealock 37 is the largest boat built by Pacific Seacraft, a California company that has carved a comfortable and ever-growing niche in the boat market by specializing in smaller, high-quality cruising boats. Pacific Seacraft boats could be termed “modern traditional,” with pronounced sheerlines, traditional bronze hardware, moderate displacement, and conservative modern underbodies.

This boat was first built by Cruising Consultants, a short-lived California company that built 16 Crealock 37s in 1978 and 1979. In 1980, Pacific Seacraft acquired the tooling.

There’s no way around it. To someone who appreciates a traditional-looking boat, the Crealock 37 is about as pretty as they get. The canoe stern isn’t for everyone, but Bill Crealock draws it perfectly, in a way that both Will Fife, Jr, and L. Francis Herreshoff would have appreciated.

Because freeboard is fairly low, the cabin trunk must be quite tall to give good headroom below. Its height is somewhat disguised by low bulwarks and teak eyebrow trim dropped down below the actual top of the cabin trunk.

The Crealock 37 was conceived and marketed as a go-anywhere boat, and in both design and construction it fits the bill. That’s not to say it’s perfect— no boat is.

Hull And Deck

This is a conservative boat, devoid of construction razzmatazz. The hull is an uncored, solid laminate. For those living in colder climates and wanting more insulation, the boat can be built with either foam or balsa core, but these are added to the normal hull layup, resulting in a somewhat heavier boat with slightly reduced interior volume.

Longitudinal and transverse stiffness are provided by a full-length molded liner which contains recesses for bulkheads, floors, major furniture components, engine beds, and water tanks. A liner like this can be a mixed blessing. If properly designed and installed, it adds considerable rigidity to the hull structure, and greatly speeds assembly of the boat’s interior. Poorly designed or improperly installed, liners can inadequately support the thin outer skin of the boat.

In the Crealock 37, numerous openings in the liner allow it to be securely glassed to the hull, using resin and fiberglass fabric. This is the way it should be done.

Hull liners are not without disadvantages. They constrain the interior layout to that defined by the liner, and they can make later installation of additions to the wiring and plumbing systems difficult.

One unusual feature of the Crealock 37’s construction is that the water tanks are an integral part of the hull liner. The sides, ends, and bottom of the tanks are molded. The tops of the tanks are Formica-faced plywood. This is a reasonable way to do the job. We would not recommend using the inside of the hull itself as part of the tank, since this could aggravate a hull’s tendency to blister.

The main structural bulkhead at the forward end of the main cabin is both glassed and bolted in place. Since the bulkhead and compression post must absorb the load of the deck-stepped mast, this belt-and braces attachment is a good idea. Below the hull liner, mast compression is transferred to the hull via a glass-filled PVC pipe. This is a reasonable installation, and we have never seen signs of excess compression loading on a Crealock 37’s deck.

Chainplates are stainless steel straps bolted through the topsides. This is a simple, strong, leak-proof installation. But aesthetically, it breaks up the clean flow of the sheerline, and we have seen chainplates like this bleed brown oxidation down the topsides after lengthy ocean passages. Functionally it means the shroud base is a bit wider than necessary, slightly constraining upwind performance.

Hardware and its installation are first-rate. Most of the deck hardware is bronze, and it is both well designed and well finished. Since Pacific Seacraft recently changed porthole suppliers, the familiar trademark oval ports have been replaced with more rectangular models. We think the oval ones look better, but according to the builder, the new ones seal better and have an improved spigot design.

Hull and deck are joined together at the bulwarks. At the top of the bulwarks, there is an inward-turning hull flange. On the deck, the edge of the molding turns upward to form the inner bulwark face, then outward at the top to overlap the hull flange. The joint is bedded in polyurethane sealant and throughbolted. The top of the bulwark is covered with a teak cap. You can’t fault this type of joint.

All through hull openings are equipped with either ball valves or tapered-plug seacocks, with the fittings bolted through the hull. This is the right way to do it, but it makes it difficult to use flush skin fittings.

Fiberglass work is excellent. Even on dark-colored hulls, there is no roving print-through, and there are no visible hard spots in the topsides. We have found minor gelcoat cracks around the mainsheet traveler supports, but these may well result from pulling the deck from the mold, rather than from stress on the traveler itself.

Decks are cored with plywood, rather than the more commonly used end-grain balsa. A balsa cored deck is both stiffer and lighter than a plywood cored deck, but you have to put plywood or glass inserts in the balsa deck under heavily-loaded hardware.

The keel is an external lead casting, bolted to the hull with stainless steel bolts. A conventional lowaspect fin keel is standard, but many owners choose the shoal draft Scheel keel.

The standard layout is a good one for comfortable long-term cruising. That’s fortunate, since the molded hull liner makes altering it difficult.

Rig

The mast is built by LeFiell. It is untapered, and is normally supplied with external halyards. Internal halyards are optional, and while unnecessary on a cruising boat, they do reduce windage and neaten things up around the mast.

Halyard winches are Lewmar 16 self-tailers. At least one of the winches should be upgraded in size so that the smallest member of the crew can hoist the largest member to the masthead if necessary.

The mast and boom are painted. Painted spars look great when they’re new, but they tend to get a little bedraggled after a few years of cruising. Anodized spars aren’t as pretty, but they usually hold up better over time.

The rig is simple and straightforward, rugged and functional. It’s not what you’d put on a racing boat, but it won’t fall down in heavy weather, either.

Engine And Mechanical Systems

Over the years, Pacific Seacraft has used both Universal and Yanmar diesels in the Crealock 37. The engine currently used is a four cylinder, 100 cubic inch Yanmar 4JHE, normally aspirated. This is about the ideal size engine for the boat, and it’s a very good installation.

A hinged panel lets you lift up the top of the engine box for quick access. You must remove the companionway ladder to get at the front of the engine, which you’d need to do to change the water pump impeller or alternator belt. A removable panel in the quarterberth gives access to the left side of the engine, as well as to the stuffing box. The engine compartment itself is properly sound insulated.

Two 120 amp-hour batteries are standard. The 55- amp alternator supplied is just barely adequate for the standard batteries. If you want more electrical storage capacity, you’ll also need to upgrade the alternator.

Wiring and plumbing are neat and workmanlike. Surprisingly, however, some components of the electrical and plumbing systems that should be standard on a boat of this quality, like lightning grounding, hot and cold pressure water, and an electric bilge pump, are options.

Handling Under Sail

You can have the Crealock 37 rigged as a sloop, cutter, or yawl. A divided rig offers no advantages on a boat this size. A double headsail rig is highly desirable, particularly if you use a headsail roller reefing system, since it allows you to hank on a heavy weather staysail without having to remove the genoa from the furling headstay.

The optional cutter rig adds to the price of the boat, but it’s worth it.

Another popular option is the singlehander’s package, which shifts halyards, reefing lines, jib downhaul, and halyard winches from the mast to the top of the cabin trunk at the front of the cockpit. Unfortunately, this puts the halyard winches directly in the way ofa cockpit dodger, preventing you from swinging the winch handle in a complete circle.

Genoa sheet winches are mounted on the molded cockpit coamings. Winches are adequately sized.

The lead from the genoa track through the turning blocks to the winches needs to be altered slightly to reduce friction. An angled shim under the turning blocks would do the job. We’d also go up one size on the turning blocks. Turning blocks are very heavily loaded—roughly twice the sheet load—and are frequently undersized.

Since the boat is fairly narrow by modern standards, the outboard chainplates are only a slight compromise in windward performance. The typical cruiser/racer of this length is almost a foot wider, meaning that sheeting angles on the Crealock 37 are roughly the same as they would be on the cruiser/ racer whose chainplates were 6" inboard.

The Crealock 37’s rig is very well proportioned. The mainsail’s aspect ratio of about 2.7:1 is about ideal, and the main itself is only 272 square feet—no sweat for one person to handle. With a divided foretriangle and headsail roller furling, sailing this boat is a piece of cake.

Compared to a cruiser/racer, the Crealock’s waterline is short by contemporary standards. This pushes her displacement/length ratio to 334, decidedly toward  the heavy end of the spectrum. But with a sailarea/displacement (SA/D) ratio of about 15.6:1, the boat offers pretty good performance in anything other than drifting conditions.

The displacement/length ratio is a tricky number to use. It is meaningless for evaluating performance without considering the SA/D ratio at the same time. For a 37' boat, the Crealock 37’s displacement is moderate. For a serious 37' cruising boat her displacement is actually fairly light.

All in all, the Crealock 37 will perform perfectly satisfactorily under sail, particularly on long passages.

Handling Under Power

The Yanmar engine is plenty of power for a boat of this displacement and type.

The boat was designed with a strut-mounted exposed prop. However, this was modifed to provide a prop aperture in the skeg supporting the rudder. The aperture is nicely faired, and the position of the prop immediately in front of the rudder gives good flow over the rudder for steering.

A two-bladed prop is standard, and you can reduce drag under sail by painting a mark on the shaft to help in aligning the blades with the deadwood for long passages. Alternatively, fit the boat with a twobladed or three-bladed feathering prop. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we can only reiterate that nothing will improve the typical sailboat’s handling in reverse more quickly than adding a feathering prop

A 40-gallon aluminum fuel tank is located in the bilge under the main cabin sole. It is completely removable without disassembling joinerwork. Although it’s unlikely you’ll ever have to take it out, this installation is a big plus. You can expect about a 250 mile range under power, which is reasonable for a boat this size. Somewhat greater fuel capacity would be desirable for a serious cruiser, but the boat doesn’t really have the displacement to carry a lot more fuel and water.

On Decks

The deck is quite well laid out for cruising, but where the heck do you put the dinghy? There’s not quite enough room between the mast and the mainsheet traveler for a decent-sized rigid dinghy.

There are dual anchor rollers at the bow, but they  don’t project far enough forward to get a CQR or Bruce anchor safely away from the topsides. One Crealock 37 we looked at has a custom drop-nose extension on the rollers, an excellent idea that should be incorporated by the builder.

The foredeck is a clear, unobstructed work area. There are four foredeck cleats: two 10" cleats mounted on the inside of the bulwarks next to the hawseholes, and two 12" cleats near the centerline for anchor rodes. Thanks, Pacific Seacraft, for an arrangement that acknowledges the reality of anchoring.

A raised fiberglass boss in the deck forward of the anchor cleats will accommodate an optional anchor windlass. Raising the windlass slightly above deck level greatly reduces the amount of water that gets below through the chainpipe. You’ll definitely want a windlass on this boat if you do any serious cruising.

Since the stanchions are bolted to the inside of the bulwarks rather than to the decks, decks are remarkably clear of clutter. Stanchions are 30" high, a good height for a cruising boat. On the downside, the face of the bulwarks can be deflected by leaning against the stanchions.

Despite the wide cabin trunk, the side decks are plenty wide enough for unobstructed passage, and there are teak grabrails along each side of the cabin trunk.

The cockpit is deep and comfortable, with coamings angled slightly outboard. Cockpit seats are just long enough to lie down on.

There are three cockpit lockers: a deep one on the starboard side that can serve as a sail locker, and two smaller lockers under the helmsman’s seat. A lazarette

on deck aft of the cockpit serves as a propane storage locker. It is properly sealed and scuppered, but it also functions as storage for the stern anchor rode. The lazarette is also big enough that it is tempting to use it for other storage as well.

According to ABYC (American Boat and Yacht Council) standard A-1.11.b(4), lockers used for LPG tank storage “shall not be used for storage of any other equipment.” Even storing the anchor rode in the lazarette would violate that section of the standards.

One excellent feature of Pacific Seacraft boats is the removable cockpit sole, which is bolted down on heavy gaskets. On this boat, the entire sole was originally removable, but with the now-standard steering pedestal in place (the boat was designed for tiller steering) you had to remove the entire steering gear and pedestal before the cockpit sole could be taken out. The deck molding has been retooled so that only the forward half of the sole is removable— a substantially more practical arrangement.

A narrow bridgedeck protects the companionway. The sliding companionway hatch itself is an excellent design, one of the most carefully thoughtout and watertight we have seen.

Surprisingly, there is no molded breakwater for a cockpit dodger. The dodger must be fitted around the mainsheet traveler supports and handrails. This makes it almost impossible to get a watertight seal around the bottom of the dodger—a serious drawback on a cruising boat. In general, however, the deck layout is clean, simple, and functional.

Belowdecks

Everyone has a different idea of what the interior of a serious cruising boat should be. The trend today is toward multiple cabins, queen-sized berths, and heads with stall showers. Instead, the Crealock 37 uses a very basic layout devoid of gimmicks and visual tricks, but one that is nearly ideal for a cruising couple.

The Crealock 37 has enough headroom even for tall folks. In the main cabin, there is an honest 6' 4" throughout. In the head and forward cabin, headroom is over 6'.

Despite an interior that is heavy on teak, the boat doesn’t look dark inside. The feeling of lightness is helped by multiple ports and hatches, an off-white padded vinyl headliner, and the exposed white fiberglass settee and galley dresser risers that are part of the molded hull liner.

Although an oil finish on the interior teak bulkheads and trim is standard, we highly recommend that you ask the builder not to oil the teak at all. Instead, varnish it. If you really want the interior to look good, use gloss varnish on the teak trim and fiddles, satin varnish on the bulkheads and any other flat areas of teak veneer.

The forward cabin has a nice-sized double berth— 50" wide and about 7' long—along the starboard side. The space below it is largely taken up by the forward water tank and the holding tank, although there are several drawers under the head of the berth. A comfortable seat fills what would otherwise be dead space between the berth and the hanging lockers to port. There are cubby lockers above the seat along the port side of the hull.

Using the space under the double berth for tankage is a reasonable solution, but not one free of drawbacks. When the water tank is full, you’re adding about 300 pounds at the forward end of the waterline. If you also carry a lot of chain in the anchor rode locker forward, this is enough weight to noticeably alter the boat’s trim and increase pitching moment, especially since the entry is fairly fine.

Ventilation in the forward cabin is good, with three opening ports and a double-opening Bomar hatch. The cowl vent over the passageway between the forward cabin and main cabin will help ventilation in bad weather.

The head compartment is on the starboard side, immediately aft of the forward cabin. Ventilation is provided by an opening port and a cowl vent.

A slatted teak seat folds down over the toilet if you want to sit down while showering, which is a good idea if you’re doing it while underway. Since the entire lower half of the head compartment is a fiberglass molding, cleanup is quite simple. The shower sump pumps directly overboard with its own pump—a good solution to the problem.

Main cabin seating consists of an L-shaped dinette to starboard, and a straight settee along the port side. A drop-leaf table folds up against the forward face of the galley dresser, and can be folded out in two sections to use for dining. Since you can’t reach the table from the settee, you’re really limited to four for dinner at the table.

We find the folding table a little awkward. It isn’t really sturdy enough to brace against at sea, so you’ll tend to leave it folded up. The halfway open position will be useful in port, although that doesn’t give you a table that two people can sit at comfortably.

A folding table is used for two reasons. First, the cabin sole in front of the dinette is removable so you can get at the fuel tank. Second, someone somewhere along the line decided that with a drop-in insert, the dinette would make a nice big double berth. Unfortunately, there’s no good place to stow the big piece of plywood you need to create that double berth, and you need another double berth on a 37' cruising boat about like you need a hole in the head.

Using the dinette as a single berth is a little awkward, since the corner of the L is a gradual curve rather than a right angle, limiting foot room.

There is good storage space under both the port settee and the dinette, and there are various lockers and shelves outboard of the settees. Surprisingly, the locker doors do not have positive catches. Instead, they rely on friction latches a mistake on a cruising boat, as you’ll discover the first time the lockers empty onto the cabin sole.

The nav station is aft of the port settee, and it has its own seat rather than using the head of the quarterberth. The chart table itself is a reasonable size, but the piano hinge that joins the opening lid to the fixed portion of the table top is not recessed flush, limiting the space you can actually use for plotting. In addition, the fixed part of the table is flat, making it a good place to put your coffee cup, but the rest of the table is angled. If the whole table were in one plane, it would make for a more usable work surface.

A well-designed electrical panel is mounted on the bulkhead next to the navigator. The forward section of this bulkhead is meant to be used for flushmounting electronics, but the space behind the bulkhead

is really too shallow for a lot of equipment, and the location places the instruments at an awkward angle for the navigator. Pacific Seacraft will build an instrument-mounting rack over the forward end of the chart table, and we recommend it.

Cruising boats really need a big, easy-to-use nav station, with plenty of shelf space for electronic goodies, sextant, and navigation books. A couple of drawers to hold small nav tools would also be useful.

Aft of the nav station is a large quarterberth. Theboat’s accommodation plan shows this as a double, but it’s really too small for that, being 42" wide at the head, tapering to about 2' wide at the foot.

Batteries are mounted under the head of the quarterberth, and the second water tank occupies most of the rest of the space below it.

The U-shaped galley is opposite the nav station. With one exception, it is a very workable galley. The exception is that the bottom of the deep double sinks

is right at the load waterline, so water sloshes back through the drains, particularly when the boat is on port tack. Since the galley counter is only 34" high— 36" is standard household height—a simple alteration would solve that problem.

The icebox is large and well insulated, with 4" of pour-in-place foam. The icebox lid, while insulated, needs to be gasketed to reduce heat transfer.

There is reasonable storage throughout the galley for food and utensils, although a cutlery drawer would be helpful. As a $440 option, you can get a good-sized locker suspended over the sinks. We’d go for it on a boat used for extended cruising.

 

Access to the bilge is somewhat limited, except for the large hatches over the fuel tank. Opening the small hatch over the aft end of the bilge sump requires removing the companionway ladder, a nuisance.

Light and ventilation in the main cabin are excelent, with four large and two small opening ports, plus a second large Bomar deck hatch. We’d add a second pair of Dorade boxes over the main cabin to improve heavy weather ventilation.

The interior of this boat is very livable for longterm offshore cruising. The three berths in the main cabin are all pretty much parallel to the centerline of the boat, an important consideration for sleeping under sail.

Our quibbles with the interior are small, and none of the faults we find is in any way fatal. The molded hull liner makes for an inflexible layout, but the standard one is good enough that this won’t be a problem for most people.

Conclusions

For an off-the-shelf serious cruiser for two people or a small family, you couldn’t do much better than this boat. The hull shape and design are pretty ideal, and the looks are classic without being dated or cute.

The Crealock 37 has held its value extremely well in a time when most boats are depreciating rapidly in a glutted market. This is largely due to the reputation of the boat and the builder, and due to the relatively small number of boats produced by the builder.

Pacific Seacraft’s ads have stressed the ruggedness and seaworthiness of the boat. One ad shows a Crealock 37 lying on her side on a reef, basically undamaged. Another ad promotes the Circumnavigator package, ready to go anywhere and complete down to the steering vane.

It’s pretty clear what the targeted market is: people who want to go places in small boats, who want good boats to carry them there, and have the money to spend. In today’s market, that’s a pretty good type of boat to build.

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