Boat Reviews

CSY 37

A strongly built cutter designed with a particular purpose in mind bareboat chartering.

The CSY 37, designed by Peter Schmitt, is the mid-sized boat In the CSY line. Primarily designed for the Caribbean bareboat charter trade, 87 of the raised-deck cutters were built.

Schmitt has combined some features most often found in “traditional” boats—the oval stem, raised deck, and semi-clipper bow—with a relatively modern underbody featuring a fairly long fin keel and a skeg-mounted rudder. On paper, the boat looks pretty good. In person, she is rather tubby and high-sided.

The CSY 37 most closely resembles the Ericson Cruising 36. The styling of both these boats can best be termed “ersatz traditional.”

With the short standard rig and shoal keel, she is no performance cruiser. With her huge cockpit she is not really a sea boat. Rather, she is a boat designed for a specific purpose, bareboat chartering, a purpose which she serves admirably. To expand her appeal to the general sailing public would be difficult, as CSY discovered. The company went under in 1981.

Most CSY 37s went into charter service, usually on lease-back arrangements. The boats have to be strong and reliable, for a week out of service for repairs means lost revenue to the charter operator. That the boats can stand up to this constant use and abuse is a credit to both designer and builder. Few other boats could, as CSY’s charter experience has shown.


There are really only two words to describe the construction of the CSY 37: massive overkill. This is a mixed blessing. It means you have a strong, heavy hull. It often also means that you end up with a boat that is undercanvassed in light air. Very often it means a boat that has a fairly low ballast-to-displacement ratio.

Forty percent of the CSY 37’s advertised displacement is in the ballast keel. With a 29' waterline, the displacement of about 20,000 lbs is about average by traditional standards, heavy by modern standards.

The hull is an extraordinarily heavy solid glass layup as is the deck. No core materials are used anywhere. Without coring such as balsa or Airex, a glass hull can sweat in a cold climate and can be excessively warm in a hot, humid climate.

The hull-to-deck joint is simple and effective. The hull and deck flanges, which overlap to form a molded rail, are bedded in 3M 5200 and throughbolted with stainless steel machine screws on 4" centers. 3M 5200 is about the most effective and tenacious adhesive sealant on the market.

Keel construction is unusual. The cast lead keel is glassed into the hollow keel molding, any voids being filled with fiberglass slurry. This is then glassed over to form a double bottom and to keep the ballast in place. This ballast arrangement is identical in both the shoal and deep draft versions. The deep draft boat, however, has a 16" deep keel extension filled with about 600 lbs of cast concrete. If a shoal draft boat is desired, this extension can simply be cut off. The shoal draft boat with less lateral plane will, of course, make more leeway.

The hull is molded in two pieces, then joined in the middle with heavy overlapping layers of mat and roving. This allows some flexibility in hull design allowing such features as a molded-in rubbing strake and a stern with substantial tumblehome.

Installation of hardware is excellent. This is one of the few boats we have ever seen with through-bolted bronze seacocks. Backing plates are used on deck hardware such as cleats and winches.

The rudder stock is a solid 2" round bronze bar. The cast bronze rudder heel fitting would look more at home on a 60' boat than on a 37-footer.

There are six large opening hatches on deck, making ventilation excellent. There’s also plenty of room for lounging about, crucial to the charter trade. There’s even enough space to carry along a dinghy.

The bow fitting is a massive stainless steel weldment, incorporating an anchor roller, a welded chock, and the headstay chainplate. The edges of the bow chock are not rounded, and could easily chafe an unprotected anchor rode. This bow fitting could double as an effective battering ram. We suspect that the dock boys in the West Indies are pretty wary every time an inexperienced charterer brings one of the CSY charter boats into the slip.

The chainplates are heavy stainless steel flat bars with load-distributing welded webs through-bolted to the hull. The hull layup is further reinforced in the way of the chainplates, an almost extraneous precaution, given the extreme heaviness of the regular hull layup.

Interior bulkheads are heavy waterproof plywood, attached to the hull with solid and neatly made fillets. Airex pads along the outboard edges of the bulkheads distribute the bulkhead stresses on the inside of the hull, preventing hard spots.

Cabin sole supports are clear fir. The teak-faced cabin sole is screwed to these bearers, with only limited access openings to the bilge. The Practical Sailor would prefer that most of the cabin sole be removable, providing access to the bilge spaces in an emergency. CSY appeared to be counting on the massiveness of the hull construction to prevent holing. This conceit could backfire. Remember the Titanic?

Hatches are molded fiberglass with translucent panels. They have good gasketing and good

holddowns, but a short person will have trouble reaching overhead to open the hatches due to the tremendous headroom.

Exterior finish is of good stock boat quality. Joinerwork is clean with the exception of an awkward transition from the railcap on top of the raised deck to the sheer-level railcap in the foredeck well.

The molded fiberglass trailboards are shielded below the bow by a somewhat awkward molded glass panel. This became standard after a number of CSY boats blew off their trailboards in heavy seas. We would have preferred it if they had just left the trailboards off entirely.

Handling Under Sail

The CSY 37 was available in two keel configurations, and with two rigs. The four possible combinations offer very different performance characteristics.

Most boats were delivered with the standard short rig. In areas of normally heavy air, such as the West Indies in winter, the normal rig is adequate. In light air with the short rig, the boat is a slug. The engine will come in handy under these circumstances.

Performance is greatly enhanced by the tall rig, which is about 8' taller than the standard rig and incoroporates two sets of spreaders.

With the chainplates set at the outboard edge of the hull, the sheeting base is excessively wide. Sheeting a genoa in tight enough to go to windward effectively is difficult.

To avoid the necessity for running backstays, the intermediate and after lower shrouds are attached to the deck several feet aft of the mast and the upper shrouds. Unfortunately, when broad reaching, the boom and main fetch up on these shrouds far too soon. This is ironic in a boat whose best point of sail is off the wind.

Our test boat had the tall rig and the shoal-draft keel. This is not the combination we would choose to own. Performance with the tall rig is greatly enhanced. However, the higher sail plan does make the boat more tender, and with the cut down keel combines to produce a boat that makes excessive leeway when heeled more than about 20 degrees. We would prefer to combine the tall rig with the deep keel.

Our test boat was overpowered with full main, staysail and large jib topsail by gusts of a little over 15 knots over the deck, sailing hard on the wind. She also made substantial leeway. With a reef in, the helm eased, the boat stood up, and leeway was less.

Off the wind, the CSY 37 comes into her own. She is stable as a church and visions of long tradewind passages instantly come to mind. Under those conditions she would shine if you had plenty of chafe protection on those aft-leading shrouds.

Halyard winches are mounted on the keel-stepped painted aluminum mast. The boom does not overhang the cockpit, and has a well-made boom gallows which provides a good handhold on deck as well as being an excellent place to store the boom when at rest, or when sailing under the storm jib alone in heavy weather.

Anchor handling is made easy by the bow roller arrangement. This boat was fitted with the optional stainless-steel anchor chain. We recommend using galvanized chain instead.

Handling Under Power

With such high topsides, the Perkins 4-108 is the smallest engine we would want in the boat. As it is, handling at slow speeds in a crosswind can be tricky. A great deal of practice is required to handle such a high-sided boat under power in a breeze.

The turning radius of the CSY 37 is substantially larger than with a shorter-keeled boat. With her heavy displacement, acceleration is not exactly necksnapping. She should have enough power to get her out of tight spots, however.

Handling in reverse is tricky. The boat does not go where you aim it until you learn to use a combination of rudder and bursts of throttle.

Engine access through the large cockpit hatch is good, but the heavy hatch should have a more positive means of holding it in the upright position. If it fell on your head, you’d remember it, if you were lucky enough to then remember anything.

To those who have been spoiled by the handling under power of some modern boats, the CSY 37 may be a disappointment. It handles like a boat, rather than a compact car, requiring some patience and planning ahead.

Deck Layout

With her raised deck amidships, the CSY 37 has an amazing amount of deck space, giving the on-deck impression of a small ship. There is plenty of space on deck to carry a rigid dinghy. Designer Peter Schmitt’s own CSY 37 carried a beautiful little dory with a varnished transom as a tender; she fit quite neatly on the starboard side and served as a catchall for fenders and lines.

Deck space is important in boats used extensively in the charter trade. Lounging on deck is the primary charter boat activity. In this category, the CSY 37 gets five stars.

Anchor handling is fairly easy with the stub bowsprit. There is, however, only a single bow cleat. This is a pet peeve of The Practical Sailor, for it greatly complicates anchoring with two anchors, a common practice for cruising boats. The optional “anchoring package” included a good length of stainless steel chain, which is miserable stuff to handle by hand. Use galvanized instead.

We do not recommend the electric anchor windlass. If you plan on using a windlass, get a boat with the manual unit.

Heavy travelers for both the main and the staysail are located on the main deck. Thwartships control lines should really be used with these to get optimum performance from the sails—essential on a boat which must be tweaked to get a reasonable level of performance on the wind.

The cockpit of the CSY 37 is huge—too big for an offshore boat but good for the charter trade. The large cockpit lockers are well divided and are partitioned from the engine space under the cockpit.

The starboard cockpit locker contains the best battery box installation we have seen on a stock boat.

The port locker contains the optional 110-VAC refrigeration compressor. Unfortunately, its wiring is exposed to the weather when the locker lid is opened. The sound-insulated engine room hatch occupies much of the cockpit sole.

There are four large cockpit scuppers, which are imperative to have with the huge cockpit. The companionway sill should be higher if the boat is to be used offshore. A fiberglass seahood, protecting the forward end of the companionway slide, is standard equipment.


Two interior arrangements are available, a two-stateroom, two-head plan, and a single-stateroom, singlehead plan. The two-stateroom plan is used primarily in the charter trade. It is really too much interior to try to cram in a 29' waterline and designer Schmitt was not particularly proud of it.

The single-stateroom layout is also unconventional, It gives over the forward 40% of the interior space to a large cabin with built-in double berth and a huge head compartment in the forepeak. The problem with this arrangement is that should you have guests aboard, they must troop through the owner’s cabin in order to use the head—a major inconvenience.

The space given over to the head in the singlestateroom model is almost exactly the same space occupied by the forward cabin in the two-stateroom model. With a single-stateroom layout, interior space might have been better utilized with a “conventional” layout of sleeping quarters forward with the head and hanging lockers dividing the forward cabin from the main cabin. Unfortunately, the “conventional” layout was not an option.

The interior volume of the CSY 37 is huge, thanks to the raised deck. There are many well-thought-out interior details, too many, unfortunately, to catalog here. The ice box, for example, is divided into two compartments with separate opening traps. The icebox has a minimum of 4" of urethane foam insulation, probably more than any other stock boat on the market.

There are, however, lapses in this good design. Galley counter tops in our test boat were covered with a slatelike laminate, difficult to clean and too bumpy for a good work surface. Head counters and some shelves were covered with marble-grained plastic, looking more like a slice out of a multicolored bowling ball than real marble.

The mixture of excellent design details, strange lapses in taste, and execution which ranges from fair to excellent is difficult to evaluate reasonably. It was pleasing to see, that after years of using teak-grained mica-covered bulkheads, CSY switched to real oakfaced bulkheads in newer production boats.

Ventilation of the interior can only be described as excellent. There are six opening hatches or skylights in addition to the companionway. Some dorade boxes, however, might be welcome in steamy climates with frequent rain. One could spend a great deal of time analyzing the interior details, primarily because a lot of thought has gone into them. Both of the interior layouts are unusual, and each will have adherents and detractors.


CSY was an unusual company, and the CSY 37 is certainly an unconventional boat. The boat is strongly built—overly built, in fact, The 1980 base price of $91,670 seems high until you consider that this is a 20,000-lb boat, and very well equipped. Hot and cold pressure water, Edson pedestal steering, and gimballed propane stove were all standard, for example.

CSY boats were probably the strongest production boats ever marketed. They may be ungainly, and not the hottest performers under sail, but they are tough. That’s an important consideration if you’re trying to get the most for your money.

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