CS 36

From the recently resurrected Canadian Sailcraft company, this early 80's racer/cruiser is well built, with a fair turn of speed. Its few shortcomings include a shallow bilge, difficult engine access and marginal stowage.


Canadian Sail craft was founded in 1964 in, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Its first boat was the 12′ fiberglass catamaran called the Scamper. Between 1967and1971, it built the George Cuthbertson-designed Caprice, a 15′ daysailer. The first boat to bear the CS marquee was the CS 22 trailer-sailer, designed by John Butler.

By 1973, the company had out­grown its facility in Toronto and moved into a 20,000 sq. ft. plant in Brampton. Owner Paul Tennyson commissioned Raymon Wall, then working for Camper & Nicholsons in England, to design the CS 27, which was introduced in 1975; by 1983, 480 of the 27’s had been built. Tennyson eventually persuaded Wall to move to Canada and become the CS in­house designer. During his first year at the new job, Wall designed the CS 36, of which more the 400 were built. (With the advent of the CS 36 Merlin, Wall’s design is now sometimes referred to as the Traditional” model.) So attractive was the design that more than a year’s worth of production was sold out within five weeks.

CS 36
CS36 on the water.

Wall left CS in the early 80’s. The CS Sloop Scoop, a newsletter pub­lished by the CS Owner’s Associa­tion, reported in its January 1998 is­sue that the soft-spoken Wall felt “things were moving too fast for the quality required during different phases of production.” He moved to Vancouver, and has appeared at CSOA meetings.

Tony Castro, a designer who had cut his teeth with Ron Holland, be­came the new in-house designer, and was responsible for the CS 30, CS 34, CS 36 Merlin, CS 40 and CS 44. The company went out of business in 1990. but paid off all debts. Recently, Ten­nyson resumed production of the CS 40, and told us he hopes to build a limited number of CS 36’s if there is sufficient consumer interest.

The Design

The CS 36, despite its small, reverse counter transom, still looks fairly modern today, with its rakish bow, low-profile cabin and tall, single­spreader rig.

The beam of the CS 36, at 11′ 6″, is generous without being excessive. Two keel options were offered, a deep fin drawing 6′ 3″ and a shoal fin draw­ing 4′ 11″. Naturally, the deeper keel will make for better windward performance, but may be too deep for some cruising areas.

The semi-balanced spade rudder is mounted on a partial skeg. Some owners report problems with water in the rudder, but this is typical of foam­filled fiberglass rudders with stain­less steel rudderstocks. If one notices water weeping out, usually in the area where the rudderstock enters the rudder, drain holes should be drilled in the bottom of the rudder during the offseason. Before spring launch, they should be filled with epoxy putty. Corrosion of the stainless steel plates inside shouldn’t be a problem in fresh­water, but in saltwater the situation should be viewed dimly. At some point, inspection holes should be cut in the sides of the rudder, or the rudder split open for a more thorough look.

One owner completing our Boat Owner’s Questionnaire complained about the shallow bilge. The standard pump was a Henderson, fitted in the starboard cockpit locker. The problem with shallow bilges is the tendency of water to slosh out when heeled.

The displacement/length ratio (D/ L) of the CS 36 is 276, which used to be considered moderate but is rather high by today’s standards. This means the boat is at least not flat bottomed and should not pound much in heavy seas. The sail area/displacement length ratio is 16.5, indicating a fair amount of sail area to drive the boat. In combination, these two figures suggest that the boat will sail fairly fast, especially in rougher conditions which might slow lighter displacement boats.

Robert Perry, writing in his design column for Sailing magazine, noted that the CS 36 has “a rather large bustle.” He went on to explain that bustle, “is the distended portion of the canoe body directly preceding the rudder.”

We checked US Sailing IMS measurements for a half-dozen CS 36’s and found their limit of positive stability averaging about 120, which is our recommended minimum for off­shore sailing. The LPS is the angle of heel at which the boat will tend to capsize (invert) if heeled further. US Sailing also calculates from this figure a Stability Index, which adjusts the LPS for the size of the boat and its beaminess relative to displacement. For the CS 36, the Stability Index is about 125. Based on this data, the CS 36 would make a good choice for an offshore boat, assuming it is sound, well maintained and skippered.


LOA: 36′ 6″

LWL: 29′ 3″

Beam: 11′ 6″

Draft (deep): 6′ 3″

Draft (shoal): 4′ 11″

Displacement: 15,500 lbs.

Ballast (deep keel): 6,500 lbs.

Ballast (shoal keel): 6,650 lbs.

Sail area: 640 sq. ft.

Disp./length ratio: 276

Sail area /disp. ratio: 16.5


The CS 36 has a solid fiberglass hull, which suited designer Raymond Wall; he told a meeting of the CSOA that he’d seen too many wet cored hulls. Structural stiffeners in the hull are foam covered with fiberglass; these are bonded to the inside of the hull and carry the keel loads. Major bulk­heads are bonded to both the hull and deck; many boats with molded head­liners do not have bulkheads bonded to the deck, and we think this is a liability for heavy use. So the CS 36 passes muster on this important count.

A former employee told us that early boats had problems with the deck lifting from a secondary bulk­head when the rig was cranked up for racing; Tennyson fixed all of them, at no charge, with heavier tabbing.

The deck, coachroof and cockpit are cored with balsa, which is an appropriate use of the material as these components require stiffening without adding weight.

Other fiberglass moldings include the rudder, engine bed and drip tray; toilet compartment/shower; interior modules in the forward cabin, saloon and galley; headliner in forward cabin, coachroof sides, anchor well, propane locker, life raft cover and hatches. We think all of these components are best made of molded fiberglass except the berths/settees, which we prefer to see built up of marine plywood and bonded individually to the hull. But the economics of production boatbuilding dictates cost savings and this is most easily achieved by reducing the man-hours required to assemble wood parts. Excessive use of molded liners and structures makes it more difficult to customize the interior, and fiberglass is not as good for thermal or acoustic insulation as wood. Condensation and mildew problems are more severe. In a worst case scenario, poor design or engineering of big interior modules can inhibit access to certain areas of the hull.

According to Kevin Moore, who worked at CS for many years, the hull­deck joint is an inward flange; 5/16″ bolts, located on 4″ centers, pass through the L-shaped toerail.

Other construction details are generally good, including backing plates on deck fittings, a stainless steel stemhead with rollers that is designed to carry a 35-lb. CQR anchor double rail pulpits and lifelines (a few owners said the swim ladder needs an extension), four opening portlights (and four fixed), chainplates bolted to 5/8″ steel tapping plates laminated in fiberglass buttress webs, 3 -gallon aluminum fuel tank, port and starboard water tanks totaling 83 gallons (one report says 75, and another owner said the tank below the V-berth was for water, which he converted to a holding tank, suggesting that not all boats had the same tank set-up), anodized spars and Lewmar winches. A few owners complained about the solid aluminum stanchions, recommending replacement with stainless steel.

CS 36
CS36 Interior Layout

Kevin Moore noted that early models had brass gate valves on bronze through-hulls, and that later models had Marelon ball valves. Brass gate valves should be upgraded quickly. He also said that the anchor well “tended to fill up in heavy sailing, and the hinges were always a difficult fit.” On the plus side, the well was constructed with thick plywood laminated to the floor for mounting a windlass.

With few reservations, the construction of the CS 36 is above average and suited for offshore sailing.


The accommodation plan is straight­forward with no unusual features. It works. Forward is the expected V­berth. Moving aft, there is a head with shower and hanging lockers. The standard toilet was a Wilcox-Crittenden and a 32-gallon holding tank was provided. In the saloon is an L-shaped settee to starboard and settee/berth to port. The starboard settee converts to a double berth, giving a total of six berths. Outboard are cane-paneled lockers and bookshelves. There is quite a bit of teak, so the interior is rather dark. The white fiberglass surfaces do break it up a bit, however.

The dining table is floor-mounted, which should make it more robust than the type that folds up against the bulkhead. Aft to port is the galley with a three-burner stovetop and oven, 9-cubic foot ice box, single sink, trash bin and stowage in outboard lockers. Bob and Linda Cardinal, cruising their CS 36, Cardinal Sin, in the Pacific, said, “The galley has proven itself as an excellent offshore galley with everything within easy reach.” They added extra handholds.

Opposite is the navigation area with chart table and three drawers. All drawers, said the Cardinals, must have additional backup hooks or fasteners to keep them closed in rough weather. The nav seat is the head of the quarter berth, immediately aft. Shelves forward of the nav table hold books and some electronics. The electrical distribution panel is outboard and handy to the navigator’s seat. While it would be nice to have a separate, dedicated nav seat, one can’t have everything, even in 36 feet. But a number of owners complained about lack of more storage space. Anton Imling of the CS Owners Association said the interior liner is partly responsible. The Cardinals, however, made modifications to the seatback lockers and said they now “are able to carry adequate stores to complete any of our longer legs.”

A thoughtful feature is the oilskin locker to starboard of the companionway, which is also accessed from a cockpit seat locker.

Ventilation is via the four opening portlights, two deck vents and the saloon and forward cabin hatches. Several owners noted that these hatches open aft, and that they wished they could be opened in both directions for improved air circulation. Headroom is 6′ 4″.


The cockpit of the CS 36 is T- shaped, which always presents pluses and minuses: shortened seats for sleeping vs. easier access around the steering pedestal and, in the case of the CS 36, to the primary winches.

Halyards are led aft to winches on the after edge of the coachroof. Winches include Lewmar 43’s for the genoa, a 40 for the main halyard, a 30 for the jib halyard, a self-tailing 16 for the mainsheet and a 16 for the reefing pennant. All except the 16 for the mainsheet are two-speed. Though expensive, any of these can be upgraded to self-tailing models. A number of owners said the 43 primaries are too small.

The mainsheet traveler is in the cockpit, recessed into the seat. This makes it handier to the helm, but obstructs access to the companionway. An optional arrangement located the traveler track on top of the coachroof, where it is out of the way but reached only by crew forward in the cockpit. This also complicates dodger installation. And mid-boom sheeting requires more purchase.

Rod rigging and a backstay adjuster were optional. Because the backstay fastens low on the transom, the adjuster isn’t convenient to operate.

Owners generally rate speed, seaworthiness and stability as above average to excellent. “When the rig is balanced, she will steer without assistance,” said one owner.

Another owner said he can carry his #1 genoa up to 18 knots of wind. The Cardinals said the boat will heave to under mainsail alone, in winds up to 50-60 knots. Imling said most owners use a 135% genoa on a furler, okay for light air when trimmed properly.

The PHRF rating for the CS 36 ranges from about 114 to 132, with most at 120 seconds per mile. For comparison, a J/35 rates in the 70’s and an old Columbia 36 about 160.

CS 36
CS 36 side view

Overall, owners admire the boat’s speed and easy handling, not only at the helm, but in trimming sails from the comfortable cockpit. Reports also indicate that she is easily steered by a wind vane or autopilot.

The engine is a Westerbeke 30 diesel. Engine access is rated by owners as poor to good; from the front by removing the companionway ladder, and from either side, which requires removing side panels. A few owners said they’d like a bit more power for working into head seas. One thought the problem might be in the standard folding prop, which he thought was either too small or incorrectly pitched.


The CS 36 was considered quite modern in 1978, yet its clean lines still look good today. Construction is very good, both in terms of glass work and interior joinerwork. Problems with the boat are few. While most owners reported no hull blisters, one owner said his boat had a bad case of the pox.

Rudders have been a source of concern for some owners, so prospec­tive buyers should have them checked carefully by the surveyor, as well as the usual suspects-delamination in the deck, engine, bulkhead tabbing and the like. And be sure to upgrade any brass gate valves found on through-hulls.

A 1979 CS 36 sells in the low $40’s, a 1986 model in the mid $60’s. Compared to any equivalent boat you could buy new today, these prices are quite affordable. That is why only a few thousand new sailboats of this size and larger are sold each year. The used boat market has many good val­ues, and the CS 36 is one of them.

Owners Comments

“Standard hardware and installation is top notch. Fiberglass work is flawless. Systems installation is standard. The boat is clearly capable of offshore cruising, but lack of stowage space limits range.”

-1982 model in Southern California

“Design makes a practical dodger impossible. Upgrade genoa winches to at least Lewmar 52’s.”

-1983 model in Long Island Sound, New York

“The CS 36 is a comfortable cruiser/racer for two to four people. Excellent galley. Good layout and large, well-insulated cooler. Exterior is easy to care for because them is no teak on deck. It’s a better offshore racer than around the buoys.”

-1984 model on Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island

“I consider this the best built boat in North America. Beautiful, fast, good cruising amenities. I would recommend it to anyone.”

-1982 model in Florida

Darrell Nicholson
Practical Sailor has been independently testing and reporting on sailboats and sailing gear for more than 50 years. Supported entirely by subscribers, Practical Sailor accepts no advertising. Its independent tests are carried out by experienced sailors and marine industry professionals dedicated to providing objective evaluation and reporting about boats, gear, and the skills required to cross oceans. Practical Sailor is edited by Darrell Nicholson, a long-time liveaboard sailor and trans-Pacific cruiser who has been director of Belvoir Media Group's marine division since 2005. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license, has logged tens of thousands of miles in three oceans, and has skippered everything from pilot boats to day charter cats. His weekly blog Inside Practical Sailor offers an inside look at current research and gear tests at Practical Sailor, while his award-winning column,"Rhumb Lines," tracks boating trends and reflects upon the sailing life. He sails a Sparkman & Stephens-designed Yankee 30 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. You can reach him at darrellnicholson.com.


  1. I have sailed a 1983 CS 36 Traditional for 2 years on Lake Superior and it sails very fast and very nice comfortable ride to weather in significant seas. Engine access is excellent as long as you remove the necessary panel needed.
    The head and galley are the size a 42 foot cruiser usually has. The ice box -frig is enormous and well insulated. Traditional Nav station is large. The Dodger and full enclosure custom fit is great. Teak is nice interior and no wood outside to maintain.