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 Sailcraft was founded in 1964 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Its first boat was the 12′ fiberglass catamaran called the Scamper. Between 1967 and 1971, 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 Raymond 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 in-house designer. During his first year at the new job, Wall designed the CS 36, of which more than 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.

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, though the active owners’ association kept its spirit alive. That was good news for prospective buyers of CS yachts. Recently, Tennyson resumed production of a new CS 40, with rumors that a limited number of CS 36’s could be built given 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, single-spreader 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, such as the Florida Keys and Bahamas.

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 foam-filled 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. If after, say 15 to 20 years, the weeping continues, corrosion should be suspected and one should investigate further. This might involve cutting inspection holes in the sides of the rudder, or even splitting the rudder 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. Of course, it’s usually oily!

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. At the same time, it won’t compete with lighter, flatter bottomed 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 U.S. 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 the boat is sound, well maintained and skippered.

The CS 36 has a solid fiberglass hull, which suited designer Raymond Walls; 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. The deck, coachroof and cockpit are cored with balsa, which is an appropriate use of the material as these components require stiffening without adding unnecessary 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. In an offshore boat especially, you want to be able to access any part of the hull, preferably without taking an ax to the interior. Smashing out a plywood berth to reach a hole in the hull will be a lot easier than if it is made of fiberglass.

According to Kevin Moore, who worked at CS for many years, the hull-deck joint is an inward flange incorporating 5/16″ bolts, located on 4″ centers, passed 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, 35-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.

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 only a 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 V-berth. 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 smallish galley with a three-burner stove top 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 for safety.

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. Indeed, a number of owners complained about lack of more storage space. 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 seats. 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, of course, requires more purchase.

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

Owners generally rate speed, seaworthiness and stability as above average to excellent. “When rig is balanced, she will steer without assistance,” the owner of a 1984 model said.

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.

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.

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 Martec folding prop, which he thought was either too small or incorrectly pitched.

The CS 36 is easy to recognize in an anchorage, mostly due to its colored transom, which the wide cove stripe blends into. It 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 wood 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. Kevin Moore added that “CS did have a reputation for a high number of osmosis problems,” though he thought it was a “universal industry problem” and not the shortcoming of any one builder.

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 built and sold each year. The used boat market has many good values, and the CS 36 is one of them.

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 by email at practicalsailor@belvoir.com.