The Proper Yacht, 2nd Edition by Arthur Beiser International Marine, 1978 ©
The Downeaster 38 was conceived by Bob Poole, a Maine sailor transplanted to the West Coast, as a “classic cruising yacht utilizing modern materials and technology where they belong while retaining the traditional features of the fine early cruising yachts of Down East.” Himself experienced in fiberglass yacht construction as an executive of Columbia Yachts, Poole commissioned Henry Morschladt, a young California naval architect who specializes in cruising sailboats, to come up with a suitable design.
The result is a straightforward, common-sense boat that will evoke a nostalgic twinge in those who remember what sailboats used to look like. The Downeaster 38 is no greyhound of the sea, but in the long run a friendly shaggy dog makes the better companion for many of us, and for such people the 38 or something like it may very well be the right boat.
The Downeaster 38 is a larger boat than its overall length would indicate since the waterline length is 29 feet and the beam is nearly 12 feet. A ballast displacement ratio of 41 percent, together with the large beam, means that the 38 will stay on her feet despite the shoal draft of just under five feet. Three rigs are available: cutter, ketch, and schooner. All seem well proportioned and easy to manage, though the sail plan in each case is rather on the scant side. The basic sail area of the schooner can be augmented to a greater extent than the other rigs by setting a 498-square-foot gollywobbler between the masts or even a 727-square foot “gollyaker” (a balloon jib set from the main masthead), but it seems a shame to be obliged to use such clumsy sails in light airs on a cruising boat. Still, when the wind pipes up a bit. all three versions of the Downeaster 38 ought to perform merrily without imposing any’ stress on their crews. There are a few items in the sail plans I don’t particularly like-for instance, the angle of the mainsheet in the cutter and the pin rails in the shrouds of the ketch and schooner-but these are easily corrected.
The interior of the 38 is conventional in outline and well thought out in detail. The forward cabin sports a double berth. The starboard side of the main cabin has a pilot berth outboard of a settee and the port side can be arranged either in the same way or with a settee that converts to a double with a shelf over it. The galley has a double sink near the centerline, a desirable feature, and opposite is a fixed chart table and a quarter berth.
Construction specifications seem high, with the laminate to Lloyd’s requirements. Seacocks on all through-hull fittings below the waterline, a steel back-bone in the rudder, and so forth. Sand set in a polyurethane adhesive is used for nonskid deck surfaces in place of the customary molded patterns that are invariably slippery when wet. Mr. Poole clearly cares about his customers. Another welcome item is the provision for hand-starting of the engine in an emergency. Wheel steering is standard, as are two independent batteries. Lots of options are available, of which some really ought to be part of the standard boat: an emergency tiller, the grounding of the rigging for lightning protection, a set of metric tools and a spare-parts kit for the German engine, dorade ventilators, and grab rails in the interior.
Still. as production boats go, the Downeaster 38 is better in this respect than most, and on the whole. designer and Builder are to be congratulated on their work.
Adaption by Scott & Cyndi Perkins
“Go anywhere” Blue water cruiser inspires loyalty,
For Cruising World
Any Downeaster owner who has spent any amount of time berthed in a public marina has answered two questions many times: “How big is that?” and “Is that a wood boat”?
A generous bowspirit, hefty beam,wineglass transom and the hull’s simulated planking lines are responsible for the general impression that these beauties are bigger and older than they are. The gold washed navy blue or forest green clipper laminate on the bow is a further contribution to the salty image of this classic ‘70s sailboat.
Created in California with a Maine sailor’s sensibilities in mind, the Santa Ana built Downeasters evoked nostalgia and tradition when introduced in the 1970s. That’s even more the case these days.
There are three sizes in the DownEast Yacht line, 32 foot, 38 and 45.
The vessel was conceived by Bob Poole, a California transplant from the East Coast. The boat’s designer is Henry Morschladt of Newport Beach, California. A wellknown naval architect, he incorporated military marine and Loyd’s of London specifications into his exacting craft. A sturdy, seaworthy cruising vessel in which no bond or seacock was compromised is the result.
The DownEaster Yachts Inc. company operated from 1975 - 81, officially ceasing to exist in 1983. Available statistics indicate 412 models were produced, with 125 still currently registered by hull number. One hundred and thirty four were DE 32s, and 27 were DE 45s.
DE 38s led the pack, with 251, 11 of which are erroneously listed as “41s,” again attesting to the “big” image this classic sailboat engenders.
Downeaster Yacht models featuring cutter, ketch and schooner rigs were offered, along with an amazing array of options above and below decks that contributed to the uniquely individual personality of each boat, including a few pilothouse models. A tiller was standard on the 32foot in 1977 and an emergency tiller system was available on all models.
A Farymann 24hp diesel was standard issue by the late 1970s. Underpowered? It’s considered a legitimate question and many a Downeaster owner has upgraded, most commonly to a Yanmar 27hp. But no one argues with the original engine’s chief advantages, a thrifty appetite for fuel and an ability to be handcranked. With an approximately 900 mile cruising range and a viable way to get the engine going if the starter poops out, it’s no wonder the Downeaster is known as a “go anywhere” boat. The engine room, however, is far from ideal. As with the rest of the vessel, it appears to be bigger than it is but requires a variety of contortions to gain access. Another drawback is the bilge. Unlike Lin and Larry Pardey, we won’tbe storing wine down there. The access is comprised of two tiny hatches forward and a little Lucite windowin the drip pan under the engine.
Novices on the water find the Downeaster forgiving and even willing to take punishment, while veteran sailors have learned to make the most of her sail plan.
The California built sailboat has migrated all over the world, including at least three global circumnavigations. Boasts of 9 to12 knot top speeds aside, a 6 to 7 knot cruising speed provides a pleasant ride without undue heel. These boats weren’t built to race and are impervious to light wind, which can provide many opportunities to experiment with the furling headsail or throw a spinnaker up, an enjoyable anomaly in this class of vessel.
In 15 to 25 knot winds the modified full keel, with keelhung rudder, provides superb balance, even in rough seas, under sail or motorsailing.Heeling a Downeaster under the rail takes extra effort by an advancing storm front or the adventurous sailor looking for a thrill.
The same care given to the boat’s core infrastructure is apparent in the strong rigging and good quality winches.
The Downeaster cockpit is decidedly unique, with no coamings from hatchway to rail. It drains well, but can be hard on the back. Ergonomic and aesthetic modifications abound. The wide open cockpit also provides for easy sheet handling. A full dodger was an available option on the original models and many Downeast sailboats sport an “Arabian Sultan” awning and big cockpit cushions first mentioned when the boat was reviewed by Motor Boat & Sailing in May 1977.
Bigger is also definitely better when it comes to the Downeaster’s cabin plan, which encompasses lavish use of teak, 70s style spindles and cabinetry, a faux leather cabin ceiling and a clever fold up table that accommodates two dining couples comfortably.
Funky 1970’s touches not withstanding, the 6’9” headroom defines the feel of the Downeast interior, adding light and spaciousness.The 32 foot Downeast theoretically sleeps six, with up to three salon bunks and a quarterberth aft starboard.Because the vessel allows for single handing, many owners feel confident and cozier with appropriate modifications for couples or solo sailing. The original models have two doors closing off the VBerth and adjacent head from traffic in the main salon. The U shaped galley with beveled stove, refrigerator/freezerand icebox, and double sink is practical and efficient. Storage includes two well ventilated hanging lockers and numerous cubbies.
Early reviews of the Downeaster line said the boats were probably “overbuilt.” In this day and age, that’s a compliment.The Downeast is a boat for sailors who appreciate quality workmanship with attention to detail.
No review of this impeccably crafted line would be complete without comments from “The Group,” mynickname for the Downeast sailors who enthusiastically and coherently share information on a regular basison the “unofficial” Downeast website.The site is a common sense resource that is as user friendly as the boat it celebrates.
At least three Downeasts have completed circumnavigations in recent years, again attesting to the “go anywhere” legend.