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Roundelay, 1974 Seafarer 38C Ketch By Cap’n Ironlegs (a.k.a. David Laing)


s a retired academic, I have always believed in the value of research. Small wonder, then, that in the search for my fourth cruising sailboat, I spent vast amounts of time perusing—among many others—three Web sites: YachtWorld (; Carl’s Sail Calculator (; and SailNet BoatCheck ( Armed with reams of data from these sources, I generated more reams of spreadsheets, detailing all sorts of sailboat hull, rig, safety, appearance, and performance characteristics with particular emphasis on sea-worthiness, sea-kindliness, “weatherliness,” construction, and classic beauty. Any boat with a reverse transom or a straight shear line disqualified itself automatically, as did any with fin keels and spade rudders. I definitely did not want an ugly boat or an overgrown dinghy! After ranking the data, I wound up with about 10 top contenders, among them the Allied Seabreeze II ketch, the Pearson 35 yawl or sloop, the Morgan 34 and 38 (original) sloops, the Irwin 37 ketch or cutter (a fine cruising sailboat despite some negative press), and, in the number four slot, the Seafarer 38C ketch or sloop. At this point, it boiled down to availability and price. As it happened, my search brought up a 1974 Seafarer 38C ketch nearby in Englewood, FL, in good condition and with many upgrades, such as roller furling, a hefty Schaefer mainsheet traveler, self-tailing Genoa winches, and a sturdy aluminum cockpit arch. The standing rigging was only a few years old, the sails were in near-new condition, and the Perkins 4-108 engine started and ran as if it had been installed the day before. That said, Blew-By-You did have her share of cosmetic issues. She was, in fact, rather shabby, but shabby is a whole lot easier to fix than a bad engine, threadbare sails, and rotten rigging. In short order, I found myself single-handing my newto-me ketch southward down the ICW from Lemon Bay in Englewood, FL, to Punta Gorda. I ran her under power as far as Marker 4, north of Boca Grande Inlet, then turned east toward Burnt Store Marina, unfurled the Genoa, raised the mizzen, cut the engine, and sailed under jib and jigger on a 50

June 2009


beam reach in 15 knots of wind gusting to 20. Glancing at my handheld GPS, I noted a speed over ground of 7.3 knots, almost half a knot over the boat‘s official hull speed! She was heeled over at about 20 degrees, a bit more of a tender boat than I’d hoped for, but she was dug in and shouldering her way through the building chop as if it weren’t there. This was, by any measure, a sea-kindly boat! The Seafarer 38C first came off the desk of master designer Philip Rhodes in 1963 in the form of a 35-foot motorsailer called the Bahama, which had short overhangs and a high, stepped coach roof with two large windows on each side and three in the front. A decade later, Rhodes lengthened the boat’s deck by 2 feet 9 inches and lowered her doghouse about a foot, eliminating the forward windows, but leaving all other measurements the same. That produced a hull that was 37’ 9” on deck, 26’ 3” on the waterline, had a beam of 10’ 6” and a draft of 4’ 6”. She had a full keel, a keel-hung rudder, a springy sheer line and a clipper bow. In its heyday, the Seafarer Company promoted its new flagship as “…the boat to go adventuring in…she’s built for real sailors…no port is beyond her reach…no cruise beyond her capability.” She came with a wide variety of options: standard (41’ 0” clearance) and tall (45’ 0” clearance) sloop and ketch rigs—each available with or without a three-foot cast aluminum platform bowsprit with built-in twin bow rollers. Stern davits were standard, as was destroyer wheel steering. The boats were hand-laid-up with alternating layers of fiberglass mat and woven roving. The hull, end-grain balsacored deck, cabin headliner, and one-piece molded hull liner are “overbuilt” by modern standards, making for a fairly heavy boat at 16,500 pounds displacement. The deep bulwarks consist of a continuous fiberglass girder incorporating and permanently sealing the hull-deck joint, and capped with a teak toe rail. The base price for the finished cutter in 1973 was $40,500—a not inconsiderable sum for the time, so Seafarer offered the then-popular option of buying a bare hull and finishing it to the buyer’s own design. Many Seafarer 38Cs were in fact sold and completed in this way.


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