The Islander 36 (I36) is a true classic and depending on whose numbers you believe, there were somewhere between 700 and 800 hulls built between 1973 and 1986 making it an extremely successful design. The company history before the development of the I36 is somewhat sketchy but the story goes that the firm started life as the McGlasson Corporation that then sold to or turned into Wayfarer Marine in the 1960s. Smaller boats like the 27 footer came out first and at some point Islander sold a 37 foot kit boat that then morphed into the 36 foot production boat that became the shapely and popular classic.
By the 1970s, Islander production was located in Southern California along with other classic builders like Columbia and Jensen Marine that built Cals. In fact, it is rumored that for a while, Ericsons, Pearsons and Islanders were built in the same locale. Hundreds of hulls were produced and shipped all over the US and Canada with about 25% of them selling into the Northern California Bay Area. In 1984-85, production was moved to Costa Rica where the company foundered and finally closed in 1986. It wasn’t the move that did Islander in so much as skyrocketing resin prices and the introduction of the 10% luxury tax that shut the market down.
Design, Construction & Performance
Alan Gurney’s objective in the design of the I36 was to create a “36-foot yacht that would be a competitive machine but also could cruise a family comfortably.” Since Gurney was also responsible for go fast classics like Windward Passage, Guinevere and Great Britain II, the I36 racing pedigree was guaranteed. These are fast and stiff boats with a 40% ballast to displacement ratio and even 30 years later, they still hold their own on the race course. The I36 will do 8 knots and practically steer herself in 20-30 knot winds without being overpowered, however it can feel a little sluggish in light air.
The Islander 36 was built in 4 pieces with the two hull halves, the deck and the liner – a process similar to the port and starboard construction of a Swan. It took about 700 hours to manufacture one of these modified fin keel, full skeg rudder boats. The hulls are solid glass with a throughbolted plywood cored deck topped with an alloy toe rail. Most of the models had lead ballast but some of the early boats are said to have iron in the keel. Also, a few of the mid-70s models reported blistering problems but some of that had to do with whether the boat was kept in cold or warm waters and if it was a year-round vessel or if it was decommissioned for the winter as in the Great Lakes area. Since the hulls stayed mostly the same, the models differed throughout the years by the options and conveniences that were offered. For example, folding props and shoal draft keels were optional as were interior details such as refrigeration and battery chargers.
Cockpit, Deck & Rigging
The sail area is about 600 square feet on a double spreader, high aspect ratio rig. Those who have raced an I36 describe it as “going fast on a stiff boat with small sails” since the design really pushes the maximum power from its rig. Most of the 1970s Islanders have had mast step corrosion problems and probably require the Kenyon spar to be pulled and trimmed by ¾”. Of course, any rig will need attention about every 15 years and should be checked regardless whether the boat will be racing or cruising.
The I36 cockpit is large and comfortable for six and features lockers under the seats. A swim ladder on the reverse transom was an added feature on the later 1970s models. The decks are wide and clear and there is good access to the anchor locker that also appeared on the late 70s versions.
Layout & Accommodations
The layout below begins with a sizeable vee-berth and a head/shower combination to port. In the salon, there are two straight settees on port and starboard separated with a table that folds up to the bulkhead to create a feeling of spaciousness. An L-shaped galley on starboard has a double sink and a three burner LPG stove. On port, there is a nav station that is outboard facing and the quarter berth behind it forms a seat.
There are good drawers and plenty of louvered and caned lockers throughout. Islander 36s came standard with an icebox although some owners chose the Adler Barbour refrigeration that was an option or upgraded on their own later. Hands down the best feature of the interior are the companion way steps that are truly steps as opposed to a ladder and are easy to maneuver. They also make a great seat when extra bodies are down below for cocktails.
Systems & Mechanical
The original engine specified for Islander 36s was the Westerbeke L-25 although you can find some with the old workhorse, Perkins 4-108 which will push the boat at 6.5 knots at 1800 rpm with a 2-bladed fixed prop. The I36 carries 50 gallons of water in fiberglass tanks under the settees and about 30 gallons of fuel in an aluminum tank. That amount of fuel is good for coastal cruising but it means that jerry jugs will be necessary for any kind of extended voyaging.
There are lots of Islanders listed nationwide on Yachtworld and they’re great boats that will go the distance or race quite impressively. They also hold their value: In 1975, a standard Islander sold for $29,900 and by 1978, the price for a new boat rose to $47,400.
Specs for Islander 36
Designer: Alan Gurney
Draft: 6’ deep or 4’9” shoal
Ballast: 5450 lbs deep draft
Displacement: 13,450 lbs deep draft
Sail Area: 612 sq ft
Fuel Tankage: 30 gallons
Water Tankage: 56 gallons