There is always that one boat you still think about no matter how many others you sail. For me, that has always been the Cabo Rico 38—a perfect couple’s boat, and one I’d certainly consider if necessity forced me to choose a vessel to singlehand on bluewater passages.

A photo of the Cabo Rico 38 sailboat.

Classic cruising elegance laced with swiftness and seaworthiness--the Cabo Rico 38. Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Nearly 200 Cabo Rico 38s were built between 1978 and 2008, which is a good run for just about any sailboat model. They were considered to be affordable and durable offshore boats that were good for cruising, but with a good turn of speed. The sail area/displacement ratio is 15.2 so it’s not for club racing, but since cruisers may think about tacking once a week while underway, that’s not bad. The boats were cutter-rigged with a large main and a very useful inner forestay.

Built in Costa Rica, these boats were designed by Bill Crealock with a full keel and a protected keel-hung rudder. And at 21,500 pounds, the Cabo Rico 38 has the weight to take care of herself in a blow without demanding much of a weary, single-handed captain. (The displacement/length ratio is a significant 375.) That trait has always held appeal because for me, a persnickety boat is just too much work when you’re alone.

A three-foot bowsprit with double anchor rollers provides a lot of room on the foredeck when anchoring, and the clipper bow parts the water while keeping the decks dry. There’s a tiny but workable aft deck that provides extra space behind the cockpit if you have to prep equipment to go into the dinghy, or when landing a fish. (Not that I’d know what to do with a fish if I caught one.)

The Cabo Rico 38 carries 150 gallons of water because after all, showers are important. The fuel tank holds 50 gallons, which is fair for a small offshore boat that was fitted with a vriety of engines over the years including Perkins, Westerbeke, Universal, or Yanmar diesels.

Cabo Rico interiors were highly customizable and about five versions were offered over the 38’s three-decade production run. The basics include a forward master stateroom with a double berth, one head and shower, a nicely proportioned saloon, a quarter berth, a compact galley and a tiny nav station. The main saloon bulkhead table folds away neatly when under way to open up the interior and provide a sense of space.

Potential drawbacks include teak decks and a generous helping of exterior teak trim, which is a lot of work. The tradeoff of course, is the rich look of traditional trim on a very handsome boat.

Cabo Rico closed its doors in 2010, but there are rumors of a revival of the company in 2014. There’s no telling what they’ll build next if they do rise from the ashes, but for me, the old 38 is still a winner.

See Cabo Rico 38 listings.

Cabo Rico 38 Specifications

  • LOA: 41’ 0”

  • Beam: 11’ 4”

  • Draft: 5’ 0”

  • Displacement: 21,500 lbs

  • Ballast: 7000 lbs

  • Sail Area: 240 sq.ft.

  • Fuel: 150 gal.

  • Water: 50 gal.