There is no doubt that the market for full-keel yachts is still healthy and strong. Some of my own designs that continue to sell are high-performance. Both sides have their advocates.

The island Packet 38 at anchor.

The island Packet 38 at anchor.

Bob Johnson has done a series of designs for Island Packet that have been very well received. The newest member of the fleet is the 38, and it closely resembles the rest of the family. It appears that IP has a winning combination of features going for them. Johnson is doing his best to upgrade the image of the full-keel yacht by incorporating modern design theory with the benefits of the drawn-out underwater planform.

Certainly, the well-designed full-keeler is an easier boat to steer in some conditions. (I must stress "well-designed" because the poorly-designed full-keel yacht is just as big a dog as the poorly-designed fin-keeler.) In a quartering sea the full-keel boat can track better than the short fin-keeler.

Johnson has given the 38 a balanced rudder that is somewhat unique. We are used to seeing full-keel boats with rudders hung off the trailing edge of the keel. This does not permit any balance area forward of the rudder pivot point. The balance area can reduce helm pressure and give the boat a fingertip feel while increasing the general rudder performance due to its own foil shape, independent of fairing out the keel shape. You'd probably argue that you could lose performance on the wind. The counter argument to this is that, as long as the boat is big and relatively heavy with the chainplates well outboard, your on-the-wind performance is limited anyway, so the keel fits right in with that concept. Add to this the fact that cruisers often don't like to sail above 35 degrees apparent wind due to the increased discomfort. You start to get the picture of a well-balanced compromise. To many cruising sailors an additional quarter of a knot made good to weather means every little relative to comfort underway.

The rig is a cutter and, with the chainplates outboard the staysail, can be led inboard and the yankee sheeted inside the upper shrouds. This works well. By moving the chainplates inboard we should sheet a genoa tighter; but combined with this general hull form, the rewards would be negligible. The cutter rig works best with wide chainplates. You can't carry a yankee and staysail effectively at 30 degrees apparent anyway. The 38 comes with twin backstays lead to the quarters to free up the transom centerline for Med mooring. Note that no runners are shown for the staysail. This is okay providing the spar section is stout. The staysail sheets to a traveler track on top of the cabin trunk. The cutter is an attractive rig that offers the cruiser the versatility of the split rig without the weight and windage that comes with a mizzen.

This is a big 38-footer. The waterline length is 33 feet and the displacement is 19,000 pounds. This gives a D/L ratio of 211. That's about the same as the Mirage 29, and yet we see two very different designs. Remember that when you see a design such as this there is a lot of volume in the keel itself. With this in mind, it seems that the canoe body of the 38 is rather moderate in its proportions.

The interior volume that the 38 shows is not a function so much of sheer displacement but, like the Farr 46, is the distribution of the displacement. Note the amount of cabin sole as evidenced by the extreme forward location of the head. This indicates fairly full forward sections. Note also that there are two heads on this design. Two heads on a 38-footer makes sense for a charter yacht, but it seems unnecessary to me. The aft head could easily become a spacious navigation station instead of the unusual navigational nook shown aft of the main settee on the starboard side.

While in New Zealand I reacted against the very narrow range of boat types and styles that I saw. We have a wide variety of boats available in this country and, while the Island Packet 38 probably won't win any races with the Wednesday night fleet in Auckland, it sure will please full-keel cruising boat lovers in this country.

Boat Specifications
Draft5' or 4' - 7'7"
Displacement19000 lbs.
Ballast7600 lbs.
Sail Area735 sq. ft.


SAILINGlogo-115This story originally appeared in Sailing Magazine, and is republished here by permission. Subscribe to Sailing.