Anyone who knows me will also know my obsession with one day buying and cruising a Downeast-style powerboat, such as the MJM 40z — so I was excited when I was given the chance to review the True North 38, a boat I first admired when it came out in 2001. If you’re on the hunt for a boat with solid performance, unique Downeast good looks, and lobster boat utility, this may be what you’re looking for. Say hello to the True North 38.

The True North 38 offers a unique look, great performance, and solid construction.

The True North 38 offers a unique look, great performance, and solid construction.

USWatercraft, LLC, in Warren, RI, builds True North boats. The company also builds Alerion Express and J/Boat sailboats. Formerly known as TPI Composites, the company has decades of boatbuilding experience under its belt. After all, the “P” in that TPI acronym stands for Pearson, a long-standing name in yacht construction of all types.

USWatercraft brings some impressive technologies to play when it comes to building the True North 38, but most notable is the company’s Seemann Composites Resin Infusion Molding Process (SCRIMP). This technique utilizes a vacuum to pull catalyzed resin into a dry fiberglass cloth layup, which results in void-free laminates with very precise resin-to-fiberglass ratios. The boat comes with a five-year transferable structural and blister warranty, and a 10-year warranty against cosmetic blistering.

One thing that’s easy to agree on is that the True North 38 is a great-looking boat. Perhaps that’s because it’s such a wonderful hodgepodge of design cues from classic powerboat lines. Look at the stern and you might think of a classic Chesapeake Bay Hoopers Island Draketail, with its dramatic reverse transom. Look at the True North 38 from above, and you might notice the outline of a Carolina sportfish yacht, with a deck that narrows at the transom and flares out at the bow. The True North 38’s profile is pure Downeast lobster yacht, with a sheer line that rises elegantly from the stern up to a nearly plumb bow. Even the aft cabinhouse window resembles the classic wheelhouse cutout in lobster boats, where the pot puller is located and lobsters are culled. But those features aren’t all show, they result in an extremely capable, dry, and solid-feeling ride.

One of the most unique features on the True North 38 are these hinged, opening transom doors.

One of the most unique features on the True North 38 are these hinged, opening transom doors.

Power for the True North 38 is provided by a Yanmar six-cylinder, 480-horsepower turbo diesel. There are rumblings of a Volvo IPS pod drive system becoming available at some point for the 38, but not yet. With its relatively lightweight, 15,000-pound displacement, the True North 38 runs nicely with this engine, cruising at around 25 mph and topping out at near 29 mph. Fuel burn at cruise speed is around 17.5 gallons per hour, which gives a theoretical cruising range of around 270 or so miles with the 226-gallon fuel tank. Back it down to 12 knots and True North claims nearly 400 miles of range.

The exterior of the True North 38 has a sort of “sport utility” feel to it, and that’s probably because there’s not a speck of teak to worry about or care for. Instead, high-quality stainless-steel replaces handrails, trim, and other elements typically made of wood. There’s tons of room for kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and other water toys on the cabin top, and the foredeck is ample enough for easy anchoring or lounging maneuvers. The huge cockpit is a great place to launch those aforementioned water toys from, especially since the transom is hinged and opens to allow incredibly easy water access.

Like many Downeast boats in this class, the True North 38 has its galley and dining accommodations situated in the cabinhouse. In the forward portion of the cabinhouse on the starboard side is the helm, which has a comfortable swiveling helm seat that provides a great view from most every angle. To port is a two-person, forward-facing bench, and behind it sits a clever, slide-out six-person dinette. The table can be lowered electrically to covert to a six-foot, six-inch long double berth. The galley is aft and to starboard with a granite-style countertop, double basin sink, microwave, two-burner propane cook top, and refrigerator. True North gets huge kudos for including a propane cook top instead of an electric one. That means you can prepare meals to your heart’s desire without needing a generator or having to plug in.

The True North 38's cabin house is open and airy, and features a roomy dinette and well-equipped galley.

The True North 38's cabinhouse is open and airy, and features a roomy dinette and well-equipped galley.

The master stateroom is a couple of steps down from the cabinhouse and has a rich look with plenty of teak and cherry veneers. In the bow, a drop-in insert and cushion convert the V-berth to a large double for sleeping. There’s a hanging locker and a row of drawers to port with a stowage shelf, but it’s worth noting that you’ll have trouble storing more than a long weekend’s worth of clothes. There are lots of ports and hatches that provide good ventilation and light.
Deadrise12 degrees
Displacement15,000 lbs
Fuel capacity226 gal.
Water capacity98 gal.

To starboard is an enclosed head and shower compartment that has a nice amount of room to move around, but it unfortunately reminds me more of a commercial airline restroom, than something of the caliber you’d expect to find on a boat such as this. Yes, I understand what True North was trying to accomplish with the utility of this space, but I just feel as if they took it one notch too far. Additionally, while there’s a curtain to cordon off the shower area, anyone who has experience with this type of all-in-one head/shower setup will know that everything’s going to get wet. That means frequent wipe-downs will be the norm.

I once heard someone call the True North 38 the “Jeep Grand Cherokee of the sea.” And while I get the utility part of that analogy, this great boat really does offer more than a rugged platform for hauling around family and friends. Whether you’re an avid weekender, day-tripper, or cruiser, there’s a lot to love about the True North 38. Besides, is this boat good-looking, or what?

Other Choices: Some other great Downeast-style boats in this size range include the MJM 40z, Sabre 38 Salon Express, and Back Cove 41.

See all listings for True North 38 boats.

For more information, visit True North.

Written by: Gary Reich
Gary Reich is a Chesapeake Bay-based freelance writer and photojournalist with over 25 years of experience in the marine industry. He is the former editor of PropTalk Magazine and was the managing editor of the Waterway Guide. His writing and photography have been published in PassageMaker Magazine, Soundings, Fly Fishing in Salt Waters, Yachting Magazine, and Lakeland Boating, among others.