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For those who love the traditional look, seaworthiness and the great all-round sailing ability of a Bristol Channel Cutter but needing something larger, the Cape George 36 may be a great choice. These well loved boats, based on the time-tested design principles from the work of the late William Atkin, are solid, well behaved, comfortable and fast.
The Cape George 36 was the brainchild of Kiwi, Cecil Lange, who had an outstanding reputation as a boat builder. With the help of designer Ed Monk, the 36 is a 1970s fibreglass adaptation of Atkin’s 1930s Tally Ho Major, a traditional cutter with great all-round sailing manners and a healthy dose of speed. Today Cape George have derived four other siblings from the same design and they garner a loyal following from owners, with the boatyard earning a name as the place to go for repairs and refits.
Many are captured by her looks, with high bulwarks and broad decks, a low elegant house and spacious safe cockpit, a gentle sheer and wineglass transom, and a massive aft hung rudder, rare to see on an Atkins design, but a favourite for their simplicity and ease of maintenance.
As to be expected from a boat of this era her lines are conservative. She has a full length keel without any forefoot cutaway that were popular development in the second half of the 20th century, this gives her excellent directional stability, great self-steering manners, and predictable seagoing handling in all sea conditions. Reminiscent of traditional pilot boats, the hull has short overhangs and a long waterline, which extend her hull speed, while her deep wineglass sections endow her with an easy seakindly motion that owners love, not to mention a very useful load carrying ability.
Fully ladened for cruising, these boats are well into the heavy displacement category, yet with a healthy sail area to displacement ratio, the Cape George 36 is remarkably fast, they sail well in light air and are in their element as the breeze picks up. They perform well even when heavily laden.
“The hulls are designed to bring the athwartship sections in very exact continuity, and this feature undoubtedly accounts for the exceptional speed and ability of the Atkinized hulls; for, despite a very generous displacement of nearly 22,000 lbs., and a modest spread of sail of approximately 750 square feet, these are fast yachts.” – Ferenc Mate, Best Boats to Build or Buy
The Cecil Lange and Son boatyard, located on a wooded lot on Cape George Road in the small seaside town of Port Townsend, Washington, just south of the US-Canadian border, was established in 1974 by Cecil Lange, a New Zealand native, and his son Brian.
Lange had gained an appreciation for the work of William Atkin, US designer of traditional sailing yachts in the 1930s and 40s. Of particular interest to Lange was a wooden cutter named African Star that was winning a lot of races in the Puget Sound area, it was based on an Atkin 34 foot Tally Ho Major design.
Lange commissioned designer Ed Monk to adapt the design for fiberglass construction, thereby birthing the Cape George 36. Over the intervening years, Cape George have evolved other designs based on the 36, including 31, 34, 38 & 40 foot cutters.
Back in the day when the boats were in full production, if you were to drop in on Lange’s yard you would see owners living in motorhomes as they built their boats among the company of others doing the same with the factory right at their doorstep.
Lange retired in 2000, and the small boatyard he established remained quiet until 2004 when Todd Uecker, who had previously worked for Lange for 10 years through the 1990s, and his brother Tim bought the yard and began production again as its new owners, along the way renaming the yard to Cape George Marine Works. In the intervening years they have acquired the Sam Morse line of Lyle Hess designs – the twenty eight foot Bristol Channel Cutter and twenty two foot Falmouth Cutter
The boats were offered at various stages of completion from a bare hull to a complete yacht. Thus examples on the market today can vary widely in quality of build and internal layout. Many were were home-built and the factory complete boats were semi-custom in nature. Each and every Cape George 36 should be looked upon as a one-off, including factory-built examples.
Lange mentions he had concerns that some home-built versions were not as adequately ballasted as he would have liked. Inspect the teak on plywood decks closely, some boats have issues and rotten plywood can be hard to spot under teak.
A typical problem area was the wood-lined fiberglass bulwarks which was an easy ingress point for water. Typically, the wet bulwark swells, raising the teak caprail which then exacerbates the leakage problem. Over time, leaks can result in rot in both the deck and deck beams leading to expensive repairs. The design was superseded in the mid-1990s with solid fiberglass and later foam / fiberglass construction which solved the issue. Todd Uecker comments that a large part of their work today is in rebuilding and converting wood-lined bulwark boats to foam and fiberglass.
» The official Cape George Marine Works website
» Best Boats to Build or Buy by Ferenc Mate
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