1977 — 1985
Designers
William Atkin
Colin Archer
Builder
Alajuela Yacht Corp.
Associations
?
# Built
72
Hull
Monohull
Keel
Long
Rudder
Transom hung
Construction
FG

Dimensions

Length Overall
45 11 / 14 m
Length On Deck
37 11 / 11.6 m
Waterline Length
32 6 / 9.9 m
Beam
11 6 / 3.5 m
Draft
6 0 / 1.8 m
Displacement
27,000 lb / 12,247 kg
Ballast
10,000 lb / 4,536 kg (Lead)
Drawing of Alajuela 38
  • 1 / 5
  • 2 / 5
  • 3 / 5
  • 4 / 5
  • 5 / 5

Rig and Sails

Type
Cutter
Reported Sail Area
880′² / 81.8 m²
Total Sail Area
837′² / 77.8 m²
Mainsail
Sail Area
366′² / 34 m²
P
41 7 / 12.7 m
E
17 7 / 5.4 m
Air Draft
54 0 / 16.5 m
Foresail
Sail Area
471′² / 43.8 m²
I
47 10 / 14.6 m
J
19 8 / 6 m
Forestay Length
51 9 / 15.8 m

Auxilary Power

Make
?
Model
?
HP
40
Fuel Type
Diesel
Fuel Capacity
65 gal / 246 l

Accomodations

Water Capacity
80 gal / 303 l
Holding Tank Capacity
?
Headroom
6 3 / 1.9 m
Cabins
?

Calculations

Hull Speed
7.6 kn
Classic: 7.65 kn

Hull Speed

The theoretical maximum speed that a displacement hull can move efficiently through the water is determined by it's waterline length and displacement. It may be unable to reach this speed if the boat is underpowered or heavily loaded, though it may exceed this speed given enough power. Read more.

Formula

Classic hull speed formula:

Hull Speed = 1.34 x √LWL

A more accurate formula devised by Dave Gerr in The Propeller Handbook replaces the Speed/Length ratio constant of 1.34 with a calculation based on the Displacement/Length ratio.

Max Speed/Length ratio = 8.26 ÷ Displacement/Length ratio.311
Hull Speed = Max Speed/Length ratio x √LWL

7.63 knots
Classic formula: 7.65 knots
Sail Area/Displacement
15.6
<16: under powered

Sail Area / Displacement Ratio

A measure of the power of the sails relative to the weight of the boat. The higher the number, the higher the performance, but the harder the boat will be to handle. This ratio is a "non-dimensional" value that facilitates comparisons between boats of different types and sizes. Read more.

Formula

SA/D = SA ÷ (D ÷ 64)2/3

  • SA: Sail area in square feet, derived by adding the mainsail area to 100% of the foretriangle area (the lateral area above the deck between the mast and the forestay).
  • D: Displacement in pounds.
15.64
<16: under powered
16-20: good performance
>20: high performance
Ballast/Displacement
37.0
<40: less stiff, less powerful

Ballast / Displacement Ratio

A measure of the stability of a boat's hull that suggests how well a monohull will stand up to its sails. The ballast displacement ratio indicates how much of the weight of a boat is placed for maximum stability against capsizing and is an indicator of stiffness and resistance to capsize.

Formula

Ballast / Displacement * 100

37.04
<40: less stiff, less powerful
>40: stiffer, more powerful
Displacement/Length
348.6
275-350: heavy

Displacement / Length Ratio

A measure of the weight of the boat relative to it's length at the waterline. The higher a boat’s D/L ratio, the more easily it will carry a load and the more comfortable its motion will be. The lower a boat's ratio is, the less power it takes to drive the boat to its nominal hull speed or beyond. Read more.

Formula

D/L = (D ÷ 2240) ÷ (0.01 x LWL)³

  • D: Displacement of the boat in pounds.
  • LWL: Waterline length in feet
348.59
<100: ultralight
100-200: light
200-300: moderate
300-400: heavy
>400: very heavy
Comfort Ratio
43.7
40-50: heavy bluewater boat

Comfort Ratio

This ratio assess how quickly and abruptly a boat’s hull reacts to waves in a significant seaway, these being the elements of a boat’s motion most likely to cause seasickness. Read more.

Formula

Comfort ratio = D ÷ (.65 x (.7 LWL + .3 LOA) x Beam1.33)

  • D: Displacement of the boat in pounds
  • LWL: Waterline length in feet
  • LOA: Length overall in feet
  • Beam: Width of boat at the widest point in feet
43.67
<20: lightweight racing boat
20-30: coastal cruiser
30-40: moderate bluewater cruising boat
40-50: heavy bluewater boat
>50: extremely heavy bluewater boat
Capsize Screening
1.5
<2.0: better suited for ocean passages

Capsize Screening Formula

This formula attempts to indicate whether a given boat might be too wide and light to readily right itself after being overturned in extreme conditions. Read more.

Formula

CSV = Beam ÷ ³√(D / 64)

  • Beam: Width of boat at the widest point in feet
  • D: Displacement of the boat in pounds
1.54
<2: better suited for ocean passages
>2: better suited for coastal cruising

Notes

From BlueWaterBoats.org:

The Alajuela 38 is a derivative of William Atkin’s Ingrid 38 Ketch itself following a lineage of traditional double-enders started a century earlier with the lifeboat designs of Colin Archer. The boat entered production not long after the Westsail 32 swept the world with dreams of sailing to distant shores and a cruising boat boom that spanned over a decade. Over the years the Alajuela 38 has garnered something of a cult following, with owners attracted by her beautiful sweeping lines, impeccable engineering, and surprisingly good performance.

Many consider the Alajuela 38 a refined version of the similarly shaped Westsail 32, but as well known sailing author John Kretschmer puts it, “Sure it’s a double ender but it is a different animal. It’s lean and graceful, not stout and pugnacious. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Westsail 32, truly, but the Alajuela will sail circles around it.”

Of course a better comparison would be with the Ingrid 38 from which her lines were derived. Though both hulls look nearly identical at first glance, particularly above the waterline, there are subtle improvements to be found in the underbody. The Alajuela has a finer entry helping her in light airs and a flatter run aft which improves all round performance. In an effort to overcome the Ingrid’s tendency to bury her bow, more buoyancy was added forward above the waterline.

The rig carries 8% more canvas, bringing her close to the sail area to displacement ratios seen in performance cruisers like the Valiant 40, this and the increased efficiency of one mast over two gives the Alajuela 38 a significant performance advantage. As if to prove this point, an Alajuela 38 Wathena notched a second place trophy in the 1976 Newport to Ensenada race, a race known for light and fickle winds. Wathena finished well ahead of cruising boats of similar size and displacement.

The build quality and high standards of engineering made a name for Alajuela. The hull is molded in one-piece from hand-laid fiberglass varying in thickness from 3/4 inch near the bilges to 1/2 inch at the topsides. Inside the hull, there are no liners, it’s all wood bonded to the hull which is durable while providing accessibility to every nook and cranny. The deck uses plywood coring and the hull-to-deck joint remains one of the best in the industry. Of particular note were the beautiful bronze fittings which were cast by Alajuela themselves.

Boats came in Mark I and Mark II variants, with the Mark II being introduced to tackle difficulties in sourcing high quality wood for bowsprits and combings. The boats were also sold as hull and deck kits for finishing by their respective owners.

Though traditionalists prefer the Mark I, the Mark II benefits from three inches of extra cabin height. Other changes include fiberglass cockpit combings, an aft propane locker, and a change to more watertight hatches made of aluminum. The long wooden bowsprit was revised to a shorter “wishbone” design fashioned from aluminum. Along with this came subtle changes** to the sail plan which allowed for neutral helm over a larger range of sail sizes including with some of the oversized headsails that owners were using on their boats.

** The mast position remained the same, the J measurement was reduced by 12 inches along with the shorter bowsprit, resulted in moving the total center of effort slightly aft to reduce the tendency for lee-helm with large headsails.

History

It was Mike Riding who started the project with the help of Rod Jermain, two men in the Southern Californian boating industry who were looking to build a boat for themselves. The original plan was to build eight boats, sell six, keeping two for themselves and sail away. In the case of Riding, it was to be with his sweetheart who he met in the town of Alajuela in Costa Rica, hence the unusual name for this boat.

With its humble project origins, it took three years to build the plug to pull off a set of molds, and then nearly two years to finish tooling for the deck. Along the way, Alajuela Yachts was incorporated as a business to gain access to trade discounts and Riding’s brother came in to help with some of the paperwork.

While Riding and Jermain was chipping away on their project, a lifestyle feature in Time Magazine (graced by a double-page image of a Westsail 32 anchored in tropical paradise) helped catapult “the cruising life” from the fringes into the mainstream. The boom years of cruising yachts had begun and Alajuela Yachts found themselves in a current of strong demand. And so it came to pass that the fledgling business built more than the intended eight.

By 1978 thirty hulls had been completed but the economy was waning and personal circumstances including a first child for Jermain and the tragic death of Riding’s wife in a light aircraft accident prompted the founders to sell to a group of investors. As part of the buyout agreement Jermain was required to stay on for at least a year to oversee production as well as bringing in a new 33 footer called the Alajuela 33.

Another employee that stayed was Don Chapman who was Alajuela’s sales manager. Chapman went on to develop the Alajuela 48 designed by Ray Richards.

In all we count a total production run of 81 Alajuela 38s. There has been some speculation that the molds found their way to Taiwan where more boats were produced under the name Bently 38 however there has been conflicting evidence for this.

Buyers Notes

The factory built boats have aged very well, the boats have been built strong and engineered well. Most problems tend to be easily fixed. These boats rarely come onto the market and tend to be snapped up quickly. As is standard, owner finished boats tend to fetch less.

Links, References and Further Reading

» “Best boats to Build or Buy” by Ferenc Máté, Ch19.
» “The Mighty and Graceful Alajuela 38” by Michel Savage, Cruising World Magazine 1999

Credits

Thanks goes to Alajuela Yachts founder Rod Jermain for assisting in the research of this article.

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