Cape Dory Yachts was founded way back in 1963 in New England by sailor and engineer Andrew Vavolotis starting out with a little 15 footer. Through the years the company has forged a great reputation for building sturdy vessels that are safe at sea, simple in layout and easy to handle. Outside of Cape Dory’s pocket cruiser offerings 30 feet and below, the Cape Dory 36 stands out as being the next most popular. Perhaps this has been due to their versatility as both great offshore boats as well as being well suited for weekend and coastal cruising.
The design comes from Carl Alberg, a legendary name in cruising yacht design of the old age before designers like Perry redefined what a cruising sailboat should look like during the boom years of the 1970s and 1980s. Alberg’s design influences came predominantly from the Scandinavian folkboat which emphasized seakindly and well mannered sailing characteristics at the sacrifice of internal volume and initial boat stiffness. The Cape Dory 36 follows this tradition with a narrow beam, low freeboard, large overhangs, and a full keel with a cutaway on the forefoot.
The boat is built strong and a quick check of the heavy rig reveals a cutter configuration which emphasizes offshore work. Yet for the coastal cruising type, these boats are nimble and easy to sail. They have a usefully shallow five foot draft which makes for great bay hopping. The interior is considered cramped by modern standards but livable for couples on extended voyages; reserve the six berths for those social weekends away.
Under sail they track well to windward exhibiting a tendancy to be initially tender which lengthens their effective waterline before stiffening up. The low freeboard concedes a relatively wet ride. On long downward runs, again they track relatively well, except in quartering seas. In chop, expect some amount of hobby-horsing.
Construction has always been top notch throughout and with excellent interior joiner work. Note significant changes were made to the deck and interior arrangement in 1987. Owners haven’t reported any areas of weakness or bad years, and through the years the boats have earned a loyal following.
Cape Dory Yachts ceased operations in New England in 1991 selling the molds for the 36 to Robinhood Marine who continued production with refinements on a semi-custom basis. In total 165 Cape Dory 36s have been built.
» Cape Dory Owners Association, Cape Dory 36 brochures and further information.
» Cape Dory 36, A Survey, Nautical Quarterly No. 18, Summer 1982
» Robinhood 36 article “Legacy”, Latitudes and Attitudes magazine, May/June 1997