The Pearson 36 Cutter, also commonly known as the Pearson 367, is a variation on one of Pearson’s most popular boats – the Pearson 365 which was originally conceived as a coastal cruiser. Only 49 were produced between the years of 1981 and 1982. With its sturdy construction, layout, and seaworthiness the boat became a popular bluewater cruiser with hundreds of thousands of miles logged. Today they can be found almost anywhere in the world and garner a loyal following. The boat is forgiving to sail, easily handled by a couple, while having enough accommodation and storage for a family of four.
The original Pearson 365 proved a hit from the very beginning, when it launched in 1976 Pearson had signed up 23 boats in pre-sales. Over the years of production, which spanned to 1983, the Pearson 365 was delivered in three configurations – ketch, sloop, and pilothouse. These were “thin water boats” drawing only four feet five inches with modified full keels and large skeg-hung rudders.
In his 1978 book, The Proper Yacht, Arthur Beiser wrote:
“The Pearson 365 is an exceptionally well-conceived cruising ketch of moderate size.” He went on to say. “One of the few intelligently planned production cruising boats on the market, the 365 owes nothing to the antic fancies of the IOR, to the downwind fliers of the Transpacific Race, to the floating dormitories of the boat shows, to the pilot cutter of the Bristol Channel, or the sailing tugboats of the Lofoten Island. A true revolutionary for someone in his business, Mr. Shaw provided the 365 with accommodations for just five people and the rest of the space is a fine galley, a chart table, a stall shower, and stowage, fuel, and water in more than reasonable amounts for the size of the boat.”
In his closing remarks Arthur commented on the choice of sail plan, “Perhaps a cutter rig would have been better, or longer ends to permit more sail area with taller masts without increasing the aspect ratios. On the other hand, more sail in a taller rig, whether cutter or ketch, might require deeper draft, which would be sad since a boat drawing 4 1/2 feet can go practically anywhere. So the 365 represents a compromise, but a sound one, and I am sure she will provide happy cruising on her for her owners and guests.”
Only three years later the Pearson 36 Cutter was introduced to try and capture more of the bluewater boat market. The underbody was modified to include a longer skeg-hung rudder and deeper fin keel drawing five feet six inches. Additionally the new cutter rig, taller and set approximately 18 inches further aft, made room for the staysail and increased the fore triangle by 13%.
The boat proved to be a very capable ocean cruiser, pointing high, with a nice motion and great handling in a variety of sea conditions. Unfortunately from the early to late 1980’s Pearson suffered financially and was sold off when its parent, Grumman, went bankrupt in 1991.
Displacing 17,700 pounds and carrying only 599 square feet of sail area the Pearson 36 Cutter might be considered an under powered boat by today’s standards. The boat at 36.5 feet on deck plus a 30 inch anchor platform has 30 feet of waterline and a small overhang and pleasant shear displays a the look of a classic sailing vessel. The 11.5 foot beam provides a comfortable cruiser with ample storage and space for its owner and family to enjoy week long cruises or for a couple to enjoy an extended cruise.
The large 8 foot cockpit is large enough to comfortably entertain 6 adults yet small enough to withstand a significant poop. Seating is provided on all four sides with high coaming forming nice back rests. The companion way is offset to starboard and protected by a nice size bridge deck which reduces the cockpit volume. Sturdy drop boards are standard along with a heavy sliding hatch that is protected by large sea hood.
The foot well is narrow enough to provide good footing when heeling yet large enough to enjoy a meal at anchor. Two large drains forward in the cockpit well allow water to drain easily. However, the addition of two aft drains would improve the drainage in rougher seas.
The decks are uncluttered and wide enough to easily move around on under all weather conditions. Molded bulwarks provide safe footing. Four large scuppers drain green water quickly along with the high cockpit coaming which sheds water around the cockpit and overboard in roughest seas.
Hand rails run the length of the cabin along with double lifelines provide safe and easy movement about the deck for sail management. All lines are run to the mast for ease of control.
Pearson’s construction quality is considered a cut above most production boats of its day and this boat is no exception. The hull is a sturdy hand-laid-up fiberglass strong enough to handle the rigors of coastal and offshore sailing. The 7,300 pound lead ballasted fin keel is well encapsulated and should stand all but the most sever grounding while the rudder is well protected by its skeg and provides adequate control.
Like other Pearson sailboats, the boat is built utilizing a liner, tabbed in place along with a solid bulkhead separating the cabin from the engine compartment. The liner provides some insulation but may complicate repairs as well tracking and repairing leaks.
The hull is solid glass while the deck and coach roof are sandwiched balsa wood. The deck-to-hull joint is an inward flanged screwed and glued together with what appears to be a thickened epoxy adhesive. The bow is well built giving owners a sense of confidence and safety should a collision occur.
While the joinery and finish belowdecks in the 365 and other Pearson boats were considered plain and average at best, often made of Formica wood grain over marine plywood, the 36 Cutter’s interior is nicely done in teak with teak and holly sole throughout. Workmanship and quality throughout the boat is above average for production boats of the time.
The layout of the Pearson 36 Cutter is a classic layout used since the days of wooden boats with a U-shaped galley to port at the bottom of the stairs and navigation station to port leading to two 7-foot settees port and starboard. Forward is a dry hanging locker to port and large head to starboard. The V-berth or owners cabin is comfortable with ample storage as well as access to the small forepeak which stores the anchor rode.
The galley includes a deep double sink, three burner propane stove and oven, storage, and a large 11.2 cubic foot ice box. The sink is fed by both pressurized and manual foot pump fresh water. Handholds are plentiful and well placed making food preparation possible while underway.
Opposite the galley is a functional nav-station with a hanging wet locker. A fold-out stool provides seating while working at the navigation station but is not that comfortable in rough seas. Pearson offered an optional configuration which included a rotated navigation station and a quarter berth. Boats configured with this option are very desirable but limited and difficult to come by.
The saloon is has two 7-foot settees port and starboard that make nice sea berths with the addition of lee cloths. The starboard settee pulls out to form a double berth. Under the settees lives two of the three 50 gallon fresh water tanks. Behind and above each settee is more storage including an alcohol cabinet with wine storage. The dinette table is mounted on the forward bulkhead and folds down to allow four adults to comfortable sit, eat, and relax. However, movement around the table is limited once fully extended. The table can be configured for either four or two. More storage can be found on the bulkhead behind the table that is easily accessible with the table down or stowed.
The large head is a traditional head with small sink and more than average storage including a dirty clothes hamper. Once you enter the head you will notice the separate shower to your right with seating and more storage. Opposite the head is more storage including a hanging locker.
The v-berth includes a 7 foot berth and more storage. The v-berth sleeps two comfortably however head room in the forward half of the v-berth is limited. Shelves on each side of the berth provide nice storage. To port and starboard – more storage. The center aft portion of the v-berth can be removed and stored making dressing and moving around the forward cabin much easier.
Under the v-berth is more storage as well as the third 50 gallon fresh water tank and a 15 gallon holding tank.
Two large sturdy Bomar hatches along with five opening ports provide nice ventilation under most conditions. The hatches can be configured to open forward or aft and are equipped with four sturdy “dogs” making them strong and secure. Four larger fixed ports provide light to the saloon, galley and nav-station. Pearson did offer as an option that o replaced the fixed ports with opening ports. Once again a rare but desirable option.
The engine which is located under the cockpit is accessed from panels below the companion way and from the cockpit sail lockers. Space around the engine is limited and accessibility is tight. Aft of the engine is a 50 gallon aluminum fuel tank.
The Pearson 36 Cutter is a forgiving boat that is suitable for both the experienced as well as those still honing their passage-making skills. The motion through the water is comfortable as expected with a motion comfort ration of 33, but as noted by some owners it can be a bit wet in rougher seas.
Configured with a larger main, 95% headsail, and small staysail she is easily balanced and sails well on all points of sail in a wide variety of conditions. Performance and comfort is best on a reach and at a heal angle of 15-20 degrees. Downwind performance is respectful and very comfortable. These boats do not point as well as more modern boats but at 40 degrees off the wind performance is respectable.
Acceleration is sluggish and light weather performance is nothing to brag about. In fact you will need 10 knots of wind or more for the boat to move nicely, but when the rest of the fleet begins to head for shelter the Pearson 36 Cutter will be just coming into its own. The boat feels a little tender at first but it stiffens nicely at 15 degrees. Sail reduction begins at 20 knots of wind with the headsail and at 25 knots and up it is time to reef in the main and rely on the staysail. The self-tending staysail combined with a double reefed main makes for an easy and safe sail combination in rougher conditions.
For many sailors the cutter rig takes a little getting accustom to sailing. While the joke is, “set the staysail and you pick up a half of a knot; put away the staysail and you will gain a half of a knot”, cutter owners, of all brands, are quick to sing the praise of the rig for a variety of conditions and on most points of sail and smile at the joke.
With all this said, it is not uncommon for owners to report consecutive 120+ mile days on passages and even an occasional 140+ mile days in comfort and safety.
Some common problem areas with the 36 cutter:
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