A stout double-ender which many compare to the Valiant 40, the Fast Passage 39 has all the hallmarks of a legendary cruiser; speed, ruggedness and a dash of fame. So perhaps it’s a little surprising only 41 have been produced, and those in search for one may have an adventure on their hands; they are hard to find.
The Fast Passage 39 traces its origins back to the pen of William Garden and a boat called Bolero, a 40 foot sloop conceived in the 1960s. The story goes that Denny Coverdale working for Philbrooks Shipyard on Vancouver Island (Sidney, BC) cruised in tandem with her one summer, and with his shipyard looking for bigger projects, approached Garden to design a modernized version for production. The result was the Fast Passage 39, introduced in 1975, and purportedly the boat that Garden himself said would be the one he’d take cruising.
Philbrooks built 36 of these boats, some of which we sold as hull and deck kits to be finished by their owners. The molds were then sold to Tollycraft who completed a further four boats in Kelso, Washington before production ceased in 1985. It was one of these boats that Francis Stokes bought and christened Moonshine, racing her to second place in her class in the inaugural BOC singlehanded around-the-world race, one of 10 boats to finish from a field of 16.
Many comparisons can be made with the Valiant 40, apart from the obvious similarities above the waterline, the numbers are really telling. Though the Fast Passage 39 is narrower the two share similar LOA and LWL and their displacement and ballast figures are nearly identical. Their underwater shapes are also very similar, the Fast Passage 39 is a tad more evolved with slightly less wetted area and flatter sections forward and aft of the keel.
Under sail the boat performs well through a full range of conditions. Francis Stokes noted the boat’s relatively shoal 5′ 6″ draft was advantageous downwind, her inherent directional stability and responsive rudder also allowed good control under wind vane, even down steep waves. He noted when alongside a Valiant 40, the Fast Passage 39 would need to reef early but would always be as fast. To windward the boat has a tendency for a lot of leeway when heeled more than 20 degrees. Where the boat really excels is in light winds.
The Fast Passage 39 story did not end with the Tollycraft boats, in more recent times Jeremiah Mitchel acquired the molds which were lying disused in tall grass. Michel with the intention of kickstarting production made improvements to the boat including airex coring in the deck (replacing the original balsa coring) with kevlar reinforcing. However only one additional boat was produced which was built in 2000 by Northern Marine. The boat is known as a Fast Passage 40.
A well known problem among owners is delamination in the rudder and deck. In the case of the rudder, the originals were not very well built though owner many have corrected this issue on many of the boats. In the case of the decks, leaks have been the cause of the balsa coring rotting out, leading to delamination.
Philbrooks is known to produce boats of excellent quality, in the case of the kit boats check for quality of finish, kits boats have to fetch less money. Francis Stokes also proved that Tollycraft-built boats are just as good.
The Fast Passage 39 is rare to find on the market, with such few numbers produced and owners do tend to keep them. The boat has a tendency to be sold person to person without ever hitting the open market. As of 2010 the estimated the asking price of these boats are in the range of $80k-$170k USD.
» Fast Passage 39 Review by John Kretschmer, Used Boat Notebook p187-191
» Cruising World Magazine’s review of the Fast Passage 39 by Mark Schrader, Dec 1997
» Blue Water Sailing Magazine’s look at the Fast Passage 40, Jun 2010
» A look at the Fast Passage 40 by Quentin Warren writing for Boat.com, Aug 2000
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