The Tartan 37 is considered one of today’s classic cruising yachts. Designed by Sparkman and Stephens with a lot of direct input from Tartan Yachts, the boat was introduced in 1976. Initially conceived as a boat that could be sold as a racer as well as a cruiser, it was the shoal draft centerboard cruiser that really took off with a remarkable 486 boats built.
The boat is known for its sound construction quality and smart sailing abilities and moderate pricing. Owners unanimously love their Tartans.
The collaborative project that was to become the Tartan 37 started the spring of 1975 when Tartan Yachts founder, Charlie Britton commissioned Sparkman and Stephens to design a new 37 footer. This wasn’t the first project between the two companies, there was already string of successful collaborations from as earlier as 1961 with the Tartan 27.
The 37 was initially was specified as a boat that could be sold as a sloop or a ketch, and there was to be a cruising version and a race version. As the design progressed the ketch was dropped and the racer with its deep fin keel and tall rig was renamed the Tartan 38 while the Tartan 37 became the cruising version available in both fin keel or shoal draft centerboard.
The boat was introduced in 1976 with the first boats off the mold being the Tartan 38 racer. They were well received by the market in general. It’s reported the racer did not perform as well as Britton had hoped but the cruising version on the other hand became particularly popular.
Later boats offered a Scheel keel option as well as an option for a tall rig similar to the racer. It’s estimated around 10% were deep keel boats. In total 486 hulls were produced between 1976-1988.
For a boat designed in the mid 1970s the hull looks remarkably modern. There’s a generous rake in the bow, the sheer line is quite straight which sweeps back to a reverse transom. From above the hull has a diamond shape and is quite beamy for the era.
Below the waterline most boats have the centerboard option which entails a long and shallow fin keel, with a centerboard that swings up from 7′ 9″ to a useful 4′ 2″ of draft in shoal waters. The optional deep fin keels draw 6′ 7″ and a Scheel keel 4′ 7″. The rudder sits as far back as it can below the reverse transom, hung from its protective skeg.
The rig draws the influence from IOR racers of the day with a large foresail and small mainsail, a configuration that has proven to be easy to single hand. The rigs came in standard 52′ 0″ as well as tall 53′ 8″.
Down below, the interior is traditional, however with close to 12 feet of beam, the Tartan 37 is larger than you might expect. Teak veneer and trim is used abundantly and white formica is used overhead. Overall, the level of joinery work is very good.
In the forepeak, the two single berths can be converted into a double with an insert. Moving further back the head is to port and has a integral shower, the arrangement is tight but functional. In the salon the settees are offset, the starboard one serves well as a sea-going berth and the port settee can be converted into a double. Further aft on port is the nav-station next to the companionway and a double quarter-berth, something of a luxury in a boat this size. Opposite is a functional U-shaped galley.
The hull is hand-laid fiberglass with end-grain balsa coring to improve stiffness without sacrificing weight. In areas of high stress such as the mast-step, through-hull fittings, chainplate terminals, engine supports and keel sections the coring is tapered into solid fiberglass. The deck enjoys the same construction method with a good non-skid surface molded into all flat areas. The hull-to-deck join consists of an internal flange bedded with butyle and polysulfide and bolted to the deck on 8-inch centers. Through the years this join has proven to be a strong and dry. In general, the quality of construction is exemplary and considered the among best to be found in production yachts.
By rights, nobody should expect a shoal draft centerboard cruiser to break any records, however some of the race intent from the original spec shines through every now and again. For example, Steve Pettingill broke a record in the Port Huron to Mackinac Island single-handed race with his fin keel configured Ambergris. The boat is certainly capable of fast and comfortable 24-hour runs when passage-making.
The Tartan 37 has a reputation for being stable with acceptable upwind performance, but really excels downwind on a reach. The rudder is efficient and provides plenty of control and the boat is relatively dry, especially when configured with a decent dodger. The boat is known to be easy to single hand and fun to sail.
The Tartan 37s are moderately priced and offer good value. They have maintained their values due to quality contructions, good reputation and a loyal following among owners. There is an active Tartan 37 owners association, it’s recommended buyers join the forum at Tartan37.com for further research.
Prices will depend on age and condition. As of 2010 the asking price for Tartan 37s are in the range of:
1976-1981 $30k – $65k USD
1982-1986 $45k – $75k USD
» Tartan 37 Sailing Association, history, resources and owners forum
» Tartan 37 Review, by Jack Horner, BoatUS.com
» Cruising World Magazine Review of the Tartan 37
» Tartan Owners Association (TONE), owners of Tartan yachts in the North East.