— The official website of the Peterson Cutter Owner's Group
Author: John Kretschmer
Date Published: 11/17/2003
Article URL:
What Boats Are Really Out There?

Altough the author's boat seen here has an aft cockpit, the majority of the cruisers "out there" appear to be 45-feet long, center cockpit cutters. 
Walking back to the boat from Tobacco Bay, a warm, shallow, near perfect swimming hole tucked below Fort St. Catherine's on the northeast tip of Bermuda, I paused to catch my breath at the top of the hill. Breathing heavier than I should have been, I was relieved to be over the hump-now it was all down hill into St. George's.With the wind at my back, I detoured east knowing that in a few minutes I'd come to a narrow lane that offered a sweeping view of the harbor. I carefully slipped past a thorny bougainvillea hedge, found a perch on smooth rock, twisted the cap on a beer that I'd been schlepping just for the occasion, and toasted the picturesque scene below.

Although mid June was a little late in the season, the harbor was still jam packed with cruising boats. Many had just arrived from the Caribbean, others had sailed south from New England. Most were taking a break before heading across the Atlantic to Europe. These boats were real blue-water cruisers: they were decked out with solar panels, steering vanes, dodgers, and full cockpit enclosures. A rust streak or two streamed down the topsides and drying clothes and bedding flapped from the lifelines and rigging. However, as I stared down at the aquamarine water (St. George's inner harbor is still one of my all time favorite anchorages), it struck me, "they're all 45-foot center cockpit cutters."          

And The Winners Are...
Of course there were some aft cockpit sloops (including my own Kaufman 47) and a handful of ketches and even a few traditional boats were scattered about, but a disproportionate number were center cockpit cruisers with two furling headsails. Even from that distance and my eyes not being what they once were, I could easily identify a Hylas 46, a Brewer 44, a CSY 44, a Roberts 45, a Peterson 44, a Norseman 447, an Oyster 45, and even a lovely old Bowman 46.  Was my observation just an anomaly or did these boats represent an accurate profile of today's cruising boats?  Have 45-foot center cockpit cutters staged a coup and taken over cruising?  While I can't say this burning question kept me up that night, it did spark an interest to find out just what type of cruising boats are really "out there."

The Oyster 45 is among the most sought after boats for blue-water cruising.
"Were have you been," asked Ft. Lauderdale broker Rob Jordan, when I recently asked him about the great center cockpit conspiracy, "I thought you were supposed to be some kind of expert?" Rob, whose firm specializes in blue-water cruising boats, layed out the parameters for most of his clients "It's simple really, they want a 45 to 50-foot center cockpit design with a moderate keel and draft, a cutter rig and a big aft cabin with a centerline queen. I know what they want, the problem is finding the boats." Hmm, it seemed like I was onto something, although apparently the brokers had been on to it long before me.  Although the majority of today's new production cruising boats are still aft cockpit models, it seems hardcore cruisers are looking for something else.

Let's not jump to conclusions, I told myself-journalistic integrity demanded that I conduct some scientific research into this critical matter. OK, I confess, scientific might be a reach-my statistical base would make the number crunching honchos that run the CNN/USA TODAY polls cringe. But hey, we're talking sailboats, not politics, although I'm not sure which is really more important. Anyway, with all due respect to George Gallup, I recently conducted the Kretschmer Survey on cruising boats and hereby make my findings available to sailors of all political parties.  

This Hylas 46 made it to the Kretschmer Survey on cruising boats.
To get started, I compiled a list of all the "cruising boats" that I have delivered over the past 10 years. I classified cruising boats as those personally owned (not charter boats) and those that were either being purchased for an upcoming sabbatical or being delivered to Ft. Lauderdale to be sold after the big cruise was concluded or aborted. 

This list totaled 44 boats, ranging from 71 to 33 feet. When I added up the LOAs and divided by 44, amazingly the average came out to be 44.6 feet-as Dave Berry would say, I swear I am not making this up.Twenty-six of the boats, or 59 percent were center cockpits but only 15, or 34 percent were cutters. Realizing that this data is slightly dated, I next took a look at the boats that contributed to the last two years of SSCA bulletins-these are the boats that really out there cruising.  

The SSCA, or Seven Seas Cruising Association is a group of close to 10,000 sailors dedicated to voyaging. Liveaboard sailors contribute updates to worldwide cruising destinations in their monthly publication, which, by the way, is the most current cruising information available anywhere. A typical bulletin may contain dispatches from Madagascar, French Polynesia, and the Florida Keys. Each contributor lists his or her boat type and draft. From the type of boat I deduced if it was a center cockpit and its likely rig. Eighty-five boats contributed to the bulletins in 2002 and 2003 (through August), ranging from a Cal 25 to an 84-foot Palmer Johnson ketch.  The average LOA turned out to be 43.5 feet, 55 percent were center cockpits, 50 percent were cutters and just for fun, 96 percent were fiberglass, and 95 percent were monohulls.  When you add the two sample pools together, the resulting average cruising boat is 44 feet and there's a better than 50 percent chance that it has a center cockpit deck arrangement.

"Forty-five feet is an ideal length when it comes to combining comfort, seakindliness, and performance."
So, there you have it, the votes are in but what does it all mean? I not sure. We need TV pundits to banter back and forth and explain it to us. I think it's safe to say that yes indeed, there are a lot of 40 to 50-foot center cockpit cutters "out there." Not a stirring conclusion, but one that makes sense.  Dramatically improved sail handling systems allow small crews, i.e. couples, to sail larger boats efficiently.  Forty-five feet is an ideal length when it comes to combining comfort, seakindliness, and performance. And whether you love them or loathe them from an aesthetic perspective, it is hard to dispute that center cockpit boats offer friendlier interior arrangements for liveaboard cruisers.   

Just to sample what's available in the center cockpit world cruisers, let's now take a brief look at two older but still highly sought after second-hand center cockpit boats. The Tayana 42 and the Peterson 44 are not only good solid boats, but they're also sound values in today's market. Incidentally, these boats and many others are described in much more detail in my book, Used Boat Notebook, which, not surprisingly, is available right here at Sailnet.

And The Winners Are...

Here's a quick overview of what are perhaps the two most popular oldies when it comes to center cockpit world cruisers.

Tayana 42     Designed by Robert Harris and built by Ta Yang in Taiwan, this boat is ostensibly still in production, although a new boat hasn't been built in years and most of the 42s on the market date from the early '80s.  The Tayana 42, also known as the Vancouver 42, came with three different deck plans, two of which were aft cockpits. The center cockpit model accounted for about a quarter of the 200-plus boats built and ironically it is the one most sought after by world cruisers. The hull shape features a deep forefoot, a large fin keel, and full skeg hung rudder. he distinctive feature is the canoe stern, which definitely looks better on the aft cockpit models. The 42 is no lightweight; when loaded for cruising, the displacement is well over 30,000 lbs.

A key reason for the 42s enduring popularity is that it is a robustly constructed boat with a solid fiberglass hull and cored deck. Early boats had plywood cores, later balsa was used. Teak decks, with all their virtues and vices, are common. Bulkheads are tabbed directly to the hull, linings and moldings are not used, this boat does not creak in a seaway. The cast iron ballast is internal.  Almost all the boats were rigged as cutters and the mast is deck stepped.  

The interior plan varies from boat to boat because Ta Yang encouraged owner participation in the design. Most boats have a V berth or offset double forward followed by the head and main saloon. The large galley is to port and the walkthrough to the aft cabin is to starboard. The aft cabin features a second head and a large double, usually arranged athwartships. The teak joinery throughout is excellent. Items to watch for include corroded tanks and chainplates, deck leaks, and delamination. A quick Internet search produced seven Tayana 42 center cockpits for sale, with prices ranging from just over $100,000 to $140,000.

Peterson 44      The center cockpit Peterson 44 is a favorite among world cruisers because it genuinely blends comfort and performance. Conceived by San Diego yacht broker Jack Kelly and designed by Doug Peterson, approximately 200 44s were built in Taiwan during a six-year production run. The Kelly Peterson 46 replaced the 44 and if you're interested in the 44 you should also give these boats a close inspection. The Peterson 44 hull shape is similar to the Tayana 42, but a bit more refined. The flat stern, longer LOA, lower freeboard, finer forefoot, and taller rig combine to make the boat a much better performer. It is also a very nice looking boat-even confirmed aft cockpit sailors concede the point.

Like most Taiwan boats of this era (1976-1983), the hull is heavily laid up, solid fiberglass-in fact it's more than an inch thick at the turn of the bilge. The decks and trunkhouse are cored with plywood, which is not a great material for the task, yet surprisingly delamination does not seem to be a huge problem. Like the Tayana 42, the ballast is cast iron encapsulated in the keel cavity.

The interior plan usually features a V berth forward with a large head just aft. The main saloon includes a dinette to port. The galley is also to port and low walkthrough is to starboard, although the aft cabin is also accessible from the cockpit, a great feature that is rarely available in modern boats. Items to watch for include trouble with teak decks and suspect tanks, they're made of black iron and water tanks especially were prone to rusting. SailNet readers are familiar with Sue and Larry's terrific accounts of upgrading their Kelly Peterson 46, including how they removed their deck decks and replaced them with Treadmaster. Original 44s had rigging problems, especially the Navtec turnbuckles, but most boats on the market will have been rerigged by now. Nine 44s, ranging from $110,000 to $150,000 turned up for sale on line.

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Last modified: April 04 2021 07:27