Tartan Yachts opened its doors in 1960 and is still building exceptional sailing vessels today including its latest instant classic, the 26 Fantail—and when a company is still in business over a half century after its founding, it’s a sure sign they’re doing something right. Throughout the years, Tartan designed and re-designed a sailboat around the 37-foot mark which has enjoyed a great following in its many iterations, and is well worth checking out on the used yacht market today.
Charlie Briton may have launched the company but it was designer Tim Jackett who put his undeniable mark on it, turning out numerous sought-after models. One of the most popular designs was a 37-footer that started life as the Sparkman and Stephens-designed T37 which debuted in the late 1970s. Most of the boats were built for skinny water of the Chesapeake and Florida and came with a centerboard, although there were a few deep fixed-keel models built as well. The design developed a reputation as a fast cruiser, able to go offshore or win around the buoys.
By 1989, Jackett took the classic T37 and with some small tweaks, morphed it into the T372 a model that was built between 1989 and 1993 with 60 hulls produced. It was a safe, durable, dependable, and agile boat that eventually changed again into what became the 3800, of which 43 hulls were built.
I’ve been fortunate to spend time on a couple of Tartan designs, most recently a 372, and I came away impressed. The model was known for being a stiff and dry sailboat with nice lines. The old T37 was an IOR design with typically pointy ends. The newer T372 carries her beam farther aft and is more along the IMS measurement style. The underbody of the slippery hull has an elliptical rudder and one of two keel configurations, a shoal or deep draft, the latter being perfect for the deep waters of the West Coast.
The tall, double-spreader rig has a babystay and carries 672 square feet of sail area (at 100%). The traveler is at the companionway so there is mid-boom sheeting and the primary winches are within reach of the helmsman. The deck and cabin-top are relatively low which makes for a nice profile, but are still high enough for good headroom below. An opening anchor locker on the bow provides plenty of protection for the windlass.
The T372 has a standard two-cabin, one-head layout. The master stateroom is forward with a large v-berth, a sink, and lots of storage. Aft is another private cabin to starboard with a sizeable head opposite. Tanks for water and fuel are under the settees and the Volvo diesel is under the sink just forward of the companionway, with good access from three sides. Machinery like pumps and the hot water heater are under the companionway steps.
Not all boats of 1980s vintage can claim to have a builder that can offer original brochures on their website or provide owners with spare parts – many gratis. That’s the value of owning a boat whose builder is still in business. Another plus is the network of various regional active owners’ associations. Tartan has a loyal following and the many models that were built throughout the years are tracked by engaged owners who like to share information. These groups, like Tartan Owners, Chesapeake Bay Tartan Sailing Club, and Lake Erie Tartan Sailors, are invaluable resources with forums of tips and ideas, assorted news and published articles, various rendezvous sites, and lists of events throughout the year. Associations like this add another dimension to boat ownership and build social networks that reach far beyond the slip.
Throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s, Tartan flourished and added facilities in North Carolina and Ohio (where they still operate today). As design concepts evolved, Tartan changed along with the times creating beamier boats with larger cockpits, fuller aft sections and more voluminous, handcrafted interiors. Along the way, they focused on innovation and developed a few proprietary features, some of which have won industry awards. The carbon fiber pocket boom is ingenious, with a scoop into which the mainsail drops cleanly, and the carbon mast has become a standard. The Cruise Control Rig (CCR) has also appeared on more and more Tartan designs with a self-tacking jib and light reacher on a furler. The boats have enjoyed a reputation for being excellent for sailing short-handed.
Today, Tartan Yachts’ offering includes seven active models from the 26’ to 53’, but if you’re looking for an older model with an excellent pedigree, you have plenty of choices. Pages of listings come up on Yachtworld when you search for a Tartan 37, from the classic T37 to the newest 3700 which is still in production. Each one is a bit unique but all are solid designs that will make a good showing for their owners and represent over 50 years of exceptional performance for the builder.