Traditional and good-looking, this cruiser’s uncompromising seakindliness is made for bluewater cruising
It is a bit unusual for a boat like the Pacific Seacraft 37 to appear in the Used Boat Notebook for the simple reason that it’s still in production. The boats that have been profiled over the years, despite typically long and successful production runs, are no longer available as new boats, which makes them good values on the used market.
Introduced in 1978 the Pacific Seacraft 37, or as many still refer to it, the Crealock 37, is an impressive world voyager, and it continues to be in demand by serious sailors looking for a high-quality bluewater cruiser. Naturally the newer boats will be quite expensive (the base price of a brand-new model is around $200,000), but early models sell for less than $100,000.
W. I. B. (Bill) Crealock has designed a slew of fine cruising boats over the years, including the handsome Cabo Rico 38 and the husky Westsail 42. Less well known as a writer, Crealock’s 1978 memoir, Vagabonding Under Sail, is a wonderful book describing his early days sailing all over the world. I remember finding the book at Michigan State University and feeling like I had discovered a hidden treasure.
Surprisingly, the Pacific Seacraft 37 traces its origins back to Clipper Marine. In the mid-1970s, the company began tooling to build a 37-foot bluewater cruiser that would be tough and affordable, something to compete with the Westsail 32. Clipper Marine went broke before any boats were built and the boatbuilding company Cruising Consultants acquired the molds. The result was the first edition of the Crealock 37. Cruising Consultants built 16 boats in 1978 and 1979 before selling out to Pacific Seacraft. The rest, as they say, is history. Pacific Seacraft will soon be launching hull number No. 263. Of that number most have put plenty of bluewater miles under their keels and have nosed their fine bows into harbors all over the world.
The Pacific Seacraft 37 marries a traditional look with a quiet but uncompromising attitude. With a shapely canoe stern, sweet sheerline, low freeboard and long bow overhang, the PS 37 is a handsome boat by any definition. However, a closer inspection reveals practical features expressly designed for sea duty. The cutter rig does not include a bowsprit with the potential for rig and structural damage, and all sail controls are led aft to a well-protected cockpit. If good looks alone were driving the design, the trunkhouse might have been lowered. However, Crealock understands the importance of maximizing room below without compromising the basic hull shape and the need for handholds on deck that are located at a useful height. Below the waterline the large fin keel is cutaway fore and aft, the rudder is hung on a full skeg and the propeller is completely protected.
Under sail the PS 37 performs surprisingly well and has logged many fast passages, which may come as a bit of surprise after glancing at performance parameters. The boat’s displacement/length ratio of 334, for example, is nothing to brag about, especially when compared to cruisers like the Island Packet 37 and Gozzard 37, which check in at around 270. This number, however, is very deceptive, since the PS 37 is narrow and heels early, thereby extending the waterline significantly. Also, displacement figures are inherently inaccurate when it comes to cruising boats and the loads they carry.
One admirable aspect of the Pacific Seacraft 37’s performance is that the hull almost never pounds in a seaway and the boat can be easily handled with a small crew. So many times, heavier cruisers turn in faster passages than lighter ones simply because the crew is better rested because it didn’t need to micromanage its boat.
Pacific Seacraft builds stout boats, and its construction techniques are conservative and well proven. The hull is solid fiberglass, and while the company does offer optional balsa or foam layers, these are for insulation purposes only. Early hulls were not immune to the boat pox that swept the industry in the 1980s, but today’s boats include vinylester resin in the first laminate to prevent blisters.
A full-length molded liner supports the hull with several recesses for bulkheads, floors, furniture fittings and engine beds. There are drawbacks to molded linings: They are hard to secure to the hull, limit hull access and restrict different interior configurations. However, Pacific Seacraft uses numerous bonding points to make sure that the liner is firmly glassed in place. You can’t argue with the results: few if any 37s have reported structural hull damage, even after hard groundings.
The deck is plywood cored, which is unusual in a boat of this quality, but once again, the results speak for themselves; deck delamination does not seem to be much of a problem, even in boats more than 20 years old. Most boats use plywood under high-load areas anyway, locally replacing the more common balsa cores. The hull-and-deck joint incorporates the molded bulwark to form a box joint that is strong and dry. A teak caprail covers the joint.
The mast is deck-stepped and the compression post is tied into the main bulkhead. The main bulkhead is both fiberglassed and bolted in place. The ballast is an external lead casting, fastened to a large keel stub with hefty stainless steel bolts.
What to look for
Older Pacific Seacraft 37s have aged very well indeed, especially considering that many have sailed far and wide. Solid original construction and a seakindly hull shape are a good combination when it comes to maintaining a boat’s integrity through the years.
From a production standpoint, an important change occurred in 1988 when vinylester resin was added to the first laminate to prevent osmotic blisters. The boat has been built to ABS standards for many years, and in 1993 the original mat and woven roving was replaced with biaxial roving as the standards changed.
Some owners have reported problems with the aluminum fuel tanks, located in the bilge. The seawater sloshing in the bilge can find its way into the tank through the fittings at the same time accelerating corrosion on the exterior. The water tanks are actually part of the hull liner and should be carefully inspected.
For the most part Pacific Seacraft uses first-rate deck fittings. The overhead hatches made by Bowmar, however, are not very well constructed and have been known to leak.
The deep cockpit exudes a sense of security. The seats are long enough to sleep on, and the backs are angled for good support. The cockpit sole is actually a well-sealed access hatch to the engine compartment—a great feature. The starboard locker is quite large. Coamings have built-in winch handle boxes, and there is a propane locker on the aft deck, behind the cockpit. The bridgedeck is narrow, but certainly up to the task of keeping green water out of the cabin. New boats feature Whitlock steering, while older boats may have an Edson system.
A midboom sheeting arrangement keeps the cockpit uncluttered as the traveler runs just forward of the companionway. All sail controls are usually led to the cockpit, although there isn’t a lot of room on the aft end of the trunkhouse, especially when tucked under a dodger.
The molded nonskid surface is quite aggressive, and seems to hold up well even on older boats. A substantial bulwark, with 30-inch stanchions mounted on the vertical face, and stout teak handrails mounted on the cabintop make it safe to move about the deck, even in rough conditions. Pacific Seacraft didn’t skimp when it came to fittings. The cleats are oversized and well secured, and the hawsepipes forward must please the pilots who inspect the boats before passage through the Panama Canal. The husky dual anchor rollers and internal chain locker can be accessed from the forepeak.
Although the Pacific Seacraft 37 has been rigged as both a sloop and a yawl, most are true cutters. The typical sailplan includes a main with two reefs, a fairly heavy staysail and a high-cut, 120-percent yankee. It is not uncommon to find both headsails set up for roller furling.
The chainplates are outboard and through-bolted through the topsides. While this doesn’t foster tight sheeting angles, remember that the 37’s beam is less than 11 feet, which means that the angles are not much different than a beamy boat with inboard chainplates. The aluminum mast has an air draft of 47 feet,
The interior arrangement isn’t fancy, but as Don Coleman at Pacific Seacraft says, “It works.” The forward cabin is deceptively large, usually set up with an offset double to starboard instead of a V-berth and a comfortable chair tucked in to port. There are also two hanging lockers opposite the head. By today’s standards the head seems rather plain. But it does have a shower, sink, commode and good storage. What else do you need in a head?
The saloon features a straight settee to port and a convertible double to starboard, which drapes around the table. Both make excellent sea berths, especially the starboard double with the table serving as a leeboard. Deep shelves behind the settees, with fiddles designed to keep everything in place, swallow up books and small items.
The chart table is to port, with a quarter berth behind. This is called a double, but it really is better suited for a single, or as it will likely become, the onboard miniwarehouse. The galley is to starboard and is set up for preparing a meal at sea. Deep stainless sinks face forward, and the stove is outboard. For years Pacific Seacraft has used Force 10 cookers, arguably the best in the business. The fridge/icebox faces aft.
The joinerwork is not fancy, but it’s clean, tasteful and functional. The teak interior, especially in the older boats, can seem a bit dark. The headroom is more than 6 feet, 3 inches and ventilation is excellent with overhead hatches and opening portlights. Handholds are well placed. The interior arrangement is just about perfect for a cruising couple.
By the late 1980s four-cylinder Yanmars became the standard power plant. Most boats will have the 4JHE rated around 50 horsepower, giving the easily driven, 16,000-pound PS 37 plenty of punch. Wallace notes that he easily motors along at 6 knots, burning about one gallon per hour. Most early boats were fitted with a smaller Universal diesel.
The hatch in the cockpit sole makes repowering much less of a procedure than it would be trying to squeeze an engine through the companionway. In fact, overall access is excellent whether it’s through the companionway, through the cockpit hatch or through a third panel in the quarterberth. The aluminum fuel tank holds 40 gallons, which is not enough for serious voyaging. It is not unusual to see 37s carrying extra fuel in jugs on deck.
The Pacific Seacraft 37 has sailed just about everywhere, and its cruising exploits have been well documented. What comes as a bit of surprise to many owners is how well the boat sails. “I sail at 6 knots or more all the time,” explains Wallace, the recently retired chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. Wallace, who took delivery in Chicago, sailed south from Annapolis to Florida. “We had a variety of conditions, from calms to gales, and the boat never gave me an anxious moment.”
The cutter rig is easily balanced, and the boat adapts readily to self-steering. The cutter rig is also well suited to heavy weather, as the headsail can be shortened and finally rolled in completely with the staysail acting as a storm jib.
Downwind, the cutter is not particularly efficient, and some type of drifter or cruising spinnaker is necessary to maintain speed in light air. When the wind pipes ups, the 37 finds its stride, even when a large sea is running. Several owners have reported touching double digits while surfing down trade wind seas. Long passages that average better than 150 miles per day are common. However, the most underrated performance factor is seakindliness, as nothing wears out the crew or the gear faster than a quick, pounding motion. The Pacific Seacraft 37 is a “swisher” not a “pounder.”
The Pacific Seacraft 37 is a nearly perfect cruising boat for a couple. The interior may seem small when compared to more modern designs, but the point of cruising isn’t to bring all your worldly goods with you; it’s to leave them behind. The boat is well constructed and brilliantly designed. The only drawback to the boat is the price; however, if you are willing to buy an older boat, you may able to launch your cruising dreams sooner than you think.