Perfect for a family cruise or a romp around the buoys, this easy-to-handle design shines
Designed by Olin Stephens, the Tartan 30 was built by Tartan Marine and launched in 1972 amid gloomy economic times. Nonetheless, the small sloop proved a success, prompting Tartan to churn out hundreds of them over a seven-year production run. A masthead sloop with fixed fin keel and skeg-hung rudder, the Tartan 30 appealed to sailors in search of an affordable easy-to-handle boat.
“People in those years were interested in small keelboats,” said Peter Thorsby, a yacht broker at Prestige Yacht Sales in Norwalk, Connecticut. “It filled the gap between the Tartan 27 and the Tartan 34.”
Thorsby said the demand for small keelboats was fueled by the popularity of the Midget Ocean Racing Club, founded in 1954 in New York. MORC’s mission was to promote offshore racing and cruising of small boats.
“This was all before the quarter tonners and J/24s,” Thorsby said. “Boats like the Tartan 30 were for the smaller caliber guy to get them into the brand with a smaller boat in hopes they would eventually buy a larger one.”
A slight discrepancy exists over precisely how many T30s were built, with something between 602 and 630. That isn’t surprising since in 1971 the Douglass & McLeod Plastics Corp., later purchased by Tartan, had two facilities—its Ohio plant and another in Hamlet, North Carolina, cranking out a Tartan 27 every 3.5 days, two Tartan 30s per week, and one Black Watch every month. The Ohio plant was destroyed by a fire in January 1971.
Before Tartan assumed control, the company was sold in part to boatbuilder Charlie Britton, who soon introduced the Tartan 26, 41, 46 and 48.
For many sailors, the beauty of the Tartan 30 lay in its resemblance to the popular Tartan 34, at least above the waterline. The yacht has a graceful sheer and an uncluttered deck trimmed conservatively with hints of teak. It is well proportioned; the just-under-30-feet length pairs nicely with the 10-foot beam. But the sweet lines don’t detract from an obviously strong build. A quick scan of the hull, stainless steel deck fittings, sensible cockpit layout and the performance-driven keel and rudder combination make it clear this is a yacht designed for ocean racing as well as weekend cruising.
Brad Whitehurst, former owner of the 1976 T30 Windrift, said the boat, “like many of the classic S&S designs of the late 1960s and 1970s, just looks right. The hull has well-balanced lines that you can just keep looking at.”
The forward section of the hull is stiffened with sturdy Tensil-Cor laminate. Elsewhere, mat and woven roving strengthen the overall hull surface, making the yacht capable of withstanding punishing seas while not succumbing to the “oil canning” common among thinner hulls.
The 3,700 pounds of lead ballast are cast and fastened with internal one-inch stainless steel bolts, a design which concentrates the keel mass as low as possible. The keel’s trailing edge is sharp and, according to Tartan, its bottom was shaped in a V to provide lifting action.
The skeg entry for the rudder provides additional lifting surface and is meant to eliminate the radical steering behavior of some freely-suspended blades. However, the rudder isn’t wholly dependent on its post. Rather, it’s attached to the skeg with a bronze shoe.
The mast steps through the deck to the lead ballast for additional strength. The deck is plywood-cored fiberglass sandwich construction. Single lower and upper shrouds are brought inboard to bulkhead-fastened chainplates, providing the yacht with closer-winded sailing ability and easier access to the foredeck. All standing rigging is 1x19 stainless steel and quarter-inch or more in diameter. The chrome-plated turnbuckles are half-inch forged-bronze. Mast and boom are made from extruded aluminum. The running rigging is wire to rope.
What to look for
As with any boat over 40 years old, inspect for spongy deck spots, possibly the result of water infusion and the cause of subsequent delamination. On deck, inspect for cracks near the chainplates and stanchions where leakage can occur. Examine the hull exterior for crazing.
Standard equipment aboard the T30 included a manual bilge pump, which most experts agree should be replaced by an electric pump. Potential buyers should note the number of hours the engine has been run. An Atomic 4 with thousands of hours may need to be replaced.
The original design had the traveler behind the tiller, but many owners have moved it forward to a more convenient location. Wire-to-rope halyards were also standard, but changing to all rope means replacing the tapered sheaves at the masthead.
A generous aft cockpit—7 feet 4 inches in length—provides plenty of room for six adults. Winch islands accommodate the two Barient geared winches for the genoa. Two additional halyard winches complete the set. Deck hardware also includes a genoa track with snatch blocks, three mooring cleats, four chocks, a stainless bow pulpit and lifelines. Dorade vents provide fresh cabin air. The toerails are teak. A compass is mounted on the exterior of the cabinhouse.
There’s adequate head room in the main and forward cabins at 6 feet 1 inch. Berths are 6 feet 5 inches or longer.
The boat sleeps six in two quarterberths, a V-berth forward, and a port berth in the main cabin that converts into a double. The head is enclosed, with a hinged door to create privacy by closing off the forward cabin. It has a stainless steel wash basin and shower drain. A hanging wet locker is opposite the head.
There were two galley options—side and aft. Both had a sink, a two-burner alcohol stove and an icebox. The aft-galley version added a settee berth to starboard in the main cabin but eliminated the quarterberth.
The boat has eight fixed ports for good daytime illumination and grabrails to port and starboard for hanging on in stormy seas. There’s a 30-gallon freshwater tank and a 20-gallon fuel tank.
Most owners appreciate the imported woods and hand-rubbed oil finish that create a traditional yachting atmosphere.
“When you go below, you immediately see the quality craftsmanship,” said Tartan 30 owner Dan Llewelyn of Hull, Massachusetts. “It’s solid teak, not veneer or plywood.”
A 30-horsepower Universal Atomic 4 gasoline engine drives the Tartan 30, although it may have been replaced. Chesapeake Tartan 30 Association member Dave Alexander notes in the organization’s publication that no changes to the engine box were required to install a Yanmar diesel 2GM20. However, he chose the more powerful 3GM30F.
When Tartan 30 owners talk about their boats, phrases like “sweet boat,” “bulletproof,” and “a gem to handle” frequently rise to the surface.
“I race Wednesday nights and weekends,” Llewelyn said. “In summer, we go for a weeklong cruise. I can tell you firsthand, the rig is bulletproof, comfortable and easy to sail. There’s very little weather helm on the tiller. It’s very well balanced.”
James Waddell from North Carolina owns South Bound, a 1975 competitive series T30. “Sparkman & Stephens really knew what they were doing when they designed this boat,” he said. “It’s so easy to handle and faster than a lot of other boats in its class.”
Whitehurst added, “It’s not the fastest to windward or leeward of its era, but it’s a reaching machine and free of most vices such as extreme helm or drunken, IOR staggers downwind.”
The Tartan 30 is an ideal used boat choice for a small family looking to sail offshore in varying sea conditions or simply wanting to have fun racing around the buoys with line-honors confidence. This small cruiser is well built, easy to handle and relatively economical to maintain.
PRICE: The price of a Tartan 30 can range from nearly $18,000 to less than $6,000, depending in part on the year of manufacture 0and, more importantly, the yacht’s overall condition and what upgrades have been completed. The average selling price is $10,000 to $11,000.
DESIGN QUALITY: Designed by Sparkman & Stephens, it resembles the popular Tartan 34 above the waterline. The teak-enriched interiors were offered in a side-galley and aft-galley versions.
CONSTRUCTION QUALITY: The fiberglass Tartan 30 was built by Tartan Marine Yachts at its plants in Ohio and North Carolina and the sloops were made to stand the test of time.
USER-FRIENDLINESS: Owners contend the Tartan 30 is a charmer under sail. The fixed fin keel and skeg-hung rudder combination provide plenty of lift and nimble sailing. Owners report little weather helm on the tiller.
SAFETY: The Tartan 30 was designed and built for racing and offshore cruising. It’s solid hull was meant to take a pounding. Its lead ballast is centered over the keel and supplemented with weight from the engine lessen the risk of knockdown or capsize. The standing rigging is stainless steel.
TYPICAL CONDITION: The physical condition of the average Tartan 30 is likely to range from good to excellent, mostly due to the rugged hull and deck construction. Owners often comment the sloop is “built like a tank” and “bulletproof.”
REFITTING: Replacing the gasoline engine with a diesel, upgrading and relocating the traveller, and installing a furling headsail system seem the most common goals among Tartan 30 sailors contemplating a refit.
SUPPORT: The Tartan owners website, www.tartanowners.org, offers general information and contacts for all Tartan owners. An active blog is www.tartanownersweb.org and Tartan Yachts www.tartanyachts.com is also a resource.
AVAILABILITY: There is no shortage of Tartan 30s on the market because hundreds were constructed between 1972 and 1979, with an estimated 500 still sailing. Boats are currently for sale throughout New England, the Mid-Altantic states, the Great Lakes region and Washington state.
INVESTMENT AND RESALE: The Tartan 30 has a loyal following and remains an in-demand pocket cruiser. The 30 sold new for just under $18,000, making the average price today of $10,000 a sound investment. Brokers report Tartan 30s typically sell for 80% of the asking price.