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Southerly 38

2008 July 6
July 2008

Bluewater cruiser

I am often asked what is the best keel for someone who needs shoal draft. My standard answer is usually, "There is no substitute for draft," said with a kind of smart-alecky tone. You can stick anything you like on the bottom of a low-aspect-ratio, stumpy fin and it's still a bad fin. In fact, most of the things you see stuck onto these stumpy fins just do more damage by further reducing the true, clean span of the fin. But Southerly figured out the solution years ago and it has built a successful series of boats with lifting keels. The newest boat in its line is this Stephen Jones-designed 38.

This boat carries its max beam almost all the way to the transom. The L/B is 2.64. There are lots of advantages to this feature but good looks is not one of them. This is a very short-ended hull with high freeboard and this huge transom just exaggerates the other features. When you heel this boat over 20 degrees you are going to be dragging a fair portion of that transom through the water. I think this hull shape is more about interior volume than boat speed. Note the twin rudders. With one shoal-draft rudder on centerline you'd certainly pull it out of the water when you heeled this boat, causing the boat to round up out of control. But with twin shoal rudders positioned well outboard the more you heel the more you immerse the leeward rudder.

The keel of this Southerly lifts at the touch of a button and goes from 8 feet, 6 inches of draft to 2 feet, 8 inches of draft. The keel-down fin shape is moderately high aspect ratio with the chord elongated at the root (hull) to add strength. The keel fin fits into an iron pan that forms part of the ballast while providing the structural support for the fin. There is 4,455 pounds of weight in that pan. The fin itself is lead and weighs 3,785 pounds.
If you had just a quick glance at the layout of this 38 and did not see the profile you'd say this was a center-cockpit boat. It has a large owner's cabin well aft with a big, centerline double berth. But this boat is an aft cockpit design. How do they get the required headroom aft? That's where the freeboard comes in handy. And take a look at the shape of the cockpit seats. They curve and angle around the edges of the centerline double berth. The promotional material says there is "good headroom throughout." I can't imagine there is 6 feet, 3 inches of headroom in that aft cabin, and the drawings I have don't show that dimension. But I can guess that there is reasonable headroom aft and by the time you get to the aft head there should be
plenty of headroom.

The deck shape is full of undulating curves. I think this trend is a product of 3D computer modeling programs. There is nothing wrong with it but I keep getting this image of old, dead K. Aage Neilsen, the master of classic American yacht styling, vomiting. The giant transom results in a giant cockpit. There are twin wheels. The swim step detail is unusual in that it stretches across the broad transom but you can only stand on it amidships.

The rig is on the short side with an SA/D of 14.93. I look at that mainsheet location and to my eye it is almost more vang than sheet. It does open up the cockpit but think of the bending moment it puts on that boom extrusion and the load it puts on the mainsheet. The jib is self-tacking and allows a 10-degree angle to the track. This works if you want to sail short-handed and do minimal work, but it severely limits the shaping of the jib. I have done it myself and I prefer not to do it again. The line between performance and convenience wanders all over the place these days.

I still consider the Southerly line to be the ultimate answer to the shoal-draft cruising boat.