Gozzard 31

2008 November 10
May 2007

A solid, well-engineered cruiser for open waters

Ted Gozzard has a well-earned reputation for building quality boats that blend traditional values with innovative materials and processes. But there is something more, something harder to define about the man and his boats. Gozzard has always been willing to look at a given space in a fresh way. At first glance his boats look traditional. However, upon closer inspection, they stand apart from other cruisers and are invariably loaded with new ideas. Gozzard has no pretense about what he designs and builds, his boats are cruising boats through and through. He's always known who his customers are too. His owners are most likely middle-aged couples who are cultlike in their love of the boats.

Gozzard was a principal in the old Bayfield Boatyard, a Canadian builder on the southeastern shore of Lake Huron. The company produced, not surprisingly, traditionally styled cruising boats. Gozzard sold out in 1981 and the following year moved a few miles up the coast to Goderich, Ontario, and opened North Castle Marine Ltd., later Gozzard Yachts. Gozzard's new boats were, at least in appearance, much like the boats he designed for Bayfield. They featured handsome clipper bows with wooden trail boards, sweeping sheerlines and likely as not, wooden taffrails.

In 1983 Gozzard's two sons joined the firm. Mike Gozzard, who has taken over much of the day-to-day operations, explained that from the beginning Gozzard Yachts employed state-of-the-art materials to build and refine hull shapes that were well proven. That's a sound premise for building cruising boats.

The Gozzard 31 was introduced in 1990. About 20 were built and ostensibly the boat remains in production.

"We've shifted toward bigger boats," Mike Gozzard said, "but if someone really wanted a 31 we'd certainly work with him." All new Gozzards are semi-custom and include varying amounts of owner input. Prices of used 31s range from the mid $80,000s to the low $100,000s, and while that's a lot of money for a 31-foot boat, the value becomes apparent when you begin to shop for a genuine
cruiser and make boat-to-boat comparisons.

First impressions
The Gozzard 31 is a handsome boat. Even a diehard modernist can't help but admire the clipper bow, extended bowsprit and sweeping sheerline. The LOD measurement is 31 feet, and it's a bit misleading. When you add in the sprit the LOA is 36 feet, which, coupled with an 11-foot beam, gives the boat a big-boat feel. And the 31 is not a lightweight, with the design displacement of 12,000 pounds, and that's at half load. When she's fitted out and loaded up for cruising you can push the displacement up a few thousand pounds.

Gozzard believes that a hull shape should have enough of a forefoot to keep the boat from pounding and to also have enough room to mount a bow thruster-typical of the way he blends concepts. The 31 underbody features a not-quite full keel that is cutaway aft and incorporates a full skeg rudder. The rudder is small. The cutter sailplan is generous with 607 square feet of sail area in the 100-percent foretriangle, translating into a respectable SA/D of 20.25. By all accounts the Gozzard 31 is a surprisingly good performer. Of course, with a Gozzard, that shouldn't come as a surprise.

The Gozzard 31 hull and deck are both cored with half-inch Core Cell foam, which adds panel stiffness, thermal and sound insulation and weight savings. Interestingly, what Gozzard saved in weight he added back in additional layers of laminate to make the hull even stronger. In high-load and stress areas of the hull and deck solid laminate is used. This is an intelligent way to lay up a hull.

As the Used Boat Notebook begins to examine more and more used boats that were born in the 1990s, the advantages of improved construction techniques becomes more apparent. In the new boats, vinylester resins are used exclusively. The hull and deck are joined with 3M 5200 and with stainless fasteners on 6-inch centers. The joint is then covered with a teak caprail.

The bulkheads, and wherever possible, the furniture facings are glassed to the hull and deck. The lead ballast is mounted externally as is the skeg. The rudder is fiberglass and the stock is beefy stainless steel. The upper rudder bearing is mounted above the waterline, which prevents leaking, and the bottom bronze bearing is robust. Because the garboards are nearly hollow, the engine is mounted quite low in the boat, literally outside of the canoe body and this not only puts the weight down low where you want it but also allows for a very efficient near horizontal shaft angle.

What to look for
When I asked Mike Gozzard what he'd look for in an older 31 he replied that he'd try to find one in as original condition as possible. This is an interesting point. Any boat that has been through a couple rounds of "updating," from electronics to other systems, will suffer some degree of having been hacked up. As we all know, there's nothing older than 10-year-old electronics. It rarely pays to put a premium on boats that are extensively equipped unless the equipment is relatively new. Usually a thinly equipped, lower priced used boat is the better value.

While nobody would call the 31 tender, the first few boats were stiffer than later boats because Gozzard underestimated the increased stability of lowering the engine and added too much ballast. Also, Mike Gozzard told me that the most recent boats benefit from improvements in materials that foster better strength-to-weight ratios.

Most issues with the 31 are age related. Early boats are now more than 15 years old. You may well be looking at changing the standing rigging, an expensive but necessary update, and the running rigging probably needs to be replaced as well. In terms of structural issues, there are few chronic problems with the Gozzard 31, the quality of the original construction was excellent.

On deck
When you climb aboard the Gozzard 31 for the first time you can't quite believe you're aboard a 31-foot boat. Most 31s have dinghy davits, which were a popular factory item, and either hard-top biminis and or fixed windscreen dodger. And while you would think that all of this gear would make the 31 seem crowded, it actually works well. The cockpit features a pedestal wheel that is a bit on the small side. It also includes a clever fold-up table that sits four for dinner. There is a fold-up swim platform, unusual in a boat of this size. All lines lead aft, including a single-line, slab-reefing system. The devil is in the details, and Gozzard makes sure the details are right. From cockpit harness attachment points to robust deck cleats that can handle oversized mooring lines.

As you make your way out of the cockpit you have to be aware of the small step in the side deck. However, the side decks are wide and the molded bulwark is a nice feature on a boat of this size. The shrouds are lead to outboard chainplates, which are strong and less prone to crevice corrosion, but don't allow for tight sheeting angles. Most 31 owners don't fuss over tight sheeting angles. The lifelines are tall enough to be useful and there are teak handrails on the coachroof. The Selden mast is deck stepped. The staysail is self-tacking, set up on a curved track that helps maintain good shape without the clutter of a club boom. Most boats seem to have the Schaefer headsail furling systems that came standard from the factory. The bowsprit is set up with double
anchor rollers.

Down below
The interior of the Gozzard 31 is a masterful use of space. As soon as you drop below you appreciate the open design plan. This is an ideal one-couple cruiser. The galley is to starboard and includes plenty of counter space and a single sink. The stove and oven face outboard. There are lockers above and behind, several drawers below, a pantry and an ingenious dish rack. There is more useful galley storage space in the Gozzard 31 than in several new 40-footers I have examined lately. The good-sized head is aft of the galley, which tucks it away, freeing up the rest of the interior for livable space. The head has a shower and of course a few clever features including a wet locker behind the mirror.

Immediately to port is the aft cabin with a real double berth, a hanging locker and, again, an amazing amount of storage. You can also access the engine and prop shaft from this cabin. Just forward, across from the galley is the nav center. It is small, but find another 31 with a nav center these days.

The saloon is the most impressive feature of the interior. The two settees, either of which can be used as a sea berth, have a small table between them. The berths convert into a huge double and the table expands to make a comfortable dining area. The way the bunks and table shift from each position is really impressive. There's even a wine rack below. The interior finish is usually cherry and the workmanship is terrific.

The standard power plant is a three-cylinder Westerbeke diesel. I have put a lot of hours on my Westerbeke during the last four years of sailing all over the Atlantic, and have been impressed with its reliability. Newer 31s include a 120-amp, dual-belt alternator, which is what every cruising boat needs. Access is adequate, a limitation of a smaller boat. The aluminum fuel tank on new models holds 55 gallons, translating into a decent range for a small cruiser. As noted earlier, the engine is positioned low in the hull, allowing the shaft to exit on a near horizontal axis making it very efficient.

The standard cutter rig includes a high-cut yankee. Most of the 31s carry a genoa on the headstay for more power and better performance in light air. However, the helm balances quite nicely with the yankee, staysail and full main. A balanced helm is a blessing on a cruising boat because it makes the autopilot or windvane's job easier. By all accounts the 31 likes a bit of breeze and comes into its own in 15 knots plus. The sailplan is easy to handle, the main and staysail are self-tending, and even with a big genoa, the loads on a 31-foot boat are not excessive. The 31 is well proven, with several transatlantic crossings to its credit.

I have long admired the handsome and innovative boats built by the Gozzard family. The 31 is a genuine offshore cruiser in a small package. Ted and his sons have always made their boats comfortable and user friendly. You can find a Gozzard 31 for less than $100,000 and sail it anywhere. You will also have the pleasure of drawing compliments everywhere you go.