Although inexpensively built, this weekend cruiser has a spacious interior and nice sailing manners
A casual glance at most sailing magazine brokerage or classified ad sections will invariably reveal a wide selection of Newport 28s on the used boat market. Just this morning a hasty survey of Sailboat Trader turned up nine boats, ranging in price from $12,000 to $19,000. Two other 28s were lurking in the brokerage ads in a recent issue of SAILING Magazine, both priced at less than $15,000. Built by Capital Yachts in Harbor City, California, nearly 1,000 Newport 28s were launched during a long production run that lasted from 1974 to 1987. Designed by C&C, back in the days when C&C was confident enough to farm out its design team to other builders, the Newport 28 was, and still is, a handsome boat.
Good looks, however, didn't necessarily translate into good quality, and nobody will ever accuse Capital Yachts of overbuilding the 28. In fact, many construction flaws and cost-cutting measures have been well documented over the years. At the same time, however, the boat was never intended to be an offshore cruiser or racer, being designed instead as an affordable family boat for club racing, daysailing and weekend cruising.
It is easy to pick on boats that were built with price in mind, but without the Newport 28s, Catalina 27s, Hunter 27s and others, there would be far fewer people on the water. Sailing desperately needs affordable, entry-level boats, and besides, the Newport 28 does have many attributes. The interior is spacious and well thought out. The boat performs admirably in light to moderate air and does well racing under PHRF. There are active one-design fleets, especially on the West Coast, and most boats have been consistently upgraded. In 1982, Capital Yachts introduced the modified 28 II, which included a deeper standard keel and a diesel engine among other changes.
Not surprisingly, the Newport 28 has a profile similar to many C&Cs of the same period. The sheer has an attractive sweep, the freeboard is relatively low, with the concave cabintrunk and cockpit coamings blending naturally into the flow of the hull. The aluminum toerail and dark outlined ports also give it a C&C look. The underbody shows a rounded midships section, which accounts for the 28's initial tenderness despite a ballast-to-displacement ratio of more than 40 percent on both models. While the original 28 has a swept-back fin keel and spade rudder, the 28 II's keel has a high-aspect-ratio profile and is a more efficient section. Draft on the early boats was 4 feet, 6 inches. On the 28 II it was increased to 5 feet, 2 inches.
The single-spreader mast features a typical IOR rig with a relatively small mainsail and large foretriangle. The Newport 28, like most boats built in the 1970s, was designed to be sailed with an overlapping genoa. The air draft is less than 40 feet. The displacement is 7,000 pounds and working sail area is a shade less than 400 square feet, making the Newport 28 comparable in weight and sail area to other boats of the period, such as the Irwin 28, Sabre 28, S2 8.5 and Hunter 28.5.
The Newport 28 was a production boat through and through, and although its scantlings were not dramatically lighter than other production boats of the time, Capital Yachts didn't waste any material. Most of the noted defects were in the details and fitting out, not the actual layups. It is interesting to note, however, that some 28s are nearing 30 years old and are still merrily sailing every season. There is an active fleet of Newport 28s in blustery San Francisco Bay where the boat has a loyal following. As legendary builder and designer Charley Morgan stated many years ago, "Fiberglass is truly a remarkable material for building boats: It's virtually indestructible." Countless fiberglass boats have stood up to 30 to 40 years of use and abuse and are still sailing with no end in sight. I suspect we'll be reviewing fiberglass boats when they're 50, 60, even 70 years old.
The Newport 28's hull is solid fiberglass while its deck is cored. The hull-to-deck joint is on a narrow flange and leaks are not uncommon. The ballast is external and the mast is stepped on deck. The bulkhead tabbing was a bit light and the interior moldings are often cracked from the lack of support as the hull twists. Hard spots in the hull are not uncommon and occasionally there is print-through, where the weave of underlying fabric is visible, especially if the hull is painted a dark color.
What to look for
The first item to consider in choosing a Newport 28 is whether you want an original model with the 4-foot, 6-inch draft and possibly an Atomic 4 gas engine, or the 28 II with a deeper, more efficient keel and a diesel. Naturally there is a price difference, but careful shopping will likely turn up a 28 II in your price range. There was also a shoal draft 28 II offered with a draft of 4 feet.
Some common problems to watch for as you inspect used boats include leaking hull-to-deck joints and delamination in the deck, especially around the chainplates. Also, if the chainplates have been leaking, the bulkhead below may have some rot too.
Original fitting out in the factory included undersized plastic through-hull valves (gate valves at that), small cockpit drains and inadequate backing plates for most deck hardware. Many owners will have addressed these problems, and some repairs and refits will be better than others. Also, it seems that tiller to wheel conversions were a popular item, so be sure to check the installation. Finally, Newport 28 hulls seem to have had their share of blister problems, and it would be useful to know when and if a blister job was done.
The Newport 28 came standard with tiller steering, although as noted above, wheel steering was a popular option and refit item. Ironically, the tiller arrangement opens up the cockpit and makes sail handling more efficient. In addition to steering advantages, the tiller can either be lashed out of the way or even removed to free up space in the cockpit when not sailing. Overall the 28 cockpit is comfortable, especially for an older boat, and accommodates four adults with elbowroom to spare.
The mainsheet traveler is on a bridge above the companionway. The Newport 28 was one of the first boats to adopt midboom sheeting, and although I often gripe about the disadvantage of this arrangement in my reviews, in a small boat where the loads are less and space is at a premium, it makes sense. Single lifelines leading to the aft base of the bow pulpit came standard. Double lifelines led to the pulpit rails are an excellent refit project. The full-length aluminum toerail serves as an outboard genoa track and spinnaker lead attachment point. An inboard track allows for tighter sheeting angles. There is an external anchor locker forward and fittings for a babystay. The original deck cleats were ridiculously small, and hopefully will have been upgraded on the boat you are considering.
Capital Yachts offered three different interior arrangements. The original 28 had the galley along the starboard side, while the 28 II model offered aft galleys to either port or starboard. All three versions include a large V-berth followed by an enclosed head, which was an unusual and attractive feature when the boat was first introduced. There's a good-sized hanging locker opposite. The original starboard side galley arrangement carried a settee opposite and a bulkhead-mounted, fold-down table. A fold-down table is a great idea on any boat under 30 feet. A decent-sized chart table to starboard, two quarter berths and a short settee seat aft of the galley completed this functional layout.
The aft galley arrangements eliminated one of the quarter berths, opting instead for opposing settees. The galley included a two-burner stove, a single sink and a large icebox compartment. All layouts are actually quite spacious for an older 28-footer. The terrific interior is no doubt a major reason for the 28's enduring popularity. The woodworking and finish detail was adequate, however, and the original checkered fabric on the cushions can really date the boat.
When the Newport 28 was first introduced a Universal Atomic 4 was the standard engine. This workhorse gasoline engine has served many boats well over the years and is still viable as a power plant. Replacement parts are cheap and commonly available, and it provides plenty of oomph that pushes the 28 along at close to 6 knots. That being said, I would still look for a boat with a diesel. When the 28 II came along it was offered with either a Universal or Yanmar diesel, ranging from 11 to 18 horsepower. Again, if given the choice I'd lean toward the Yanmar. Engine access is adequate for a small boat, although servicing the stuffing box is especially challenging.
Although the Newport 28 has its faults, it is by most accounts a very nice sailing boat, which makes up for a lot of warts. It is initially tender and heels early before stiffening up. Owners report that with a single reef in the main, the boat can carry a 100-percent headsail to weather in a stiff breeze and still track efficiently. Several owners report that the boat can point high, although claims of being able to sail cleanly at 30 degrees apparent seem a bit exaggerated. The boat is well balanced, adapting easily to a small autopilot. If not overloaded with gear, the easily driven Newport 28 sails very well in light air. This is an underrated attribute. The truth is, light days outnumber heavy-air days and nothing is more frustrating than trying to coax a clumsy boat along in what should be a decent sailing breeze. Many 28s on the used boat market are equipped with roller-furling headsail systems and jiffy reefing on the main.
The Newport 28 is a good sailing boat with a spacious, well-thought-out interior. Best of all it's affordable. Sure, it's a production boat and the construction detailing is not the best. But for those looking for an entry-level boat in this size range, the Newport 28 represents a fine value.