Forgiving to sail and comfortable below, this 80s-era boat is the ideal first "big" boat
I did a lot of my early racing on the Pearson 28-2 Sun Dog owned by Pete Klein and sailed out of Kenosha, Wisconsin. I had a great time sailing with the entire Klein family all over Lake Michigan. We were a moderately experienced race crew, and the Pearson always took care of us. Toward the end of my time aboard Sun Dog, we took a direct lightning strike to the mast while underway. There was electrical damage and some minor fiberglass damage, but that good old boat just kept going.
Pearson Yachts built several boats that could be considered a Pearson 28, but the one I am reviewing is the Pearson 28-2 drawn by Bill Shaw and built by Pearson from 1985 to 1989.
The Pearson cousins cleared out of Pearson Yachts in the early years and Bill Shaw came in as designer in 1963 and took the helm of Pearson in 1966 as general manager and chief designer. Shaw learned his craft during his 11-year stint at Sparkman & Stephens, under the tutelage of Olin Stephens and Al Mason.
The 28-2 has a conservative look that has aged well. The underbody is fairly conservative, with a fin keel and spade rudder. The wetted surface is moderate, with a fairly flat forefoot, and flat sections aft to allow good speed downwind.
The hull is solid fiberglass and the deck is end-grain balsa cored for rigidity. Interestingly, Pearson yachts claims to have come up with the idea of using end-grain balsa to limit water migration. Prior to this development, balsa was used in three-foot-long, two-inch-wide strips. There are rumors that, in early model boats, Pearsons were built in fiberglass but scaled to wooden boat scantlings, the builders not quite trusting this new material. But in fact Pearson did a lot of advanced material property testing and had a very good handle on how to work in fiberglass.
The hull and deck are through-bolted on an outward flange, and the resulting sandwich is then covered with a plastic rubrail. This method of attachment is strong but the outward facing flange is a bit ungainly and exposes the flange to damage in the event of a collision. The flange is topped off with an attractive oiled teak toerail.
The boat uses molded hull-and-deck liners, but this isn't a bad choice for a small boat. The mast is deck stepped with a stout stainless steel compression post and the lead keel is externally fastened. The keel attachment is robust, but most externally fastened keels are at risk of damage in the event of a grounding. There is an option for an externally fastened cast iron shoal-draft keel, shortening the draft from 4 feet, 10 inches to 3 feet, 6 inches.
What to look for
There was not a lot of difference over the model years, so you mostly need to look for a good, clean boat. Some of the problem areas are small deck leaks around the portlights and hatches, and cracking of the plastic-framed portlights. I would carefully inspect the above-water plastic through-hull fittings, used for the cockpit scuppers.
These boats are roughly 20 years old, so expect a fair amount of owner tweaking. Inspect the quality of the added gear and its installation. Original electronics will likely need to be replaced, so be sure to give a close look to this equipment.
The hulls were well built, but those without barrier coating could be subject to mild hull blistering, as are most boats of this era. Give the keel attachment a thorough inspection-the keel, stub and bolts are robust but the arrangement is vulnerable in a hard grounding. It is not unusual for the boats to develop a bit of a "smile" at the hull-and-keel joint, where the filler and fairing compound can crack and break loose. This problem is typically cosmetic and can be easily fixed up when doing a bottom job.
The cockpit is really spacious, especially considering this is only a 28-foot boat. It consists of two long settees, with a small lazarette on port and a large, deep sail locker on starboard. The boats came with Edson pedestal steering. The factory placed the traveler on the raised bridgedeck, near the boom end, but some owners have moved it to the coachroof in an attempt to open up the cockpit.
The deck hardware is good quality; a nice mix of Harken and Lewmar, with an Isomat deck-stepped spar.
The side decks are very friendly. There are teak handrails on the raised cabinhouse and you are protected by a double lifeline. The foredeck is workable and includes anchoring gear with a shallow anchor well.
The interior of the 28-2 is very comfortable. The boat is a tad beamy and this translates into a lot of interior volume. The interior is finished off in a classy mix of oiled teak and fiberglass liner.
The saloon consists of two long settees with a centerline folding table mounted on the compression post. There is lots of storage above and outboard of the settees. The main portion of the galley is on port with a single sink, two-burner alcohol stove and storage. The large icebox is on starboard, and the lid doubles as the chart table. There is a fully enclosed head compartment with a nice fiberglass liner. It holds a proper marine head, sink and shower.
The brochure boasts two full double berths, one forward and the other in a private stateroom in the port aft quarter. The aft stateroom is comfortable, with a hanging locker and ample room to stand up to change clothes. The after berth is large but a lot of it is under the cockpit well, limiting headroom on the inboard side.
The cabin sole is finished off in traditional teak and holly. Ventilation is average, with a large forward deck hatch, two small deck hatches in the head and aft cabin, and a few opening portlights.
The boats used a two-cylinder 15- or 18-horsepower Yanmar diesel inboard. This engine pushes the boat nicely and has the capacity to throttle back to allow you to stretch the 16-gallon fuel capacity. The two-bladed fixed prop is driven with a 1-inch stainless shaft supported by a bronze skeg and shaft log. Over the years, many owners have upgraded to a two-bladed folding prop for a bit more speed under sail.
I spent a lot of racing hours on a Pearson 28-2 in the mid-1990s; we did a lot of buoy racing and quite a few of the distance races. The boat was never first-to-finish but we always sailed to our handicap. It was very nice on the distance races as it offered a bit of creature comfort.
The boat is beamy and relatively heavy at 7,000 pounds, not a great combination for light-air sailing, but the boat stands up to a blow. When the wind pipes up, the form stability offered by the wide beam keeps the boat on its feet. To improve light-air performance on the boat I sailed we added a 150-percent genoa and an asymmetrical spinnaker. The light-air No. 1 took us upwind nicely in the light stuff, and we put up the chute to reach or run.
Overall the boat was a lot of fun. It would move nicely in light air with the right sails, would stand up to a blow, and motored nicely during deliveries.
The Pearson 28-2 is a well-built, attractive boat; a perfect first "big boat." The boat is fun to sail, spacious and forgiving.