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Dufour 390 Grand Large

2020 January 1

This latest midsize cruiser from France packs big boat features in an easy-to-handle and stylish package

The drop-down transom reveals a large swim platform with an integral telescoping swim ladder, a dedicated life raft locker, grill and sink.


The capricious winds of Chesapeake Bay got the best of test sailing following the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland. The mid-October breeze ranged from 40 knots to nil, and that’s just what faced us as we headed out of Back Creek aboard the new Dufour 390. Yet the potential of this midsize family cruiser shone through in spite of the zephyr.

Founded by Michel Dufour in 1964, the company has been building boats for more than 50 years just south of La Rochelle, France. These days it is known for high-quality construction, including hand-laminated fiberglass hulls made in open molds and injection-molded fiberglass decks made in closed, two-piece molds. This system creates strong yet smooth decks that don’t require finishing work such as interior headliners. 

The Dufour 390 GL is one of the first new designs to launch following Fountaine Pajot’s acquisition of the brand in 2018. It falls at the shorter end of the Umberto Felci-designed boats that range in size from 31 to 63 feet, all sharing features such as hull chines and beams that carry the full width aft, creating interior volume and improving stability. 

The L-shaped galley has plenty of storage, and Corian tops cover the sink and the two-burner stove to create more workspace.

On deck

The cockpit is large. I had to remind myself that this is essentially a 35-foot boat, with a waterline of 34 feet 5 inches and a length on deck of 36 feet 8 inches. (The bow sprit brings the LOA to 39 feet 1 inch.) It’s clear that comfort was priority No. 1. 

The cockpit seats, while not long enough to fully stretch out on, are comfortable with high coamings, and the folding cockpit table has a built-in ice chest with bottle holders. Underneath the port seat is an enormous lazarette, large enough to swallow the cockpit cushions, fenders, lines, a sail and still has room to stash water toys.

The large transom dropped down easily with a block-and-tackle system, exposing what is essentially a patio area with access to the plancha style grill and sink. I could imagine cleaning a freshly caught fish and grilling it up on the spot. Moving forward was swift with uncluttered sidedecks and flush hatches on the cabintop. The molded, self-draining chain locker with an electric windlass is more than adequate for the chain and rode. The fixed sprit provides a tack point for the asymmetrical spinnaker and also keeps the anchor away from the plumb stem to avoid dings.

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