Wateline 38

Ed Rutherford Designed Waterline 38 built in 1989. Courtesy

Next day saw me on the Bainbridge Ferry again, this time with a car headed for Poulsbo to see a Waterline 38.

One word describes first impressions of this boat: unremarkable. To my eye, her lines were common, thick and high-sided as if drawn with a dull pencil (sorry Ed).

But first impressions are unreliable, and the more I tore into this boat, the more logical and thoroughly considered her design appeared to be.

Basic Stats

Steel, cutter-rigged sloop (inner forestay not rigged), full deck-house, round chined, extended fin keel with skeg-hung rudder.

LOA: 38; LWL: 29.8; Beam: 11.5; Draft: 5.

Displacement: 22,000lb; Ballast: unknown. Sail Area: unknown.

Displacement to Length Ratio: 371 (!).  Ballast to Displacement: unknown.  Sail Area to Displacement Ratio: unknown. Capsize Ratio: 1.64.

Hull Plating: Not available.

Tankage: 100 gallons fuel in 1 tank; 105 gallons water in 3 tanks.

Engine: 44 hp.


One of the older yachts on the list, this Waterline showed her age, and the to-do list would be quite long. However, below the surface she was quite a well thought-out, well-built boat.

Positives from the Figure 8 perspective:

On Deck

  • The small, high-railed cockpit felt safe. It allowed for easy movement around the wheel and easy reach of the winches.
  • Ample deck lockers were located fore and aft. In the cockpit, a smallish locker under the stern seat was ventilated and ready for propane. A huge anchor locker forward was backed by a watertight bulkhead and had space enough for extra rode and several large fenders.
  • “Sissy bars” surrounded the mast and the three winches there were self-tailing and ran cleanly.
  •  Strong stainless gallows cradled the boom and a rack aft, for communications and solar panels, was integrated into the aft rail system.
  • Though numerous, portlights were small and fixed (a positive in high latitudes).


  • The layout of living accommodations was thoroughly traditional and efficient. The U-shaped galley was close to the cockpit and countertops boasted 2 inch fiddles! The head was just to starboard; immediately to port there was a cozy quarter berth.
  • Center-island galley sinks covered the engine, allowing access from either side.
  • Locker covers were battens (breathable), hinged and could be secured in place (important in a boat that could go inverted). Spaces under the port and starboard settee were vacant, squarish and could take extra tankage without much customization.
  • House Batteries, two 8-Ds, were located forward of the galley, amidships and below the waterline but above the cabin sole.
  • The boat’s electrical infrastructure, wiring, switch box location and accessibility, was all quality work.
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Huge forward locker with watertight bulkhead aft of it.

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Smallish cockpit; traditional house construction. Note that none of the portlights open (not necessarily a disadvantage given my destination).

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Solar/communications rack integrated into stern rail (but too small for current solar array).

waterline interior

Traditional and efficient layout below. The sink island houses the engine, allowing easy side access. See 2″ countertop fiddles. Stand-up nav station to starboard.

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The boat’s electronics were dated, but her wiring infrastructure was neatly done and quite serviceable.

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Large settee lockers allowed for additional tankage to be added. Note: well ventilated.

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Ideal house bank location: two 8-Ds amidships and low.


Concerns for this boat included:

  • Her published displacement  of 22,000 pounds (dry?) gives here a heavy displacement ratio of 371 before I move aboard and suggests the boat would be slow. (Sail area statistics were unavailable).
  • The depth of refit required–topsides paint and hull, re-rigging, new sails, hard dodger, all-new electronics, etc.–was not insignificant given my current time frame.
  • Lack of inside watch station (remedied with hard dodger or sight bubble).
  • Minimal horsepower of existing, potentially tired engine.

All told this Waterline 38 was solid, an intelligently designed and a well-built boat, but could be too small for my needs and take too much time to ready.


One Comment on “FINDING A FIGURE 8 VOYAGE BOAT: The Waterline 38

  1. How do you factor the cost of the boat into your review. The Waterline is $50K, while others are $200K. Do you have unlimited funds?

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