By Blue Water Sailing
A compact cruiser that can fly
This new 37-footer from Sweden offers elegant accommodations in a hull that has proven to be both swift and comfortable at sea
In the past decade the average size of new designs entering the cruising fleets around the world has continued to grow to the point that finding a new passagemaker under 40 feet has become something of a novelty. Yet cruising boats in the 37-foot range have long been considered ideal by many veterans because the boats are handy for one person or a couple to sail, require a minimum of upkeep and maintenance and tend to be less expensive to keep in top cruising trim.
So it was with a sense of curiosity that we stepped aboard the new Najad 373 at the docks in Newport, R.I., for an afternoon-long sail trial. In particular, we were interested in learning how the Swedish builder had carried off creating a center-cockpit layout in such a small hull.
This was not to be BWS’s usual offshore sail test of several hundred miles or more. Instead, we had opted for a good, long day cruise that at least would give us a sense of the boat’s sailing characteristics and show us how she behaves in mild and pleasant conditions. It also allowed us some time to poke around the interior while inspecting her accommodations, construction details and systems.
The spring afternoon was lovely, the breeze a steady 12 knots from the east. We motored away from the docks and rolled out the sails inside the harbor. BWS’s senior editor Greg Jones was positioned on the tip of Ft. Adams at the harbor mouth to take photos of the boat under sail, so we jilled around off the fort while he set up his equipment. This is only relevant because I was sailing the boat singlehanded while my shipmate, Najad’s East Coast dealer Alan Baines, conducted business on his cell phone. The 373 was surprisingly nimble and easy to sail in circles. Tacking and jibing singlehanded, I was able to get the boat to spin quickly, harden up sharply, and then fall off and jibe without breaking a sweat. The genoa winches sit next to the wheel and the mainsheet lies on the aft cabintop behind the helms-man’s seat, so all of the sheets are always within reach. From our recent experience aboard larger blue-water boats, such easy sail handling, nimble performance and pure sailing fun are rare. No doubt part of the reason lay in the boat’s moderate size and displacement; but the boat also has a modern fractional rig that is easy for any experienced sailor to handle alone.
With the photo session complete, we headed seaward for a long sail across Rhode Island Sound and back. The boat clipped along at seven knots upwind in 12 knots of true breeze. When we fell off on a close reach, with the apparent wind forward of the beam, the GPS and speedo concurred that we were sailing at a little over eight knots. When we turned for home and let her run freely on a broad reach, the wind had piped up to about 15 knots and we held the eights easily. There was hardly a sea running, but the two-foot chop that was building before the easterly, gave us a hint of how the hull would react in larger stuff. The Najad ran true with little tendency to round up while the large semi-balanced rudder held a firm grip on the water.
Around the docks the 373 handles like a smaller boat. It turns nearly within its own length, backs straight and is light enough for one person to handle onto and away from the pier.
After a day aboard, we knew we hand found a new offshore boat that was truly fun to sail and also a fine couple’s boat.
ONE COUPLE’S CRUISE
BWS did not have the opportunity to take the 373 offshore, but the boat was designed and built to handle blue water so we offer a synopsis of a cruise by the English couple Will Collins and Gaby Hancock who took their Najad 373 Galatea on a 15,000-mile Atlantic Circuit in 2001-2002.
Will and Gaby departed South-ampton, England, in 2001 and were immediately dished a true Bay of Biscay gale that baptized them and their new boat with 30-knot head-winds and steep seas. “Perhaps we were glad for this early test,” they wrote in Najad’s in-house magazine, “if we could handle this we could probably handle the worst we’d get.”
The couple cruised the Iberian Peninsula and then headed south to the Canary Islands to join the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. After restocking the boat’s larder and enjoying the camaraderie of the ARC participants, the couple set off in yet another 30-knot breeze on the 3,100-mile transatlantic run to St. Lucia in the Caribbean. Of the trip they wrote, “Sailing virtually dead downwind and in conditions too strong for a spinnaker, the ‘barn doors’ (twin poled-out headsails) were set. One thing that struck us on board was how little time—not how much—we actually had. With 13 hours of darkness and the constant roll, everyday tasks kept us very busy.”
Galatea made the ocean crossing without a hitch. “After a little under 19 days (an average of 165-miles per day) and with a 40-knot tropical storm to chase us in, we were glad when St. Lucia loomed large on the horizon,” wrote Will and Gaby. “And, without breakages to the boat or us—and plenty of larger boats in our wake—we were happy to arrive.”
The couple cruised the Caribbean for the rest of the winter, venturing as far south as Venezuela, before heading north to Antigua for some fun and games at Antigua Sailing Week. Galatea is a dyed-in-the-wool cruising boat, but that didn’t stop Will and Gaby from entering her in the Class II cruising division.
With a crew of friends in from England, Will and Gaby tuned Galatea, and then took her out onto the race course where, to their pleasure and surprise, they took first in the regatta’s initial race. “Having your friends throw your home around a race course is a nerve wracking experience indeed,” they wrote. “But Galatea didn’t falter at any step along the way. Racing in all manner of conditions, the way she performed was superb. For the helmsman and crew, we were on a racing yacht through and through.”
By race week’s end, Galatea had won her class decisively and tied for first place overall in the cruising divisions. Not bad for a 37-foot center-cockpit cruiser.
The voyage home in the spring of 2002 led Will and Gaby to the U.S. East Coast and then across the North Atlantic at summer’s end to close the loop on the Atlantic Circuit. “The only problem with leaving the return trip so late are the hurricanes that quietly begin to bubble down south,” they wrote about the passage. “But fortunately, other than the lack of autopilot (2,200-miles of hand steering from Newport, R.I., to the Azores) and a detour to avoid tropical storm Arthur, the passage home was trouble free.
“We sailed back into Falmouth having logged 15,000 nautical miles and having had a fantastic time. The trip was everything we had hoped it would be, and Galatea was everything we had asked her to be—safe, comfortable and fast.”
Although published by Najad and obviously slanted to show the boat in a good light, Will and Gaby’s story in itself is testament to the sailing qualities of the 373 and to its suitability as a true ocean cruising yacht.
DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION
The 373 was designed by Judel/Vrolijk & Co, a firm noted for its successful grand prix racing boats and maxis as well as a host of custom yachts. The design of the 373 departs from the Judel/Vrolijk norm, both because of its modest size and because the boat is a pure, center-cockpit cruiser. Yet the designer’s ability to draw sweet hull lines and fast underwater shapes is not lost on the 373. As noted above, the boat sails well in a wide range of conditions, is close winded and very steady on her feet.
Creating a center-cockpit configuration in a boat under 40 feet always runs the risk of ending up with a fairly boxy looking hull and deck house. Yet, Najad has many years of practice with this conundrum and has worked out a balance of hull and deck that works very well and looks sleek, salty and just right.
The bow and stern of the 373 balance each other well and lend a purposeful look to the design. With fairly high topsides—masked neatly by the wide red cove stripes—and a bit of flare in the forward sections, the 373 is a dry boat that will keep her crew comfortable in square head seas. The 12-foot beam has been carried quite far aft to accommodate the aft cabin; this shape offers added power off the wind so in reaching and running conditions the 373 excels. Note, however, that the beam is not carried all the way aft, so that the waterlines begin to converge under the transom. This slightly reduced buoyancy aft will help the boat sail straight and true in large following seas.
Under the water, the 373 has a moderate cruising fin keel and a semi-balanced spade rudder that hangs on a small skeg. The boat draws six feet, three inches (unloaded) so those cruising in the Chesapeake and the Bahamas may opt for the five-foot, two-inch shoal draft version. The rudder has been drawn large enough to provide a solid bite on the water even when absorbing a serious puff or yawing under a large headsail. The 373 should never broach unless her crew is pushing the envelope recklessly.
With a displacement/length ratio of 249, the design falls in the middle of the cruising fleet. The ratio indicates what we discovered on the water, the boat is handy and quick but feels solid under foot and stands up well to the puffs.
The sail area/displacement ratio of 16.33 puts the boat at the conservative end of the spectrum for modern fin keel cruisers. But, because the hull is slippery and the fractional rig efficient and easy to handle, the 373 sails at high average speeds with little sweat on the crews’ brows. The calculations have been done for the full-batten radial cut mainsail that comes standard with the boat; owners who select the optional Seldén in-mast furling system will see the ratio decline slightly.
The hull and deck are formed with hand-laid sandwich construction, which provides both strength and stiffness in a hull that will be relatively lighter than a solid fiberglass hull. Additionally, a cored hull offers good sound and temperature insulation. Reinforcing stringers and athwartship floors, combined with bulkheads that are tabbed to the hull and deck, make the boat extremely stiff and solid. The keel bolts, chain plates and compression post for the deck-stepped mast tie into the glassed-in structural grid. The hull-deck joint has been assembled with a combination of adhesive between the flanges, interior fiberglass tabbing and stainless steel bolts—a belt-and-suspenders system that will keep the boat dry and prevent any flexing in tough conditions.
The boat’s basic systems have been engineered to the highest standards and all vital elements are accessible for regular maintenance. The standard 53-horsepower Yanmar auxiliary sits in an engine room box below the cockpit floor. Access is provided through large side panels and under the removable companion ladder. The 40-gallon diesel tank lies next to the engine at the bottom of the starboard cockpit locker, while the three water tanks (totaling 70 gallons) are positioned under the main saloon’s settees and in the centerline sump. Tanks are fabricated of stainless steel.
The 373 comes with 300 amp-hours of battery capacity for general house use and a 75-amp-hour starting battery for the engine. While adequate for coastal cruising, voyagers will need to beef up battery capacity to 600 amp-hours or so to maintain a comfortable power reserve and to preserve the battery bank’s condition—particularly if an owner chooses to add the optional electric sheet winches.
The hallmark of the Najad line of cruising boats and of the 373 BWS sailed has to be the builder’s attention to detail and commitment to providing the best in standard equipment.
The 373 comes in three similar variations of the basic center-cockpit, aft-cabin design. The differences lie in the configuration of the V-berths forward, the double berth aft and whether an owner selects a settee bench in the saloon or armchairs.
As you climb below, you are at once aware that Najad has managed to fit a lot of amenities into a small package. This is accomplished by offering six-feet, three-inches of headroom in the saloon and by pushing the furniture outboard as far as possible. The saloon is airy and bright with the woody feel of the African mahogany bulkheads and joinery.
The head is positioned on the starboard side of the companionway where it is accessible to both the aft and forward cabins. The head is large enough to double as a shower and near enough to the companionway to be a good wet locker. The head itself faces fore and aft—a unique installation—but BWS has used such heads and can attest that at sea this is the best arrangement since you are never precariously perched on the high side or slumped inconveniently on the low side of a tack.
The chart table is remarkably large for a boat of this size, with ample storage in the table and room to mount whatever electronics you need. The mounting panels above the chart table and the main electrical panel fold down neatly so an owner can access the guts of the wiring systems without the need for carpentry tools.
The galley is positioned in the passageway aft on the port side. With eight feet of counter space and ready access to large storage cabinets, galley duty will be a pleasure, particular in a seaway where the narrowness of the passage will help keep you in place. The only drawback to an in-line galley such as this is the inability to place the sinks close to the boat’s centerline where they can drain on both tacks. Positioned outboard to port, the sinks may cease draining when the boat is heeled hard over on the starboard tack. We counted 12 drawers and cabinets in the galley, not counting the large refrigerator, so cruisers will be able to load up on supplies and galley equipment, which then can be neatly stowed out of the way.
Moving aft through the galley, headroom drops to approximately five feet as you pass into the after cabin. Although this would take some getting used to for those choosing to live aboard, it is the compromise needed to fit an aft cabin in a sleek-looking 37-footer. Once in the aft cabin, you will find the berths huge and comfortable and the lockers large enough for a cruising wardrobe. Beneath the after berth lies the steering system and the autopilot, so access is excellent.
The forward cabin is tucked fairly far forward in the bow and thus at the boat’s narrowest point. Still, the V-berth is large enough for two friendly adults or two children. Like the saloon and aft cabin, the forward cabin is bright, homey and comfortable.
After a day of sailing the new Najad 373, we were impressed by the boat for a number of reasons. It is rare today to find a true blue-water boat under 40 feet, so the 373’s size has a lot going for it. While the trend in cruising boats has been to ever-larger designs, a 37-footer makes a lot of sense for the right sailors. The gear is manageable by one person, tacking and jibing are rarely chores, painting the bottom during haul-outs won’t cost a fortune or take the better part of a week. For many reasons, in a cruising boat small is indeed beautiful.
But the boat also impressed us with its sailing ability. As noted at the top of this review, the 373 can easily be managed by one competent sailor and will sail at high average speeds in a wide range of wind and sea conditions. For those who love the sailing aspect of cruising and who enjoy leaving larger cruisers in their wake, the 373 will have an extra appeal.
Quality is a moving target but the Swedes continually get closer to it than many other boatbuilding nations. Whether you inspect the neat detail of a drawer assembly, open the main circuit boards to trace the wiring or poke around in the engine room, you will find at every turn that the Najad line of boats has been created to a consistently high standard. The 373 is a boat that will stand by you because the builders have gone the extra mile to make sure that everything works and is well enough designed and well enough built to go on working for a very long time.
For a couple seeking a boat for comfortable coastal cruising or to venture far and wide, the handsome Najad 37 will make an excellent floating home.
LOA: 37’8” (11.30 m.)
LWL: 32’0” (9.75 m.)
Beam: 12’0” (3.65 m.)
Draft (standard): 6’3” (1.90 m.)
Draft (shoal): 5’2” (1.59 m.)
Displacement: 18,260 lbs. (8,300 kg.)
Ballast: 6,820 lbs. (3,100 kg.)
Sail Area: 705 sq. ft. (65.5 sq. m.)
Water: 70 gal. (280 l.)
Fuel: 40 gal. (160 l.)
Auxiliary: 53-horsepower Yanmar diesel
Mast height: 54’11” (16.75 m.)
Sail Area/Displ: 16.33
Price: 228,300 euros (~$267,000)