Attractive on the outside and the inside, the Classic 38 reflects Dufour's four decades of experience in yacht building

Review by Richard Hazelton


As we stepped onto the Dufour Classic 38, my mind flashed back to the Dufours of the 1970s. Their pink and grey striped cushions were very French and quite chic at the time, kind of an Austin Powers idea of a groovy pad that sailed. The accoutrements tended to overshadow the fact that it was a pretty nice boat.
      The new Dufours have kept the "nice boat" part, with an attractive low profile, but tamed down the chic, apropos to the more conservative Northwest style. Windworks Yacht Sales of Seattle provided our test boat and with Dave Maeser and Brian Gross manning the sheets we headed out onto Shilshole Bay.
      Before putting the sails up, we put the boat through its paces under power. Powered by a Volvo 2040 (40 hp) diesel engine with Sail Drive, the boat maneuvered well even in reverse. The steering is rack and pinion, making it responsive without any play in the wheel. The wheel itself is large, with cut outs in the seats for even a larger wheel for the more sensitive sailor. We rolled out the 150 jib, put up the main and went to windward, pointing nicely. The jib was slightly oversize for the 10-12 knots of breeze but the boat settled in nicely, pointing well with very little weather helm, carrying a little bubble in the main.
      On a reach we were doing a comfortable 7 knots with the boat almost upright, so we took a walk around the deck. The layout of the boat is very clean, with everything run back to the cabin. The sidedecks seem wider than the 12'4" beam would suggest, making transit around the boat very easy.
      Up front you find the double bow roller and anchor locker, pretty standard on most cruising boats. The owner of this new boat opted for the teak decking which, while not inexpensive, really adds to the look of the boat, as well as providing secure footing.
      The primary winches were Lewmar 48 self-tailers, an upgrade from the standard Lewmar 43s, and seemed better suited to the job. Halyards and reefing are handled by two Lewmar 30s.
      The cockpit is a good size but not overly large; Dufour opting to put the extra room down below. Seating is comfortable with the teak option, and nice wide coamings for those of us who never sit on the seats anyway. There is a step up going into the companionway which houses the engine instruments. A bit exposed to the errant foot of someone going down below. The helmsman's seat is removable for open access to the stern step transom.
      The interior is very attractive, with all joinery in light Khaya Mahogany. Moldings and trim is solid wood. All soles are in laminated teak plywood. Corners are all rounded, giving a finely finished feeling.
      The head is to port, with the galley then running down the side to the forward cabin. It's a nice arrangement, making for good counter space. To starboard is a convenient hanging locker, then the nav station, and a long, U-shaped settee with stowage underneath, up to the forward bulkhead. There is also a removable bench seat on the other side of the table, providing more seating and storage, and still leaving a passage way to go forward and the chef to work.
      The forward cabin is a V-berth with hanging lockers on both sides and a seat for changing.
      The Dufour Classic 38 comes in a two or three cabin version. We were on a three cabin version. Both come with a double berth and lockers on the port side. The three cabin version puts another double berth on the starboard side, replacing a large storage area. There is still a lazarette but it is much shallower.
      On the practical side of things, there is open access to three sides of the engine. The stairway covering the front of the engine had a bit of a wiggle to it when we walked on it, which can easily be fixed with a strip of rubber. A door in the head reveals all the valves for the plumbing on the boat.
      Construction is: "One piece hand laid hull in GRP sandwich with high density PVC, vacuumed bagged, using quadriaxial cloths. NPG gelcoat with first solid laminate layer impregnated with NPG resin. Molded floors laminated to hull. Molded longitudinal stiffeners laminated to hull. Deck in GRP Balsa core sandwich. Hull and deck entirely counter-molded. Semi-elliptic rudder filled with closed cell foam and fitted on self aligning bearings." (Dufour spec sheet)
      I enjoyed sailing the boat. It performed well with an nice motion through the waves. Steering was easy and responsive. I found the interior warm, practical and attractive.
      The Dufour Classic 38 is billed as a bluewater cruiser, but I looked at this boat with more of an eye to sailing Puget Sound, the inside passage, with occasion forays into Alaska or south down the coast. The boat we sailed had opted for the three cabin version which greatly reduced lazarette stowage for a long cruise, but added to the comfort for more summery pursuits with friends and family. You could always fill up that aft cabin space with stuff if you didn't expect company.
      The Dufour Classic 38 was a pleasant experience. It sailed easily, was well laid out above and below, and offered a variety of options. All in all a nice, moderately priced package.

For more detailed information and a virtual tour of the Dufour Classic 38, go to Dufour's website at www.dufouryachts.com.

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