The Boat, A Bristol Channel Cutter 28

adapted from

The Bristol Channel Cutter 28 represents a pinnacle of ruggedness and practicality while retaining respectable performance in a small package. Few boats can take the abuse of extended voyaging as well as the Bristol Channel Cutter and  it’s  achieved somewhat of a cult following among a select group of small boat adventurers, and cruisers.

Lyle Hess’ designs were popularized by Lin and Larry Pardey and their series of cruising books.  Through the magic of books and articles written by the Pardeys, an interest in small boat voyaging emerged with the famous Pardey tagline “go small, go simple, go now”. The Bristol Channel Cutter 28 was created in answer to sailors wanting a “Pardey” style boat in fiberglass. The boats were built by the Sam L. Morse Company, the first hull was launched in 1975. The molds have recently been sold to Cape George Marine Works, where production continues.

Lyle based his design on workboats that were heavy in displacement, long in waterline with wineglass sections and hard bilges. Their rigs carried lots of canvas, they’d lug a lot of cargo, and could sail fast on all points of sail. Among the endearing features for this long distance sailor are huge stowage, a sensible layout and a proven track record. Besides the Pardey’s Serrafyn and Teleisin’s well known 40,000 mile circumnavigation and five passages of the potentially treacherous Tasman Sea, a Bristol Channel Cutter was first in the Newport to Ensenada Race of 1978, and first in class in 1979.

Upon first glance you’ll notice the long bowsprit, together with the bumpkin, she  can carry an immense amount of canvas for her displacement. A peek under her waterline reveals lines that look conservative and traditional. There’s the familiar wineglass section profiles and a full keel that’s missing the popular forefoot cutaway that many designers employ to improve nimbleness and reduce drag. Yet on closer inspection performance tweaks can be found. A fine bow entry coupled with maximum beam quite far aft is good for close windedness and flat sections with minimal deadrise aft aid righting efforts when heeled over under sail.

The Bristol Channel Cutter layout has been thoughtfully designed to the minute details. On this boat all berths are seagoing. There’s four of them, two settees, a pilot berth, and the all important quarter berth. Stowage is abundant and everywhere. In short a long distance voyager’s dream.

Here’s a brief video tour of the interior!

You can learn more about Elizabeth, the Bristol Channel Cutter used for One Simple Question at Ben’s blog:

Other resources:
» Lyle Hess: A Profile by Chuck Malseed, a historic look at his work, Cruising World Magazine Feb, 1977.
» The Bristol Channel Cutter on the official Cape George Cutters website.
» Bristol Channel Cutter Review by Jack Horner,
» Bristol Channel Cutter Review by, Aug 2000

Designer: Lyle C. Hess
Length, Overall 37′ 9″
Length on Deck 28′ 1″
Length, Waterline 26′ 3″
Beam 10′ 1″
Draft 4′ 10″
Displacement 14,000 lbs.
Ballast, Solid Lead 4,600 lbs.
Total Sail Area 637 sq. ft.
Headroom 6′ 1″
Water 70 US Gallons
Fuel 45 US Gallons
Waste 12 US Gallons
Range Of Positive Stability up to 133 degrees
Immersion Factor 900 lbs per inch of immersion
Capsize Screen 1.67
Hull Speed 6.92 Knots
Sail Area to Displacement Ratio 18.53
Displacement To Length Ratio 347
Hull Strength 25,000 psi at the waterline
1 Comment Post a comment
  1. Nov 28 2015

    Hey guys,

    I’m one of those middle aged dudes that dropped out of sailing for a long stretch to raise a family and build a business. Anyway it is so cool to see many young couples making a go at professional sailing. The concept of going pro was sort of pre-reality back when I was in my early 20’s so I made an office job out of it as a naval architect. After much water under my keel I have just now reached a point where I have bought a “new” old boat and am starting to get back out there again.

    I am one of those people that no longer have a DVD player and am wondering of you have your film up on Vimeo where it can be purchased and downloaded? I did this recently for one of the Pardey’s films and it worked great. This is something you may want to look into as it will help boost your film sales.

    Hope to meet you someday soon.


    Tony Gagliardo


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