By Sven Donaldson
The Bayfield 36 favours old-time and modern conveniences which give this popular cruiser the well-earned title of a contemporary classic. Although Bayfield Boat Yard of Clinton, Ontario, builds sail boats that are traditional-looking, there is nothing outdated about the marketing finesse of this firm. Rather than compete with innumerable other sailboat builders, each offering a line of racer/cruisers, Bayfield has identified a unique market niche and stuck with it faithfully over the years — long enough that in Canada the Bayfield name has become synonymous with clipper bows and trailboards. Paradoxically, the differences between the Bayfields and a majority of those other, more modern-looking cruisers are largely skin deep. Contemporary materials, construction methods and equipment are an integral part of the Bayfield formula.
The Bayfield 36 model is 36 feet on deck and 41 feet, three inches overall, including the bowsprit. Renting a 42-foot slip for a 36-foot hull may seem like an expensive luxury, but at 18,500 pounds displacement, the Bayfield 36 offers the living space of many 40-footers. I like the lines of this boat-the combination of clipper bow and highly sprung traditional sheerline is attractive only on larger yachts (or medium-sized ones with extraordinary low freeboard and cabins).
Prior to the 36, all the Bayfields except the ketch-rigged 40 have suffered from simply appearing too small. Their highly cambered cabins are overwhelmed by the curvaceous lines of the hulls. Although the 40 (45 feet overall) is to my eye the best-looking Bayfield model, the 36 is long enough to make the style work. By raising the sheerline amidships, compared to earlier Bayfields, designer Hayden Gozzard was able to lower the cabin profile to a small, but significant extent. The wine-glass stern is nicely drawn, and in my estimation is among the most attractive features of the boat.The Bayfield 36 is built using conventional roving/mat hand-layup methods. The hull is single-skin fiberglass, while horizontal portions of the deck are balsacored with plywood inserts where deck gear is attached. The hull/deck joint is bolted via an ordinary perforated toe-rail — detail that takes a little getting used to in the context o;f the traditional styling. The chainplates are a short distance inboard from the rail, attached either to the main bulkhead (uppers) or to stubs that, like the bulkheads, are heavily glassed to the hull. Also in keeping with modern production boatbuilding are the glassed-in-place structural hull liner and the fiber-glass head liner. The internal layout of the 36 provides for an unusually large number of full and partial bulkheads which, being glassed to the hull, also add considerable rigidity. Ridges on the hull liner form attachment points for teak-strip inner liners in the sleeping cabins. Ballast in the form of a cast-lead insert is lowered into a long keel that is really just an extension of the fiberglass hull molding. An enormous sump atop the ballast houses the stainless steel fuel and water tanks. This construction ensures a fair, smooth finish on the outside of the keel without added labor, but has been known to cause problems if water works its way into a porous region between the outer skin and the lead following grounding damage. Incidentally, good fiberglass work can be a real challenge near the bottom of a deep, female-molded keel and, of course, it’s almost impossible to check the quality of construction in this area once the ballast is bonded in place. It’s always a good idea to get to know your builder and, when possible, to visit the factory. I’m sure Bayfield would welcome you to theirs’ in Clinton (Bayfield Yachts are no longer being built — ed.).
In keeping with its traditional characters as well as the bluewater sailing aspirations of many prospective customers, the Bayfield 36 has a cutter rig. In light air huge genoa can be set in the big fore-triangle, while for progressively windier sailing, the yankee and staysail can be used either together or separately. The Isomat spars are clean and well finished, typical for this well-known French firm. The mast is quite literally keel-stepped atop the internal ballast casting. Three two-speed number 16 Lewmar halyard winches are mounted on the mast. Outhaul adjustments and slab reefing for the mainsail are also handled at the mast base with a small winch below the gooseneck and a series of integral lock-offs at the front of the boom to keep everything tidy. Although many boats are now being rigged with most controls led back to the supposed security of the cockpit, it’s a rare boat that in practice does not require working forward and the greater simplicity of mast-mounted controls are a plus.There’s a lot more teak topsides on the Bayfield 36 than on most new boats these days: everywhere you look from bow platform to cockpit taffrail there is woodwork. Beyond the trim is a workable deck layout with good quality gear. A low angled bulwark provides better footing than the toerail would alone. Instead of a molded antiskid pattern, Bayfield incorporates sand into is deck gelcoat which provides an exceptionally good grip. There are four two-speed Lewmar number 40s for primary winches and two number 16 mainsheet winches on the cabintop. The twin mainsheets themselves-Harken tackles with ratchet blocks-can be used together for good control of boom position and leech tension upwind, downwind or during gybes. The Yanmar 4 JHE 44-hp four-cylinder diesel is a well-mounted, smooth running engine, and although no sound insulation is provided in the Bayfield 36 ran quietly. Access is good, although the large engine is a close fit inside the modest engine compartment.
Plumbing consists of a marine toilet with holding tank capability, pressure hot-and-cold water to galley, head sink and shower/bathtub. Bronze thru-hulls are used throughout, and there is a nice little bronze hand pump for lake water to the galley sink. A substantial manual bilge pump is also supplied. Plumbing and electrical installations are workman-like and seaworthy. In some ways, the interior of the Bayfield 36 is more traditional than the rest of the boat. For one thing, the available space is broken up into a number of cosy compartments rather than being largely devoted to a huge central living area. Of course, the styling — turned teak posts and louvred doors — also contributes to the traditional atmosphere. Joinery is good quality, and nicely finished. The galley, adjacent to the companionway, offers a good-size cold box with standard 12-volt refrigeration, and a good two-burner Origo alcohol stove with oven which many buyers will, against Bayfield’s advice, replace with propane.
The main saloon has a half dinette to port — a smart design decision that keeps the size of the table in balance with the number of seats provided. There are two well-isolated, enclosed sleeping cabins, each with a double berth, adequate dressing space and a hanging locker. Another larger hanging locker adjoins the nav station. I was pleasantly surprised by the ability of this relatively heavy boat to gather speed in the puffs. On a close reach in six or seven knots of apparent wind, it tracked well, even without the wheel brake, and showed no sign of lee helm.
While by no means an ocean grey-hound, this boat will surprise a few sailors with its legs. The key, of course, is plenty of sail area (870 square feet in the three working sails), sail area that really comes into its own on reaching courses. The aesthetics of a beautiful boat could be argued endlessly, but in the final analysis some folks will always love the Bayfield look while other won’t. It’s easy to argue that the Bayfield 36 is a robust, up-to-date cruising boat that is capable of giving good service to a couple and their guests or a small family. As the average sailboat gets to look more and more like a space probe, it’s refreshing to have a few builders around who choose to buck the tide. For some like Bayfield, variety is not only the spice of life, but a sound business principle.
Originally Published in Canadian Yachting’s June 1987 issue.
LOA 41 ft. 3 in.
Length 36 ft.
LWL 30 ft. 6 in.
Draft 5 ft.
Beam 12 ft.
Ballast 6,500 lbs.
Displacement 18,500 lbs.
Sail Area 738 sq. ft.
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