Bristol vs. Sabre Vs. Tartan or others
At Kw''s prompting, (and as a break from slicing new docklines)a quick comment and then my thoughts on the boats in question. A PHRF rating of 150 for a 38 footer (or even for a 35 footer) falls in the incredibly slow range. A 38 foot boat with a reasonbable turn of speed should be down around the 109 to 120 range (for example my 38 footer rates in the 80''s) and a 35 footer with a reasonable turn of speed should be down around 126 to 132 or so(for example a C&C 35 rates around 129). A fast PHRF rating for a modern 38 foot racer/cruisers are down around in the 21 to 30 range.
-Bristol 35.5 or 38.8-
These are solid, low tech boats. They are not very good in the prevailing light air of a Chesapeake summer but they really come more alive in breezes approaching 10-12 knots. Ted Hood was a master at designing heavy weight boats that also sail well. Still they give away a lot of performance.
Without doing a lot of homework, I beleive that both boats were available in three versions. Deeper fin keel, keel centerboarder, and shoal keel. Both the deep keel and the keel centerboarder have reasonably performance up wind and dead down. If I remember right there was a shoal draft version that I rafted up at a cruise with us some 10 years back and watching that boat try to beat was painful for all of the leeway. A good case could be made for either Deeper fin keel, or keel centerboarder.
I will say that the 38 is probably my favorite Bristol although I am not a huge fan of the Bristols. Bristols are the antithesis of the type of boat that I would prefer for the Bay because of their heavy weight, mediocre performance in a short chop and poor rig proportion. (I really consider their IOR rule inspired big jib/small mainsail to be a very poor cruising rig.)
Tartan 35 or 37,
Tartan is a weird company. It seems like it has been in and out of finacial trouble for much of its existance and has varied the build and design quality of their boats throughout the history of the company. I have never been a fan of the original Tartan 37. While these were good boats up wind, their motion with the wind past their quarter is absolutely miserable and all else being acceptable would be a deal breaker for me. The IOR rule inspired big jib/small mainsail being a very poor cruising rig applies here as well. The 37''s particularly seem vary in build quality more widely than other Tartan models, with some seemingly built to a very high quality and others I''ve been on were so clearly poorly built that I would rate the Beneteau First 38 to be a substantially better built boat. Today the 37''s have reached cult status and so, in my book they are overpriced for what they are. Still and all somebody must really like these boats but they just don''t knock my socks off.
The original 37 was replaced by the 372. I have always like these much better. I must admit that I have only been on board these at boat shows and so can only go on first impressions, but my first impression is that these are pretty nicely built boats. I have spent a little time on a Tartan 31 which is a contempory of these boats and thought that appeared to be very well constructed, although I thought the deck hardware was a bit undersized.
I have always liked the Tartan 3500 and think that is a really nice boat for the Chesapeake. With rating of 117 or so for the deep keel version, these are pretty quick boats. My limited time on these also suggest a very good build quality but in talking to the owner of one a few years back, he indicated that there were several winch options on these boats and he regretted going for the smaller option. To paraphrase how he put it, "As a cruiser I did not think that I needed the bigger winches. It was only after sailing the boat that I realized that as a cruiser I did not have an 8 man racing crew aboard, one of which typically nicknamed something like ''Moose'' to bring in the jib. My wife and I have real troubles in a strong breeze." This was not a terribly large man but I still suggest that you see if you can determine if the boat in question has the bigger winches as a pair of larger winches can be $4K to $5K even out of the discount catalogues.
Sabre 362 or 38 MKII
These are both really nice boats. I especially like the layout of the 362 with its aft head and galley. The head has a separate shower area which makes the shower much more useful. Of the three manufacturer''s, I slightly prefer Sabres. These just seem to be slightly more consistent in producing solid boats that ballance sailing ability with good construction.
These are very interesting boats which combine the beauty of a traditional boat with modern construction (built at TPI who also builds J-Boats) and underbodies by Carl Schumaker who is one of my favorite designers. I can''t say that I have any real experience with them but they do have a certain charisma. From what I have seen they impress me as being quite expensive and thier ketch rig makes no sense to at all to me.
Let me throw a couple more boats in the mix.
C&C 38 MkIII
These are really nice boats that are very similar in concept to and priced quite competitively with the other boats on your list. They are set up to be performance oriented as well as good cruising boats.
Beneteau First 38s5 and First 38:
Beneteau is kind of the GM of boat builders in that they have quite a few boat divisions and models. They builds boats with a wide range of quality and purpose. Beneteau gets a lot of hard knocks on the internet but if you don''t spend much time with Bene''s it is easy to think that they are all built to the quality level of the more budget oriented lines.
Having spent a fair amount of time with the First Series boats, I really like the 38s5 and the earlier Frers(Berret?)designed First 38. These are well rounded designs that can certainly be purchased for a lot less than the other boats on you list and should sail as well and hold up as well as these others.
I also am very impressed with the new 36.7 which is a Farr design and should deliver new within your price range.