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Ericson 39 specifics
While the E-39 is an IOR design, I definitely don''t agree that this is one which gave that rule a bad name. In fact, I think just the opposite. In my experience I would say that the handling characteristics of this boat proves that with some care a designer could in fact come up with a very nice all around boat following that rule -- as Bruce King did.
We have owned and actively sailed our E-39B for the last year in a wide range of conditions. This is a boat that loves to sail. I think she has a particular strength in going up wind. She is quite stable (50% ballast ratio) and can really shoulder her way through the waves and chop. It takes very extreme conditions to make her pound.
For normal sailing you certainly don''t need a large crew. I have done some single handed sailing on her with no problems at all. The majoity of our sailing is just with Melissa and myself.
She has two issues in harbor manuevering. You have virtually no steering control while backing up. You can generally coax her to initially turn in one favored direction -- but once that turn has started, there is no changing direction. She also will not react to prop thrust over the rudder. You will get no turning action until the boat has a reasonable amount of forward motion. This makes backing and filling somewhat difficult. That being said, she will give good rudder response even while just ghosting along.
We had a chance to meet a couple guys who finished a circumnavigation on their 39 about a year ago. They did have one issue that was quite well publicized, where a crack suddenly developed (athwartships) in the hull just forward of the mast. This required a rather major repair. No one really knows why this happened. There did not seem do be any sign of poor layup in the area. These guys had actively raced the boat previous to the cruise, including a dismasting incident. I also heard they loved to crank down on the backstay quite agressively. I have not heard of any other incident remotely along these lines with other 39''s. Aside from this situation, they had nothing but great things to say about how their boat handled the sailing.
I think the 38''s are generally more expensive beacause they are a newer design. You will notice they have a quite different hull shape, and the more modern fin keel/spade rudder. While the literature of the 39 describes it as also have a fin keel/spade rudder, if you look at the underbody you will see it is definitely more old school. The rudder on the 39 has a fair amount more support. The 38 should be a tad faster, but not by all that much. Cost aside, we preferred the 39 over the 38 because of the interior layout. Since we live aboard, this was certainly a real issue.
The 39B is the "cruising" version of the 39. Instead of the flush deck, it has the more standard raised cabin top look. This was done to preserve interior headroom while raising the sole to accommodate larger fuel and water tanks. It has an actual aft cabin instead of just a quarterberth. The trade-off is that you give up half of your cockpit lazarrette storage space to make room for the cabin.
Starting tomorrow night we are taking off for a week long cruise down the coast, and we can''t wait.