I owned at 1981 Tanzer 8.5 from the fall of 2001 and sailed her until the spring of 2007 when she was replaced by a 2001 Catalina 320. The Tanzer was sold locally in 2008 and I see her on the water, being enjoyed by her new owner. While I owned her, my spouse and I used her to day sail, overnight cruise, and I raced her JAM with a good crew to much fun and little success.
She was replaced only because our needs indicated a boat with a walk thru transom, and we were looking for more overnight comfort and amenities on the hook like a gas stove and refirgeration.
I raced her in conditions of heavy chop and winds gusting to 35 knots (with a 110% jib and a double reefed main) and she was stable, stiff and plowed through the waves with a gentle motion. With the high freeboard she also proved a dry boat in rougher conditions.
She was purchased because of the better to-cabin access down the companionway ladder, the wider than average side decks making it easier for my mildly physically challenged spouse to move forward when sailing and the roomy cockpit. The other boats considered and viewed were a 1981 Newport 27, 1986 O'Day 272, 1979 CS 27, 1979 C&C27 and a 1980 Tanzer 26.
She surveyed well. This boat was solidly built. To put her into commission required the replacemnt of some gate valve thru-hulls, new head, and the jets on the Yanmar diesel pulled and serviced. Over our time with the boat, the engine proved reliable and never failed to start, and we once started her without electrical power using the included hand crank. We did replace the fuel gauge, in-tank sending unit, starter button, and vbelt.
There is a longer list of refurbishments and upgrades made to her over our ownership. If you find yourself seriously considering a T8.5 e-mail me for more information on our ownership experience at