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AndyJ 06-28-2013 06:30 PM

Tartan 33
Regarding the Tartan 33 (1979-1984), I'm considering this boat for purchase and would be interested in hearing opinions and impressions from current and/or past owners. In particular, sailing characteristics at different points of sail, potential speed, and problems to be aware of in a 30 year old boat in addition to the normal balsa core issues.
Thanks in advance for any response.

CalebD 06-28-2013 07:40 PM

Re: Tartan 33
No first hand exp. w/Tartan 33. I am familiar with the T27 & T30 which were from that era and I can say that they were well made boats.

I do note that there seem to be 3 "flavors" of the T33 listed here:
TARTAN 33 sailboat specifications and details on

Std. fractional rig, Masthead rig & small masted rig.
Masthead rig = more sail area.

Also of note is that this is a "sheel" keel boat. The sheel keel was S&S's idea for a shoal draft boat. Shoal draft boats tend to not point as high upwind as a standard fin keel design.

krisscross 09-15-2016 09:00 AM

Re: Tartan 33
I have been interested in T33 as well. Is the sheel keel encapsulated, or bolted on?

Ajax_MD 09-15-2016 09:26 AM

Re: Tartan 33

Originally Posted by krisscross (Post 3661034)
I have been interested in T33 as well. Is the sheel keel encapsulated, or bolted on?

I bought one back in April. The keel is bolted on.

krisscross 09-15-2016 09:41 AM

Re: Tartan 33
Thanks, Ajax. How do you like that boat? You think it can cross Atlantic when properly outfitted?

Ajax_MD 09-15-2016 10:36 AM

Re: Tartan 33

Originally Posted by krisscross (Post 3661114)
Thanks, Ajax. How do you like that boat? You think it can cross Atlantic when properly outfitted?

I know that some of these boats have made the trip to Bermuda. Properly outfitted and sailed with prudence, I guess I can't see why it couldn't go all the way.

How do I like it? I absolutely love it. I thought the Pearson 30 was a decently built boat and this is an order of magnitude better. They come with 60-ish gallons of fresh water tankage, which by today's standards is a bit light for blue water sailing. You could install a composting head and replace the holding tank with another 19 gallons of fresh water if you were so inclined.

I was concerned about windward performance with the Scheel keel but I find that it's no worse than the Pearson was. It gets close enough to the wind. They are reaching machines. I've had mine up to 10 kts a couple of times now. I find the boat to be plenty spacious for my needs, with plentiful, well thought out stowage compartments.

These are fractionally rigged boats (in case you didn't know). The mast is quite tall and the boat carries a lot of cloth with a full main and 140% genoa. All the other T-33 owners I've talked to, state that 135-140% is plenty, even for light air venues. Don't bother with the traditional 155% or bigger genoa. This also means that if you're sailing across the pond, I would ensure that your main has at least two deep reef points, carry a trysail and a storm jib and a working jib. Being over canvassed in this boat is not fun, wise, or good for the boat.

The deck hardware is all good quality and adequately sized. The primaries are Lewmar 2-speed 42's.
Edson wheel steering with emergency tiller.

My boat still has the original Universal M-30 (5424) diesel which apparently is a Kubota tractor engine. These are good, reliable engines but they are getting long in the tooth and some of the marine parts are getting difficult to find, especially the exhaust manifold/riser. Otherwise, you can still buy most parts from marine sources and tractor engine sources if you refer to the engine block by the part number stamped on the oil dipstick. If you tell a Kubota dealer than you have a Universal, they won't know what you're talking about. Engine access overall, is excellent. The lazarette is huge and access to the stuffing box, steering gear, diesel exhaust and various overboard discharges is excellent.

The boats came with Hurth transmissions which have kind of a mediocre reputation for reliability. The best advice I can give you, is change the fluid annually with good quality, Dexron/Mercon II or III fluid. Do NOT use Dexron VI fluid. You can use Type "F" fluid if you can find it, but the transmission engagement will be a bit harsh. There is no filter in the transmission.

The cabin sole is susceptible to water damage from repeated overfilling of the stbd water tank.
According to Tartan (and my experiences), the boat (due to the Scheel keel) prefers to be sailed flat. If you insist on pinching to windward, the keel will stall. Foot off a bit and drive a little extra distance much faster and your VMG will be just as good or better.

There is an "R" variant that is a masthead rig with a deep, standard keel that was made in limited numbers.
The 34-2 is merely a 33R that has been stretched 6 inches so maybe you can find one of them.

I've only owned the boat since April, so that's all I know right now.

oldlaxer1 09-15-2016 11:01 AM

Re: Tartan 33

Originally Posted by Ajax_MD (Post 3661242)
I've only owned the boat since April, so that's all I know right now.

Gee...that's all? :smile
Great write up.

krisscross 09-15-2016 11:21 AM

Re: Tartan 33
Thanks for this very good write-up, Ajax.
Tartan builds quality boats and even when 30+ years old they seem to hold up nicely. I have about a year to pull a trigger on a boat that I plan to retire on and take it to the Caribbean and Med. I budgeted about 40K for the boat and basic improvements to it. Looking at boats in the 30-35' range, like T33, T34 (1 and 2). I'm not a big fan of bolt on keels but some builders do a better job than others when it comes to such keels.

JimsCAL 09-15-2016 11:57 AM

Re: Tartan 33
When I was shopping for a boat in this size range 6 years ago, the Tartan 34-2 was on my short list. I liked that it had the masthead rig of the 33R (and thus was faster than the T33) and the bit of extra length allowed a revision to the interior layout which I thought was an improvement. Do a comparison if you are serious about these boats.

krisscross 09-15-2016 12:11 PM

Re: Tartan 33
The boat I like the most in that group is the older T34 with an inner stay sail rig and a tiller. Shallow draft is a big plus in places where I intend to do most sailing. That is why I'm interested in the sheel keel Tartans as well.

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