Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
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Hughes built several 38 footers. The original was built in the mid to late 1960''s and was not a very good boat. The middle design (1969-1973)is the boat that I assume that you are referring to and the later boat called a Hughes-Northstar was a close cousin to the Catalina 38 and again would not be a boat that I would consider an offshore boat by any stretch of the imagination.
So I assume that you are referring to the late 60''s early 70''s S&S design. These are very interesting boats. The design was commissioned with S&S jointly by Hughes and Hinckley. Hughes built one version of the boat and Hinchley built their own version. Hughes built the molds and laminated the hulls, decks and misc. fiberglass parts for both boats. The Hinckley version offered a nicer interior and higher grade hardware (mostly chromed bronze vs alum). They were also heavier and less competitive as race boats.
These are sometimes considered the first production IOR boats. Olin Stephens served om the technical committee that developed the first IOR rule. These boats were designed just before the IOR rule went into effect and somewhat demonstrated what S&S thought that a IOR cruiser racer might look like. They also had a lot of 12 meter technology incorporated such as the foils shapes and the trim tab on the back of the keel. (The trim tab was an option on the Hughes so not all 38''s have one.)
The Hughes 38 (I actually have more experience with the Hinckley version) offered good windward performance for a boat of that era but were not especially fast on other points of sail. They really did not track very well and tended to develop a fairly large amount of weather helm when pushed or when heavily loaded. They tended to be pretty rolly as were many boats of that era. They were a real bear in heavy winds and not very good boats in lighter conditions.
Build quality was quite good. During this period Hughes was known for quality glass work and reasonably good carpentry and finish work. The interior on the 38 was vintage S&S for a boat this size. Simple and traditional in many ways it was a very workable and reasonably comfortable interior for a boat of that size and era. Of course these were comparatively narrow boats and so they are cramped for a 38 footer or boat of this weight by any kind of modern standard. Ventilation is minimal compared to boats that are designed as distance cruisers.
These are now 30 year old boats. Unless the prior owner has been vigillent in upgrading and maintaining the boat, it would take a lot to prepare one for the kind of adventure that you are proposing.
I am not sure what you mean by "considered a ''blue water'' boat" but I would not consider these to be boats that were optomized for offshore work. These were designed as race boats pure and simple. They were not designed as offshore cruisers. They do not tolerate carrying a lot of extra weight. They do not have a lot of low storage. Fuel tanks are miniscule. The engine partially under the floor boards is a neat race boat thing but it puts the engine at risk anytime the bilge floods. It also makes certain kinds of maintenance a real pain in the butt since there is no room to swing a wrench. They do not have a rig that allows quick depowering or shortening of sail area. I would think of them as coastal cruisers that are sturdy enough to be sailed offshore. While I basically like these boats, they would not be a boat that I would immeadiately choose for "a livaboard in Texas" or "to cruise the Carib and livaboard in Central America."