1978 38′ Hans Christian Cutter

S/V Arabella, a Hans Christian 38


We were really looking forward to seeing this boat since the photos on Yachtworld showed it to be a really pretty boat.  We know that Hans Christians are sturdy, well built vessels that are intended to handle blue water cruising. Although they are fairly heavy, we thought we better look at one and this one has a great layout with separate cabins fore and aft.

My first impression of this boat was that she is a very attractive boat. You get a nice solid feeling when stepping aboard, and making way from the cockpit to the foredeck is pretty easy. I noticed some cracks on the deck parallel to the stanchions and these gave me pause. Still, that’s what boat surveys are for.

This boat is meant to be anchored.


This boat carries two anchors at the bow, and nice, sturdy equipment. I was pleased to see that. Also, note the bulwarks. Nice. I like these tall bulwarks. They are salty as heck. This boat also has very nice bronze portholes, they all open, and there are plenty of them. So far, I’m liking this boat, but I am, again, noticing how heavy it feels and have mixed feelings about this fact.

By the time I’ve walked back to the cockpit and am noticing its nice curves, Lee Youngblood, our yacht broker, has the companionway open. I climb down into the cabin and I am instantly smitten. Here’s why:

A beautiful, comfortable salon, filled with light.

It is lovely! The galley is excellent from first glance. The settees are generous and comfortable. It has the advantage of a nice table, as well as an additional settee. Since we will be spending time living aboard the boat if all goes as planned, we need to have a comfortable salon.

I love that there is no headliner, meaning that the cabin top is clean looking and there is access to anything bolted through from outside. There is reasonable, but not necessarily generous storage.

The incredible sink!

The galley is awesome! Take a look at that sink! That is a sink a person can actually use for doing dishes. If you cannot understand my excitement about this sink, then you haven’t spent much time doing dishes in a sink the size of a piece of notebook paper. It’s really fun. This galley also has a place for wine glasses, and a small wine rack. Unnecessary, but a nice touch.

In general the woodwork and cabinetry in the boat is excellent. The boat is salty, but not overly done. It feels elegant and sea worthy. And that butterfly hatch! I believe that’s what caused my heart to beat wildly. It’s big, and it lets in a ton of light. This is very important to me. I like light. Maybe someday we’ll be anchored in a remote, hot location and I’ll have to cover windows, but I should be so lucky. Today we are still in the Pacific Northwest and if we could steal light from others we would.

There is a small cabin to port as you come down into the salon.

Andrew’s cabin.

I was encourage by the aft cabin. The bunk was pretty good and there is an opening port. But there was little storage in that space. Still, we could work with it. The owners had removed the door to this cabin and replaced it with a curtain. Andrew might have mixed feelings about that, but it would probably be okay and maybe they have the door in their attic or something.

To starboard is the nav station and this is easily accessible and a person can actually sit down to use it if necessary. There is an additional bunk on this side, but it’s smaller.  The nav station has the usual chart storage, as well as additional cabinets. Adjacent to this is another set of cabinets and drawers.

Lee checks out the storage area.

Moving forward, I checked out the head. It was reasonable. There is a hand held shower and the walls are tiled like this boat thinks it’s a house. That is always a little weird in my opinion, and it adds to the weight of the boat. On the other hand, this boat is already heavy, so it probably makes little difference. I always worry that somehow, in a large sea, the tiles will pop off. But apparently that doesn’t happen. It would probably be a little difficult to actually use that sink, considering you cannot stand in front of it to brush teeth.

The head.

Across from the head is a cute hanging locker. It’s cute because of the shape of the doors. And also the word ‘cute’ implies something that is small, childish, tiny. That would be the case with this hanging locker.

Hanging locker, which is nowhere near the cockpit.

One thing I cannot understand is why some designers fail to put a wet locker somewhere up by the companionway so you can hang wet foul weather gear without messing up the entire boat. This boat has a hanging locker way up front by the v berth, like we do in our Cal 34, Moonrise. I made an area for storing jackets and boots up by the hatch because I was tired of dragging wet gear through the boat. It seems like a small point until you sail in pouring rain, which some crazy individuals do.

Finally, I checked out the v berth. I was almost afraid to look, because the salon was so nice that I figured the forward cabin must have suffered.  Ummmm…can you say ‘afterthought’? What a let down. The v berth is passable, certainly not generous. I would need a stool to get up into it easily as it’s quite high, and we’d need to put the ‘filler’ in for there to be enough room for both of us to sleep comfortably. To be honest, I was willing to overlook this problem until I realized that there is absolutely no storage! Are you kidding me? Where would be put our clothes?

The v berth with anchor chain locker. And no other storage.

There is one small cabinet, very small, on each side of the berth. And there is the usual storage underneath the mattress. Those areas are generally for stuff you don’t need ready access to all the time. Clothes are not in that category. I guess we could have cabinets built along each side, but that really would make this cabin feel close. It’s such a shame, because it’s really a lovely boat in so many ways. I imagine that cabinetry is very expensive to add so it raises the initial cost of a boat. Perhaps whoever bought this boat initially didn’t care much about storage.

One real negative of this boat is the engine access. It’s draconian. You have to remove large panels in the galley, and even then it’s not great. Mike was not impressed with this. If Mike is not impressed, then I’m not, either.

Upon reflection it appears to me that the interior of this boat was designed with weekends in mind rather than ocean voyaging, even though these boats are considered traditional, blue water cruisers. Everything about this boat shouts out ‘take me across the sea’, until you look closely at some of the ‘livability’ issues. It’s a 38 foot boat, and I guess something had to give so they failed to put storage into the design. I was excited by the prospect of getting what we wanted in a smaller boat that would be easier to maintain.

In addition, there is some water damage that may actually include some rot on the port side in the v berth. That’s not a deal breaker, depending on how bad it is, but given the fact that the livability of this boat is severely compromised by the vision of our clothing and personal effects strewn hither and yon around the boat, and the fact that this boat is heavy enough that it probably needs a stiff wind to get going, we’re going to have to pass on it. I admit to feeling a little sorry about this, because this is truly a salty boat that turns heads, including ours. And that salon…! It’s going to be hard to beat that one.

Mike and Lee, checking out their halos. (Also, get a load of that head room)

Update: July 2013. This boat has new owners! They are going to do a two year refit and then go sailing and we wish them all the best with this beautiful boat. Hopefully they will blog about their refit so we can all learn with them!


4 thoughts on “1978 38′ Hans Christian Cutter

  1. I follow your search with interest. Nice writing too. The HC 38 I sailed one summer afternoon here in Possession Sound made 2-3 knots upwind with 5-6 apparent. Fairly close winded as well. The wind was rising and soon we were doing 6-7 knots upwind in 16 knots. The boat was surprisingly nimble as we tacked back into Everett Marina. Tracks well (look ma, no hands). Buy the Flying Gull. You only live once. Repair the rot and move on. Love for the Gull pours out of every paragraph you write. Fair winds

  2. Thanks for the nice comment, Michael! I fondly remember seeing this boat and now I read the review with a touch of amusement. I can really see how far I’ve come in looking at boats since I wrote that last year. Most of it I still agree with, but now I am going to be in favor of heavier boats rather than worried about them. It’s always a balance between being able to sail around here and being comfortable at sea. This was a beautiful boat. I still cannot understand the lack of storage in a boat that is so obviously meant to go cruising, though.
    You are right about the Gull. I love that boat still. And, frankly, I still hold out hope for getting that boat in the future. It may be that the owner will decide he can take a very low price to get out from under the boat. Then we could afford to repair her the proper way.

  3. your comments are well taken. that is why is the early 1980s john edwards, the founder of hans christian, hired harwood ives to design and re-design the line. the improvements mr. ives did were significant. take a look at a later model 38 she is far better, from a livability point of view, than her earlier sisters. mr. ives designed one of the best small cruisers every put on the water when he came up with the hc 33….she has the accommodations of a larger boat (like a separate stall shower) but sails very well (much like a Cal-34); i know this as i’ve owned both boats. with all of her tankage in the keel she has a lot of storage space and her engine access is among the best i’ve ever seen. from 1980 to about 1989 all of the hc 33s were built in the german yard, the hansa yard, and are the better boats. having owned several hans christians, my current one i had built custom by the hansa yard in 1986, ( an aft cockpit 48) and having sailed her over 50,000 miles i can state with confidence that for seaworthiness, good sailing ability and maximum comfort the proper hans christian is hard to beat. but you need to love to varnish.

  4. We are almost done now with our total rebuild and refit of the reviewed HC38T! In July 2016 we leave for places much warmer for a couple of years at least, three maybe, or four or more.
    Our progress blog is http://www.adventiabefore dementia.com
    Tony and Karin (now living aboard in Victoria)
    Arabella has been renamed Mayaluga (a Swahili word

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