Cavalier 37 Review
Reviewed Sep 2016
When you decide to buy a yacht, it would be lovely to have enough cash to go out and buy a brand new one, but the reality for most of us is that you have to buy something second hand. When it was time to move out of our first keelboat into the boat that we would probably have for the rest of our cruising life, we had taken every opportunity to look at other peoples boats and had a fair idea what we wanted.
We had become interested in the Cavalier 37 after reading Kay Cottee’s book, First Lady, the account of her successful attempt at being the first woman to circumnavigate the globe, solo, non stop and unassisted. This surely proved the boat was capable of looking after us, not that we wanted to emulate the feat. We live in awe of the Kay Cottees, Jessica Watsons and Vinny Lewers of this world, but we are quite content ducking for shelter when the forecast is for windy weather. Our few encounters with Cavalier 37’s were then enough to convince us that this boat would suit our needs.
The problem was, that the boats were fetching more than we could afford, so we resigned ourselves to sticking with what we had for a while. As fate would have it, a tired Cavalier 37 was put up for sale in Geelong and it sat there, without offers, for over twelve months. A bit of a health scare prompted us to make a ridiculous offer and we became the proud owners of a boat in need of some love.
Eight years later, we are currently living the dream in the Whitsundays, having sailed her here from Geelong. We have spent a fair bit of money on her, but she is performing well and looking after us. Every boat is a compromise in one way or another and the Cavalier 37 is no exception. Here is a list of her good and not so good points. She’s quite quick for her age. We have cruised with friends in larger boats, but rarely ever had a problem keeping up with them. More often than not, we have to shorten sail to stay in touch. She is a delight to sail.
She’s a good, solid, well built boat. The Cavaliers were all built in Sydney I believe. The company doesn’t exist now, but our contact with other owners suggests that all of the boats were built to a high standard. We have had to remove a few hull blisters, but that’s par for the course with a 35 year old fibreglass boat. I ground them and re-fibreglassed them and gave the hull a couple of coats of epoxy undercoat and we haven’t had any problems since.
Her layout is practical. It’s fairly standard really. There’s a dinette to port that is comfortable for four, with a table extension that allows another two to sit at the settee/sea berth to starboard. The head has a macerating toilet, vanity and shower which gets its hot water from an engine heated hot water service. The V berth is two metres long and two metres wide, but the pointy end is a bit narrow and the bed sits fairly high in the boat, which makes it a bit awkward to get into. It is also a bit lacking in vertical space. This is probably the thing that would put most people off, but we don’t see it as a problem at all. There is space under the berth for a port potti. This is our “holding tank” while we are in marinas or sensitive areas and we find it quite adequate. We have a salt water outlet in the cockpit to aid with disposal of the waste at sea. The galley has a sink with a hot/cold mixer and a salt water rinsing tap, which is good for saving water when we are cruising remote areas. There is also a gas oven and cooktop and a large fridge, cooled by a 12 volt Oze Fridge system. We find there is plenty of room to store the required amount of crockery, glasses, cooking equipment and knives and forks, although we have manufactured some purpose built racks for some items.
There is a quarter berth to port which is OK for two friendly adults. They can be seven feet tall but not too wide. The chart table was in the quarter berth cabin, but it has been converted to “The Shed”. It’s not quite the man cave I have at home, but it is pretty good considering the fact it is on a small boat. The amount of storage space below decks forces us to travel light, but we find that it is enough. We carry fewer clothes so that we can carry items like our trusty sewing machine, an electronic keyboard and a radio controlled yacht.
She has a great cockpit. There is plenty of room to entertain guests. We have built a solid dodger and solid bimini on our Cav 37 and with the home made clears up all round, we can even entertain in the pouring rain. We are the wrong side of 60 and sail the boat double handed all the time. When either of us is off watch, we normally sleep on the cockpit seats, which have vinyl covered cushions. One of the best features of the boat is the storage space in the cockpit. We have eight 20 litre jerries of fuel and a parachute anchor in the aft lazarette, all of our mooring lines and the emergency grab bag are in the space under the port seat and the cavernous starboard lazarette houses two mountain bikes, fenders, buckets, hoses, the Oze fridge compressor, 40 litres of spare water which doubles as fridge compressor cooling water, fold up beach chairs, death in a bag, (ie the spinnaker) and other ancillary equipment. In fact, we don’t need to find space below decks for any of the gear needed to sail the boat. The plotter and auto pilot controls are mounted in front of the wheel and the pod can be turned around. This enables us to sit under the dodger in poor weather , looking through the laminated glass windows with vision of and access to the navigation equipment.
She’s big enough to be comfortable and small enough for two seniors to manage without drama. The sails are not too big and powerful and the genoa doesn’t take half a day to sheet in. The only time I have to leave the cockpit whilst sailing is to raise and lower the main or set the pole. We use the spinnaker pole mostly as a whisker pole when running off the wind. It has been cut shorter, so that it just reaches the forestay when the genoa is furled. The pole halyard is permanently set so that the beak is at the height of the genoa’s clew when the sail is furled. This allows me to walk out to the forestay with the end of the pole in one hand, while the halyard supports the weight of the pole. Once the genoa sheet has been clipped into the beak, and the aft end of the pole has been pulled to the bottom of the track, the sail can be set from the cockpit, by sheeting it on and easing the furler. If the going gets tough, we simply ease the sheet a little and reduce sail with the furler, or put the whole thing away and leave the pole where it is until later.
She’s a good passage maker. We replaced the engine with a 40HP 4 cylinder Volvo diesel which has enabled us to reliably make deadlines at bars and the like. If we need to meet a deadline, we can now plan on being able to average 6 knots, as long as there aren’t any opposing tidal streams.
Her fin keel and fin rudder make her quite manoeuvrable in tight situations, like marinas and she fits under the 12 metre cutoff at most marinas which keeps the cost down.
If you’re in the market for a good second hand cruising boat under 12 metres, give the Cavalier 37 some consideration, we love ours.