Tartan 27 Sailboat Review

Used Sailboat Review

Tartan 27 – A Classic S&S

If you’re looking for a well bred, classic coastal cruiser costing around $10,000 for a good example, you should look closely at the Tartan 27.

The Tartan 27 was designed by Bill Shaw of Sparkman & Stephens in 1960 and was S&S’s first fiberglass design. The boat was built by Douglass & McLeod Plastic Corporation in Ohio. The company became Tartan Marine in 1974.

Between 1961 and 1976 a total of 648 Tartan 27’s were built, and between 1976 and 1979 they built 64 27-2’s. The only difference between the two models is that the 27-2 has a different deck mould giving greater internal volume and a different internal layout.



The 27 and 27-2 are 27 feet overall, 21ft 5in on the Loaded Water Line, have a beam of 8ft 7.5 inches and a displacement of 7,400 lbs of which 2,400lbs is ballast. Both carry a sail area of 376 square feet. Originally the 27’s were fitted with an Atomic 4 gasoline engine. The 27-2 was fitted with a Farymann 2-cylinder 12hp diesel.

The 27 (and 27-2) has a shoal draft keel with a centerboard. It draws 3ft 2inches with the board up and 6ft 4 inches with it down. This lets you sneak into anchorages that are closed to deeper boats, but with the board down, you’ll get adequate windward ability.

The 27 was designed under the Midget Ocean Racing Conference (MORC) Rule which tended to produce real sea-boats with reasonable accommodation. The 27 is a roomy boat for its size with almost 6ft headroom, but the layout of the 27 was immproved dramatically with the 27-2. However, that aside, the 27 is still an excellent sea-boat and a good choice for a coastal cruising couple.

possible problems

The youngest 27-2 is now nearly 30 years old, and unless the boat has been well maintained, there will be some problem areas to be repaired and upgraded, although there should be no “dealbuster” faults with these boats.
The main concerns are

1. Engine. The Atomic 4 engine will need replacement with a more modern diesel. The 14hp Universal Model 18 Diesel would be a good choice as it slots straight into the Atomic engine beds.

2. Thru-hulls. The boat was originally fitted with gate valves and brass thru-hulls. These should be replace immediately with proper thru-hulls and seacocks.

3. Cockpit drains. Larger cockpit drains should be fitted if you’re doing any coastal cruising.

4. Exhaust system. Replace the existing iron exhaust system with a modern fiberglass or stainless steel waterlift system.

5. Backing plates. You should install backing plates under the deck to distribute the loads from deck hardware. The plates can be of epoxy coated marine plywood or aluminium. You may need longer bolts for the hardware.

6. Navigation lights. All nav lights should be upgraded to modern standards

cosmetic concerns

Extensive crazing of the gel coat (alligatoring) can be a problem with the 27’s. This is a cosmetic problem only usually caused by the gel coat cracking because its too thick and cannot expand and contract with the heating by the sun and cooling at night. This is best cured by painting the whole deck and hull with a 2-part polyurethane.

And you know how to do that now don’t you 😉

If the non-skid is badly worn, a new non-skid surface can be laid, or the existing non-skid improved by adding sand to the final paint coat.

owners forums

There are several owners forums for the Tartan 27 and big fleets in the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie.

Chesapeake Bay Tartan Sailing Club

Tartan Owners of New England

Tartan Owners

Tartan 27 forum

There is a Tartan 27 Handbook that you can buy here. It contains articles and suggestions from Tartan 27 owners. You can see the Table of Contents here.

If you’re considering a Tartan 27 this would be a great place to start. It’s only $28 a copy.