I finally figured out what Swedes do on those dark northern-winter days. They have contests. Varnishing contests. Woodworking contests. Bolt-tightening contests. At least, that’s what I thought after a close examination of the new center-cockpit Najad 380 from Sweden.
The in-mast furling mainsail was beautifully made by UK-Syverson. Thanks to its vertical battens, and after a bit of tweaking, it set perfectly. Lines from the mast magically lead to places that keep them organized in the cockpit.
The deck and cockpit reveal no big surprises, but show more fine detailing. The tachometer, an item designers often overlook, is angled upward for readability. The teak deck is an elegant and efficient anti-skid surface, grabrails fall to hand perfectly, the foredeck is user-friendly, and I could reach about half the length of the boom while standing on the cabintop.
I’ve always liked the European-style low wrap-around windshield on a cruiser. It provides just enough shelter from wind and spray, yet doesn’t interfere with either sight lines or the sensations of sailing. It’s also a perfect attachment point for a dodger or full cockpit enclosure.
There are well-placed overhead grabrails, and the companionway steps are easy to negotiate. The head has a separate wet locker for dripping foulies.
The medium-light wood in the cabins is beautifully crafted African mahogany. The overhead is traditional-looking but thoroughly modern. Hull ceilings are paneled, with a dead-air space between the wood and the hull providing both sound and heat insulation. Lockers are attractively paneled inside with mahogany slats.
I like having the galley in the passageway to the aft cabin. Sure, the cook can be in the way of people going aft, but it’s easy to brace yourself there while doing culinary chores. The layout is large and linear, and there’s no interference with traffic through the saloon. Incidentally, the fridge on this boat is huge.
The aft cabin is quite large, especially in light of the low profile (this boat doesn’t even look like a center-cockpit boat when seen from outside). There isn’t quite full headroom, though. The aft berth could probably accommodate two adults, and it can be subdivided with leecloths for offshore sailing. Typical of Najad’s attention to detail, even the hidden supports under the berth are varnished mahogany.
The engine compartment is nearly worthy of being called an engine room. It’s a large, tidy place to sit and work on the engine. The mast steps on deck, with its support post inside the cabin enclosed in nicely finished wood. Rig loads are transferred to the bulkheads, which are substantially glassed to the hull, and stringers stiffen the structure. Everything is finished neatly, and the glasswork appears to be top notch.
The wiring runs through full raceways, so none of it is exposed. It’s not tinned, because European standards don’t call for this. The graphic panel’s circuits connect to hull wires through modular plugs; this will speed up tracing problems and effecting repairs. Instead of the usual 1-2-BOTH switch, battery selection is through a remote solenoid. Both the plumbing and the wiring carry clear labels to identify each conduit’s function. Drains from the cockpit and shower lead to a single large standpipe, consolidating several through-hull openings.
The joinery is well detailed. For example, there are no exposed wood edges. Instead, each edge has a finish strip glued in place. This is a little thing few will notice, but it’s indicative of the high level of craftsmanship throughout the boat.
As soon as we began motoring out of Annapolis and into Chesapeake Bay, I knew the Najad was a notch above the usual 38-foot production boat. It had perfect manners under power, smooth responsiveness to the helm in close quarters, a tight, solid feel, and, most markedly, quiet propulsion.
It isn’t easy to mute a sailboat’s diesel engine. The power plant’s mounting must be carefully executed, the enclosure must be soundproofed and tightly gasketed, the air inlet must be designed carefully, and the essential wires and hoses must not conduct sound out of the engine compartment. It takes a lot of attention to detail to get the ultra-low sound reading (73 db) I found in the saloon at 71/2 knots. For comparison, that’s about the noise level of a Mercedes sedan at highway speed on smooth pavement.
There are two underwater configurations; I sailed the standard-draft version. The boat tacked through 70 degrees apparent in 12 to 15 knots of wind while delivering a smooth, easy ride through the light chop. Helm feel was excellent and the 380 showed an impressive turn of speed.
The Najad 380 faces price competition from other builders, but it equals or surpasses any other semicustom boat its size in a quality comparison. It’s fast, responsive, spacious, and beautifully detailed. If you’re a sailor who wants to know that everything aboard is just so, look at this boat.
Price: $315,000 base (FOB sailaway East Coast) includes sails, teak decks, diesel heater, roller-furling jib, dodger, ground tackle, fenders, lines, bottom paint, water heater, and fridge.
Builder: Najad Yachts, Ourst, Sweden; www.najad.com
U.S. importer: Scandinavian Yachts, Newport, RI; www.scandinavianyachts.com; 401-846-8404
Construction: Hull is built of hand-laid triaxial fiberglass and OSO polyester resin. Bulkheads and chainplates are laminated directly onto the hull. Aluminum two-spreader mast is deck-stepped. Rudder is semi-balanced and built with a solid stainless-steel post.
Pros: Excellent soundproofing, exceptional craftsmanship, solid feel.
Cons: Potential adverse currency exchange rate; limited headroom in the aft cabin.
LOA - 37’9”
LWL - 32’5”
Beam - 12’
Draft - 5’4”
Displacement - 18,298 lbs
Ballast - 6,000 lbs
Sail Area - 810 sq ft (100% foretriangle)
Power - 54-hp Yanmar
Tankage Fuel/water/waste - 86/106/15 gal
Electrical - (1) 75-Ah start battery; (2) 140-Ah service batteries; 80-amp alternator
Displacement-Length ratio - 238
Sail Area-Displacement ratio - 16
Ballast-displacement ratio - 37%