Boat Review: Rustler 36

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A true world-girdling cruising yacht

A true world-girdling cruising yacht

The UK-built, Holman & Pye-designed Rustler 36 started life in 1980 as a development of the earlier Rustler 31—Kim Holman’s evolution of the sea-kindly Stella, which was itself a derivative of the legendary Folkboat.
Although Rustler also currently builds a 24, 33, 42 and 44, the classic R36 (only recently arrived in the United States) remains in great demand as it fills a requirement for which few modern boatyards cater these days—a heavier, full-keel cruiser designed for the express purpose of crossing oceans in comfort and style.
With that in mind, the boat’s cockpit has a high bridgedeck to protect the companionway from the risk of flooding, while teak handholds ensure an easy descent belowdecks. Similarly, the U-shaped galley has everything conveniently to hand, enabling the cook to reach the counter, stove top, double sink and lockers whilst remaining safely strapped in, and the cozy saloon features settees that are 6ft 6in long and make ideal sea berths. Although there is a “standard” layout, most Rustler 36s are pretty much custom-built to their owner’s requirements. The inside of the hull can be teak panelled, which not only looks attractive, but also helps retain the heat and improves soundproofing.
Underway, the Rustler’s gentle sheer and overhanging bow gives her the air of a serious passagemaker. The boat’s cockpit provides a safe working environment, with a narrow well for bracing one’s feet, and the coamings are angled and high for comfort and safety. Although tiller steering comes standard, wheel steering is a popular option.
Handrails extend from the cockpit to the foredeck, where you find a sturdy twin bow roller with sizeable cleats and an electric windlass that feeds the chain down a hawse pipe into a locker below. The boat’s Seldén masthead rig is rugged and conservatively proportioned, with straight spreaders and both forward and aft lowers. A fully-battened mainsail with lazyjacks is standard, although in-mast furling is available as an option.
In recent years, I’ve had the pleasure of sailing the Rustler 36 over many miles, including crossing the notorious Bay of Biscay off western France. She is a delight to sail in all conditions, except possibly in very light air. Her short waterline means she’s no racer, but into the wind and in steep seas she has the momentum to carry her forward, while keeping her crew safe and dry in the cockpit.
Her transom-hung deep rudder is obviously harder work than a balanced spade, but her rig is so well balanced that weather helm is a rarity. On one trip I relied on a wind vane to take us right up through the notorious Raz de Sein—a body of water known to be a rough one, even at the best of times—and the boat remained resolutely on course throughout, so much so that we were able to cook a three-course dinner along the way.
Off the wind the Rustler’s large wetted surface area resulting from her long keel and ample bilge means she’s undoubtedly slower than a more modern cruiser with a shallow bottom, deep fin keel and spade rudder. However, in my experience most long-distance cruisers would rather their yacht behaved well in a gale than worry about their performance downwind in light airs.
On passage she cruises at roughly 6 knots in winds from 10 to 28 knots, with a first reef, depending on sea state, usually required at around 20 knots apparent. Close-hauled she still manages 3 to 4.5 knots in 20 knots of wind and average seas, but put her onto a beam reach with her large genoa fully unfurled and she’ll tramp along comfortably at closer to 7.5 knots. All in all, this is a great mid-sized cruiser with all the right attributes for a bluewater adventure.



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