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Boat Review: Tartan 395

An entirely new American cruiser from a storied builder
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In a time when most new cruising boats are coming from Europe, it is refreshing to meet the Tartan 395, a brand-new design from a respected American builder. Not only that, but this is a proper yacht in the traditional American sense of the term that it is also entirely modern in construction and performance, providing a distinct contrast to the large fleet of Euro vessels out there.


Designed by long-time Tartan naval architect Tim Jackett, the 395 comes out of the Tartan factory in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. As it has been with Tartan for decades, construction quality is excellent, with the boat built to ABS standards and excellent finish detailing evident throughout, including in those deep recesses where many builders don’t bother cleaning up their work.

The hull is resin-infused with modified epoxy vinylester resin, properly bonded and reinforced, with a closed-cell foam core above the waterline. The deck has an end-grain balsa core and is secured to the hull with both hardware and adhesives. The rudder shaft is made of carbon fiber. The deck fittings are not only from quality suppliers but look the part. This boat will have a long life.

The wiring is tinned, color-coded and encased within conduits to prevent chafe. The plumbing is neat, well-secured and easy to reach. Through-hull fittings are Marelon.

Three lead bolt-on keels are available. The deep (6ft 2in) fin will probably give the best windward performance, while the 4ft 10in beavertail configuration we tested opens up many more cruising areas to exploration. For true shoal draft, there’s a 4ft 3in keel/centerboard option.


The cockpit was comfortable for three adults and two teens during our test sail. The skipper had a separate spot at either wheel to steer, while the crew trimmed sheets and cranked the winches in their own spaces, and the passengers sat back and enjoyed the ride. A hinged stern platform also makes stepping onto a dinghy or into the water a piece of cake.

Forward, the Tartan 395 deck inspires confidence throughout. The lifelines, for example, are high and secure, while the side decks are good and wide, and solid grab points extend well from the cockpit forward, thanks to the traditional cabintrunk contour and sturdy hardware. The liferaft valise atop the cabin is a minor obstruction.

The boat carries a double-headsail rig with a reacher and a self-tacking inner jib. The mainsail aboard our test boat flew from a Leisure Furl boom, which worked perfectly. With an air draft of less than 63ft, the Tartan 395 will be able clear bridges on the ICW.



Joinery on the Tartan 395 is of honey-toned solid maple, which blends with subtle fabric colors and a traditional teak-and-holly cabin sole to give the interior a lovely, light and warm feel. There’s no flashiness or drama, just an overall impression of quiet class.

As one would expect on a Tartan, all the cabinetry fits perfectly, doors close smoothly, and as is the case topside, all hardware is top notch. There are plenty of lockers and drawers, too, so the crew will be able to squirrel away lots of little stuff in secure spaces.

Tall sailors will have plenty of headroom, while shorter ones will be grateful for the handy grabrails throughout for support in rough water. With opening ports and hatches everywhere, the crew won’t have to rely on air conditioning when the weather is fine.

While the owner’s cabin with its pretty wood hull ceilings is forward, the second cabin on the starboard side abaft the galley is quite comfortable, too. Both have good light and ventilation and sizable berths.

There’s a proper nav station to port near the companionway with enough space for a laptop computer and a cruising guide. For the truly traditional skipper, there’s even adequate room for a chart book and plotting tools. Spaces above the table will hold whatever electronics and gauges you might want, and the panels all open with a screwdriver for access to the wiring. In today’s world, this area is likely to become a small office and planning center, since active nav displays will be outside at the helm, and the nav seat is comfortable enough for that.


The prettiest weather comes right after a hurricane, as it was for our late-afternoon test sail at Annapolis after Hurricane Michael whirled away in the general direction of Spain. A lovely 12-knot northwesterly breeze gusting to 15 truly made a sailboat the finest place in the world to be that evening. Better still, the Tartan 395 was exactly the boat to be out on given the conditions. Close-hauled under main and self-tacking jib, the boat easily pointed to within 35-40 degrees of the true wind and returned a satisfying 6.5 knots of boatspeed. An initial tenderness stiffened up as the boat leaned over to moderate heel angle and stayed there, giving a smooth, easy ride through the light chop. Small trim changes improved out speed, but did not significantly change the boat’s perfect balance. The helm response was light but positive, and the feel of the wheel was pleasant.

I also enjoyed the comfortable seating positions at the helm and had no visibility problems from either the windward or the leeward side as I moved easily from one wheel to the other. In the final analysis, the boat was simply a pleasure to sail in every sense of the word.


A four-cylinder Volvo diesel (with saildrive and swinging a fixed two-blade Volvo prop) fits snugly beneath the cabin steps. There’s good access from the front, where the common maintenance points are mounted, but port side and aft access are tight. Soundproofing is a bit sparse for a boat of this quality, as evidenced by a noise level at cruise that was a bit louder than I expected.

The tachometer is mounted where the skipper can see it, a simple but important ergonomic element ignored by many boatbuilders. Full throttle yielded 2,900 rpm and 7.4 knots, while a 2,400 rpm cruise setting produced 7.1 knots of boatspeed.

The turning circle is very small, no more than a boatlength. Backing, stopping and turning under power are predictable and precise, with the normal kick to port in reverse. Since this is a spade rudder, maneuvering calls for a firm hand on the wheel.


You might think I really liked the Tartan 395, and if so, you would be absolutely right. This is a handsome, well-made vessel with traditional lines, a lovely interior and splendid sailing qualities. It’s not cheap, but it is a viable option to a custom boat, with the added advantage of years of design and construction experience that should also ensure good resale value. 



LOA 39ft 6in LWL 33ft 3in BEAM 12ft 10in

DRAFT 6ft 2in (deep); 4ft 10in (beavertail); 4ft 3in (shoal/centerboard)

DISPLACEMENT 16,000lb (deep); 17,000lb (beavertail); 17,300lb (shoal/centerboard)

BALLAST 5,500lb (deep); 6,500lb (beavertail); 6,800lb (shoal/centerboard)

SAIL AREA 794ft (main self-taking jib)

AIR DRAFT 62ft 7in FUEL/WATER (GAL) 40/100

ENGINE 40hp Volvo saildrive

Ballast Ratio 40 SA/D Ratio 19 D/L RATIO 206

What do these ratios mean? Visit

DESIGNER Tim Jackett

BUILDER Tartan Yachts, Fairport Harbor, OH, 440-392-2628,

PRICE $425,000 (sailaway) at time of publication

Photos courtesty of Billy Black/Tartan 

April 2019



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