Sometimes a boat catches your imagination immediately. Sometimes you have to sail the boat to appreciate it. I didn’t find anything revolutionary during my dockside inspection of the new Elan 384. The open transom made it easy to board. The deck was user-friendly, with good walkways and cabintop access. The optional teak decks made a secure nonskid surface, and grabrails fell to hand easily when I went forward. But what really grabbed my attention was how well the boat performed on the water.
After we pulled away from the dock under power, sharp turns yielded tight turning circles, perfect for dodging crab pots or retrieving an object overboard. The boat had the usual kick to port when backing but was still easy to control. This boat will make you look good maneuvering around the marina. I ran the Volvo diesel up to 2,800 rpm and measured 7 knots through the water with a 79-dBA sound level in the saloon. That’s about average noise for this type of vessel, but the soon-to-be available saildrive version is likely to be a bit quieter. Full throttle produced 7.7 knots.
A perfect 12-knot breeze greeted us as we moved out into Chesapeake Bay. Setting sail was as simple as pulling a few lines to unfurl the main from the Seldn mast and unroll the genoa. We easily accelerated to about 7 knots. Gusts were around 15 knots that day, and the 384 was happy and responsive in those conditions—well balanced and responsive, with just the right amount of weather helm. The wheel felt a bit springy, possibly the result of cable stretch during the delivery trip down the New Jersey coast in boisterous conditions. The delivery crew said they had been impressed by the boat’s behavior in the 35-knot winds they experienced.
The 384 tacked through 90 degrees and gybed effortlessly. Sail handling was a snap since the sheets fell easily to winches near the helm and on the cabintop. I found the seating positions comfortable both to windward and to leeward. At the helm and cradled to leeward in my favorite spot, I could see the jib telltales easily; other sight lines across the deck were also excellent.
A surprise awaits at the bottom of the companionway steps, where there’s a small additional step-down into the saloon. The 384’s interior is simple and attractive; the bulkheads and furniture are varnished Okoume mahogany veneer, and the machine-cut joinery was neat.
Any sailor over 6 feet tall will fall in love with this interior immediately. The saloon is bright and immense, with vast headroom. It should be easy to accommodate six for dinner around the settee’s table, and the seating is quite comfortable. However, only the port seat is long enough to serve as a seaberth. Numerous ports and opening hatches provide excellent light and ventilation. The grips integrated into rails along the sides of the cabin are useful, but this wide-open space really needs overhead grabrails for better security under way.
The forecabin houses a large double berth, offset to port for moving-around space. There will be no “I’ve just been stuffed into a pizza oven” feelings when you climb into this bunk. Stowage in this cabin is ample, and there’s easy access to the anchor windlass through a small door forward. The aft cabin is also comfortable and attractive, with standing headroom, reading lights, a hanging locker, and a large berth.
The galley is typical, aside from its two insulated compartments. One is equipped with an Isotherm refrigerator unit, while the other may be used for storage or converted into a second cooled compartment by adding another compressor. The two-burner stove may be a bit small for enthusiastic cooks, but it’s a neat, well-planned installation.
The nav station to starboard is typical for this size vessel, with 16 breakers and gauges on the panel. The wiring is neatly color-coded, bundled, and routed, but, as on many European boats, it appears to be untinned. Peering into the Elan’s bilge, I found a deep sump. Like the wiring, the plumbing is neat. The through-hull fittings are bronze, and the hoses are double-clamped to the shutoff valves.
The one-piece molded head compartment will be easy to clean, and it incorporates a handy stowage space for the companionway doors. A large access hatch from the head leads into the starboard seat locker—a very large space that cries out for some form of organization to be efficient. The hinged companionway stairs and additional access hatches provide pretty good access to engine sides for routine maintenance.
Naval architect Rob Humphreys designed the Elan 384 to be a fast passagemaker. It’s certainly built strong enough (it carries a Germanischer Lloyd certification), and, as I found on my test, it’s fast. The interior is quite spacious for a 38-footer and would need only simple modifications—leecloths on the berths and more grabrails are the obvious ones—to be ready for passagemaking.
Price: $243,194 (as tested, FOB East Coast) includes teak cockpit seats, Raymarine speed, depth, and wind instruments, chartplotter, and autopilot, shoal-draft keel, heat, spinnaker and full-batten mainsail, bow thruster, upgraded winches, delivery and commissioning. Base price is $198,755
Builder: Elan Marine; Begunje, Slovenia; www.elan-marine.com
U.S. Master Dealer: Sound Yachts, Westbrook, CT; www.soundyachts.com
Designer: Rob Humphreys
Construction: The hand-laid, vacuum-bagged hull is built using NPG gelcoat, isophthalic resin, and multiaxial fiberglass cloth. The hull is cored with PVC above the waterline and solid glass below and is reinforced with a structural grid and additional stringers along the hull sides. The deck is cored with PVC, and the hull/deck joint is bolted and bonded to create a monocoque structure. The mast is stepped on deck atop a stainless-steel compression post in the saloon. The keel is cast iron.
Pros: Careful, strong construction, plentiful headroom, efficient, comfortable deck and cockpit, and responsive under both sail and power.
Cons: Ungraceful appearance from astern, unexpected step-down into the saloon, no overhead grabrails in the saloon.
LOA - 37'11"
LWL - 32'10"
Beam - 12'10"
Draft (shoal/deep) - 4'11" or 5'11"
Displacement - 16,755 lbs
Sail Area (100% foretriangle) - 546 sq ft
Power Volvo - 40 hp
Tankage Fuel/water/waste - 48/137/25 gal
70-Ah starting battery;
100-Ah house battery;
control panel including battery voltmeter
and freshwater and fuel-tank gauges
Displacement-Length ratio - 212
Sail Area-Displacement ratio - 15.4
Ballast ratio - 30%