With a nod to the past, the Ericson Cruising 31 is sound and well mannered. Classic Plastic from our August 2011 issue
Designed by Bruce King for Ericson Yachts, the Ericson Cruising 31 was the first edition of a traditional-looking design that evolved into the Independence 31. In all, about 70 of these boats were produced between 1977 and 1982.
The majority of Cruising 31s are sloop rigged and have fixed cat’s-eye portlights. The Independence boats are cutters and have rectangular opening ports and a different accommodation plan. Below the waterline, both boats have a cutaway keel encapsulating 4,500 pounds of lead ballast and a skeg-and-transom-hung rudder.
The Cruising 31 carries a masthead rig. I often sail mine singlehanded with the 210-square-foot mainsail doused. A 130-percent roller-furling genoa alone will drive the boat well. Tucking a deep reef in the main and/or rolling in some of the headsail brings the boat up to manageable angles of heel in winds over 20 knots. This is a stiff and well-balanced boat; it tracks well and is quick to tack, though it’s unpredictable when backing under power.
Topside, the Cruising 31 has ample side decks and handrails for safe movement forward and aft. An 8-foot tender will fit forward of the mast. The original single-speed Barlow 20 sheet winches would be considered inadequate today, but many boats soldier on with them. Some owners have fitted an anchor sprit with a windlass and larger bow rollers to ease the anxiety of working on the narrow foredeck.
The cockpit is large, and the seats are deep. Tiller steering was standard, but most owners opted for wheel steering, which rather divides the cockpit in two. Storage is restricted to beneath the port seat hatch, which also gives access to the batteries and other mechanical and electrical equipment.
Ericson originally powered the boats with a two-cylinder Westerbeke Pilot 20, but a variety of engines followed.