Boat Review: Tartan 395

The Tartan 395 is a sweet sailboat straight from the American heartland.
Boat Review: Tartan 395 Jon Whittle

There are certain matters in life that are just sure things, where you go in realizing that professionals are involved and you’re in good hands. You walk into a theater for a Meryl Streep film, and you know the acting’s covered. You board a Qantas flight understanding there is zero chance it will fall from the skies. You cut into a steak at a Ruth’s Chris knowing that it is about to melt in your mouth. If only everything was this way.

In sailing, thankfully, there are lots of givens: Harken hardware, Edson steering, Raymarine electronics, LeisureFurl in-boom furling mainsails. Boats equipped with these brands have those items all figured out. And here’s one more nautical surety, as reliable as the sun rising in the east: When you step aboard a yacht designed by seasoned naval architect Tim Jackett, you do so with the realization that it’s been extremely well thought out, that there has been a reassuring attention to detail, that it will sail like a bloody witch, that it will do precisely what it was created to do.

Which brings us to the latest ­example of Jackett’s vision, the Tartan 395 (which, not coincidentally, is fitted out with all the gear previously mentioned).


Like many American builders, Tartan Yachts, which is based in Ohio, has had its share of ups and downs in recent times. But Jackett is now one of the principal owners, and judging from the introduction of its new 39-footer at last fall’s U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, the company has again found its footing.

As Boat of the Year judge Tim Murphy said after inspecting the yacht, “It’s really nice to see Tartan back again. This is an interesting boat. It really brings together some nice elements of craftsmanship. You step below, and the big deck cowls are bringing lots of good air through there, and it’s just very comfortable. And you sit down in the cabin with that light maple finish (cherry and teak are also available), and it just looks and feels good. You feel like some real craftsmen have put this interior together.”

One thing Jackett is loath to do is fix things that aren’t broken, and so the 395 boasts features that have proved tried and true on previous appealing designs. Chief among these is Tartan’s elegant and versatile CCR (cruise control rig) sail plan, composed of double headsails (a self-tacking jib on an inner stay, a code zero reacher on the outer), set off a light double-spreader carbon-fiber spar. This configuration is an effective, efficient way to shift gears quickly depending on changes in the breeze or on the point of sail.

Tartan 395 interior
The interior of the Tartan 395 is straightforward and traditional. Jon Whittle

Nor has Jackett fussed much with the lines of the boat; it has a handsome, traditional-looking profile, with a very gentle sheer line, a relatively long coachroof, and stout coamings framing a deep and cozy ­cockpit. If your taste slants more toward slab-sided, expansive Euro topsides and contemporary razor-sharp hull chines, look elsewhere. This right here is a homegrown product of ’Merica, son.

It’s also a well-constructed one. Several generations of Tartans have now been built in an infusion process employing modified epoxy resin (not polyester like so many of its competitors) in a laminate that is sandwiched around closed-cell foam coring in the hull and balsa core in the deck. Tartan eschews the iron ballast many builders use in favor of good old lead (there are three underbodies available, including an optional deep fin, the standard “beaver tail” fixed keel or a keel/centerboard). Thanks to the company owning its own autoclave, not only is the rig carbon, but so is the rudderstock. Bottom line? There’s no squelching on materials.

“The anchoring system was beautiful, with polished stainless-steel chain, a stainless-steel anchor and a big, beautiful windlass,” said BOTY judge Alvah Simon. “It’s a good old-fashioned interior layout that just works. The pushpit, pulpit, stanchions, lifelines and gates are all terrific. The deck hardware is of high quality and well-installed. The little things really add up on this boat.”

Tartan 395 cockpit
There’s a whole lot happening in the deep, cozy cockpit. Jon Whittle

Moving on, there’s a whole lot happening in the cockpit. In addition to the two pedestals for the twin steering wheels, there’s a third pedestal of sorts just forward of and between the helms, where the engine and lights controls are housed, as well as the Raymarine chart plotter. Built into the transom is a fold-down step to access a modest swim and boarding platform. The idea with the dual wheels and the transom door is to create a natural ergonomic flow from the companionway to the stern, but to be honest, it’s pretty busy terrain.

During our sailing trials, I absolutely loved driving the boat — it sailed great, like all Jackett’s boats, especially when we eased sheets in a nice Chesapeake Bay norther and the boat trucked along at an effortless 7 knots. However, the seats at the wheel seemed low, and I never could get totally comfortable. That said, I quite liked the German-style mainsheet that was ­double-ended port and ­starboard to big winches ­within easy reach of the driver.

Down below, there’s a tidy double cabin aft to starboard; a generous shower stall and head is to port. The forward-facing navigation station and a good-size galley are stationed to port and starboard, respectively, of the companionway. Comfortable settees flank a central dining table in the main saloon; there’s a second double cabin all the way forward. Eight opening ports overhead in the cabin emit plenty of welcoming fresh air. The Tartan 395 is not quite as beamy as the competing boats in its size range in the 2019 BOTY fleet, but resting there and taking in the surroundings, things felt snug and secure. Two words, ultimately, came to mind.


Proper. Yachting.

Herb McCormick is CW’s executive editor.

Tartan 395 Specifications

LENGTH OVERALL 39’6” (12.04 m)
WATERLINE LENGTH 33’3” (10.13 m)
BEAM 12’10” (3.90 m)
DRAFT 6’2”/4’10” (1.8/1.4 m)
SAIL AREA (100%) 794 sq. ft. (73.7 sq. m)
BALLAST 6,500 lb. (2,948 kg)
DISPLACEMENT 17,000lb. (7,711 kg)
WATER 100 gal. (766 l)
FUEL 40 gal. (200 l)
HOLDING 24 gal. (90 l)
MAST HEIGHT 62’7” (19.0 m)
ENGINE Volvo 40 hp
DESIGNER Tim Jackett
PRICE $450,000

Tartan Yachts

Sea Trial

WIND SPEED 10 to 15 knots
SEA STATE Moderate chop
SAILING Closehauled 4.3 knots/ Reaching 7.1 knots
MOTORING Cruise (2,000 rpm) 6 knots/ Fast (2,700 rpm) 7.4 knots

For a complete guide to ­Cruising World’s extensive online boat ­reviews and to request reprints from our older print archives of reviews, go to